GOLDEN SPIKES AWARD NEWS

GSA

Golden Spikes Spotlight: J.B. Bukauskas

May 24, 2017

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - An uncharacteristic mistake early in Friday's game against Duke revealed a lot about J.B. Bukauskas.

With a runner at third base and two outs in the second inning, Bukauskas got ahead of dangerous Duke righthanded hitter Jimmy Herron - he said later that he was beating Herron with fastballs, and he should have stuck with it. Instead, he shook off the call from the dugout and threw a changeup, and Herron turned on it for an RBI double down the left-field line. When Bukauskas got back to the dugout between innings, North Carolina coach Mike Fox greeted him.

"I very rarely will say something, but I said something to him. I'm like, 'He's probably their best offensive player. There's a guy in scoring position, you have to make him beat your best stuff.' He got mad at me; he said, 'Yes, sir,' but in one of those (tones)," Fox said. "And then after the game he came up to me and apologized. I said, 'J.B., you don't need to apologize to me. If you weren't upset with that, then I would really be worried about you.' That's the way he is. He cares a lot, I think his teammates love him."

It was clear that Bukauskas didn't have his very best stuff early in that game. Afterward, he said he was having problems with a blister that broke open on his finger, which hindered his feel for his slider - normally one of the most devastating pitches in college baseball. On this day, the 82-86 mph slider showed flashes of its typical filthy late tilt, but its break was inconsistent and he struggled to command it.

So Bukauskas made an adjustment. Rather than leaning on his slider for outs, he pounded the zone with his fastball, which sat at 94-96 mph in the first and then sat mostly at 92-94 over the next six innings, touching 95 repeatedly. And starting in the third, he found his groove, retiring 12 straight Duke batters.

"He's had some outings like that where he just finds a way for three or four innings, just to show the other team that, 'OK, I may not have this pitch or that pitch, but I've got this one.' And he just gives our team a chance," Fox said. "It's as much a boost for our offense as anything else. They're like, 'OK, J.B.'s getting in a groove now, they're probably going to go three or four innings without scoring, so let's do something."

That's what happened Friday night, as UNC overcame an early 2-0 deficit and won 3-2 in 10 innings. A few days later, when the regular season was over, Bukauskas was named ACC Pitcher of the Year after going 8-0, 1.87 with 106 strikeouts and 31 walks in 82 innings. He had some brilliant days this spring, but most impressively, he was amazingly consistent from week to week.

"He's a special competitor. He works so hard on the five, six days between his outings, just very meticulous in his routine, his preparation," UNC pitching coach Robert Woodard said. "That carries over into the game in terms of his competitiveness - he invests so much that when something doesn't go his way or he has a little bit of adversity, he has that extra gear he can kind of take it to. He did a great job (Friday) of making pitch to pitch adjustments, over not waiting for the next inning or having to go to another reliever. He really gathered himself, adjusted and kept competing."

Back in May of 2014 when Bukauskas wrote a letter to every major league club telling them he intended to honor his commitment to UNC rather than entertain draft opportunities, the Tar Heels surely felt they had won the lottery. They must have suspected they were getting a potential future ACC pitcher of the year and an obvious first-round talent.

Fox remembers getting the phone call from Bukauskas three years ago, informing him of the young righthander's intention to attend UNC. As Fox remembers it, the call came in around 1 a.m.

"I wasn't totally surprised, I kind of was, but just the way he told me, just very calm, like, 'Hey Coach, this is J.B., I just wanted to let you know we've written a letter to the teams and I'll be coming to UNC.' Just like that - flat, matter-of-fact. That's him. Like, 'OK J.B. See you soon.'"

That direct, businesslike approach has served Bukauskas well so far in his career. He's one of the more analytical and self-aware pitchers in the country, capable of diagnosing his own strengths and weaknesses, and working to turn his shortcomings into strengths.

Exhibit A is his changeup, which he has been working hard to develop since at least last summer with USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team. The pitch has continued to make progress, as he showed when he used it to strike out Duke slugger Griffin Conine early in Friday's game. But a couple of scouts observed that Bukauskas has a tendency to slow down his delivery and let hitters know the pitch is coming. So it was illuminating to hear Bukauskas bring that up himself later in the night, without being prompted.

"It's getting better," Bukauskas said. "I threw like 15 of them tonight, I was happy with it. Got some good swings and misses, some pop-ups and ground balls, and a couple were hit hard. That's the thing, I slowed my mechanics down a little bit, and that will happen - if you show guys what's gonna come, these guys are good hitters, ACC hitters. So can't do that, but I was happy with where it's going."

He also acknowledged that he has gone to UNC closer Josh Hiatt - who owns one of the best changeups in the country - for changeup advice. Again, Bukauskas showed uncommon self-awareness when he described that consultation with Hiatt.

"The biggest thing for me is everything I want to throw, I want to throw for a swing-and-miss. And I'm learning from him that you don't need to go for a swing-and-miss with a changeup, it's a good quick-out pitch," Bukauskas said. "I learn from everybody, talk to everybody, especially guys that have had that kind of success. They're doing something right."

The other thing he's working on is trying to stay closed in his delivery, instead of flying open and letting hitters get a longer look at the ball. He said that when he stays closed, his fastball has more run and better downward angle, and he can locate it better. He's always been better at locating to his glove side, but he has worked to improve his arm-side command as well.

Bukauskas isn't a finished product yet, and he knows that better than anyone. But he's still gotten dramatically better year after year, improving from 5-3, 4.09 as a freshman to 7-2, 3.10 as a sophomore to 8-0, 1.87 as a junior. His strikeout rate has gone up, and he's become harder to hit. He's obviously a major reason for No. 2 North Carolina's superb season, and he'll finally get to pitch on the big stage of the NCAA tournament after the Tar Heels missed the postseason each of the last two years. Getting the program back to the elite level it had reached over the past dozen years (when it made six CWS appearances) was a major motivator for the team-oriented Bukauskas - though he was characteristically understated when he looked ahead to the postseason. "Really looking forward to that," he said. "I think we got a good shot."

Bukauskas' combination of competitiveness, intelligence, selflessness and electrifying stuff make him stand out even among the star-studded list of marquee pitchers who have passed through Chapel Hill in the Fox era (from Andrew Miller, Daniel Bard and Woodard himself to Matt Harvey, Adam Warren, Alex White and Kent Emanuel). Fox and Woodard know how lucky they are to have him leading their staff.

"Blessed is an understatement," Woodard said of the opportunity to coach Bukauaskas in his first year as UNC's pitching coach.

"I remind him of that all the time," Fox quipped.

They're going to enjoy the rest of the Bukauskas era, however long their postseason ride lasts.

"Getting to be his pitching coach this year, there's a sense for me that I just really relish every bullpen session, every one of his outings, just because the time here is limited," Woodard said. "So there's definitely a part of me that's definitely just staying in the moment with him, every bullpen session, every one of his outings and just enjoying.

"It carries over to the rest of the staff, and all the other guys see it. They see him perform, they see him prepare, and it trickles down to all of them and makes everybody else better, just by what he does."

"He's special," Fox added. "He's special in a lot of ways."

 

View More
GSA

GSA Spotlight: Bryson Stott

February 21, 2019

Stan Stolte remembers when Bryson Stott first popped up on UNLV's recruiting radar, midway through his prep career at Las Vegas' Desert Oasis High School. As a talented, lefthanded-hitting shortstop right in UNLV's backyard, Stott was hard to miss.

"We knew he was a good player. Any lefthanded-hitting shortstop, they're hard to find," Stolte said. "But that'd be crazy to think he'd be a he'd be a possible first-day draft pick. No. We don't get those guys, usually."

Stott hit a solid .294/.359/.379 as a freshman, establishing himself as a valuable everyday regular. But nobody quite anticipated the quantum leap he would make as a sophomore, when he hit .365/.442/.556 and led the nation with 30 doubles. He proved to be one of the most difficult outs in college baseball, drawing 32 walks and striking out just 18 times. Suddenly, Stott was a blue-chip prospect, and the starting shortstop for USA Baseball's Collegiate National team.

"He just takes consistently good at-bats every time, every pitch," Stolte said. "He knows the strike zone, he knows pitches he can turn on, he knows how to go the other way. He's just a professional hitter."

Stott held his own with wood bats for Team USA last summer, hitting .262 with one homer and a team-best seven RBIs. But he also stood out to scouts for a couple of highlight-reel defensive plays, showing range to both sides and excellent body control. Whether or not he has enough range to stick at shortstop in pro ball remains to be seen, but his fluid actions, smooth exchange, sure hands and plus arm give him a chance.

He's certainly one of the best all-around shortstops in college baseball, and he provided invaluable stability for Team USA last summer.

"One of our biggest concerns going into the summer was whether or not we had a defensive shortstop that was good enough," said Team USA coach Paul Mainieri at the end of the summer. "The word we'd received on Stott was that he'd be really good offensively and just OK defensively. Within the first couple of days we were there, we started to work with Bryson on his defense. We saw he had the natural tools you needed to be a good shortstop, but maybe some of his reactions were a little off. His approach to the ball wasn't as good as it could be.

"We drilled that into him the first three days he was here. We felt like he needed to make some slight adjustments if he was going to be our everyday shortstop. He played terrific defense for about three weeks, and he made some unbelievable plays in the process. Midway through the Japan series, he started swinging the bat well, too. He looks like the complete package to me. He's going to be an outstanding draft for someone."

Stott came back from his Team USA and Cape Cod League stints brimming with confidence, and Stolte said he worked hard in the weight room to get even stronger. He still has a line-drive swing more tailored for doubles than long balls, but as he continues to add strength to his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame, his power numbers figure to continue to climb. He hit four homers as a sophomore, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he pushed for double digits as a junior.

"He's gotten stronger, he has more power, much more than he did as a freshman," Stolte said. "If he gets his pitch, he can hit some long-distance home runs, now. He's got some juice."

Stott hit his first homer of the season during opening weekend - but it was an inside-the-parker, as he scorched a ball to center and used his slightly above-average speed to race all the way around the basepaths after Seattle's center fielder made a futile diving attempt. That was part of an outstanding first weekend for Stott, who went 6-for-11 (.545) with two doubles, a triple and five RBIs along with the inside-the-park homer. He also drew five walks and struck out just once. No wonder Stolte likes hitting Stott atop the order.

"He can start the game off with everything: walk, single, double, triple, home run, whatever. They're all in play when he leads off," Stolte said.

"He's so different, but I've coached big leaguers, and he's got big league possibilities for sure. I thought the same last year with Kyle Isbel. So he's got that 'it' factor, I think he's got a good chance. I've never had an athletic shortstop like that. He's that guy, you'll miss him when he's gone, I'm sure."

D1Baseball.com is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.
View More
GSA

2019 Golden Spikes Award Preseason Watch List Announced

The 2019 Golden Spikes Award will be presented on Friday, June 14
February 7, 2019

DURHAM, N.C. - USA Baseball announced its 55-player preseason Golden Spikes Award watch list on Thursday, beginning the process of identifying the top amateur baseball player in the country for the 2019 season. The 42nd Golden Spikes Award will be presented in partnership with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation on June 14.

The preseason watch list features 55 of the nation's top amateur players, from high school and college baseball. The Golden Spikes Award Advisory Board will maintain a rolling list of players, allowing athletes to play themselves into consideration for the award throughout the season.

Headlining the 2019 watch list is the reigning Golden Spikes Award winner, Andrew Vaughn (California). Vaughn joins Jim Abbott, Mark Kotsay and Kip Bouknight as the only Golden Spikes Award recipients who returned to school after winning the award.

In addition to Vaughn, four 2018 Golden Spikes Award semifinalists are also featured on the preseason watch list in Kyle Brnovich (Elon), Josh Jung (Texas Tech), Kevin Strohschein (Tennessee Tech) and Spencer Torkelson (Arizona State), and five additional athletes have been named to the preseason watch list previously. Jake Mangum (Mississippi State) has been named to the preseason watch list for the third consecutive year and is joined by Zack Hess (LSU), Shea Langeliers (Baylor), Drew Mendoza (Florida State) and Matt Wallner (Southern Miss), who have been recognized for the second straight year.

"We are pleased to announce the fifty-five athletes who have been selected to the Preseason Watch List for the forty-second annual Golden Spikes Award," said Paul Seiler, Executive Director/CEO of USA Baseball. "The athletes who make up this year's initial watch list span multiple schools and divisions of amateur baseball and, for the first time since 2001, includes the reigning Golden Spikes Award winner. The 2019 season looks to be highly competitive and we are anxious for the first pitches of the year to get underway."

Five athletes will look to join Alex Fernandez (1990) and Bryce Harper (2010) as a Golden Spikes Award winner who claimed their respective trophies as a non-NCAA Division I athlete. Cameron Coursey (Georgia Gwinnett) and Dan Valerio (Southeastern) represent the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) on the preseason list, while Kolton Ingram (Columbus State) and Russell Lamovec (Mercyhurst) represent NCAA Division II. Bobby Witt Jr. (Colleyville High School) is the only amateur high school baseball player recognized by the advisory board on the watch list.

Eighteen different collegiate athletic conferences are represented on the preseason watch list in 2019. The Southeastern Conference leads the way with 13 representatives, while the Pac-12 Conference boasts 10 selections, the Atlantic Coast Conference claims nine and the Big 12 Conference has five. The American Athletic Conference, Colonial Athletic Association and Conference USA are the only other conferences with multiple athletes on the list. 

The University of Arkansas leads all schools on the preseason watch list with three selections, while Auburn, Baylor, Elon, Florida, Florida State, NC State, Oregon State, Stanford and UCLA each boast a pair of athletes represented as well. In total, 44 different schools are represented on the 2019 preseason watch list.

Last year, Cal's Vaughn took home the prestigious award, joining a group of recent winners that include Brendan McKay (2017), Kyle Lewis (2016), Andrew Benintendi (2015), A.J. Reed (2014), Kris Bryant (2013), Mike Zunino (2012), Trevor Bauer (2011), Bryce Harper (2010), Stephen Strasburg (2009), Buster Posey (2008), and David Price (2007).

Amateur baseball fans will be able to vote for their favorite players at GoldenSpikesAward.com again in 2019, starting on May 15 with the naming of the Golden Spikes Award semifinalists. The list of semifinalists will also be sent to a voting body consisting of baseball media members, select professional baseball personnel, current USA Baseball staff and 40 previous winners of the award, representing a group of more than 200 voters.

USA Baseball will announce the finalists on May 29 and fan voting will open at GoldenSpikesAward.com concurrently and will remain open through June 10.

The winner of the 42nd Golden Spikes Award will be named on Friday, June 14.

USA Baseball has partnered with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation to host the Golden Spikes Award since 2013. The Foundation was formed to honor legendary USC and USA Baseball Olympic team coach, Rod Dedeaux, and supports youth baseball and softball programs in underserved communities throughout Southern California.

The 2019 Golden Spikes Award timeline:

  • April 10: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list announced
  • May 15: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award semifinalists announced, voting begins
  • May 26: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award semifinalists voting ends
  • May 29: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award finalists announced, voting begins
  • June 10: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award finalists voting ends
  • June 14: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award trophy presentation

 

A complete list of the 55-player USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award watch list is as follows:
 

Name, Position, Class, School, Conference
Kevin Abel, RHP, So., Oregon State, Pac-12 Conference
Patrick Bailey, C, So., NC State, Atlantic Coast Conference
J.J. Bleday, OF, Jr., Vanderbilt, Southeastern Conference
Cody Bradford, LHP, Jr., Baylor, Big 12 Conference
Kyle Brnovich, RHP, Jr., Elon, Colonial Athletic Association
Tanner Burns, RHP, So., Auburn, Southeastern Conference
Michael Busch, IF, Jr., North Carolina, Atlantic Coast Conference
Matt Canterino, RHP, Jr., Rice, Conference USA
Cameron Coursey, IF, So., Georgia Gwinnett, Association of Independent Institutions
Matt Cronin, LHP, Jr., Arkansas, Southeastern Conference
Wil Dalton, OF, Jr., Florida, Southeastern Conference
Logan Davidson, IF, Jr., Clemson, Atlantic Coast Conference
John Doxakis, LHP, Jr., Texas A&M, Southeastern Conference
Tyler Dyson, RHP, Jr., Florida, Southeastern Conference
Tristin English, RHP/IF, Jr., Georgia Tech, Atlantic Coast Conference
Mason Feole, LHP, Jr., Connecticut, American Athletic Conference
Zack Hess, RHP, Jr., LSU, Southeastern Conference
Will Holland, IF, Jr., Auburn, Southeastern Conference
Kolton Ingram, LHP, Sr., Columbus State, Peach Belt Conference
Josh Jung, IF, Jr., Texas Tech, Big 12 Conference
George Kirby, RHP, Jr., Elon, Colonial Athletic Association
Heston Kjerstad, OF, So., Arkansas, Southeastern Conference
Russell Lamovec, RHP, Sr., Mercyhurst, Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference
Shea Langeliers, C, Jr., Baylor, Big 12 Conference
Jack Little, RHP, Jr., Stanford, Pac-12 Conference
Nick Lodolo, LHP, Jr., TCU, Big 12 Conference
Jake Mangum, OF, Sr., Mississippi State, Southeastern Conference
Alek Manoah, RHP, Jr., West Virginia, Big 12 Conference
Casey Martin, IF, So., Arkansas, Southeastern Conference
Drew Mendoza, IF, Jr., Florida State, Atlantic Coast Conference
Max Meyer, RHP, So., Minnesota, Big 10 Conference
Kameron Misner, OF, Jr., Missouri, Southeastern Conference
Sean Mooney, RHP, Jr., St. John's, Big East Conference
Bryant Packard, OF, Jr., East Carolina, American Athletic Conference
Andre Pallante, RHP, Jr., UC Irvine, Big West Conference
Drew Parrish, LHP, Jr., Florida State, Atlantic Coast Conference
Nick Quintana, IF, Jr., Arizona, Pac-12 Conference
Adley Rutschman, C, Jr., Oregon State, Pac-12 Conference
Mitchell Senger, LHP, Jr., Stetson, ASUN Conference
Noah Song, RHP, Sr., Navy, Patriot League
Graeme Stinson, LHP, Jr., Duke, Atlantic Coast Conference
Bryson Stott, IF, Jr., UNLV, Mountain West Conference
Kyle Stowers, OF, Jr., Stanford, Pac-12 Conference
Kevin Strohschein, OF, Sr., Tennessee Tech, Ohio Valley Conference
Chase Strumpf, IF, Jr., UCLA, Pac-12 Conference
Zack Thompson, LHP, Jr., Kentucky, Southeastern Conference
Michael Toglia, IF, Jr., UCLA, Pac-12 Conference
Spencer Torkelson, IF, So., Arizona State, Pac-12 Conference
Dan Valerio, UT, Sr., Southeastern, The Sun Conference
Andrew Vaughn, IF, Jr., California, Pac-12 Conference
Matt Wallner, OF, Jr., Southern Miss, Conference USA
Will Wilson, IF, Jr., NC State, Atlantic Coast Conference
Bobby Witt Jr., SS/RHP, Sr., Colleyville High School, District 8-5A
Logan Wyatt, IF, Jr., Louisville, Atlantic Coast Conference
Kenyon Yovan, RHP, Jr., Oregon, Pac-12 Conference

View More
GSA

Andrew Vaughn Named 2018 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Winner

Vaughn is the eighth member of the Pac-12 conference to win the Golden Spikes Award
June 28, 2018

LOS ANGELES - California slugger Andrew Vaughn was named the 2018 Golden Spikes Award winner in a presentation on ESPN's flagship program, SportsCenter, on Thursday. Presented in partnership with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation, the Golden Spikes Award honors the top amateur baseball player in the United States based on their athletic ability, sportsmanship, character and overall contribution to the sport.

Vaughn is the first Golden Bear athlete and eighth Pac-12 player to win the prestigious award following Bob Horner (1978), Terry Francona (1980), Oddibe McDowell (1984), Mike Kelly (1991), Mark Prior (2001), Tim Lincecum (2006) and Trevor Bauer (2011).

"Andrew Vaughn pieced together an unforgettable season at Cal this year and we are thrilled to honor his tremendous successes by naming him the forty-first USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award winner," said Paul Seiler, Executive Director and CEO of USA Baseball. "Andrew and his fellow Golden Spikes Award finalists are exceptional ambassadors for the game of amateur baseball and we are delighted to celebrate their accomplishments with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation at its annual awards dinner."

Vaughn was named the 2018 Pac-12 Player of the Year and earned a spot on the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team after a stellar sophomore season in Berkeley. He started all 54 games at first base and led the conference with a .402 batting average, good for third-best in Cal baseball history. In total, he tallied 80 hits on the season, 37 of which were for extra-bases with 14 doubles and a school-record-tying 23 home runs. Vaughn finished the regular season ranked fourth in the nation with a .531 on-base percentage and set the school record with an .819 slugging percentage, tallying more home runs than strikeouts.

Just a sophomore, he was a consensus All-American in 2018 and earned First Team honors by Baseball America, D1Baseball.com, the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA).

All four finalists and their families will be celebrated at the Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles as part of the 2018 Rod Dedeaux Foundation Awards Dinner. Hosted by the Rod Dedeaux Foundation, the dinner will honor the Golden Spikes Award finalists, the Rod Dedeaux Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Don Buford, and the 2017 Rod Dedeaux USA Baseball Manager of the Year award winner, Jim Leyland.

The award winner was selected through the distribution of ballots to a voting body consisting of national baseball media, select professional baseball personnel, previous Golden Spikes Award winners and select USA Baseball staff, totaling a group of over 200 voters and accounting for 95% of the vote. Fan voting continued to be a part of the Golden Spikes Award in 2018 and contributed to the remaining 5% of the total vote.

Vaughn joins a group of past winners that include Brendan McKay (2017), Kyle Lewis (2016), Andrew Benintendi (2015), A.J. Reed (2014), Kris Bryant (2013), Mike Zunino (2012), Trevor Bauer (2011), Bryce Harper (2010), Stephen Strasburg (2009), Buster Posey (2008), and David Price (2007).

Historically, Golden Spikes Award winners have later gone on to have tremendous success at the professional level. Of the 40 previous winners, five have earned Rookie of the Year honors, two have won the Cy Young, three were named MVP and eight winners have won 13 World Series championships as either a player or manager. In addition, 18 previous winners have made one or more All-Star Game appearances as a player or manager, combining for 53 total selections.

For more information on the Golden Spikes Award and its past winners, visit GoldenSpikesAward.com or follow along on social media at @USAGoldenSpikes on Instagram and Twitter.

View More

USA Baseball Announces 2018 Golden Spikes Award Finalists

The Golden Spikes Award will be announced on Thursday, June 28 in Los Angeles
June 6, 2018

DURHAM, N.C. - USA Baseball named Kody Clemens (Texas), Casey Mize (Auburn), Brady Singer (Florida) and Andrew Vaughn (California) as the finalists for the 2018 Golden Spikes Award on Wednesday. The Golden Spikes Award is presented in partnership with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation and will be announced on Thursday, June 28.

The four finalists and their families will be invited to Los Angeles for the Golden Spikes Award presentation and the annual Rod Dedeaux Foundation Awards Dinner at the Jonathan Club downtown.

"USA Baseball is honored to announce the four finalists for the 2018 Golden Spikes Award," said USA Baseball Executive Director and CEO Paul Seiler. "These tremendous athletes have each put together a remarkable season of baseball filled with impressive performances and accolades. All four of these young men are truly worthy honorees of this recognition."

Kody Clemens was named the Big 12 Player of the Year in 2018 after he led the conference with 19 home runs in the regular season for the Longhorns, including two grand slams and a walk-off. Additionally, he tallied 61 RBI and a 1.140 OPS. Defensively he was a stalwart at second base, helping turn 63 double plays, which ranked second in the nation. Clemens was named a First Team All-American by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball and was drafted 79th overall by the Detroit Tigers in the third round of the 2018 MLB Draft.

Drafted first overall by the Detroit Tigers in the 2018 MLB Draft, Casey Mize was also named First-Team All-SEC following his 2018 season with Auburn, where he posted a 9-4 record with a 2.94 ERA and the program's first no-hitter since 2002 against Northeastern. He led the SEC in innings pitched (95) and total strikeouts (133), and tied for the lead in complete games and shutouts. Mize was named a First Team All-American by Baseball America and earned Second Team All-American honors from Collegiate Baseball.

Brady Singer was named the SEC Conference Pitcher of the Year this season after leading the league with 10 wins and a 2.25 ERA for the Gators. He limited opposing hitters to a .186 batting average and has pitched at least seven innings in 10 of 13 starts. Singer was drafted 18th overall in the 2018 MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals and was named First Team All- American by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball.

Pac-12 Player of the Year Andrew Vaughn ended his season with a .402 batting average, 23 home runs, 63 RBI and a .531 on-base percentage. Additionally, his .819 slugging percentage is the best ever by a Bears hitter in a single season. Just a sophomore, Vaughn led the Pac-12 in batting average and nearly earned the triple crown as he ranked second in home runs and RBI. He was also honored as a First Team All-American selection by Baseball America and a Second Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball.

A final ballot will be sent to the Golden Spikes Award voting body consisting of national baseball media, select professional baseball personnel, previous Golden Spikes Award winners and select USA Baseball staff, totaling a group of over 200 voters. From Wednesday, June 6, through Friday, June 22, the voting body will cast their final vote for the Golden Spikes Award winner and fan voting will simultaneously be open on GoldenSpikesAward.com. Selections made by the voting body will carry a 95% weight of each athlete's total, while fan votes will account for the remaining 5%.

Brendan McKay took home the prestigious award last year, joining a group of recent winners that include Kyle Lewis (2016), Andrew Benintendi (2015), A.J. Reed (2014), Kris Bryant (2013), Mike Zunino (2012), Trevor Bauer (2011), Bryce Harper (2010), Stephen Strasburg (2009), Buster Posey (2008), and David Price (2007).

Historically, Golden Spikes Award winners have gone on to have tremendous success in the major league. Of the 40 previous winners, five have earned Rookie of the Year honors, two have won the Cy Young, three were named MVP and eight have won a World Series championship as a player or manager, combining for a total of 13 championships. In addition, 18 previous winners have made one or more All-Star Game appearances as a player or manager, combining for 53 total selections.

Following the nationally televised announcement of the winner on June 28, all four finalists and their families will be celebrated at the Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles as part of the 2018 Rod Dedeaux Foundation Awards Dinner. Hosted by the Rod Dedeaux Foundation, the dinner will honor the Golden Spikes Award finalists, the Rod Dedeaux Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Don Buford, and the 2017 Rod Dedeaux USA Baseball Manager of the Year award winner, Jim Leyland.

USA Baseball has partnered with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation to host the Golden Spikes Award since 2013. The Foundation was formed to honor legendary USC and USA Baseball Olympic team coach, Rod Dedeaux, and supports youth baseball and softball programs in underserved communities throughout Southern California.

For more information on the Golden Spikes Award and the four 2018 finalists, follow along on social media @USAGoldenSpikes on Instagram and Twitter.

Golden Spikes Award Winners:
2017: Brendan McKay - Louisville
2016: Kyle Lewis - Mercer
2015: Andrew Benintendi - Arkansas
2014: A.J. Reed - Kentucky
2013: Kris Bryant - San Diego
2012: Mike Zunino - Florida
2011: Trevor Bauer - UCLA
2010: Bryce Harper - Southern Nevada
2009: Stephen Strasburg - San Diego State
2008: Buster Posey - Florida State
2007: David Price - Vanderbilt
2006: Tim Lincecum - Washington
2005: Alex Gordon - Nebraska
2004: Jered Weaver - Long Beach State
2003: Rickie Weeks - Southern
2002: Khalil Greene - Clemson
2001: Mark Prior - Southern California
2000: Kip Bouknight - South Carolina
1999: Jason Jennings - Baylor
1998: Pat Burrell - Miami
1997: J.D. Drew - Florida State
1996: Travis Lee - San Diego State
1995: Mark Kotsay - Cal State Fullerton
1994: Jason Varitek - Georgia Tech
1993: Darren Dreifort - Wichita State
1992: Phil Nevin - Cal State Fullerton
1991: Mike Kelly - Arizona State
1990: Alex Fernandez - Miami Dade CC
1989: Ben McDonald - LSU
1988: Robin Ventura - Oklahoma State
1987: Jim Abbott - Michigan
1986: Mike Loynd - Florida State
1985: Will Clark - Mississippi State
1984: Oddibe McDowell - Arizona State
1983: Dave Magadan - Alabama
1982: Augie Schmidt - New Orleans
1981: Mike Fuentes - Florida State
1980: Terry Francona - Arizona
1979: Tim Wallach - Cal State Fullerton
1978: Bob Horner - Arizona State

View More

USA Baseball Announces 2018 Golden Spikes Award Semifinalists

The 41st Golden Spikes Award will be presented on June 28 in Los Angeles
May 21, 2018

DURHAM, N.C. - USA Baseball announced the 25 semifinalists for its Golden Spikes Award on Monday. Presented in partnership with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation, the 41st Golden Spikes Award will be presented on June 28 in Los Angeles.

The list of semifinalists spans 23 different colleges and universities, 13 conferences and two divisions of the NCAA, and features one athlete who was also a semifinalist in 2017 with Nick Madrigal (IF; Oregon State). Since 2007, 26 athletes have been named a semifinalist more than once in their careers, including past Golden Spikes Award winners Stephen Strasburg (2009), Trevor Bauer (2011), Mike Zunino (2012), Kris Bryant (2013) and Brendan McKay (2017).

"It is a tremendous honor to recognize the semifinalists for this year's Golden Spikes Award," said Paul Seiler, USA Baseball's Executive Director and CEO. "This award is given to an amateur baseball player who exemplifies outstanding athletic ability, sportsmanship, character and overall contribution to the sport, and these twenty-five young athletes are incredibly deserving of this recognition.

"Year-in and year-out the talent level in the amateur landscape continues to grow and 2018 is no different. It is exciting to see Golden Spikes Award semifinalists represented from so many different conferences and, for the first time ever, an NCAA Division II institution."

Since USA Baseball introduced semifinalists to the voting process in 2007, Zack Shannon (IF; Delta State) is the first NCAA Division II student athlete to earn this recognition. Shannon has been named the Gulf South Conference Player of the Week five times this season and was honored for the second straight year as the NCBWA South Region Player of the Year, First-Team All-Gulf South Conference and Gulf South Conference Player of the Year. Alex Fernandez (1990) and Bryce Harper (2010) are the only non-NCAA Division I athletes to win the Golden Spikes Award in its 40-year history.

Madrigal is a Golden Spikes Award semifinalist for the second straight year and is joined by his Oregon State University teammate Trevor Larnach (OF; Oregon State). The defending College World Series champion, University of Florida, is the only other school in the country with two semifinalists in 2018, with the selection of Jonathan India (IF; Florida) and Brady Singer (RHP; Florida).

The Pac-12 and SEC lead all conferences with four semifinalists apiece, while the Big 12 boasts three semifinalists in 2018. The ACC, Atlantic Sun, Big Ten and the Colonial Athletic conferences each have two athletes on the list.

Beginning with the announcement of semifinalists, a ballot will be sent to the Golden Spikes Award voting body consisting of national baseball media, select professional baseball personnel, previous Golden Spikes Award winners and select USA Baseball staff, totaling a group of over 200 voters. From Monday, May 21 through Sunday, June 3, the voting body will select three semifinalists from the ballot to be named as Golden Spikes Award finalists and fan voting will simultaneously be open on GoldenSpikesAward.com. Selections made by the voting body will carry a 95% weight of each athlete's total, while fan votes will account for the remaining 5%.

The finalists will then be announced on Wednesday, June 6. Beginning that same day through Friday, June 22, the voting body and fans will be able to cast their final vote for the Golden Spikes Award winner.

Brendan McKay took home the prestigious award last year, joining a group of recent winners that include Kyle Lewis (2016), Andrew Benintendi (2015), A.J. Reed (2014), Kris Bryant (2013), Mike Zunino (2012), Trevor Bauer (2011), Bryce Harper (2010), Stephen Strasburg (2009), Buster Posey (2008), and David Price (2007).

The winner of the 41st Golden Spikes Award will be named on Thursday, June 28, at a presentation in Los Angeles. The finalists and their families will be honored at the Rod Dedeaux Foundation Award Dinner that evening at Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles.

USA Baseball has partnered with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation to host the Golden Spikes Award since 2013. The Foundation was formed to honor legendary USC and USA Baseball Olympic team coach, Rod Dedeaux, and supports youth baseball and softball programs in underserved communities throughout Southern California.

A complete list of the 25 Golden Spikes Award semifinalists is as follows:

Name, Class, Position, School, Conference
Joey Bart; Jr.; C; Georgia Tech; ACC
Alec Bohm; Jr.; IF; Wichita State; American Athletic
Kyle Brnovich; So.; RHP; Elon; Colonial Athletic
Brian Brown; Sr.; LHP; NC State; ACC
Kody Clemens; Jr.; IF; Texas; Big 12
Frank German; Jr.; RHP; North Florida; Atlantic Sun
Logan Gilbert; Jr.; RHP; Stetson; Atlantic Sun
Devlin Granberg; Sr.; IF/OF; Dallas Baptist; Missouri Valley
Luke Heyer; Sr.; IF/OF; Kentucky; SEC
Jonathan India; Jr.; IF; Florida; SEC
Josh Jung; So.; IF/RHP; Texas Tech; Big 12
Trevor Larnach; Jr.; OF; Oregon State; Pac-12
Nick Madrigal; Jr.; IF; Oregon State; Pac-12
Casey Mize; Jr.; RHP; Auburn; SEC
Joey Murray; Jr.; RHP; Kent State; Mid-American
John Rooney; Jr.; LHP; Hofstra; Colonial Athletic
Nick Sandlin; Jr.; RHP; Southern Miss; Conference USA
Zack Shannon; Sr.; RHP/IF; Delta State; Gulf South
Scott Schreiber; Sr.; OF; Nebraska; Big Ten
Brady Singer; Jr.; RHP; Florida; SEC
Bren Spillane; Jr.; IF/OF; Illinois; Big Ten
Kevin Strohschein; Jr.; OF; Tennessee Tech; Ohio Valley
Spencer Torkelson; Fr.; IF; Arizona State; Pac-12
Andrew Vaughn; So.; IF; California; Pac-12
Steele Walker; Jr.; OF; Oklahoma; Big 12

View More

GSA Spotlight: Nick Sandlin

May 17, 2018

"Hey, what have you heard about Nick Sandlin?"

Out of the all the questions I've been asked by scouts throughout the 2018 campaign, this simple question might just lead the way. Before this season, the Southern Miss junior righthander was one of the nation's premier relievers. He tallied identical 2.38 earned-run averages over the last two seasons, and he struck out 80 batters in just 56.2 innings last season.

He was already a prospect, but he was also 5-foot-11, 170 pounds. Not exactly a physical specimen that scouts dream about.

But this season has been different. Sandlin is no longer just a reliever who comes in and slams the door on teams from a funky slot and angle, and with velocity. He's now a starting pitcher. Scratch that, he's now one of the nation's premier starting pitchers, and there's a strong case he's second nationally behind only Auburn righthander Casey Mize, who's likely to be the top overall pick in the MLB draft. That's good company to be in … especially when you're 5-foot-11, 170.

"I don't want to say he'd put up the exact same numbers in a league like the SEC, but I'd bet he'd be pretty close," a National League crosschecker said. "The first time I saw him, I remember walking up to the bullpen and noticing how small he was. He's really small. But then, you go out there and watch him pitch, and you look up in the seventh inning, and the line score is filled with zeroes.

"I think he's a tough kid and he's a grinder," the scout continued. "I think he's really confident and he's a big-time strike-thrower. He doesn't seem to back down from anyone, and he's really tough and throws his stuff all over the zone. It's an extremely uncomfortable at bat for any hitter."

Those uncomfortable at bats are something that USM pitching coach Christian Ostrander got to experience the last two seasons during his time at Louisiana Tech. He remembers Sandlin well, especially after the hard-nosed righthander tossed 4.1 shutout innings out of the bullpen in a USM sweep over the Bulldogs last season.

So, when he took the USM pitching coach job after Mike Federico went to Louisiana-Monroe, he was curious to see what Sandlin was all about - this time, as his coach.

"Being at Tech the last two years, I gotta feel for him from another spectrum - as a closer. I had an opinion of the guy, and I knew that he he wasn't scared of competition, and that he loved attacking hitters," Ostrander said. "I got here over the summer and we built a relationship rather quickly. He's a very mild-mannered dude and he simply does not get sped up at all.

"He's extremely confident in his ability to go out there and pitch well," he continued. "On top of that, he's a very smart young man. He knows what he needs to do to be successful. He knows when to put juice on the ball, and he has tremendous feel and maturity."

Ostrander watched his veteran pitcher put up good numbers in the fall. Then, he watched him chop up hitters throughout the first part of spring workouts. At that point, the Golden Eagles planned to use Sandlin as a reliever, and potentially a guy who could go three or four innings out of the pen on a given night.

The more Ostrander watched Sandlin pitch, the more he thought the righty was destined to be in the weekend rotation.

So, Ostrander approached USM head coach Scott Berry about the possibility. He wanted Sandlin to move to the weekend rotation. A bold move, of course. While Sandlin had experience dominating hitters out of the bullpen, the move to the rotation isn't always easy. And once a pitcher fails at it, it's often tough to regain confidence after moving back to the bullpen.

But the Golden Eagles decided to roll the dice. They had that much confidence in Sandlin.

"You know, you always have that concern that when you make the big step to move someone to the rotation, that it sometimes doesn't work," Ostrander said. "But we built up his pitch counts leading up to the season and felt pretty good about it.

"I just thought we needed a stabilizer on Friday nights, and Nick is obviously that. There were a lot of things involved in moving him to the rotation," he continued. "We had talked to Nick about it in the fall, but he was a good sport - he was never abrasive about having a need to start. I just thought he was more than someone who could throw 75 pitches on a weekend. I thought he could go much deeper than that." Sandlin's first test of the season was a big one, a date with Mississippi State at home. You know, the same MSU that eliminated the Golden Eagles on their home field last June.

He was marvelous. The righthander struck out nine, didn't walk anyone and allowed just four hits in seven shutout innings.

That was the beginning to what has been an incredible junior season. Sandlin gained a plethora of confidence from that start against the Bulldogs, and was terrific the first couple months of the season. The righty missed a couple of starts in the middle of the season because of arm soreness, but was more dominant than ever in his return starts against Old Dominion and UAB.

In addition to throwing complete game shutouts against both teams, he allowed nine hits, struck out 19 and walked just four batters.

"What he's done this year, sitting close to 80 innings, it's been phenomenal," Ostrander said. "To have the stuff he has - real stuff, it's special. His stuff is always moving somewhere, and to be able to command the zone given that tells you a whole lot. He's not invincible, but it's been fun to watch. It's a lot of fun as a pitching coach to call a pitch and see how he executes it. Typically, he does a tremendous job because he has outstanding feel."

Sandlin, who could go as high as the third or fourth round in the draft, has tallied incredible numbers this season. He has an unblemished 7-0 record with a 1.15 ERA in 78.1 innings, along with 114 strikeouts and just 14 walks. Teams also are hitting Sandlin at a .148 clip.

"There aren't a ton of sidearmers in the big leagues with his stuff," the crosschecker said. "And he consistently does what he does for nine innings. It's impressive. I'm not sure he can start in the big leagues, but I do think a team will put him in the bullpen right away, and I also think he'll move relatively fast through the system."

The stuff has been firmer this spring. For instance, Sandlin sits anywhere from 89-93 and up to 94 and even 95 at times with his fastball. He darts the fastball low and around the zone, not giving hitters a clue where it might be going next. He also shows excellent feel for a slider that ranges 79-86 on the radar gun, while his changeup, sitting at 81-85 mph, has made serious strides.

"The changeup has really evolved for him. It's a real weapon to lefthanded hitters. You see all that stuff, and then you see a guy who's pitching with good control," Ostrander said. "He's proven he can maintain his velocity with the fastball. I mean, he's still up to 92 and such in the ninth inning. He has strength and stamina, and he's maintaining his stuff.

"He has really good depth on his changeup, and it sometimes comes across as a slider, but it's not a slider. It's really been a plus pitch," he said. "He's just found a great routine and he has great feel for things. I think what he's done this season is really going to help his future. He knows what he's capable of doing, and he's going to take that with him the rest of the way."

With the way his season has gone, it's hard to imagine that Sandlin once was somewhat of an unknown to some in the industry.

But now, he's excelling as a starter, and everyone is taking notice.

No more questions need to be asked.

D1Baseball.com is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.
View More

GSA Spotlight: Joey Murray

May 10, 2018

Kent State has been the most consistent program in the North since the 1980s. The Golden Flashes recently reached the 30-win plateau for the 30th consecutive season - a streak that includes eight 40-plus win seasons, 12 trips to regionals and a run to the 2012 College World Series. The program has kept winning through coaching changes, from Bob Todd to Danny Hall to Rick Rembielak to Scott Stricklin to Jeff Duncan - there hasn't been a dip.

There are some common threads running through all those years of success. For one thing, Kent State always seems to have a big-time ace atop the rotation, especially in the last 22 years under pitching coach Mike Birkbeck. KSU has produced a couple of first-round picks this decade (Andrew Chafin and Eric Lauer, whose 0.69 ERA in 2016 was college baseball's lowest in 30-plus years). The Flashes have produced six big league pitchers, from Matt Guerrer to John Van Benschoten, Dirk Hayhurst to Andy Sonnanstine to Chris Carpenter and Chafin.

So it means something to be the Friday night ace at Kent State. And Joey Murray is a worthy bearer of the flame for the Flashes.

Murray, a junior righthander, is well on his way to becoming Kent State's latest All-American. Through 12 starts, he's 8-1, 1.02 with 117 strikeouts and a .146 opponents' batting average in 79.1 innings. His name is all over the national leaderboards - he ranks first in fewest hits allowed per nine innings, fourth in ERA and strikeouts, 10th in WHIP.

"Obviously when you're rolling out a Friday guy like Joey Murray, it's kind of like rolling Lauer out two years ago," said Duncan, Kent State's fifth-year head coach. "At times it seems unhittable."

Not bad for a guy who flew under the radar during his high school days in Dublin, Ohio.

"He was the last recruit we got in that class," Duncan said. "We got him at an unsigned senior showcase at the beginning of the fall of his senior year. Birky and I were sitting behind home plate and saw him strike out 16 of 18 hitters. And that's exactly what he's doing now, basically. Probably at that point in time, the velo was 84-86, but he's a big kid, he's strong, he's got a big lower half. The arm really works, it really works, and I don't know how he slipped through the cracks, we were lucky."

Duncan and Birkbeck saw the feel for pitching and the ability to miss bats at a young age, and they envisioned that Murray would add velocity as he matured. Now he's a 6-foot-2, 185-pound workhorse who pitches in the 88-91 mph range and bumps 92.

Last week against Bowling Green, Murray found another gear from the third inning on, which is pretty typical for him, according to Duncan. He pitched at 90-92 from the third to the sixth, and that's when he really racked up many of his 14 strikeouts over seven shutout innings of work.

Murray has a quality four-pitch mix, and Duncan said all four pitches have gotten just a little bit better since last year, when he went 6-1, 1.80 with 110 strikeouts in 75 innings. He can use all four pitches to keep hitters off balance, but his fastball and downer curve are his out pitches, accounting for most of his punchouts.

"He's very deceptive, really good fastball command," Duncan said. "Now this guy, it's one of those things, every Friday night he starts, we've got 15 to 20 scouts coming in to watch him, and they're not saying he's lighting the gun up, but man, the swings and misses he gets, I think he's third in the country in Ks, he's averaged almost two strikeouts an inning since he's been here. It's been pretty phenomenal, his spin rate out of his hand is unbelievable. It's like his fastball rises, got a rising action to it, guys have a tough time getting on top, will either pop him up or swing right through it. Then he's got a really good breaking ball to go with it, changes eye level. He'll go fastball up in the zone then his breaking ball will start up in the zone, and it's really late 12-6 so it breaks down. He'll pitch in, he'll use all four points of the plate with his fastball. … He throws across his body a little bit, high three-quarters, and it comes out of his hand - it's one of those fastballs that look like it's 97."

Duncan said he expects Murray to be a high-rounds pick based on his arsenal, his command and his superb performance over multiple seasons. But he also stands out for his competitiveness - he sets the tone for Kent State every Friday night. Duncan describes his personality this way: "Give me the ball on Friday. And don't take me out. That's the best way to put it."

D1Baseball.com is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.
View More

GSA Spotlight: Kody Clemens

May 2, 2018

The word choice was ironic.

Texas Longhorns second baseman Kody Clemens, youngest son of seven-time Cy Young winner "Rocket" Roger Clemens, was asked if he ever tried pitching.

As it turns out, Clemens pitched a bit as a closer at Houston's Memorial High, where he also competed as a shortstop, second baseman and center fielder.

"I didn't have the rocket arm," said Clemens, no pun intended. "I didn't have crazy velocity. I think I was at 88 (mph)."

But even without a rocket arm, Clemens has a boomerang bat, able to turn around pitches and send them back from whence they came like a torpedo.

Clemens, a 6-foot, 185-pound junior who bats left and throws right, is batting .333/.437/.644, ranking third in the Big 12 in OPS (1.081), tied for second in homers (13) and third in RBIs (50) and slugging.

Batting in the 3-hole, Clemens has led 24th-ranked Texas to a 30-17 record overall, 12-6 in the league.

"He was a quiet workhorse for us last year - didn't say much," Texas catcher Michael McCann said. "This year, he has the same work ethic, but he's more vocal.

"His personality and his leadership have taken over. He has the ability to communicate with a lot of different personality types. He takes the time to get to know everyone."

McCann said people gravitate toward Clemens.

"Eyes are drawn to him," McCann said. "He's one of the shining lights on the team. When he steps up in the box, everyone says, 'OK, what is he going to do now? How many runs is he going to drive in?'"

Best Of The Brothers?

Roger Clemens was on the mound when his Longhorns won the 1983 College World Series, and now - 35 years later - Kody is hoping to win his own ring.

Kody, one of four brothers, is also aiming to be the best athlete of the bunch.

Koby signed with Texas but never played for the Longhorns, signing a pro contract as an eighth-round pick. A corner infielder/catcher, he never made it to the majors and is now a coach in the Astros farm system.

Kory is "an amazing chef," according to Kody, and, for a while, owned a restaurant that had a great baseball name, "Catch 22."

Kacy, who turns 24 in July, is in Class A for the Blue Jays as a first baseman. He was their eighth-round pick last year after a solid Longhorns career.

David Pierce, who took over as Texas coach in June of 2016, was asked about Kody's pro potential.

"I know he will be drafted," Pierce said. "I would rather not comment on what range, but I'm 100 percent certain it will be in the top 10 rounds.

"I'm hoping pro organizations recognize that he's one of the top hitters in college baseball."

That Clemens enjoys that status is a testament to his resilient nature.

He had elbow surgery in August of 2016 after suffering a non-baseball injury. The issue stemmed from wrestling with one of his brothers, and the severity of the injury and how it happened threatened his career, especially since it occurred before he had played a game for Pierce.

Clemens said that just two minutes after the incident with Kory - who is a big man at 6-foot and 280 pounds - his elbow was throbbing.

The next day, it was worse - his elbow was swollen, and an MRI revealed that Tommy John surgery was necessary.

"It was a freak accident," said Clemens, whose father - ironically - never had elbow surgery despite pitching 24 years in the majors. "It was terrible that first month after surgery - I had to be so delicate with my elbow.

"But every week I was able to do a little bit more, and when I was finally able to swing a bat off a tee I had a huge smile on my face."

Comeback For Clemens

In his first season post-surgery, Clemens made 46 starts as Texas' DH and one at second base. He slashed .241/.356/.365 with five homers, six doubles and 23 RBIs.

Then he faced more adversity after he accepted an invitation to play in the prestigious Cape Cod League for the first time in his career. But since he was still two weeks away from being able to play second base, his Cape League coach released him.

Undeterred, Clemens joined his father in Boston and was able to take batting practice at Fenway Park. He then went home to Houston and worked on his speed and agility, and that has paid dividends this year.

"He committed himself to playing defense," Pierce said. "There's no doubt his best position is second base. He has the ability to play the left side - he has enough arm strength.

"But he has gotten better and better at second, figuring out the different angles to throw from and the timing and footwork."

Clemens, who has a 3.0 grade-point average and is majoring in Corporate Communications with a minor in Business, could be a coach one day or perhaps work in sports marketing.

But a major league career is his primary goal, and that powerful bat of his will be his calling card going forward.

"He's a great hitter for average, and his power is showing up because he's more confident now," Pierce said. "He has the ability to foul off borderline pitches and work for the next one … Great two-strike hitter, very disciplined and a good on-base guy."

Pierce said he wants Clemens to continue to focus on the middle of the field when he is hitting and then react to the pitch rather than going in thinking pull.

Clemens, meanwhile, seems eager to try pro ball after this June's draft, and he's been around the game his whole life, so he knows the routine.

"It's the scouts' job to understand where I will go," Clemens said. "Whatever team likes me the most will take me."

D1Baseball.com is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.
View More

GSA Spotlight: Tyler Frank

April 27, 2018

With the Major League Baseball draft coming up in a few weeks and Florida Atlantic in the mix to host a regional with a high RPI and lofty record, many observers around the country are beginning to ask more about FAU's Tyler Frank. They want to know what he's all about.

FAU coach John McCormack figured him out a couple of months into his collegiate career. As the fall of 2015 concluded, the Owls were in quite the conundrum behind the plate. Projected starting catcher Kevin Abraham was diagnosed with cancer and there were other noteworthy injuries. In essence, the Owls were left without a viable option at one of the most important positions on the field.

McCormack wasn't sure what to do. So, he asked for volunteers. Frank, the 6-foot, 185-pounder, didn't hesitate. He was projected to play in the middle infield his first season with the program, but Frank raised his hand and offered to play catcher. He hadn't played catcher since eighth grade, but a few years later in college? Why not, he thought.

From that point on, McCormack knew he had a warrior and winner in Frank, who has developed into one of the most decorated players in FAU history and an All-American.

"I think the maturity with Tyler showed immediately his freshman year. We had all those issues behind the plate, and raised his hand and said coach I'll do it," McCormack said. "By the time we got to the conference tournament, he was really excelling behind the plate. I remember Loren Hibbs at Charlotte telling me he was going to be an all-conference catcher the next year. I just said funny you say that, because Frank is going to be our shortstop next year."

In 2016, with a new position, and a more grueling one from a fatigue standpoint, Frank put together a respectable campaign, hitting .285 with a .401 OBP, eight doubles and 27 RBIs. His power production certainly lacked, but a mature approach was present. He finished the year with 27 walks as opposed to 21 strikeouts, so there was off the charts potential with his bat.

"I look back at his freshman year, and I think like most freshmen, he spent a lot of his time getting himself out," McCormack said. "Now, when you look at his approach and what not, I don't think he does that anymore."

Just a season later, Frank moved back to shortstop as McCormack promised, and he didn't disappoint. In addition to showing smooth actions in the field, Frank made across the board improvements to his offensive game that got him noticed by USA Baseball. He hit .336 with a .448 OBP, .540 slugging percentage, .988 OPS and he tallied a whopping 15 doubles, 11 homers and 43 RBIs - a 10 home run increase from his freshman season. He also continued to show strong awareness of the zone, tallying 41 walks and striking out just 29 times.

"He's got a very quick bat and I think he's going to hit in pro ball," Rice coach Wayne Graham said. "He's strong, he runs okay and he's a good position player I'm not sure what position he'll play in pro ball, but he's going to be a high draft because he's a really, really good hitter. I've seen him way too many times, and there's not much in the strike zone that he can't hit. When he's on, he's really good."

Frank's evolution as a player jumped to the next level last summer with Team USA. Though the versatile infielder only hit .162 in 37 at bats for the Collegiate National Team, the fact he played for his country after a long spring season gave him a boost. He also showed an ability to play shortstop, third base and even left field, while also displaying a very serviceable arm. He was no longer just a good hitter at Florida Atlantic. He was a nationally recognized player and prospect who was scouted each night with that "USA" across his chest. And he could play multiple positions.

That did wonders for his confidence.

"When he went away for the summer with Team USA, I thought that did a lot for his confidence," McCormack said. "I thought he came back with a new level of confidence. For him, I think just playing for Team USA solidified who he was as a player, and that really helped him. He has raised his game even further since that point and he's a team leader whom the guys around here really respect."

Frank has continued to impress this spring. He entered the season ranked No. 98 in our College Top 100 Prospects list, and was No. 47 at the midseason mark as a projected third-rounder. But while he's hitting .327 with a 1.073 OPS, 16 doubles, eight homers and 19 RBIs, he's had to overcome some struggles at points in the season. For instance, he began the year 1-for-20 at the plate, which is why his average is down to .327. Take out that weekend? He'd be hitting .376. Frank also has reached base 34-straight games this season and tied the FAU all-time hitting streak with a 24-game streak earlier this year.

As if that's not enough, Frank ranks first in Conference USA in doubles, second in walks with 33, third in runs scored with 42 and third in terms of slugging percentage at .621. He's an overall enforcer at the plate, and he's more than capable of getting it done in the field, too. "Well, the No. 1 thing that stands out to me about Frank is his versatility. Out of necessity his freshman year, he caught, and he really did a great job back there," a National League crosschecker said. "He played for Team USA and is having a really good junior year. He has the ability to stay in the middle infield, so he checks a lot of boxes.

"He's a good hitter. I think his approach is really good, too," the crosschecker added. "He doesn't strike out a ton and he puts the ball in play. It's not a huge impact bat at the next level, but it's more than enough of a hit tool to allow himself to get to the next level and advance pretty far. He is going to end up in a pretty solid utility role for some organization out there. I think he should stick up the middle, and I think he'll get an opportunity to do that."

Some organization will be lucky to have him for other reasons, too. Frank wowed McCormack and the FAU coaching staff by his selfless behavior his freshman season. But that wasn't just a one-time occurrence. It's been a theme for Frank, and it's one of many reasons why he's developed into a universally liked and successful player.

"The thing people don't realize about Tyler is that he's often that last person out of the dugout after games. He's out there picking up bats and everything else," McCormack said. "And he's good enough and one of those guys whom, if he just went to the bus without doing it, no one would say a word. But that's not Tyler."

It's one of many reasons why Frank is one of the best position players in college baseball.

D1Baseball.com is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.
View More

GSA Spotlight: Jonathan India

April 18, 2018

Over the course of Kevin O'Sullivan's tenure as Florida's head coach, the Gators have been college baseball's most consistent big winners, making six College World Series appearances in the last 10 years. The Gators are loaded with superstars every year, and they've produced All-Americans and premium draft picks by the bushel.

But a strong case can be made that no other Gators in the last decade matched the all-around greatness of Jonathan India in 2018. Florida's junior third baseman enters week 10 hitting .438/.562/.860, ranking him first in the nation in OBP and second in OPS - and he's doing it against the best competition college baseball has to offer, in the rugged Southeastern Conference. India leads the SEC in those triple-slash categories, and he's one off the conference lead in home runs (12). He has eight stolen bases in nine attempts. And he's quite possibly college baseball's best defensive third baseman. He's the total package, and he's performing at an incredibly high level for the nation's best team.

"We've had some other guys in the past - Preston Tucker, Mike Zunino - we've had a few guys that have gone on a run like this, but this has been different," O'Sullivan said. "It's kind of like comparing him to a Zunino type: he plays a premium position, and he's just defending at such a high level, it's not just one part of his game. All phases he's performing at an extremely high level. He's not putting any pressure on himself, I don't think the draft has been an issue at all. I think he's kind of handled himself in a way that a true veteran would."

It may seem to the casual observer that India's sensational season came out of nowhere, considering he's nearly doubled his OPS from a year ago (.774). But to O'Sullivan and to scouts, India's emergence as the nation's best college third baseman feels more like fait accompli.

India has a premium pedigree and tools to match. He showed up in Gainesville as a blue-chip recruit, and scouts tagged him early on as one of the top position-player prospects for the 2018 draft after he hit .303 with 16 doubles during a solid freshman year in 2016. But he failed to take the anticipated jump to superstardom as a sophomore, hitting a modest .274 with a .429 slugging percentage, down from .440 the year before. As he entered his junior year, many observers had begun to wonder when the production would match the tools, and the hype.

"I said to him at our end of fall meetings - he had a good fall, and the thing we were stressing with him was to match up the production with the skill set, because the skill set has always been there," O'Sullivan said. "He was a big prospect coming out of high school, just the numbers hadn't matched up with his abilities. But he had a good freshman year, a really good freshman year, and last year he just wasn't quite as sharp, but he still went to the cape and hit like .300."

Scouts liked India's bat speed and overall game in the Cape, where he finished .273/.390/.394, though he hit just one home run. It seemed like just a matter of time until the power came, and boy has it come this year. Through 117 at-bats, India already has more homers (12) than he hit in 442 at-bats over his first two seasons (10).

The power surge really began during his current 24-game hitting streak, which began March 9 against Rhode Island. That streak began with seven straight two-hit games, and has grown to include 16 multi-hit games, along with seven doubles, three triples, eight homers and 21 RBIs. India is hitting an absurd .513/.623/.975 during that 24-game hitting streak.

"I mean, I guess I have a little bit more juice this year," India said a couple of weeks ago after hitting a homer to left field against Vanderbilt in the series opener. "I'm not trying to hit homers by any means, but I just put a good swing on the ball and it carried."

Later in that weekend, India showed off his opposite-field pop, driving another long ball out to right-center. His ability to drive the ball with authority to all parts of the ballpark is a result of hard work on his approach, and innate strength in his compact 6-foot, 200-pound frame.

"He's strong in all the right places. He's strong in his core, he's got strong hands, strong forearms. he's an extremely hard worker," O'Sullivan said. "He had power out of high school, but it was only to the pull side. If you went and watched him take BP, he would launch to the pull side, but he was susceptible to balls on the outer half of the plate. It's taken him a couple years to figure that out.

"(This year) he's used the whole field. He's not really gotten into any stretches where he's just been one side of the field. He's been pretty consistent that way as far as staying through the middle of the field. I was talking to (hitting coach) Craig (Bell) the other day about his BP; in the first round, execution - he never launches the ball to the pull side unless it's the last round. Everything he hits is squared up from that right center to left center gap, and he doesn't come off it until the final round. He's trained himself to stay in the middle of the field. He hit two balls out to dead-center field at our place the other day in one round, with no wind. Which doesn't happen very often."

He's also become a more patient hitter, who doesn't get himself out nearly as often. After posting a 45-85 walk-strikeout mark over his first two seasons, India has 30 walks and 26 strikeouts as a junior.

"I've matured more as a player. I feel like I've been in the league for two years now, and I'm realizing more things, and I've learned from my past years," India said. "Not swinging at pitchers' pitches, having a good approach at the plate. And just being more mature, not getting down on myself after bad at-bats. It's working out so far, I'm happy."

In addition to showing an elite hit tool and power tool, India has proven he can beat opponents with his speed. Against Vanderbilt, India dropped down a bunt and then blazed up the line in 3.85 seconds - a premium time for a righthanded hitter on a drag bunt. He has always been an instinctive and aggressive baserunner, and he plays the game the same way no matter the circumstances. O'Sullivan tells a great anecdote that reinforces that point.

"His freshman year, our last game of the year against Texas Tech in the College World Series, he hits a ball down the line, nobody on, and he gets banged out at second base - that's the last out of the season. The season's over," O'Sullivan said. "I told him, 'I want you to understand something, Jonathan: if that play happens 10 times in a row, you absolutely made the right decision to stretch that thing into a double. He had to make a perfect throw to get you, but absolutely without the shadow of a doubt, you made the right decision.' Most guys would have rounded first hard and not taken that chance, and he did.

"He never gives you a poor effort down the line. He never takes an infield off in pregame. The other neat thing is, it's hard. You can kind of get wrapped up in your own little world. These guys are 21 years old, there's a lot expected of them, especially him, he's probably elevated where he's going to go in the draft now. But he's so engaged with the team. … He's always at the right end of the dugout. He's always down there by me. When he's not hitting, he's not in the middle of the dugout BSing or screwing around, or in his own little world. He's right there with me, in every pitch. He's watching the other guys hit, encouraging them, giving them advice."

And then there's the defense piece. India isn't putting up these crazy numbers while playing first base or left field; he's manning a challenging defensive position, and he's made just three errors on the season. He filled in ably at shortstop earlier this year when Deacon Liput was suspended, before returning to the hot corner, where his footwork, body control, strong and accurate arm and instincts are all assets.

"It's the hand eye, same as the hitting ability. He's got some really, really good flexibiliy in his lower half," O'Sullivan said. "He gets below the ball, he's pretty much textbook defensively. He never gets flashy or stylish, we call it the olé, he never gets beside the ball. It's always in front of him, he doesn't shy away from balls hit hard. He can really come get a slow roller. It's just really good. You never worry about him, ever, defensively."

That entire package makes India a slam dunk first-round pick this June, and gives him a real chance to be the first position player drafted. It also makes him the best all-around player in college baseball in 2018, and a driving force behind top-ranked Florida's bid to repeat as national champion.

D1Baseball.com is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.
View More