UCLA - Champs despite losing tons of talent

Written by Blaine Clemmens on .

Congrats to the UCLA Bruins, for winning the school's first NCAA championship.  What is amazing to me is how many outstanding high school players the Bruins have lost to the MLB draft, kids who never stepped foot on campus.  This year they lost more incoming players to the draft, including Tracy HS lefthander Jonah Wesley but the Bruins will keep on going. 

Last year they lost incoming righthander Joe Ross and 3rd baseman Tyler Goeddel.  A few years back they lost catcher Max Stassi to the draft.  Those are just some of the Northern California players who never got to school... the number of outstanding Southern California high school players who never made it to Westwood, well, it's a lot more and players like catcher Austin Hedges certainly would have been missed by most programs.  The same year they lost Stassi they also lost INF David Nick.   There are MANY more but those are just some kids I remember.

On the current roster are three former BAWS/NWS players, OF Christoph Bono from Palo Alto HS, RHP Nick Vander Tuig from Oakdale HS, and INF Chris Keck from Amador Valley HS.  Bono as you might surmise, is the son of former NFL quarterback Steve Bono.  Vander Tuig was drafted in the 6th round by the Giants and was the winning pitcher in the championship game.


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2012 preseason all-NoCal D1 team, how did I do?

Written by Blaine Clemmens on .

Here is the link to that post from last spring... ok, take a look... good, you're back, let's review.

Catcher Chadd Krist (Sr) Cal / 2012: .294, 4 HR, 19 2B, 36 RBI, .983 fld%

- I think he earned his spot.  Was also drafted and signed in 9th round.  Eric Smith of Stanford could be argued for, as could Trent Garrison of Fresno State.  I will stick with Krist.

1st Base Troy Channing (Sr) Saint Mary's / 2012: .349, 10 2B, 2 HR, 21 RBI

- This should have been Ragira or Mitch Delfino of Cal, who both had very strong offensive years. Great AVG for Channing, but where did the power go?  I will go with Delfino as the pick, he hit more than Ragira in the same conference.

2nd Base Tony Renda (Jr) Cal / 2012: .342, 5 HR, 16 2B, 27 RBI, 16 SB, walked more than he K'd

- Yes, nailed this one.  He was also a 2nd round pick.

Shortstop Kenny Diekroeger (Jr) Stanford / 2012: .275, 16 2B, 2 HR, 31 RBI

- Not a great year for Diekroeger.  He has already quadrupuled his homers in pro ball (8). I value the production put up in the Pac-12 but the proper pick here was Mike Miller of Cal Poly, with a case for Derrick Chung of Sacramento State.

3rd Base Patrick Wisdom (Jr) Saint Mary's / 2012: .262, 10 2B, 9 HR, 24 RBI

- Though Wisdom was a high draft pick, he didn't have a great year, mostly due to injury.  Piscotty is the right pick.  Paul Politi of UC Davis also had a very good year as a 3B.

Left Field Aaron Judge (So) Fresno State / 2012: .308, 14 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 27 RBI, 13 SB

- Didn't see the big power from Judge, but all told, a solid year.  However, out of nowhere came Rhys Hoskins of Sacramento state, with a MONSTER year and he was the best LF in the area, for production. He is the right pick.

Center Field Brian Ragira (So) Stanford / 2012: .329, 5 HR, 15 2B, 50 RBI, .993 fld%

- Got him right because he performed real well, but at the wrong position, he keeps playing 1B at Stanford and is doing a GREAT job.  The right pick here is Mitch Haniger of Cal Poly, who put up BIG power numbers. 

Right Field Austin Wilson (So) Stanford / 2012: .285, 12 2B, 2 3B, 10 HR, 54 RBI

- Good year for Wilson, and though Brooks Klein of Nevada had a GREAT year, I'll stick with the production from Wilson in the Pac-12, where he faced much better pitching.  Put him in the WAC and his stats go WAY up.

Designated Hitter Stephen Piscotty (Jr) Stanford / 2012: .329, 13 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 56 RBI, also pitched well.

- Good pick here, but should have put him as the primary 3B.  He did play LF too, so a UTL spot was appropriate.  Will go with Brian Ragira of Stanford here, with a strong nod to Brooks Klein of Nevada.

Starting Pitchers

Mark Appel (Jr) Stanford / 2012: 10-2, 2.56 ERA - Um, yes, got this one right. #8 overall pick.

Kyle Zimmer (Jr) USF / 2012: 5-3, 2.85 ERA, 104 K - Not a lot of wins but he was the right pick, #5 overall pick.

Martin Agosta (Jr) Saint Mary's / 2012: 9-2, 2.18 ERA, 95 K - Great year, 2nd round pick, got him right.

- RHP Braden Shipley of Nevada and Joey Wagman of Cal Poly had a GREAT years, but I chose not to penalize Zimmer for his team not hitting for LONG stretches, which limited his win total.

Reliever Zack Jones (Jr) / 2012: 3-4, 4.50 ERA, 7 SV, 60 K:54 IP - Nice year, but there were better closers, like Taylor Garrison of Fresno State.  He gets the nod, with a case being made for Chase Johnson of Cal Poly.

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Kyle Zimmer, MUCH more than #5 overall

Written by Blaine Clemmens on .

USF Associate Head Coach/Pitching Coach Greg Moore is one of the best in the business.  What makes him so special and frankly different than most college baseball coaches and sports coaches in general is his ability to connect with players on a different level that the playing field.  Because Greg himself is unique and full of depth of character, he sees it in others and connects seamlessly with those who also have depth of character and so much more than what most people see.

That led Greg to write a brilliant and heartfelt piece about Kyle Zimmer.  That article can be found at the USF Baseball website and I have linked it here for you to enjoy.  

The term "student-athlete" is one that means something and Kyle Zimmer, #5 pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, is so much more. 

There are likely dozens of kids in the draft each year who have inspiring backgrounds.  Because I know Mark Appel, I would be willing to bet there are wonderful stories that can be told about his depth of character.  Same with Kenny Diekroeger, Tony Renda, and other great young people who just also happen to be very good at playing baseball.

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USF, cradle of 1st round pitchers

Written by Blaine Clemmens on .

Ok, full disclosure here... I coached at USF, I played junior college ball for USF head coach Nino Giarratano, USF pitching coach Greg Moore was in my wedding and I coached him for a year, I consider that coaching staff part of my family and after my time there as a coach and after getting my master's degree there, not to mention meeting the mother of my son there, well, I BLEED USF green and gold.

However, all that aside (really?  I can say "all that aside" and mean it?)... do you know how many college programs have had MORE pitchers drafted in the first round than USF's three since the 2007 draft?  Do you? 

The answer is TWO.  Exactly two college programs have had MORE pitchers drafted in the first round (including the supplemental round) than the University of San Francisco.

Vanderbilt, Stanford, San Francisco, Georgia Tech... look at the names of the schools.  Are you surprised? 

Vanderbilt has had five pitchers drafted in the first round, Stanford has had four while USF and Georgia Tech have had three apiece. 

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Regional notes... Stanford advances

Written by Blaine Clemmens on .

It is a "tired" argument or line of discussion, but I have to make it again.  The West gets a raw deal in terms of how many quality teams are left out of the tournament while the "power" conferences like the ACC and Big 12 get lots and lots in but underperform year after year.  The fact of the matter is that in baseball, those conferences aren't powerful like they are in football and basketball.  Western conferences like the Big West and the WCC, which are not football conferences and are mid-major types in regard to basketball (except for Gonzaga and BYU), they ARE power conferences in baseball.  I would stack up the Big West against either the ACC or Big 12 and believe the WCC would hold it's own against those two conferences as well.

The Pac-12 is the best baseball conference in the nation. More big leaguers come from Southern California than another region in the country and no conference has more Southern California players than the Pac-12... except maybe the Big West.  The WCC is also full of good Southern California high school players, as is the WAC.  Furthermore, Northern California is one of the top 3-4 regions for producing big leaguers and as recently as a couple of years ago, was second only to Southern California in that regard. 

Those who pick their tourney favorites for the NCAA hoops tourney routinely scour the rosters for which teams have the most future NBA players on them and go with those teams.  History has shown that the teams with the most future NBA players do VERY well in that tourney and more of than not, the team with the most and best future NBA players wins the tourney.

Why should it be different in baseball?  The Pac-12 produces big time big leaguers and the Big West has plenty of future big leaguers, as does the WCC. 

It is time to change the perception of which conferences are the power conferences in baseball. 

Arizona will face St. John's in a super-regional and will be favored.  Stanford will travel to play at Florida State and though it will be a challenge, they are the more talented team and have a great shot to win.  Oregon will host Kent State and will be favored.  UCLA will get either TCU or Mississippi and will host, so they will also have a strong shot to advance.  If four of five invited teams from the Pac-12 advance to the College World Series (and ASU didn't get in because they are on probabtion), that speaks quite loudly. 

Ask any of those teams what they think of having to play teams like Long Beach State, Fullerton, Cal Poly, USF, San Diego, Pepperdine, etc in their non-conference midweek games and I think they'd all say those teams are tourney talented teams that prepare them for tough Pac-12 play and for the NCAA tourney.

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Final D1 Weekend Wrap-up

Written by Blaine Clemmens on .

By now the NCAA regional bids are already awarded and we know that Fresno State and Stanford are in.  Fresno State won the WAC tourney and Stanford earned an at-large bid and will host a regional.  Fresno State, Pepperdine, and Michigan State will be in that regional.

Let's see how all of our regional teams did...

- Stanford (1-2 vs Cal, 38-16 season, 18-12 Pac-12) - The Cardinal dropped an 18-inning game in game one of the series, got pounded 15-5 in game two then bounced back to win game three 5-3.  They were awarded an at-large NCAA bid and will host a regional.  The Cardinal remain a strong contender to reach the College World Series.  They have a couple of first round draft prospects and a handful of other players who will be drafted in the top 10 rounds.  This is a talented and experienced team.

- Fresno State (5-1 @ WAC tourney, 30-26 season, 8-10 WAC) - Is there a tougher team to eliminate from a tournament than Fresno State?  The Bulldogs played a WAC tourney record six games and won five, including the WAC title clinching 4-3 13-inning victory over Sacramento State.  The winner of that game had a NCAA tourney bid on the line and Fresno State salvaged what had been a pretty substandard season by their program's standards.  However, they are alive and well and have pitching that can contend in a regional.  They play Stanford on June 1st and they are the only team who has beaten Stanford's outstanding All-American Mark Appel.  The rematch is set.

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Regional bids handed out, Cal Poly not invited

Written by Blaine Clemmens on .

I've been tracking the weekend performances of the D1 teams in our region and because there are so many players from our area at Cal Poly, I have also been including the Mustangs.  All season long I felt that Cal Poly was a NCAA regional caliber team.  Well, despite playing in a conference that is very good, and finishing 16-8 and alone in second place in the Big West, the Mustangs were denied a regional berth.

The theme remains the same for teams from the West.  Because the tourney selection committee values strength of schedule and RPI so much, and the RPI basically resides in the SEC and ACC, teams in the West can't get RPI in their favor.  SEC teams own the RPI from year to year and they do not play teams that could realistically take any RPI points from them. 

It is well documented how strong the programs in the West are and year after year the College World Series shows exactly that.  However, the NCAA committee doesn't care.  The Pac-12 got five teams in (that's all they deserved), the Big West got ONE team, the WCC got two teams and had Pepperdine not won the WCC, my gut says only San Diego would have gotten in.  A 34-22 Gonzaga team was denied.  Long Beach State was great in the conference season but it's overall record was not great.  UC Irvine was left out and they had a 31 win season.  Again, it was good, not great. 

I think when all said and done, the issue is that teams in the West, particularly in California, play other quality teams in non-conference games and they all beat each other up.  The average and below average teams in the Pac-12, Big West, and WCC are GOOD teams.  Many of them would finish at the top of so many conferences in the Midwest and East.  So what happens is their overall records don't stand out, yet you also don't see many 15 and 20 win teams.  You see a bunch of 26-30 win teams out here, all around .500 and it's because they are all solid teams that beat other.

Shockingly, the WAC got two teams in.  Fresno State earned the WAC automatic bid by defeating Sacramento State on Sunday, with a 13th inning walk-off win (congrats to the Hornets for a great season, despite the disappointment they feel right now, it was a great year for their program).  However, New Mexico State also got in and not only that, they are in as a #2 seed.  New Mexico State is not as good as Gonzaga or Cal Poly, in my opinion, but they are in.  The WAC was a bad conference this year and they got two teams in.  The Big West was a GOOD conference this year and they got ONE team.  I don't understand it but that is the way it goes.

Fresno State will play in the Stanford regional with Pepperdine and Michigan State.  As per usual, the West teams that do get in have to play other very strong teams from the West and they will knock each other off.

The Pac-12 got only five teams in but a sixth would have been in had ASU not been ineligible for post-season play. 


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Sacramento State will play for WAC title

Written by Blaine Clemmens on .

Sacramento State entered the WAC tournament as teh #2 seed and so far is undeated.  They will play the winner of the Fresno State/Louisiana Tech game (currently led by La Tech 4-1 bottom of the 4th) for the WAC title and the automatic NCAA bid.  That game will be tonight at 7 PM.  Because Fresno State and La Tech have both lost, the winner would have to defeat the Hornets twice to win the tournament.  The Hornets are in the driver's seat as they continue their best ever D1 season.  If it isn't their best season ever, it certainly is since I came to the area in 1999.

Good luck!  Hopefully it will come down to Fresno State and Sacramento State so the region will get at least one of them in the tourney.  The WAC will be a one bid league.

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Scouts two deep to see Zimmer/Agosta/Wisdom

Written by Blaine Clemmens on .

Yesterday I went out to catch my first glimpse of USF righthander Kyler Zimmer as USF was at Saint Mary's.  Junior righthander Martin Agosta was on the hill for the Gaels and it was my first look at him since he was at Jesuit HS.  I was joined at the game by a few dozen scouts.  I also got my first look at SMC junior 3rd baseman Patrick Wisdom.  Did they know I was attending?

It was actually a great Friday for scouts in the area but more so, for the crosscheckers, scouting directors, special assistants to the GM and I would think a GM lurking around the area somewhere.  After the USF/SMC game a number of them were all headed over to Stanford, to see all the prospects in the Cal/Stanford game, including Mark Appel, Stephen Piscotty, Tony Renda, Kenny Diekroeger and a few others.

It is pretty rare a crosschecker or scouting director or GM can come to one region and put his eyes on at least three 1st round prospects and quite a few 2nd/3rd rounders in one day.  So what did I see and what did I hear?  Let's get to it.

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D1 Weekend Wrap-up

Written by Blaine Clemmens on .

The regular season will wrap up this weekend so let's take a quick look at how the regional teams fared and who still has their sights set on a possible NCAA playoff bid.

Still alive for a NCAA tourney bid...

- Stanford (3-0 at Utah, 35-14 season, 17-10 Pac-12) - The Cardinal got the sweep I expected they would get and it was good to not have a let down.  The Cardinal are primed for a deep NCAA playoff run and I would expect they will get to host a regional.  They finish at home with three games against a struggling Cal team.  They are chasing two teams, Oregon and Arizona.  Oregon (19-8) finishes with three games at Oregon State and Arizona (18-9) has three against ASU.  Stanford needs to finish ahead of those teams to win the Pac-12 title because they lost two of three to both Oregon and Arizona. 

- Cal Poly (3-0 vs UC Santa Barbara, 33-20 season, 13-8 Big West) - The Mustangs got a BIG sweep and got some help with Long Beach State (14-7) dropping a game to Pacific while Fullerton (15-6) dropped two games to UC Riverside.  That is the good news.  The bad news is that they needed Fullerton to get swept and for Long Beach to drop two games last weekend.  Because they trail Fullerton by two games and lose the tiebreaker to the Titans they need Fullerton to get swept to have a chance to finish a game ahead of them.  However, if Fullerton gets swept, that means Long Beach did the sweeping and they would finish ahead of Cal Poly by a game.  So the best the Mustangs can do is finish in second place in the Big West and hope the conference gets at least one at-large bid to the tournament.  The additional bad news is that UC Riverside pitched VERY well against Fullerton and Cal Poly finishes at Riverside.

- Nevada (1-2 at Hawaii, 31-23 season, 11-7 WAC) - Nevada had a chance to win the WAC regular season title and the #1 seed for the WAC tourney but dropped the rubber game 8-3.  So the Wolfpack tied New Mexico State and Sacramento State for the regular season title and Nevada, due to tiebreakers (they lost two of three to both Sac State and NMSU), gets the #3 seed in the WAC tourney.  They will need to win the tourney to get into the NCAA tournament.  This was the first ever regular season title for the Wolfpack.

- Sacramento State (0-3 vs UNLV, 29-26 season, 11-7 WAC) - The Hornets played a non-conference series and got swept at home by a pretty average club.  That can't sit welll with the coaching staff as they look ahead to the WAC tourney.  Sacramento State finished in a three-way tie with Nevada and New Mexico State for the regular season title and by virtue of tiebreakers, they earned the #2 seed in the WAC tourney.  Like Nevada, they will need to win the tournament to get into the NCAA tournament.  Regardless of how they do in the WAC tourney and regardless of being swept by UNLV, this has been a good season for the Hornets.  The #2 seed gets them a bye into the second round.  After Hawai'i's win over Nevada on Saturday night, the Hornets clinched its first WAC championship in school history.  Sacramento State finished in last place with just six conference wins in 2011. The Hornets join Cornell as the only teams in the nation to go from last a season ago to first place this year.

- Fresno State (2-1 vs Louisiana Tech, 25-25 season, 8-10 WAC) - Fresno State took two of three from the La Tech Bulldogs and earned the #5 seed in the WAC tourney.  The Bulldogs have played better late and because they have a strong pitching staff, they have to be considered a sleeper in that tourney.  The WAC tourney is played in Mesa, Arizona which can tend to favor more offensive teams, which doesn't bode so well for Fresno State however.  Because the WAC winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney, Fresno State is still alive!

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