The NCAA Division I baseball season starts Friday, with defending national champion Florida and right-hander Brady Singer (MLB Pipeline's top-rated Draft prospect) taking on Siena.My picks to reach the College World Series, which remains my favorite baseball event to attend: Arkansas, Florida, Florida State, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon State, Stanford
The NCAA Division I baseball season starts Friday, with defending national champion Florida and right-hander Brady Singer (MLB Pipeline's top-rated Draft prospect) taking on Siena.
My picks to reach the College World Series, which remains my favorite baseball event to attend: Arkansas, Florida, Florida State, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon State, Stanford and Texas Tech. Gazing further into my crystal ball, I have the Gators becoming the first team since South Carolina in 2010-11 to repeat as CWS champs and Oregon State second baseman Nick Madrigal as the college player of the year.
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It's very possible that four of the five highest-ranked pitchers on MLB Pipeline's new Top 100 Prospects list -- Shohei Ohtani (Angels, No. 1), Michael Kopech (White Sox, No. 10), Brent Honeywell (Rays, No. 12) and Walker Buehler (Dodgers, No. 13) -- will graduate to the big leagues in 2018, so the first five should look much different at season's end. For my answer, check out the video at the top of this Inbox.
Elite prospects make their own timetables, so I'm going to be more aggressive and project Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urias turning double plays together in San Diego before the end of 2019.
Tatis reached Double-A at age 18 last season and didn't look out of place, so he shouldn't need another two full seasons in the Minors. Urias is one of the game's best hitting prospects and could hold his own at the plate in the big leagues right now at age 20. I could see Urias cracking the Padres' Opening Day lineup in 2019 (if not before then) and Tatis coming up in the middle of that season.
Francis Martes has fallen into a limbo between prospect and established big leaguer. He opened 2017 ranked No. 20 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list, joined the Astros in June and pitched just enough to lose his rookie/prospect status going forward but not quite well enough to claim a spot on the postseason roster. After the offseason trade for Gerrit Cole, Martes is probably no better than eighth in line for a spot in Houston's rotation right now.
Though he won't be found on any prospect lists and he'll probably spend all or most of this year in the Astros' bullpen, don't sleep on Martes. He has a pair of well-above-average pitches: a fastball that sits at 94 mph when he starts and a couple of ticks higher when relieves, and a mid-80s curveball with depth to match its power. Martes has enough feel for a changeup and throwing strikes to develop into a front-line starter if he eventually gets an opportunity to join the rotation, or he could become a closer if he stays in the bullpen.
The Brewers gave up two Top 100 Prospects (outfielders Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison) and a former Top 100 guy (middle infielder Isan Diaz) as part of the four-player package for Christian Yelich, a deal that made sense for both sides. Milwaukee still has plenty of outfield prospect depth and more outfielders than it can play in the big leagues, and 2017 first-rounder Keston Hiura was a better bet than Diaz to become the franchise's long-term second baseman.
While the Brewers' system obviously took a hit with the Yelich trade, there's no shortage of quality prospects. Hiura and right-handers Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff still give Milwaukee three Top 100 Prospects, and third baseman Lucas Erceg, righty Luis Ortiz and outfielders Brett Phillips, Corey Ray and Tristen Lutz have the talent to join the list. The system would have ranked in the 7-10 range before the deal and now fits closer to the middle of the pack.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.