The baseball season is slowly creeping up on us with the season's first pitch just 44 days away so naturally, we're starting to hear more and more about the upcoming season. Preseason previews are right around the corner (I'll have mine next month leading us into the season) and people are starting to talk college hardball again so let's do the same as we recap the developments of the last few weeks.
The first piece of news is the most recent piece of news and most definitely the biggest piece of news. As we all know now, 2011 will be the last season of Cal baseball as they drop the program after the year. Alumni and boosters are doing their best to raise money and keep the program alive, but should they not raise the necessary money, the program will be kaput after the year and all players will be free to transfer without penalty.
Eric Jaffe, one of Cal's best recruits and one of the most highly touted freshman pitchers decided he didn't want to wait around for a year and decided to transfer to UCLA immediately. He submitted a waiver request to the NCAA to be eligible immediately and today we found out that the NCAA has granted Jaffe the waiver, allowing him to play as a freshman for UCLA this season.
Freshman right-handed pitcher Eric Jaffe has enrolled at UCLA in the Winter Quarter and will be eligible to compete for the Bruins in 2011. Jaffe, selected in the 19th round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox, was a three-year varsity baseball letterwinner at Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd High School.
As you can see, Jaffe was drafted in the 19th round despite many assuming he would go to college. At 6'4'', 225 lbs., Jaffe is a big kid who drew attention in high school for his bat, as well as his arm. Jaffe hit .442 as a high school senior with seven home runs, but the Red Sox drafted him as a pitcher and he's entering UCLA listed as a pitcher. That would be because he went 8-1 as a senior with a 0.83 ERA thanks to a 95 mph fastball, but he should get a couple cracks to swing the bat as well.
Reports out of practice have been glowing for Jaffe and it is expected that he gets a chance to pitch right away in 2011. Adam Plutko and Zack Weiss, also freshmen, have performed well and have the inside track to start on Sundays and midweek, but Jaffe will get the chance to battle with the third freshman pitcher, Nick Vander Tuig, for the closer spot. If nothing else, a rebuilding UCLA bullpen just got another very talented arm.
Click through the jump for All-American news and more.
While the UCLA bullpen is a talented question mark, their Friday and Saturday starters are anything but a question mark. Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer are two of the best pitchers in the entire country and are being honored as so. Collegiate Baseball recently released their preseason All-American team and both Cole and Bauer were named to the first team. The Bruins' duo are the only two players from the same team named to the first team. Last season, Collegiate Baseball had the pair as second team All-Americans. The NCBWA also honored Cole, naming him a first team preseason All-American.
Baseball America also chimed in on Cole and Bauer with a look ahead to the 2011 MLB Draft. The publication named their top college players for the draft and Cole checked in as the second best draft prospect in the nation, while Bauer was slotted in at number 12. Last season, Cole went 11-4 with a 3.37 ERA and finished third in the country in strikeouts, while Bauer went 12-3 with a 3.02 ERA and topped the nation in strikeouts. Cole will likely be drafted in the first round for the second time this June, having been drafted in the first round by the Yankees out of high school. This draft will be the first time that Bauer is drafted because he skipped his senior year of high school to enroll at UCLA so he was never eligible for the draft before.
Rivals has been sticking with their year round baseball coverage and Kendall Rogers has had UCLA in several of his 2010 reviews and 2011 previews. Most recently, he named John Savage as one of his coaches to watch in 2011.
Savage couldn’t be in a better place in his career after last season. Savage had a label in past years of not being able to guide the Bruins to the CWS. That doubt ended last season when the Bruins earned a national seed and defeated Cal State Fullerton on the way to Omaha and the national title series. With the return of starting pitchers Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, among other talented players, Savage is expected to again have his Bruins in the mix for a national title. Times sure have changed in Westwood.
That wasn't all. In looking back at 2010, Rogers named the Bruins as one of the ten teams in the country to have made a statement. I think it's safe to say that 210 transformed UCLA from perennial underachiever to one of the programs to watch. Of course, one season does not a program make, but with Cole and Bauer in 2011 and now a quartet of freshman pitchers to lead the program after Cole and Bauer depart, plus the growing offense with young talent led by Rick Vanderhook, this is a very different program from one in years past. Anyways, here's what Rogers had to say about UCLA making a statement in 2010.
Gone is the mantra that the Bruins can’t win the big game. The Bruins weren’t ranked to enter the year, but finished near the top of the Pac-10 and prevailed through murderer’s row in the postseason. Their postseason run, which ended with a national title series loss to South Carolina, included a super regional series win over arch nemesis Cal State Fullerton. It was a fruitful year for the Bruins.
For those who missed it, Collegiate Baseball was the first preseason poll to be released and the Bruins checked in at third, but there is only the slimmest of margins separating the top five. To be completely fair, there are some absolutely mind boggling rankings in the poll, such as Cal St. Fullerton not being in the top ten, but that isn't completely out of the ordinary for Collegiate Baseball.
As for former UCLA players, Baseball America named Dan Klein the Orioles' fifth best prospect and Rob Rasmussen was named the Marlins' 10th best prospect. Both were members of UCLA's College World Series team in 2010.
So there you have it. A new season is right around the corner and it should be a fun one for the Bruins. There's the known quantities that make the team a preseason top five in many peoples' eyes, but also some questions that can be answered with great talent to make for some intrigue. It should be a fun one and as always, you can stay up to date with it all at my UCLA baseball twitter. Next month, the season preview will really kick it up here on BN as UCLA tries to replicate their success of 2010 and grab those last two wins that eluded them a year ago.