The NCAA baseball tournament keeps gaining in popularity, owing in part to the adoption in 1999 of a 64-team field and a three-level format. First come 16 four-team regionals, and those winners are put into eight two-team super regionals. The winners of those best-of-three series go to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
This year's super regionals, four of which begin on Friday, fall on the last weekend before the MLB draft, which starts on Tuesday. That means you've got top-notch college baseball competition intersecting with draft talk -- it's two great tastes that go great together. In that spirit, here are the Top 10 prospects eligible for the 2009 draft who are playing in super regionals.
Ackley has gotten hot, even by his standards, hitting .508 (33 for 65) in May. He hit eight homers in 15 games to bring his season total to 21, and is up to .417 for the year, his third straight .400-plus season. He's the best hitter in college baseball, bar none.
White's going in the other direction. A power righty with a fastball, slider and split-finger fastball, he struggled with a hamstring pull and blister last weekend, when he didn't make it through five innings in a game against Coastal Carolina. White's velocity has been fine, but he has lost the feel for his slider and relies too much on his split-finger fastball. He still projects to go out in the first half of the first round, however.
The best college athlete in the draft, Mitchell is a wide receiver for LSU's football team who also was drafted out of high school in baseball. He's far from polished at the plate, but he has patience (his 50 walks and .478 on-base percentage rank third in the SEC), elite speed (his 34 steals rank second in the conference) and the defensive tools for center field.
Dwyer is the very rare draft-eligible freshman; he just turned 21 in April. He was held back a year in elementary school and got an extra year when he enrolled in a Connecticut prep school before coming to Clemson. He has shown a mature repertoire, running his fastball into the 90-94 mph range with a power, above-average curveball, while at times showing a freshman's immaturity and running into problems with big innings.
A fourth-year junior who missed a year and transferred from Kentucky to Arizona State, Kipnis was a fourth-round pick last year but didn't sign with the Padres. He doesn't have a physical tool that stands out, but he punishes mistakes and has a superior track record of success. Some scouts project him as no more than a fourth outfielder; despite that he'll be one of the first college hitters drafted.
Bullock continues to turn it on in the second half, showing better velocity in the closer's role for the Gators and showing that he can hit the mid-90s (touching 97) with his fastball even when used on back-to-back days. The bullpen role has also helped his slider improve, giving him a second plus pitch. In a soft year for college closers, Bullock may have pitched his way into the first round.
LeMahieu's stock had dropped this season as he has moved down the defensive spectrum from shortstop to second base. A draft-eligible sophomore, LeMahieu is a bit of a tweener for some scouts, as he's not offensively strong enough for second base and doesn't handle shortstop defensively. His inside-out swing helps him hit for a high average, though, and he has solid athleticism and size. With a tweak to his swing LeMahieu could have the power to become an offensive second baseman, or move to third base.
Louisville has emerged as a national power in baseball under coach
The Gators' center fielder, den Dekker's stock was slipping as the draft approached. He just hasn't put it together offensively, falling to .297 with only five home runs. Scouts love his defense, throwing arm and plus speed (16 stolen bases in 17 tries), and still like his swing. Yet den Dekker hasn't produced this spring, which has been par for the course for a host of college bats (USC's