College World Series 2014: Top MLB Prospects to Watch in Omaha

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVJune 15, 2014

Vanderbilt pitcher Tyler Beede throws to an Illinois batter in the first inning of an NCAA college baseball tournament regional game Saturday, June 1, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
WADE PAYNE/Associated Press

Eight of the nation's top baseball teams have gotten together in Omaha to decide the national champion at the 2014 College World Series, which means many of the most promising MLB prospects are sure to be in action.

Between the eight teams—UC Irvine, Texas, Louisville, Vanderbilt, Texas Tech, TCU, Virginia and Ole Miss—there is no shortage of professional talent. Each team is littered with players who were selected high in the MLB draft earlier in June, a number of which are sure to make it to the majors in no time.

Most of the other players drafted early are now focusing on the next stage of their careers, but these standouts are still competing. Let's look at the top MLB prospects on display in Omaha. 

Mike Papi, OF, Virginia

Drafted: Cleveland Indians, 37th overall


Mike Papi is just one of two Virginia sluggers to go early in this year's draft, as he and Derek Fisher went back-to-back with the Nos. 37 and 38 selections. But he's one of the sure-bet hitters in this class—and the best one still competing for a national title.

Hitting .393/.527/.625 in 2013, he powered his way to first-team All-American honors last season and emerged as one of the nation's premier hitters. His numbers aren't as impressive in 2014, but hitting in the No. 3 spot for the Cavaliers, he's still racked up 11 homers and 54 RBI as well.

Papi excels at line drives more so than slugging, but Virginia plays at a pitcher's park, and he has still been the best hitter for two years on arguably the nation's best lineup. That suggests that even more power will come at the next level, but it's really Papi's plate discipline and bat speed that make him effective.

Papi was taken No. 37 overall by the Cleveland Indians, and they won't want to wait long to see how the 21-year-old can perform at the next level. 

Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt

Drafted: San Francisco Giants, 14th overall

Vanderbilt's Tyler Beede hasn't been the force in 2014 that he was in 2013, but he was still the highest-drafted pitcher heading to Omaha this year—and for good reason.

After being a first-round selection in 2011 and surprisingly passing it up to attend Vandy, Beede has taken his game to a new level. He was a magnificent 14-1 in 2013, and although he hasn't had as much success this year, he's further developed his complementary pitches and fine-tuned his fastball.

It was somewhat of a surprise to see Beede passed over for the CWS opener against Louisville, but Carson Fulmer might also be a future MLB player, and he got the job done. That's set Beede up for a likely start in the second game against UC Irvine, per 247 Sports' Chris Smith:

The Giants certainly saw something in Beede, as they selected him in the first half of the first round, and he'll have a couple of years to fulfill those lofty expectations. He just turned 21, but figures to have somewhat of a quick transition after excelling with USA Baseball in 2013.

If Beede shows his best stuff at the next level, he could become one of the gems of this draft class. 

Nick Howard, RHP, Virginia

Drafted: Cincinnati Reds, 19th overall

Pat Jarrett/Associated Press

There was little doubt that Nick Howard was best suited for the bullpen even after starting last season and even playing some in the field. To make that certain, he assumed the closer role for Virginia in 2014—and watched his stock take off.

He was very effective as the Cavaliers' closer this season, amassing 19 saves, which led the ACC. He also was second in the conference in games finished.

Oh, and did I mention he hit .261? Not bad for a first-round pitcher.

However, Howard is nothing but a closer at the next level, and an effective one at that. His fastball can touch 98 mph repeatedly when he's fresh, and his slider complements it quite well. And who knows—if he can develop that elusive third pitch at an elite level, the Reds may even give him a shot in the rotation.

But at the least, Howard will be a strong member of the bullpen and has the chance to earn his way into a closer role at the MLB level. 

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