The College World Series has showcased future big league stars since it began in 1947, when future American League MVP Award winner Jackie Jensen led California to the championship over Yale and first baseman George H.W. Bush, who would distinguish himself off the field.
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Hall of Famers Barry Larkin, Paul Molitor, Mike Schmidt and Dave Winfield all played in the CWS, as did potential Cooperstown enshrinees Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina and Rafael Palmeiro. Current stars Alex Bregman, Gerrit Cole, Aaron Nola and Buster Posey also appeared on college baseball's biggest stage.
This year's CWS field is once again loaded, featuring five first-round picks from the 2018 Draft and several potential first-rounders for '19 and '20. Games begin on Saturday and will run through June 26 or 27. Here are the best prospects on each of the eight teams:
Right-hander Blaine Knight's 90-97 mph fastball and mid-80s slider/cutter led the Orioles to take him in the third round, but he could get surpassed by several teammates in the next two years. Outfielder Heston Kjerstad set a school freshman record with 14 homers and his power makes him look like a lock as a first-rounder for 2020. Third baseman Casey Martin, another freshman, slammed 13 homers and also offers speed and versatility, and he could be another first-rounder two years from now. Three more Razorbacks with first-round upside: sophomore left-hander Matt Cronin, who bumped his fastball up to 92-95 mph this year; freshman righty Bryce Bonnin, who can hit 96 mph and also has a power slider; and sophomore outfielder Dominic Fletcher, who combines power and speed and plays quality defense in center.
2018 Draft picks: RHP Blaine Knight (Orioles, 3rd round), OF Eric Cole (Royals, 4th), C Grant Koch (Pirates, 5th), SS Jax Biggers (Rangers, 8th), 2B Carson Shaddy (Nationals, 10th), LHP Kacey Murphy (Tigers, 11th), LHP Evan Lee (Nationals, 15th), RHP Barrett Loseke (Yankees, 17th), RHP Jake Reindl (Cubs, 17th), RHP Isaiah Campbell (Angels, 24th), C Zack Plunkett (Diamondbacks, 37th).
Video: Draft Report: Blaine Knight, College pitcher
The defending national champions tied a college Draft record with three first-rounders this year: third baseman Jonathan India (Reds), who possesses solid all-around tools; right-hander Brady Singer (Royals), who has a live 92-96 mph fastball and great feel for his plus slider; and righty Jackson Kowar (Royals), who can reach 98 mph and owns a plus changeup. The Gators have three more possible first-round righties in sophomore Tyler Dyson, who can sit at 93-96 mph (but has been sidelined for the last month with a minor shoulder injury); freshman Jack Leftwich, who backs up similar heat with a quality slider and changeup; and freshman Tommy Mace, a sinker/slider guy who's the most polished of that trio. Wil Dalton might push his way into the first round next year if he can maintain his power (19 homers) while proving he can play center field.
2018 Draft picks: 3B Jonathan India (Reds, 1st round, No. 5 overall), RHP Brady Singer (Royals, 1st, No. 18 overall), RHP Jackson Kowar (Royals, 1st, No. 33 overall), C J.J. Schwarz (Athletics, 8th), 2B Deacon Liput (Dodgers, 10th), RHP Michael Byrne (Reds, 14th), OF Nick Horvath (Orioles, 24th).
Video: Jonathan India on being drafted by Reds 5th overall
Mississippi State (37-27)
Konnor Pilkington's stuff was down this spring, but the White Sox still grabbed him in the third round because he's a left-hander who knows how to pitch with an 88-93 mph fastball with downhill plane and an advanced changeup. He projects as an innings-eater, a No. 3 or 4 starter, at the next level.
2018 Draft picks: LHP Konnor Pilkington (White Sox, 3rd round), RHP J.P. France (Astros, 14th), 2B Hunter Stovall (Rockies, 21st), LHP Ethan Small (Diamondbacks, 26th), LHP Zach Neff (Twins, 31st), OF Jake Mangum (Mets, 32nd), RHP Jacob Billingsley (Astros, 32nd).
Video: Draft Report: Konnor Pilkington, College pitcher
North Carolina (43-18)
The Tar Heels' two best prospects are sophomores who could become 2019 first-rounders. Michael Busch hits for power and average, manages the strike zone well and plays a nifty first base. Right-hander Gianluca Dalatri throws strikes with four pitches -- a fastball that reaches 94 mph and continues to add velocity, a 12-to-6 curveball that may be his best offering, and a solid slider and changeup -- but he missed three months this spring with a stress reaction in his pitching elbow.
2018 Draft picks: RHP Rodney Hutchison (Yankees, 6th round), C Cody Roberts (Orioles, 11th), 3B Kyle Datres (Rockies, 12th), RHP Cooper Criswell (Angels, 13th), 2B Brandon Riley (Cardinals, 14th), RHP Josh Hiatt (Blue Jays, 16th), RHP Brett Daniels (Astros, 17th), RHP Austin Bergner (Diamondbacks, 32nd), RHP Jason Morgan (White Sox, 35th), SS Zack Gahagan (Cardinals, 39th).
Video: Draft Report: Kyle Datres, College infielder
Oregon State (49-10)
The Beavers have a pair of 2018 first-rounders in Nick Madrigal (White Sox), the best pure hitter in this year's Draft as well as at least a plus runner and defender at second base, and Trevor Larnach (Twins), who combines power, patience and right-field arm strength. Cadyn Grenier, the best defensive shortstop in the college ranks, was an Orioles supplemental first-rounder. And the best may be yet to come, as sophomore catcher Adley Rutschmann could be the No. 1 overall pick in 2019 on the basis of his switch-hitting prowess, developing power, polished receiving and plus-plus arm. Freshman right-hander Kevin Abel can flash three plus pitches and could be a '20 first-rounder if he figures out command.
2018 Draft picks: 2B Nick Madrigal (White Sox, 1st round, No. 4 overall), OF Trevor Larnach (Twins, 1st, No. 20), SS Cadyn Grenier (Orioles, supplemental 1st), OF Steven Kwan (Indians, 5th), RHP Drew Rasmussen (Brewers, 6th), 3B Mike Gretler (Pirates, 10th).
Video: Draft 2018: Madrigal on being 4th overall pick
Second baseman Kody Clemens -- Roger's son -- broke out with 23 homers this spring, including one in each of the Longhorns' Super Regional games, and that power propelled him to the top of the third round and the Tigers. Sophomore David Hamilton could go higher next spring if his bat continues to develop, because he has well above-average speed and is a plus defender with arm strength to match at shortstop.
2018 Draft picks: 2B Kody Clemens (Tigers, 3rd round), RHP Nolan Kingham (Braves, 12th), RHP Chase Shugart (Red Sox, 12th), LHP Josh Sawyer (Cubs, 16th), RHP Andy McGuire (Blue Jays, 28th). Texas Tech (40-17)
Video: Draft Report: Kody Clemens, College infielder
Texas Tech (44-18)
Sophomore third baseman Josh Jung is a lock first-rounder for 2019, thanks to his ability to hit for power and average while controlling the strike zone. Freshman Gabe Holt has premium speed and bat-to-ball skills and could be a '20 first-rounder if he finds a defensive home (center field may be his best bet). Grant Little's solid bat, speed and outfield defense made him a Padres supplemental second-rounder.
2018 Draft picks: OF Grant Little (Padres, supplemental 2nd round), LHP Steven Gingery (Cardinals, 4th), RHP Ryan Shetter (Braves, 9th), RHP Jose Quezada (Padres, 10th), RHP Davis Martin (White Sox, 14th), RHP Ty Harpeneau (Braves, 16th), RHP Caleb Killian (Orioles, 20th), OF Cody Farhat (Indians, 23rd), 3B Michael Davis (Twins, 24th), LHP Dylan Dusek (Giants, 27th), OF Zach Rheams (Mets, 27th).
Video: Draft 2018: Padres draft LF Grant Little No. 74
The son of 13-year big leaguer Tony, A.J. Graffanino is one of the best defensive shortstops in college baseball. An eighth-round choice by the Braves, he also has a line-drive bat and solid speed and arm strength.
2018 Draft picks: SS A.J. Graffanino (Braves, 8th round), C Willie MacIver (Rockies, 9th), RHP Joe DeMers (Athletics, 11th), SS Levi Jordan (Cubs, 29th).
Video: Draft 2018: Braves draft SS AJ Graffanino No. 232
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.