The 2008 All Senior Team

Nothing makes a coach happier than welcoming back a good senior player who decides to forgo the MLB draft and return to campus to lead his team for one more season. This year's crop of "draft dodgers" is as deep group of players as has come along in recent years. So, much to the joy of college baseball junkies like me, there will be a lot of good seniors on the basepaths this spring.

I figure this is a good time to offer out to you the All-Senior team for the upcoming 2008 season. So here are the 15 best returning four-year players in college baseball.

Stutes2.jpg
(Mike Stutes returns as the Friday starter for Oregon State)

P- Mike Stutes, Oregon State
2007 stats, 12-4, 4.07
Drafted: 9th round, St. Louis
When the No. 1 starter from the national title team returns for his senior year, it's big news. His most impressive wins came in Omaha against Arizona State and North Carolina. He'll team with frosh sensation Jorge Reyes to make a wicked pair of weekend starters.

P- Cole St. Clair, Rice
2007 stats: 0-0, 1.91, 9svs
Drafted: 7th round, Cleveland
Injury-plagued junior year, but came on late in the season to help the Owls to another CWS berth. A 6'5" 225-pound power pitcher with nasty stuff, his return was a surprise, but St. Clair should raise his stock with another good year.

P- Josh Fields, Georgia
2007 stats: 1-6, 4.46, 7svs
Drafted: 2nd round, Atlanta
This pick is going purely on potential, because he obviously had a poor season last spring, including six blown saves. Saw him pitch at USC in '06, was amazed at how hard the dynamo threw. The Bulldog arm corps have a lot of potential with Fields and 18th round pick Stephen Dodson spurning the pros.

P- Eryk McConnell, North Carolina State
2007 stats: 3-2, 1.72, 11svs
Drafted: 11th round, Baltimore
Last I saw McConnell, he was helping to sell game programs at a Cotuit-Orleans game on the Cape last summer. McConnell went on to finish up the season for Team USA. He could get an expanded role with talents like Andrew Brackman gone this season.

P- Pat Venditte, Creighton
2007 stats: 8-2, 1.88, 4svs, 99Ks, 22BBs
Drafted: 45th round, New York Yankees
The now famed switch-pitcher helped lead CU to the NCAAs as a middle-reliever from out of the pen. Had another good summer in the Northwoods League and may take on a starters role for the well-stocked Jays in '08.

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(Pat Venditte will be a valuable righty for Creighton in 2008)

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(Pat Venditte will be a valuable lefty for Creighton in 2008)


UT- Mitch Harris, Navy
2007 stats: 8-5, 2.14, 119Ks, 36BBs / .293-8-47
Drafted: 24th round, Atlanta
It's not a huge shock that a Midshipman skipped the pros for a year, after all, this IS a Naval Academy education and experience. Harris hit a slight bump in the road last season (though not awful by any stretch), after going 10-3, 1.74 on the mound and .333 at the dish in '06.

C- Doug Hogan, Clemson
2007 stats: .350-13-46, 9SBs
Drafted: 13th round, Cleveland
Hogan edges out South Carolina's Phil Disher mostly on his being relied upon behind the dish. Both put up similar numbers but Hogan was the full-timer on D. Playing at a championship level when it counted, Hogan stepped up to go 12-for-20 with two dingers in the NCAA tournament last June.

1B- C.J. Ziegler, Arizona
2007 stats: .355-13-63
Drafted: 37th round, St. Louis
Ziegler leads a group of five 'Cat draftees that chose not to sign last June, which is going to pay dividends for them this coming spring. Impressive numbers from Ziegler in the pitching-rich Pac 10 should also raise his stock for the '08 draft.

2B- Blake Stouffer, Texas A&M
2007 stats: .398-12-85, 22SBs
Drafted: 4th round Cincinnati
The quintessential firestarter on offense and played mostly 1B and 3B last year. Could play anywhere in the infield, but spent the fall at 2B. A&M has a good nucleus back and is looking for more than just a Big 12 title and Super Regional appearance this year.

SS- Tyler Kuhn, West Virginia
2007 stats: .332-5-52
Drafted: 33rd round, Cleveland
Kuhn played with little fanfare nationally last year for the 29-22 Mountaineers. He'll be one of the top shortstops in the country this season after starring in the Valley League the last two summers, including being named the MVP in '06.

3B- Matt Hague, Oklahoma State
2007 stats: .353-13-49
Drafted: 11th round, Cleveland
Cowboys do it again, bagging the biggest four-year transfer in the country in the off-season. As one of the best hitters in Washington history, Hague shuns the Huskies, shuns the Indians and says hello to Stillwater. His power to all fields and glove play will fill the void left by Mark Mangini, last season's big transfer prize.

OF- Michael Harrington, College of Charleston
2007 stats: .364-13-66
Drafted: 38th round, Baltimore
Started just nine games in his first two years as a Cougar before last year's breakout season. Was a 1st team All-SoCon performer and is one of those guys that should improve their draft stock, especially if the Cougars have another SoCon title and post-season run in them.

OF- Dominic de la Osa, Vanderbilt
2007 stats: .378-20-62, 20SBs
Drafted: 10th round, Detroit
Will team with Pedro Alvarez to give the Commodores one of the most potent offenses in the country. Multi-talented in all areas, it will be interesting to see if he continues his torrid pace and improves his stock for this June. Also, after how 2007 ended, Vandy will be one of the most motivated teams in the country this season.

OF- Chris Hopkins, Oregon State
2007 stats: .266-2-27, 17SBs, 1 error
Drafted: 44th round, Kansas City
Was the key defensive rover in center field for the National Title winning Beavers, turning gaps shots into pop-outs. His speed and discipline also makes him a great leadoff hitter. Was drafted in the 37th round out of high school.

DH- Nate Recknagel, Michigan
2007 stats: .352-12-61
Drafted: NA
With his linebacker-type name, Recknagel is the only player on this team that wasn't drafted last June, but that will soon change. A great athlete, Recknagel played both infield corner positions, though mostly at first. He is part of a great nucleus returning for UMich, which means anything short of Omaha will be a disappointment.

Comments

You've got two Oregon State players on your list, but the Beavers didn't make your list of teams that you expect to make it to Omaha. Huh?

I hear ya' Bob. You're right, it's beginning to be an oddity NOT to have OSU projected for Omaha. But I had some Beaver fans write and tell me they LOVE when people underestimate them, so I thought I'd oblige them.

And hey Bob, how about some of those NAIA/D-II matchups in January/early February? I'm sure I'll hit a Point Loma Nazarene game or two before the D-1 teams throw out their first pitches.

Talking to the people around the UCLA baseball program I found out they plan on bidding on a regional this year and if the team deserves it, think they will get it. Can you explain to me how a stadium with a 2 line concession stand, 2 stall bathroom, seemingly non-existent press box and slightly over 1,000 capacity can host a regional?

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Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is CSTV.com's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert