Baseball America has ranked UCLA #12 in its preseason poll. There is a further breakdown, using the standard scout rating scale of 20-80. 50 means ncaa tourney caliber. 60 means above average. 70 means well above average. 80 means off the charts. A comparable scale covers the downside, 40, 30 and 20.
Here is the projected starting lineup and pitching staff, per Baseball America-
C Shane Zeile (jr)
1B Pat Gallagher (sr)
2B Kevin Williams (sr)
3B Chris Keck (jr)
SS Kevin Kramer (jr)
LF Christoph Bono (so)
CF Brian Carroll (sr)
RF Eric Filia (jr)
DH Ty Moore (so)
SP Grant Watson (jr- left)
SP James Kaprielian (so- right)
SP Cody Poteet (so- right)
Closer David Berg (jr)
Here are the Baseball America team scores for the categories used to determine the overall ranking-
Hitting- 50 (average)
Power- 35 (ouch)
Speed- 55 (slightly above average)
Defense- 65 (solid plus)
Starting pitching- 60 (solid)
Bullpen- 65 (solid plus)
Experience/intangibles- 70 (huge plus)
I won't go into too much detail. Ryan will presumably do his predictions as opening day approaches. His predictions are more reliable than any other source, IMO.
But in terms of the outliers above, Pat Valaika led the team in homers last season, and there is no obvious candidate who Baseball America sees to fill the void. Chris Keck is seen as the most likely power threat. But, as Baseball America points out, UCLA was built for the large park at Omaha last year, and appear to have the same style this year. To win the CWS, you don't swing for the fences.
The starting pitchers will need to step up to replace Adam Plutko and Nick Vander Tuig. Grant Watson has won 18 games over the last 2 seasons. James Kaprielian moves from setup to weekend starter. And Cody Poteet moves from midweek starter to weekend starter.
David Berg is the best closer in the game, bar none. And he looks to have a good supporting cast including 2 freshman righties and 2 lefties, who Coach Savage can use situationally.
In terms of experience, UCLA has 6 everyday players from last year's championship team who are on the 2014 squad, and we have reserves from the championship team who will now have their moment in the sun. These players know what it takes to be the best. And we still have Coach Savage.
Baseball America notes that UCLA was nationally champions last year after being ranked #12 in the preseason poll a year ago.
Will history repeat itself? We will find out very soon (opening day is less than 3 weeks away).
GO BRUINS !!