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Baseball: Kansas (18-9, 1-2) hosts Texas A&M (18-6, 3-3)

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Kansas Jayhawks (18-9) vs. Texas A&M (18-6)

Kansas opens its home Big-12 season this weekend by hosting the Aggies.  The Jayhawks enter the series with a 1-2 conference record, A&M is 3-3.  The Friday game was moved from 6:30 to 4PM to accommodate fans who would like to watch the basketball game that evening.

Friday 4PM: Wally Marciel (2-3, 6.41 ERA) vs. Brooks Raley (3-0, 2.89 ERA)
Saturday 2PM: Nick Czyz (1-3, 7.77) vs. Barret Loux (1-1, 3.76)
Sunday 1PM: Sam Freeman (4-0, 5.04) vs. TBA
Media: Apparently free audio AND VIDEO (?!?!) will be supplied by KU through this site.

Complete Texas A&M stats are located here. Jayhawk stats here.

What is at stake for the Jayhawks
KU needs conference wins and wins over highly ranked opponents in order to build a post season resume.  This weekend gives them an opportunity to accomplish both goals at home.  If KU can take two of three games this weekend they establish themselves as a solid member of the Big-12's second group.  Kansas has been winning consistently since the second week of the season.  After getting off to a 2-5 start the Hawks have compiled a record of 14-4 in NCAA games.  All four of the defeats were to respectable opponents and on the road.  Just the same, during that stretch only two of KU's 14 wins came in good "RPI games."  At Missouri State and at Texas.  Even though the Hawks have been taking care of business against lower ranked teams practically on a daily basis their national ranking has seen little change.  A winning weekend this time out will break that cycle.

What is at stake for the Aggies
Texas A&M broke the season considered one of the four teams likely to figure into the Big-12 championship race.  Texas and Missouri remain solidly in that top group, and Nebraska looks like it has crashed the party, however A&M and Baylor are in danger of falling into the second group.  The Aggies will look at this weekend as an excellent opportunity to win a road conference series and remain part of the conversation.  A loss will accomplish the opposite result.

Scouting the Aggies
The Aggies and KU have several opponents in common already this year.  A&M beat Ohio State 8-5 and then the following day blew out Arkansas 15-7.  Both games were at College Station.  Kansas lost to both of these opponents.  So that doesn't bode well for the Hawks.  A&M has beaten a lot of decent opponents, but those two games are their only non-conference marquee wins.  The Aggies are 16-4 at home, but only 2-2 on the road, so KU has that going for them.

As a team there is not much wrong with A&M.  They are hitting .305/.412/.472/.884 as a team.  That is worrisome.  They also have stolen 40 of 60 bases in their first 24 games.  This all translates out to seven runs a game on average.  Their pitching staff is, if anything, more impressive than their offense.  The team ERA is 3.01, although due to the only chink in A&M's armor, their suspect defense, they do give up closer to four runs a game.  I'll leave individual player evaluations to bkmhoxx's prospect preview below.  Bottom line, A&M is a damn good team and the Hawks are going to need to bring their best to secure wins this weekend.

For the rest of the Big-12 action this weekend, no better place to visit than Corn Nation and his weekend preview. If you want more Kansas coverage, the print edition of the UDK has a full page series preview in the Friday edition.

Texas A&M prospect preview by bkmhoxx
Let me begin by saying that the Aggies have a great offense (.304 team average) with a lot of consistent power through their entire lineup (72 extra base hits and 22 HR thus far). They score a lot of runs (about 7 per game) and steal a lot of bases (38). They really put the pressure on the pitching staff and on the defense. Along with that great offense comes even better pitching (2.97 ERA with almost 9 K's per game). They are a staff of strikeout pitchers and the bullpen follows suit (2.23 ERA). The Aggies have a nice collection of players that have been drafted and /or will be drafted. Some of them may get late round fliers in the draft but i would say quite a few of them will wind up in the top 10 rounds with a few possibly in the top 3-5 rounds. This is a tough team to beat and should be a fun weekend to really get a close look at some of these future pros and prospects. I will offer a recap with my findings and scouting information on Sunday evening to discuss what i took from this series.

2B Blake Stouffer - 6'1, 190, SR
Stouffer probably was more deserving of the Player of the Year award last year than Kyle Russell from Texas, but people love the long ball so Russell won out. Stouffer put up a ridiculous line of .398, 12 HR and 85 RBI. He led the nation in runs batted in and he wound up being selected in the 4th round by Cincinnati only to return for his senior year. Like Russell's decision to come back, Stouffers decision was somewhat of a head-scratcher for some and like Russell it appears to have been the wrong decision. He has gotten off to a horrendously slow start and still isnt finding a way to get his bat going. He is batting .213 with 1HR and 17 RBI thus far. He has stolen 7 bases and i guess with 17 RBI, one could say he hasnt been worthless by any means, but if he is going to be drafted again, anywhere near the 4th round, he is going to have to figure things out quickly. He is still a deadly hitter, so lets hope the Jayhawks take him seriously or his season beginning slump will officially be over this weekend. I will really be watching close to see what is ailing Stouffer. FUN FACT: Stouffer is in the little league Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

3B Dane Carter - 5'9, 165, SR
Carter has kind of come out of nowhere this year. He really battled injuries most of last season after transferring, therefore hasnt really had the statistics to get much attention as a prospect, but this year he has burst onto the scene in a serious way. Carter transferred from Vernon College where he did put up some nice numbers but nothing like what he is doing so far this year. He is batting .457 with 5 HR, 22 RBI and 10 SB so far this year. He has hit 4 doubles and 5 triples as well, giving him a slugging percentage of .772. I would say he is one of the top 10 third basemen in the country at this point. Whether he gets drafted high or not will completely be determined by how he continues in his senior season. If he can stay on a pace similar to what he has been doing, his chances will be good to be drafted in the top 5 rounds. Im not sure he has the power to play 3B in the pros, but he has the stick to play somewhere, maybe even 2b or OF? I will really be watching him close to see if he has any future power development in his swing.

SS Jose Duran - 5'11, 190, JR
Duran is a transfer from North Central Texas College where he went for .347, 10 HR, 53 RBI and 20 SB. He has a good glove and good arm with the occasional error as most shortstops have from time to time. This year he is more than doing well, he is tearing it up, batting .392 with 2 HR, 22 RBI and 6 SB. He is one of the top 20 middle infielders in college ball this year. His brother is German Duran and is a very nice prospect with the Texas Rangers. German has a chance to really step up to the elite status this year. I would definitely guess his brother Jose will be drafted fairly high as well. Im anxious to see Duran play defense and see what his bat looks like as well.

LF/1B Brian Ruggiano - 6', 180, JR
Ruggiano is a transfer from Temple College and already made an impact for the Aggies last year as a sophomore batting .255 with 1 HR, 14 RBI and 9 SB. He is a big part of the offense this year batting .329 with 2HR and 14 RBI. His brother, Justin Ruggiano is a good prospect for Tampa Bay and i would expect Brian to get some respect in the draft if he can continue to improve those numbers. I would expect him to come back for his senior year before entering the draft. I will be watching to see if he has any power development in his future in a similar fashion to his brother who had 20 HR in AAA last year.

1b/OF Darby Brown - 6'4, 230, SR
Brown had a broken hand last year and never really got to put together the year he is capabale of. He had 1 HR and 17 RBI in 118 at bats but is capable of much much more, as he has shown so far this year. He is batting .273 with 4 HR and 18 RBI and the past 13 games he has been on fire. He was drafted in the 46th round in the 05 draft by Cincinnati and with his size, i would expect a similar draft slot this summer if he can continue to hit well and show some power. I will be watching to see what kinda of athleticism he has and if his swing translates to future power or if it will end up as a high strikeout type swing.

DH/OF/1B Luke Anders - 6'6, 225, JR
Anders has an awesome story as he was recruited under the past coaching staff to pitch and he didnt get much playing time and that whole story. The new coaches decided they liked his swing and moved him into the batting lineup last year and the rest is history. He batted .336 with 11 HR and 46 RBI. And the rich keep getting richer. So far this season, Anders is batting .328 with 3 HR and 15 RBI. With his size and having a year left, id say he is a prospect if he can continue to show some pop and good hitting skills.

LF Ben Feltner - 5'11, 185, SR
Feltner is a small guy that is blazing fast and works his tail off. Last year he was 34 of 37 in steals and he also had 28 bunt singles. Those numbers are unheard of. He also batted .304 with 1 HR and 24 RBI so hes no slouch with the bat either. He is off to a slow start this year batting .214 with 6 RBI and 6 SB. He was drafted in the 26th round in the 07 draft by Milwaukee and in the 38th round in 06 by the Cubs. With his speed, id say he should be drafted somewhere in the 20th-30th rounds again, even if he has a statistically worse season this year.

INF Phil Carey - 6', 185, JR
Carey is a transfer from Winthrop where he did very well with the bat. He was drafted in the 25th round of the 05 draft by Toronto and only has 3 at bats so far this season. Im not sure if he is injured or if he just isnt playing much yet but he obviously has some talent to get him to the next level.

RHP Barret Loux - 6'5, 195, FR
Loux is a stud. Hes a tall pitcher who got drafted in the 24th round last year out of HS by Detroit. He hasnt disappointed as a freshman either with a 3.76 ERA and 26 K's in 26.1 innings. He will be going up against Nick Czyz tomorrow afternoon and should provide for some good pitching to watch. In 3 years id expect Loux to be a an early round draft pick.

RHP Kyle Thebeau - 6'1, 195, JR
Thebeau is purely a strikeout pitcher. Last year he had a 4.67 ERA but struck out 92 in only 79 innings. That is an extremely good ratio. This year he has a 1.12 ERA in 24 innings with 25 K's. He will be a tough pitcher to hit and im anxious to see his pitches and see how fast he is throwing.

LHP Brooks Raley - 6', 170, FR
Raley is another very nice freshman starter for the Aggies. He has started 3 games and made 7 appearances so far and has a 2.89 ERA with 27 K's in 28 innings. Those are good numbers for a senior, let alone a freshman. He also plays OF and has a decent bat and some good speed. He will face off against Wally Marciel this evening. Im very anxious to see what kind of stuff this kid is dealing.

RHP Jordan Chambless - 6'2, 200, JR
Chambless has gone through a rough injured past with a stress fracture, broken foot, sprained ankle and an arm issue. He missed last year with a medical red shirt. But when he is healthy, he is quite simply unstoppable and one of the best arms in the country. He was drafted in the 50th round last year by the Reds, 43rd round by the Dodgers in 06, and the 12th round by Cleveland in 04. His injuries have really caused him to slip in the draft from year to year but a strong junior/senior campaign would push him right back to the top. He too is a strikeout pitcher and has only pitched a couple innings this year, so im not sure of his status for this weekend.

RHP Carson Middleton - 6'3, 200, SO
Middleton is another big young pitcher for the Aggies. He is a transfer from McLennan College and was drafted in the 49th by Pittsburgh. Middleton will probably pitch Sunday against Sam Freeman. So far he has been very dominant with a 2.37 ERA and 18 K's in 19 innings. I dont know much about this kid, so if we dont get rained out on Sunday, i will be anxious to see what he has to offer.

Other talented pitchers i want to mention but will cover a little more later and as i see them pitch this weekend:
Kirkland Rivers
Scott Migl
Blake Rampy
Travis Starling
Shane Minks
Alex Wilson

The Aggies are stacked, but like Texas, this is a great year to get a win or 2 from them.
Go Jayhawks
Game time in less than 1 hour!
Beak Em Hawks!