April 29, 2008

Every other week, SIOC's Bryan Smith checks in with a look across the college baseball universe.

1. Miami (36-5) -- The Hurricanes continued to distance themselves from the competition, beating the second-ranked Seminoles in Tallahassee two weekends ago. The middle of the order -- juniors Jemile Weeks, Yonder Alonso and Dennis Raben -- all hit home runs against FSU. Alonso has walked 50 times in just 41 games for an impressive .545 OBP. Freshman Chris Hernandez improved to 7-0 in Miami's sweep of Virginia last weekend. His strikeout-to-walk ratio of 71-14 is mighty impressive for a senior, much less a first-year player.

2. North Carolina (38-8) -- If beating the Seminoles is a sign of validation, the Tar Heels cemented their status this weekend by taking two of three games at home from Florida State. You can't talk about the North Carolina and not talk about its 2.21 team ERA, the best in the nation. The staff is deep, led by sophomore Alex White (7-2, 2.13), freshman Matt Harvey (6-2, 2.13) and a bullpen without a pitcher whose ERA is above 3.00.

3. Arizona State (35-7) -- After a dominating first six weeks of the season, Arizona State was humbled in the second half of April. Series losses to Stanford and Oregon State led some to debate whether the Sun Devils where the top team in the west. Those debates ended after ASU's sweep of California at Packard Stadium this weekend, a series that saw the Sun Devils outscore the Bears 40-16. Before the season, there was talk that ace Mike Leake preferred hitting to pitching. We saw why this weekend, as Leake hit a bases clearing triple in relief of injured All-American Ike Davis.

4. Florida State (35-7) -- Despite all the talk about Florida State's consecutive weekend losses, the Seminoles were -- in both instances -- a few innings and extra hits away from beating the two best teams in the nation. A bright spot for FSU has been junior catcher Buster Posey, who is now hitting .465/.562/.818 and a candidate for Player of the Year. The Seminoles largest question has come into focus: Can these relievers hold onto games?

5. Nebraska (32-8) -- The Huskers have been an enigma the past two weeks -- playing well six days of the week and struggling on Sundays. Nebraska dropped to 5-4-1 in the final game of a series with back-to-back Sunday losses. Johnny Dorn and Thad Weber are good weapons to start a weekend, but come tournament time, will Nebraska have the depth to prove elite?

6. Stanford (25-13) -- It's hard to pinpoint a reason for Stanford success -- they have pretty solid power, but a team .470 slugging percentage isn't much in college baseball. They have a few good arms, but no depth and a team 4.14 ERA. They don't steal bases. They don't defend particularly well. Despite all this, they are the nation's only squad yet to lose a weekend series. In five straight weeks, Stanford lost on Friday night, but bounced back to win two games against Texas, Pacific, Washington State, Arizona State and Oregon State. The last two weekends, against UCLA and USC, Stanford won the first two games before losing on Sunday.

7. Wichita State (33-9) -- The Shockers annual run through the Missouri Valley Conference is in full swing, as Gene Stephenson's club now stands 11-4 in the conference and 24-2 at home. Few other teams can match Wichita State's three-headed pitching monster -- Rob Musgrave on Fridays (6-1, 2.69), Aaron Shafer on Saturdays (7-2, 2.94) and Tony Capra on Sundays (7-0, 1.85). The offense puts games out of reach early, thanks to an 85 percent success rate on the bases and the play of star junior Conor Gillaspie, hitting .394/.481/.656.

8. Texas A&M (37-7) -- The Aggies have been unstoppable since an inexcusable four-game split with Northern Colorado to open their season. Last weekend, Texas A&M swept Missouri in College Station, pushing its record to 16-1 in April. A pair of freshman have been consistent in the weekend rotation and enigmatic junior Kyle Thebeau (1.79 ERA in 20 appearances). The Aggies have a penchant for comebacks, including scoring seven runs in the final three innings to top Missouri and Aaron Crow on Friday.

Four that just missed: UC Irvine, Georgia, Missouri, Rice.

With the draft a mere five weeks away, the next two editions of the Notebook will focus on the juniors who are moving the most on draft boards. We begin today with the five most disappointing players this season

Brandon Crawford, SS, UCLA -- Crawford wouldn't be so frustrating if he wasn't so damn talented. He's striking out 25 percent of the time as a junior and he's been thrown out in 40 percent of his stolen base attempts. This was supposed to be the season Crawford started to put it all together, but despite his top 10 potential, he is sliding fast.

Luke Burnett, RHP, Louisiana Tech -- Burnett (and his high 90s fastball) was dominated as a reliever in the Cape Cod league last summer, and some compared him to former St. John's ace Craig Hansen. But the Louisiana Tech coaches opted to keep Burnett as a starter and the results have been less than satisfying: 0-4, 8.41 ERA. He's walked (32) more batters than he's struck out (30) and has allowed extra-base hits to every eight hitters or so.

Kyle Russell, OF, Texas -- It's hard to find a draft decision worse than Russell turning down big dollars from the St. Louis Cardinals hitting 28 home runs last spring. This season, there's been less power and more strikeouts (43 in 137 at-bats). The Longhorn is showing more patience than ever, but scouts now doubt more than ever if he could hit north of .250 at the big league level.

Cody Satterwhite, RHP, Ole Miss -- Scouts have an impressive history of finding pitchers with golden arms and mediocre results, signing them and refining their stuff in the minor leagues. That being said, even scouts are beginning to doubt if Satterwhite's golden arm is going to ever make a difference. For the last two seasons, he was relegated to the Rebels bullpen, and even there, he was hardly a shut-down closer. This season, the talented right-hander moved back to the rotation and has looked like a stranger. Forty-one strikeouts in 55 innings is not acceptable for a player with his talent, and it has cost him significant dollars.

Scott Green, RHP, Kentucky -- Like Russell, Green also turned down big money -- a high six-figure bonus offer from the Boston Red Sox to return to the Wildcats. Green hadn't pitched much at Kentucky for two seasons thanks to injury problems, so we can commend the right-hander in wanting to fulfill his scholarship commitment. However, with a 5.40 ERA one month before the draft, it's a decision Green would likely take back. While he has shown good command and his pitches have been solid at times, Green is simply too hittable, too often. He was probably never worth what the Red Sox were willing to give him, and he probably won't be offered it again.

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