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Baseball Notes: Marks surgery, NCAA rule changes, Top-25

In brief

  • Andy Marks recovering from shoulder surgery and might miss part of the season.
  • New NCAA and MLB rules making life a bit harder.
  • Very early Top-25 rankings.
Full stories under the fold.

Andy Marks surgery update
Shawn Shroyer of the UDK reports that Andy Marks is in physical therapy recovering from a September surgery on a torn labrum.  Marks injured his shoulder while playing this summer in the Duluth Huskies of the Northwood League.  Marks may be ready to take the mound again in early March, or he may be held back until April.

This could be a huge story.  Marks and Nick Czyz look very much like the top two weekend starters for next season's team.  Marks put up very impressive peripheral numbers last year and finished the season gaining strength.  This summer he threw a no-hitter for Duluth.  A weekend rotation of Marks, Czyz and Freshman All-American Second Teamer Wally Marciel would give KU one of the best rotations in the Big-12.  These are three pitchers I fully expect to draw scouts in all season.

Hopefully Andy can stay on schedule in therapy and be at full strength for the Big-12 part of the season.  KU plays at Texas March 14-16 and then moves into consistent Big-12 weekend play starting March 28th.  Marks should definitely not push his shoulder if it is not ready.  He has a bright pro future which I am sure he and Coach Price will not put at risk.

If Marks is not ready to open the season in the rotation KU does seem to have enough pitching depth for next year to remain competitive.  Czyz, Marciel and Andres Esquibel are all proven commodities, and Hiarali Garcia and Thomas Marcin both worked as starters when needed last year, and Matt Lane might be able to step up as well.  I am not familiar with the new additions to the team but there may already be some reinforcements on the team ready for starting responsibility.

Shroyer is getting a little national love, if your definition of national love is having your stories picked up by some national college baseball web sites.  The College Baseball Blog, a well maintained clearing house for breaking news; and CSTV.com, CBS' college sports internet casting site both ran Shroyer's story last week.  Keep the good stuff coming.

New NCAA rules fallout
Baseball America has been putting out some decent material regarding the fallout of the new NCAA rules.  The new rule making the biggest impact seems to be the 35 man cap on NCAA rosters.  Apparently this is making it harder for the big schools to recruit top talent.  In the past a powerhouse program could sign an unlimited number of top players knowing that many of them would opt out and sign minor league contracts and, even if more players reported then were expected to, the team could still carry all of them on their roster and just give out smaller scholarship awards.  However, now that teams can only have 35 players on their roster it will be much harder for schools to extend dozens of offers.  The schools must have some plan to accommodate the players on their roster and with a minimum 25% scholarship if they do come to campus.  Aaron Fit of BA speculates that the days of big schools announcing signing classes of fifteen or twenty players may now be coming to an end.  Taking this situation one step further than Fit, I think these new rules may lead college baseball recruiting in one of two directions.  

  1. The top few hundred recruits will always be fine.  The group that will most be affected are those good but not great recruits.  High school grads who are choosing between playing at the NCAA level, signing a minimum bonus minor league deal or deciding to focus on life after baseball.  The new rule will presumably mean that more of these good players will sign professional contracts out of high school.  If a good player wants to go to a top school that will groom him for the pros and that school cannot promise him support the uncertainty factor will make the professional contract appear more attractive.  Or an alternative way this could play out....
  2. If the top programs start telling recruits that they are not guaranteed a scholarship, or even a roster spot, these players might then find other colleges, presumably smaller programs, to sign on to.
I am sure the second option is the one the NCAA likes.  We'll just have to see how this plays out.  I am not sure that a good player with his heart set on playing for a Big-12 team who instead finds his only secure option is to instead go to a regional school will not just decide to by-pass college ball and take his chances in the minors.

Also at BA John Manuel has an interesting article about how the new MLB draft rules reduce the leverage college players have in negotiations.  Seems like college baseball players are getting knocked around a bit lately by forces beyond their control.

Early Rankings
While it is ridiculously early to do something like this, Doug Kroll, who is the CSTV college baseball analyst, put up his pre-season Top-25 rankings already.   No, Kansas did not make the list, but several teams KU will play are to be found.

3. Vanderbilt (54-13, Lost In Nashville Regional)
The Commodores were the nation's top team for nearly the entire 2007 season, only to find themselves falling short of a Super Regional berth with a surprising loss to Michigan. It would be easy to knock Vanderbilt down a few pegs with the departure of last season's national Player of the Year, David Price, but this team is still very loaded. Leading the group will be junior third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who is considered one of the best players in the nation, and he will have help from senior Dominic de la Osa after he turned down an offer from the Detroit Tigers after being drafted in the 10th round this past spring. The player who will look to step into Price's role in the top spot in the rotation will be lefty Mike Minor.

13. Texas (46-17, Lost In Round Rock Regional)
On the heels of another disappointing postseason appearance in 2007, the 2008 season could be a rough one in Austin. Power hitting outfielder Kyle Russell did decide to return, but the pitching staff is a question mark for the Longhorns with the departure of top starter Adrian Alaniz and closer Randy Boone.

16. Missouri (42-18, Lost In Columbia (Mo.) Regional)
Many believe that the Tigers are good enough to win the Big 12 this season. With two of the best starters in the nation, Aaron Crow and Kyle Gibson, that is easy to believe. Look for senior Jacob Priday to make a name for himself when it comes to the longball, after hitting 13 to lead the team last season.

20. Wichita State (53-22, Lost In Wichita Super Regional)
Many thought the Shockers were destined for Omaha, until a pesky UC Irvine team shocked the world by winning two straight in the Super Regional. Star Damon Sublett is gone, but impressive lefthander Anthony Capra should make some noise this season on the mound.

23. Baylor (35-27, Lost In Houston Regional)
The Bears were one of the youngest teams in the NCAA Tournament last season, playing a bunch of freshmen and sophomores. That experience should pay off this season. Look for Baylor to be in contention for a Big 12 title.

Rivals.com College Baseball also has put out a pre-season top programs list, although they have ranked the programs by region.  Kansas falls into a region they refer to as the "heartland."  The top five programs in this region will be familiar to the Jayhawks:

  1. Missouri
  2. Oklahoma State
  3. Arkansas
  4. Nebraska
  5. Wichita State
Obviously Kansas has stiff competition when it comes to recruiting regional talent.