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Baseball Notes: Pre-season conference rankings and more

In brief

  • Kendall Rogers (Rivals.com) Big-12 Preview
  • Baseball America ranks the conferences
  • Collegiate Baseball Pre-season Top-40
  • Louisville Slugger Pre-season All-Americans
  • List of the week: 20 Jayhawks who made the "Bigs"
As Jayhawk Nation slides out of football euphoria and into basketball season it is also time to start looking at the upcoming baseball season with a bit more focus.  The season opens in about seven weeks on February 22nd and the pre-season lists are rolling out with increasing frequency now.

Kendall Rogers (Rivals.com) Big-12 Preview
Kendall Rogers at Rivals.com has posted his Big-12 season preview.  Rogers is one of the best informed of the national college baseball writers so his rankings carry weight.  His projection:

  1. Texas
  2. Missouri
  3. Baylor
  4. Texas A&M
  5. Oklahoma State
  6. Nebraska
  7. Kansas State
  8. Oklahoma
  9. Kansas
  10. Texas Tech
And his pre-season All Big-12 team:
1B. Rebel Ridling, Oklahoma State
2B. Blake Stouffer, Texas A&M
3B. Matt Hague, Oklahoma State
SS. Beamer Weems, Baylor
OF. Kyle Russell, Texas
OF. Jordan Danks, Texas
OF. Byron Wiley, Kansas State
C. Preston Clark, Texas
SP. Aaron Crow, Missouri
SP. Brad Hutt, Kansas State
SP. Stephen Porlier, Oklahoma
RP. Daniel Edwards, Kansas State
DH. Roger Kieschnick, Texas Tech

I am not surprised to see Kansas picked to finish 9th.  I expect most polls and rankings will have the Jayhawks finishing between 7th and 10th.  Personally, I disagree with these projections, but I certainly understand why most writers who do not follow the Hawks closely might overlook many of the 2008 KU strengths.

For what it is worth, my personal projection:

  1. Texas
  2. Texas A&M
  3. Missouri
  4. Baylor
  5. Kansas
  6. Oklahoma State
  7. Kansas State
  8. Nebraska
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Texas Tech
I see KU pulling out 14 or 15 conference wins in 2008.  Hold me to this in June.

Baseball America ranks the conferences
Baseball America put out another pre-season list, but of a very different nature.  BA's article looks at the performance of eight conferences in the "modern era," (i.e. since 1999 when the NCAA tournament field was expanded to 64 teams.)  BA gave each conference an overall "GPA" score after looking at five criteria: National Impact; Competitiveness; Fans; Facilities and Academics.  The four page report is really very interesting and I encourage everyone to print off a copy and take a look.

So, how does the Big-12 rank?  Tied for second with the ACC.  The SEC received top honors (3.40), the Big-12 and ACC came next (2.94), followed by the Pac-10 (2.80), Conference USA (2.66), Big West (2.00), Big East (1.88) and finally the Big-10 (1.82).  I understand why BA stuck with the big school conferences but personally I think it would have made more sense to drop the Big East and Big-10 and replace them with the Missouri Valley and Sun Belt.

Sixteen individual schools received A's for their on-field performance during this era.  In no particular order they were SC, LSU, Texas, Nebraska, Miami, FSU, Clemson, Georgia Tech, UNC, Stanford, Oregon State, ASU, USC, Rice, Tulane and Cal State Fullerton.  While Kansas has had some success it fell outside the top-50 so received a "D."  The Big-12 Overall:
A - Texas (#3 overall) and Nebraska
B - Baylor (just missed an A), and Texas A&M
C - Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas Tech
D - Kansas
F - Kansas State

While Kansas baseball has made considerable progress under Ritch Price clearly the program has a bit further to go before it can be considered on par with most of the Big-12.  The new facilities, the upgrade to the stadium and the recent success on the field all are moving KU towards that goal.  I think the Jayhawks are only two more solid seasons separated.  An NCAA berth in 2008 would go a long way to taking this next step.

Not ignoring the negative, KU's attendance is well below league average still, and Kansas was one of only four teams covered in this article (82 total) who received an NCAA sanction for below standard academic progress.  These sanctions result in a reduction to the 11.7 scholarship limit.

One other aspect of the article I found interesting is its evaluation of west coast programs.  The article points out that many Pac-10 and Big West programs draw surprisingly low attendance and play in substandard stadiums, often lacking lights.

Other Pre-season lists
Collegiate Baseball put out its Pre-season Top-40 Rankings.  Kansas does not make an appearance, but several teams on this year's schedule are found.  (#8) Texas, (#9) Wichita State, (#11) Vanderbilt, (#15) Missouri, (#22) Texas A&M, (#28) Baylor, (#31) Oklahoma State, (#38) Nebraska and (#40) Oral Roberts.  Also receiving votes were Oklahoma, Ohio State and the Jayhawks opening day opponent LeMoyne.

Collegiate Baseball also selected the Louisville Slugger Pre-Season All-American teams.  If you like to scout prospects here is a list of when players on this list will visit Lawrence.

  • Blake Stouffer (1st team 2B) of Texas A&M will visit March 28-30.
  • Aaron Shafer (2nd team RHP) and Conor Gillaspie (2nd team 3B) of Wichita State will visit April 1st.  It is unlikely that Shafer will pitch in a weekday game but we should get a look at Gillaspie.  The Shockers will also bring two 3rd team pitchers with them.  Rob Musgrave and Anthony Capra.
  • Aaron Crow (3rd team RHP) of Missouri will visit from March 9-11.
The Jayhawks will face five other All-Americans in 2008, but these are road contests.

Twenty Jayhawks who made it into Major League Baseball
Earlier this week I recapped the Class of 2007, the three KU players taken in last year's MLB draft and how they fared in their first year of professional baseball.  I will be posting updates of earlier classes in the coming weeks.  Just to wrap up this longish update story with a fun list, here are the twenty former Jayhawkers who made it into the "biggs," list courtesy of the baseball almanac.
Dale Gear (1893-1896)
Bob Edmundson (1898)
Harry Huston (1902-0906)
Ray Pierce (1923)
Herb Bradley (1922-1926)
Farrell Anderson (1937-1938)
Bob Allison (1954)
Larry Miller (1957-1958)
Chuck Dobson (1964)
Steve Renko (1964-1965)
Skip James (1970-1971)
Roger Slagle (1975-1976)
Steve Jeltz (1978-1980)
Clay Christiansen (1977-1979)
Scott Taylor (1986-1988)
Curt Schmidt (1991-1992)
Jeff Berblinger (1990-1993)
Les Walrond (1996-1998)
Travis Metcalf (2002-2004)
Mike Zagurski (2004-2005)