The SEC is among the premier college baseball conferences in the nation, so it should come as no surprise that all eyes or on the ongoing SEC tournament. There are 12 teams vying for a spot in the College World Series, so the competition will be fiercer than ever.
Several potential Major League Baseball prospects will take part in the tournament and they must shine in order for their respective teams to advance. Every team has players that have a shot at playing in the big leagues one day, but a select few look to be surefire studs.
Here are the top players to watch as the SEC Baseball Tournament continues over the next week.
Ryne Stanek, P, Arkansas
Pitching is obviously a huge key to success in baseball and that is why the Arkansas Razorbacks had such a strong 2013 season. Right-handed pitcher Ryne Stanek is Arkansas' ace and he will have a huge role in whether the Razorbacks are able to win the SEC. If he pitches like he did during the regular season, Arkansas has an excellent chance.
Stanek has steadily improved in each of his three seasons at Arkansas. In 12 starts this season, he went 6-2 with a 1.87 ERA. Stanek also struck out 59 batters in 67.1 innings and walked just 26. His impeccable control is huge in a double-elimination tournament such as this one because giving out free passes can directly lead to a loss.
Stanek is among the top prospects eligible for the 2013 MLB draft and he can certainly bolster his draft stock with a strong SEC tournament. Stanek has basically been untouchable all season long, so there is nothing to suggest that he will falter. As long as Stanek is on his game, Arkansas will be very difficult to beat.
Bobby Wahl, P, Ole Miss
Few pitchers in all of college baseball were more dominant this season than Bobby Wahl of the Ole Miss Rebels. Mississippi is the No. 6 seed in the SEC tournament, so it will need an unlikely run through the tourney in order to win. Wahl can't do it all by himself, but he can definitely put the Rebels in a position to do some damage.
Ole Miss won its first game against Kentucky without Wahl, but the Rebels will need their ace when the games get bigger. Wahl's numbers this season were absolutely unreal as he went 8-0 with a 1.22 ERA in 10 starts. Wahl also racked up 56 strikeouts and opposing batters hit just .183 against him. Ole Miss may not have the overall talent that a team like Arkansas, LSU or Vanderbilt does, but Wahl is the great equalizer.
As important as hitting is, most people would rather have a great pitcher on the mound than a great lineup in a one-game situation. There are so many good pitchers in the SEC this year that it's tough to say one guy is better than another, but it can be argued that Wahl had a better year than anyone. That will be put to the test as he tries to lead his team to an improbable championship.
Colby Suggs, P, Arkansas
While Stanek started many of the Razorbacks' victories this season, closer Colby Suggs finished several in his own right. Suggs recorded 10 saves this season along with a 1.72 ERA. While he didn't record a single save prior to this season, he has been one of the best relievers in college baseball since his freshman season, so his reputation certainly gives him an advantage on the mound.
Suggs pitched 30 games in relief last season and accrued a 7-1 record with a 1.38 ERA. His ERA was a microscopic 0.90 as a freshman as well. Suggs has been a key member of the Razorbacks' bullpen over the past three years and his value will be put to the test in this tournament. Arkansas will be facing some of the best teams in the country and Suggs may have to put them away.
Being a closer is one of the toughest jobs in sports as they only have one inning to prove themselves. In many cases they are either the hero or the goat. Suggs has been the hero on almost every occasion since coming to Arkansas, so history is on his side. No SEC team has a better endgame option than Arkansas with Suggs, so they have an automatic leg up on the competition.
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