2011 College World Series: Top 25 Players in NCAA Baseball History

Joseph HealyCorrespondent IJune 22, 2011

2011 College World Series: Top 25 Players in NCAA Baseball History

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    SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 19:  Former San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds throws out the first pitch prior to Game Three of the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at AT&T Park on October 19, 2010 in San Francisco, Cal
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The average casual baseball fan might be surprised at just how many big stars have gone through college on their way to the major leagues.

    Names like Reggie Jackson, Barry Bonds, Jackie Robinson and Rafael Palmeiro are just a few among many that have done so.

    Others had Hall of Fame college baseball careers, but weren't able to have the same level of success once they reached the professional ranks.

    Listing the top 25 college baseball players of all-time is a difficult exercise. The different eras of college baseball are so different and as such, so difficult to compare side by side.

    With that, let the list (and the debate) begin.

25. Joe Carter: Wichita State

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    31 May 1997:  Infielder Joe Carter of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on during a game against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California.  The Blue Jays won the game, 13-3. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule  /Allsport
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Joe Carter is best known for his time playing for the Toronto Blue Jays. Specifically, we remember his series-winning, walk-off home run off of Mitch Williams in the 1993 World Series.

    Before that, though, Carter had a great career at historical baseball power Wichita State.

    Carter played three seasons at Wichita State before leaving after his junior season in 1981. After that 1981 season, the Sporting News named him the College Player of the Year.

24. Neal Heaton: Miami

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    CHICAGO - 1990:  Neal Heaton #26 of the Pittsburgh Pirates winds up for a pitch during a 1990 MLB season game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Heaton is one of the players that had a storied college career, but struggled to recreate that level of success in professional baseball.

    When Heaton left Miami, he held many of the school's pitching records. Among them were wins in a season (18) and strikeouts in a single game (23).

    He struck out a staggering 381 batters in his Miami career.

    Heaton went on to have a 12 year MLB career, but never was on top of the sport like he was at Miami.

23. Darren Dreifort: Wichita State

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    LOS ANGELES - JUNE 20:  Pitcher Darren Dreifort #37 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch during the game against the New York Yankees at Dodger Stadium on June 20, 2004 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-4.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    It shows how good the Wichita State program has been over the history of college baseball that they already have two guys on this list.

    At Wichita State, Dreifort was a two-time All American and was named the 1993 College Player of the Year.

    He went 26-5 with a 2.24 ERA in his Shockers career.

    Dreifort was selected with the second overall pick of the 1993 draft by the Dodgers. He was taken one spot behind Alex Rodriguez in that draft.

22. Kirk Dressendorfer: Texas

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    OMAHA, NE - JUNE 26:  Members of the Texas Longhorns celebrate after defeating the Florida Gators 6-2 during Game 2 of the championship series of the 59th College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium on June 26, 2005 in Omaha, Nebraska.  (Photo by Jed Jacob
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    While at UT, Kirk Dressendorfer put up huge statistics across the board. He posted a career record of 45-8. He also holds the single season record for complete games with 15.

    Some say that type of use (or abuse, if you will) played a big part in him never quite reaching his potential as a professional.

    Dressendorfer was part of the 2009 College Baseball Hall of Fame class.

21. Jim Abbott: Michigan

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    1989:  Pitcher Jim Abbot #25 of the California Angels looks on in practice during the 1989 MLB season.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Jim Abbott is best known for his incredible story of perseverance. Abbott had a successful major league career, even without the use of his right arm.

    Before having success at the big league level, Abbott had a great career for the Michigan Wolverines.

    Abbott led the Wolverines to two Big Ten championships in his three seasons there. In 1987, Abbott won the James E. Sulllivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete.

    In 1988, Abbott was part of a group of college players that represented the United States in the 1988 Summer Olympics. Even though baseball was just a demonstration sport at those Games, he came home with a gold medal.

20. Burt Hooton: Texas

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    KISSIMMEE, FL - FEBRUARY 25:  Pitching Coach Burt Hooton of the Houston Astros poses during Media Day on February 25, 2003 at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Florida. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Burt Hooton enjoyed a long, 15-year career with the Cubs and Dodgers and since retiring, he has enjoyed a great deal of success as a pitching coach.

    Before that, Hooton was a star for the University of Texas.

    At Texas, Hooton compiled a 35-3 record and also threw two no-hitters. He was a three-time All-American and finished with 386 career strikeouts, 13 shutouts and a 1.14 ERA.

19. Barry Larkin: Michigan

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    CINCINNATI, OH - JUNE 17:  Barry Larkin #11 of the Cincinnati Reds focuses on home plate as he prepares for a play during the interleague game against the Texas Rangers at the Great American Ball Park on June 17, 2004 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  The Reds defeat
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Along with Abbott, Barry Larkin is one of the all-time greats to play college baseball at Michigan and in the Big Ten.

    Larkin was originally recruited to Michigan to play football under coaching great Bo Schembechler, but eventually settled on baseball as his sport. It's safe to say he made the right decision.

    At Michigan, Larkin was a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year and a two-time first team All-American. Larkin has had his number retired by the school and was enshrined in the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.

18. Fred Lynn: USC

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    Fred Lynn is best known for being the Rookie of the Year and the American League MVP in 1975. He was the first player to win both of those awards in the same season.

    Before his successes in the major leagues, though, Lynn was a star at USC. Like Larkin, Lynn came to college as a two-sport star in baseball and football. Also like Larkin, Lynn dropped football to focus solely on baseball.

    At USC, Lynn was part of three straight national championship teams. Lynn had a .320 career batting average with 28 home runs and 111 RBI.

17. Will Clark: Mississippi State

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    Before he hit homers to all fields as a member of the Rangers and Giants among others, Will "The Thrill" Clark honed his famous left-handed swing as a member of the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

    At Mississippi State, Clark was named to the 1985 All-American team and was also the winner of the Golden Spikes Award, given to the best college player in the nation.

    Clark had a .391 career batting average and 61 home runs in a Bulldogs uniform.

16. Rafael Palmeiro: Mississippi State

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    Rafael Palmeiro was a teammate of Clark's at Mississippi State. Together they were called "Thunder and Lightning."

    Palmeiro was a three-time All-American at MSU. In 1984, Palmeiro was the first player in SEC history to win the Triple Crown in the conference. He had a .415 batting average with 28 homers and 94 RBI.

    Palmeiro was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009, three years after his teammate Clark.

15. Floyd Bannister: Arizona State

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    When Baseball America named its all-time college baseball team in June of 1994, Floyd Bannister was named as both a shortstop and a pitcher.

    Bannister was named the Sporting News College Player of the Year in 1976 and was drafted first overall in the 1976 MLB Draft.

    Bannister put up staggering numbers in his days at ASU. He went 38-6 with a 1.88 ERA. He had 29 career complete games and 478 strikeouts.

14. Phil Stephenson: Wichita State

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    Phil Stephenson is another in a long line of college baseball legends to play their ball at Wichita State.

    In his Shockers career, Stephenson bashed 57 home runs, 91 doubles and 25 triples. In helping his Wichita State team to a runner-up finish at the 1982 College World Series, Stephenson batted .399 with 30 doubles and 87 stolen bases.

    In that 1982 season, Stephenson won National and Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year honors. He was a two-time All-American and held nine Wichita State offensive records upon his being drafted in 1982.

13. Jackie Robinson: UCLA

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    The superlatives that go along with Jackie Robinson's name are well-documented. His place in baseball history is set.

    What you may not know is that he was a standout for UCLA before playing in the Negro Leagues and for the Dodgers. Robinson only played a single season of baseball for the Bruins. He batted a paltry .097.

    He did have one game that gave a glimpse of what was to come, however. In his first game, he went 4-for-4 and had two steals on home.

    Robinson is on this list because of everything he did at UCLA and what he had to go through to be successful. Robinson lettered in baseball, basketball, football and track at UCLA and was one of only four black players on the football team at the time.

12. Brooks Kieschnick: Texas

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    Brooks Kieschnick is a rare breed of baseball player. There have been many players that pitched and played a position in the field for their teams. Few were able to do both at the major league level like Kieschnick did.

    After largely struggling to establish himself as an outfielder, Kieschnick picked up pitching again and had several effective seasons as a reliever for the Milwaukee Brewers.

    Kieschnick was a three-time All American at UT and was twice named the winner of the Dick Howser Award as the top collegiate baseball player in the nation.

11. Greg Swindell: Texas

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    Roger Clemens is often thought of as the face of the University of Texas baseball team in the early 90s. Those that watched those teams will tell you that Greg Swindell might have been the real ace of those pitching staffs.

    In his Texas career, Swindell recorded 14 shutouts and two no-hitters.

    He was the 1984 Baseball American Freshman of the Year and was a three-time member of the All-Southwest Conference team. In 1986, he was named an All-American and the Southwest Conference Player of the Year.

10. Stephen Strasburg: San Diego State

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    There have been dozens of elite pitchers in the history of college baseball, but Stephen Strasburg was a player on a level that many had never seen before. He dominated opposing hitters like no one before him.

    Strasburg went 22-7 in his Aztecs career and in his sophomore and junior seasons, he had ERAs under 2.00. As a junior, Strasburg had 195 strikeouts in 109 innings pitched.

    Strasburg was selected first overall in the 2009 MLB Draft and projects as a future ace.

9. Lance Berkman: Rice

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    Lance Berkman played a big part in establishing Rice as the collegiate baseball power that it is today.

    Berkman was named the National Player of the Year in 1997. In that record-setting season, he smacked 47 homers and drove in 134 RBI on the way to leading the Owls to their first appearance in the College World Series. 

    All told, Berkman hit .385 in his Rice career with 67 home runs and 272 RBI.

8. Ben McDonald: LSU

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    Ben McDonald was a two-sport athlete at LSU. He played basketball and baseball early on in his college career before dropping basketball to focus on baseball. I'd say he made a good decision.

    In 1988, McDonald helped lead Team USA to a gold medal in the Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.

    At LSU, McDonald helped take the Tigers to two College World Series appearances. In 1989, he set an SEC record with 202 strikeouts in a season. Thanks to that great season, McDonald was named to the All-American team and was the winner of the Golden Spikes Award.

7. Pete Incaviglia: Oklahoma State

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    Pete Incaviglia is the most prodigious power hitter in the history of college baseball. He still holds the NCAA record for home runs in a season with 48.

    In his Cowboys career, "Inky" slugged 100 home runs and had a slugging percentage of .915. In his junior season, he set an NCAA record with a 1.140 slugging percentage.

    Oklahoma State reached the College World Series in each of his three seasons on campus.

6. Robin Ventura: Oklahoma State

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    Like Pete Incaviglia, Robin Ventura put up record-setting numbers in a Cowboys uniform. He wasted no time making his mark with an incredible freshman season. In that season, Ventura batted .469 with 21 homers and 96 RBI.

    As a sophomore, his line read .428, 21, 110. As a junior, it was .391, 26, 96. To put it bluntly, Ventura might be the most consistent hitter in the history of college baseball.

    During his sophomore season, Ventura set an NCAA Division I record that still stands, a 58 game hitting streak.

5. Bob Horner: Arizona State

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    Like Floyd Bannister, Bob Horner was also named to Baseball America's All-Time College Baseball Team in 1994.

    As a Sun Devil, Horner hit .383 with 56 career home runs. In addition, he had 262 hits, 197 runs scored and 229 career RBI.

    Horner helped lead the Sun Devils to a national championship in 1977.

4. John Olerud: Washington State

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    John Olerud was so successful as both a hitter and pitcher at Washington State that he has an award named after him. The John Olerud Award is given annually to the player that is most successful as a two-way player.

    In 1987, he hit .412 and also went 8-3 with a 3.00 ERA on the mound. In 1988, he hit .464 with 23 homers and 81 RBI and went 15-0 with a 2.49 ERA as a pitcher. In that season, he was the Baseball America National Player of the Year.

    In 1988, Olerud was recovering from a brain aneurysm and still managed to hit .359 and get three wins on the mound.

3. Dave Winfield: Minnesota

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    Outside of maybe Jackie Robinson, Dave Winfield is likely the most well-rounded athlete on this entire list. Winfield played both basketball and baseball for his entire career at Minnesota

    In 1973, Winfield was named an All-American and MVP of the College World Series as a pitcher.

    After concluding his college career, Winfield was drafted by four teams in three different sports. The San Diego Padres drafted him as a pitcher. The Atlanta Hawks of the NBA and the Utah Stars of the ABA drafted him to play basketball. Even the Minnesota Vikings took a late-round flier on him to try to get him to play football.

2. Reggie Jackson: Arizona State

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    Like so many before him on this list, Jackson didn't consider baseball his primary sport as he headed into college. He originally was headed to Arizona State on a football scholarship.

    He walked on to the baseball team and eventually decided to focus only on baseball.

    Reggie success as a Sun Devil had a lot to do with establishing ASU as the premier collegiate baseball program in the nation. Before leaving campus, Jackson re-wrote the ASU record books, including leaving as the school's season single home run leader.

1. Barry Bonds: Arizona State

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    If Reggie Jackson got the ball rolling on making Arizona State the best program in the nation, Bonds solidified that standing.

    In his Sun Devils career, Bonds hit .347 with 45 home runs and 175 RBI. In 1984, he batted .360 with 30 stolen bases. In 1985, he bested those numbers by hitting .368 with 23 homers and 66 RBI.

    That season, he was named a Sporting News All-American. In 1996, he was named to the College World Series All-Time Team.