The 2023 College Baseball season is almost upon us, with games starting up this weekend. The transition from football to baseball season happens fast, with less than a week of time between the Super Bowl and the college baseball season. Pitchers and catchers have also begun reporting this week for Major League Baseball, providing even more excitement for us hardcore baseball folk. Ole Miss enters the 2023 season as defending national champions after defeating Oklahoma in the championship series last spring. There is a lot to look forward to this season, so without further ado, let’s dive into the preseason rankings and top storylines/players to watch for.

Top 25 Rankings
1. LSU Tigers
Last season: 40-27 (17-13 in SEC), lost in regional final
Top Returner: OF Dylan Crews
Top Newcomer(s): C/RHP Paul Skenes, Transfer (Air Force), Tommy White, Transfer (NC State)
Biggest Loss:
3B Jacob Berry

After losing in the Hattiesburg Regional final in the 2022 postseason, LSU loaded up as they added both the No. 1 recruiting class and the No. 1 transfer class during the offseason. The Tigers already have the number one player in the nation, outfielder Dylan Crews, returning to the squad. The junior was Co-SEC Player of the Year in 2022 after slashing .349/.463/.691 with 22 homers. One of their big transfers were Tommy White, who broke the NCAA record for home runs by a freshman with 27 for the NC State Wolfpack last season. But that’s not even the biggest impact transfer, as they also added former Air Force two-way stud Paul Skenes. The right-handed pitcher and catcher sports a 100-mph fastball, and is our No. 23-ranked MLB Draft prospect. He could develop as a true two-way player as he has some pop potential. Right-hander Grant Taylor (No. 58 draft prospect) was also a top MLB Draft prospect who transferred to Baton Rouge. But it was announced this week that he will miss the 2023 season due to a UCL injury. Right-hander Christian Little (No. 69) was another key transfer – from Vanderbilt – found in our Too Early Top 75 2023 MLB Draft Prospect list back from August. All these additions certainly make the loss of third baseman Jacob Berry to the MLB Draft (Miami Marlins – 6th overall) not felt too strongly.

2. Tennessee Volunteers
Last season: 57-9 (25-5 in SEC), lost in super regionals
Top Returner: Chase Dollander
Top Newcomer: SS Maui Ahuna, Transfer (Kansas)
Biggest Loss(es): OF Jordan Beck, OF Drew Gilbert

Spending most of the 2022 season ranked No. 1, Tennessee lost to Notre Dame in the Super Regionals. The Volunteers lost a lot of firepower from their offense to the draft, but do return most of their pitching staff. That staff is led by No.3 MLB Draft prospect Chase Dollander, the reigning SEC pitcher of the year. Leading the way in the offensive losses are outfielders Jordan Beck and Drew Gilbert, who were drafted within the top 40 picks. They also lost third baseman Trey Lipscomb, who led the team in homers with 22, and the only major pitching loss was right-hander Blade Tidwell. But the rotation is pretty confidently the best in the country, with right-hander Chase Burns, the National Freshman of the Year last year as the number two starter. Rounding out the weekend rotation is right-hander Drew Beam, who was a Team USA guy this summer. To help the lineup, they added Kansas shortstop Maui Ahuna, who made All-Big 12 First Team in 2022, Cincinnati outfielder Griffin Merritt, and Alabama third baseman Zane Denton from the transfer portal. Ahuna is our 22nd-ranked draft prospect.

3. Florida Gators
Last season: 42-24 (15-15 in SEC), lost in regional final
Top Returner: OF Wyatt Langford
Top Newcomer: RHP Hurston Waldrep, Transfer (Southern Miss.)
Biggest Loss:
OF Sterlin Thompson

Another team with a top hitter for the upcoming MLB Draft in outfielder Wyatt Langford, Florida will look to stay toe-to-toe with Tennessee in the SEC. Langford was named a First Team All-American by D1Baseball in 2022, slashing slashing .355/.447/.719 with an SEC-leading 26 home runs. He is our No. 5 ranked draft prospect. The Gators also return right-hander Brandon Sproat, who finished the season strong, posting a 1.59 ERA and .218 batting average against in his last six starts of the season. He was drafted by the Mets in the draft, but went unsigned. They also added transfer right-hander Hurston Waldrep, Southern Mississippi’s Sunday starter for a majority of 2022 and our 18th-ranked draft prospect. Waldrep ended his sophomore season with a 3.20 ERA, 140 strikeouts and a 1.16 WHIP over 90 innings of work in 17 starts.

4. Stanford Cardinal
Last season: 47-18 (21-9 Pac-12), reached CWS
Top Returner: SS Tommy Troy
Top Newcomer: RHP Matt Scott, Freshman
Biggest Loss: 
OF Brock Jones

The Cardinal made it to the College World Series in 2022 for the second straight season. A lot of their offensive firepower is returning, led by shortstop Tommy Troy (our 15th-ranked prospect), first baseman Carter Graham (led the Pac-12 with 22 homers), and third baseman Drew Bowser (our 41st-ranked prospect). Stanford also returns electric two-way player Braden Montgomery, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, who set a freshman program record with 18 bombs and limited opponents to a .182 average against on the mound. Leading the pitching staff is left-hander Quinn Mathews who returns for his senior season. The southpaw was drafted in the 19th round of the 2022 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays, but elected to return to school. He began the 2022 season as a starter but moved to the bullpen, finishing second in the Pac-12 in ERA, wins, strikeouts, saves.

5. Vanderbilt Commodores
Last season: 39-23 (14-16 in SEC), lost in regional final
Top Returner: OF Enrique Bradfield Jr.
Top Newcomer: RHP Andrew Dutkanych, Freshman
Biggest Loss: 
OF/1B Spencer Jones

Right with Tennessee in having one of the deeper pitching staffs, Vanderbilt returns ace Carter Holton to lead the weekend rotation. After he withdrew from the MLB Draft, right-hander Andrew Dutkanych, from Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, joins the staff. Dutkanych set a school record for career strikeouts with 320 punchouts. The Commodores hope to mold their offense around Enrique Bradfield Jr., a returning All-American junior who led the SEC in stolen bases (46) and triples (5) last year. Bradfield is ranked as our seventh draft prospect on our rankings.

6. Ole Miss Rebels
Last season: 42-23 (14-16 in SEC), won national title
Top Returner: SS Jacob Gonzalez
Top Newcomer: INF Anthony Calarco, Transfer (Northwestern)
Biggest Loss: C Hayden Dunhurst

The defending champions are another team that has a returning starter ranked in the top five of draft prospects. That would be shortstop Jacob Gonzalez, our fourth-rated draft prospect, who had more walks (38) than strikeouts (34) in 2022. The Rebels lessened the sting of losing three-year captain Tim Elko by adding first baseman Anthony Calarco from the transfer portal (Northwestern). Like Elko last season, Calarco is also returning for a final season. He put up career-high numbers with the Wildcats in 2022, leading the team with a 1.051 OPS, 48 runs scored, 34 walks and 54 RBI.

7. Texas A&M Aggies
Last season: 44-20 (19-11 in SEC), reached CWS
Top Returner: RHP Nathan Dettmer
Top Newcomer: LHP Troy Wansing, Transfer (Purdue)
Biggest Loss: 
OF Dylan Rock

The Aggies were a surprise team last season, as they went from worst-to-first in the SEC West and wound up in Omaha. They now look to build on that success in the 2023 season with a couple of key returners and additions. While Texas A&M lost star outfielder Dylan Rock to the draft, two-way player Trevor Werner and second baseman Ryan Targac returned despite being expected to enter the draft. Right-hander Nathan Dettmer returns for his junior season as the team’s ace after striking out 82 hitters in 92 innings pitched last year. Dettmer worked seven scoreless frames while allowing no runs or walks in a College World Series win against Notre Dame, and brings that postseason experience back to the Aggie squad. Southpaw Troy Wansing also joins the pitching staff after transferring in from Purdue. Wansing made the Big Ten All-Freshman Team after recording 61 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings over 12 starts.

8. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Last season: 41-19-1 (15-14-1 ACC), lost in regionals
Top Returner: RHP Rhett Lowder
Top Newcomer: C Bennett Lee, Transfer (Tulane)
Biggest Loss: 
RHP Eric Adler

With right-hander Rhett Lowder, the reigning ACC Pitcher of the Year, leading the way, the Demon Deacons have what it takes to make a run. Lowder, our 11th-ranked player for the 2023 draft, is a guy that could rival Dollander for best pitcher in the country. Their rotation also includes righty Teddy McGraw (No. 46 draft prospect), who played for Team USA last year. Wake Forest has a powerful offense as well, led by third baseman Brock Wilken (No. 19 draft prospect) and transfer catcher Bennett Lee. With all that in mind, they look to make their first trip to Omaha since 1955.

9. Miami Hurricanes
Last season: 40-20 (20-10 ACC), lost in regionals
Top Returner: SS Yohandy Morales
Top Newcomer: C Jack Scanlon, Transfer (Oregon)
Biggest Loss: 
LHP Carson Palmquist

The Hurricanes now have their top-ranked 2020 recruiting class entering their junior seasons, led by shortstop Yohandy Morales (No. 16 draft prospect). Morales has great power upside despite a weaker overall hitting profile and a strong defensive profile. Infielder CJ Kayfus is another key returner, who stole 16 bases and posted a .985 OPS last season. Miami brought in transfer catcher Jack Scanlon from Oregon to battle with fellow junior Carlos Perez and sophomore JD Jones for the starting catcher job.

10. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Last season: 42-22 (15-9 in Big 12), lost in regional final
Top Returner(s): OF/IF/RHP Nolan McLean/2B Roc Riggio
Top Newcomer: RHP Juaron Watts-Brown, Transfer (Long Beach State)
Biggest Loss: 
RHP Justin Campbell

Oklahoma State has a lot of upside if their new look pitching staff can piece it together. The Cowboys lost right-hander Justin Campbell, their ace last season, to the draft but were able to bring in a solid freshman class of arms and transfer righty Juaron Watts-Brown. They also return two-way stud Nolan McLean, who was a third-round pick by the Baltimore Orioles as a pitcher but didn’t sign. He was stretched out as a starter in the preseason, but will still be used all over, in right field and third base on top of on the mound. With his bat, McLean led Oklahoma State in homers with 19. On the mound, he finished the season as the team’s closer, armed with a 100 mph fastball. Watts-Brown struck out 111 batters over 73 ⅓ innings in 15 appearances last season and threw a no-hitter against UC Riverside. Roc Riggio is another top returner, as the second baseman is one of the most electric players in the country. Riggio finished last season on a nine-game hitting streak and homered in each of the first four games of the regionals.

11. Arkansas Razorbacks
Last season: 46-21 (18-12 in SEC), reached CWS
Top Returner: RHP Jaxon Wiggins
Top Newcomer: RHP Koty Frank, Transfer (Nebraska)
Biggest Loss:
3B Cayden Wallace (Draft), RHP Jaxon Wiggins (Tommy John)

Another team that reached the College World Series last year, Arkansas had to go through some reloading after losing key members of that team. Third baseman Cayden Wallace was the top Razorback to be lost to the draft, who led the team with 16 homers and 60 RBI. Another huge loss is right-hander Jaxon Wiggins, our 68th-ranked draft prospect, who had to undergo Tommy John Surgery. Koty Frank is a graduate transfer from Nebraska who will help the rotation that could now be led by sophomore left-hander Hagen Smith and junior righty Will McEntire without Wiggins. 

12. Louisville Cardinals
Last season: 42-21-1 (18-11-1 ACC), lost in super regionals
Top Returner: SS Christian Knapczyk
Top Newcomer: SS/2B Gavin Kilen, Freshman
Biggest Loss: 
C Dalton Rushing
13. North Carolina Tar Heels
Last season: 42-22 (15-15 ACC), lost in super regionals
Top Returner: OF Vance Honeycutt
Top Newcomer: INF Jackson Van De Brake, Transfer (Tacoma Community College)
Biggest Loss: 
SS Danny Serretti
14. TCU Horned Frogs
Last season: 38-22 (16-8 in Big 12), lost in regional final
Top Returner: 3B Brayden Taylor
Top Newcomer: OF Austin Davis, Grad Transfer (West Virginia)
Biggest Loss: 
RHP Riley Cornelio
15. Virginia Cavaliers
Last season: 39-19 (17-13 ACC), lost in regionals
Top Returner(s): C Kyle Teel, 3B Jake Gelof
Top Newcomer: RHP Nick Parker, Grad Transfer (Coastal Carolina)
Biggest Loss: 
LHP Nate Savino
16. UCLA Bruins
Last season: 40-24 (19-11 Pac-12), lost in regional final
Top Returner: RHP Alonzo Treadwell
Top Newcomer: INF Roch Cholowsky, Freshman
Biggest Loss: 
RHP Thatcher Hurd, Transferred to LSU
17. Maryland Terrapins
Last season: 48-14 (18-5 in Big Ten), lost in regional final
Top Returner: SS Matt Shaw
Top Newcomer: INF Eddie Hacopian
Biggest Loss: 
LHP Ryan Ramsey
18. Virginia Tech Hokies
Last season: 45-14 (19-9 ACC), lost in super regionals
Top Returner: OF Jack Hurley
Top Newcomer: INF David Bryant, Transfer (Radford)
Biggest Loss: 
OF Gavin Cross
19. Oregon State Beavers
Last season: 48-18 (20-10 Pac-12), lost in super regionals
Top Returner: 1B Garret Forrester
Top Newcomer: OF Gavin Turley, Freshman
Biggest Loss: 
LHP Cooper Hjerpe
20. East Carolina Pirates
Last season: 46-21 (20-4 in American), lost in super regionals
Top Returner: OF Lane Hoover
Top Newcomer: LHP Jonathan Childress, Transfer (Texas A&M)
Biggest Loss: 
LHP Carson Whisenhunt
21. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Last season: 39-22 (15-9 in Big 12), lost in regional final
Top Returner: C/INF Hudson White
Top Newcomer: INF Travis Sanders
Biggest Loss: 
2B Jace Jung
22. Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
Last season: 47-19 (23-7 in Conference USA), lost in super regionals
Top Returner: RHP Tanner Hall
Top Newcomer: OF Matthew Etzel
Biggest Loss: 
LHP Dalton Rogers
23. Oregon Ducks
Last season: 36-25 (18-12 Pac-12), lost in regionals
Top Returner: OF Colby Shade
Top Newcomer: OF Isaiah Thomas, Transfer (Vanderbilt)
Biggest Loss: 
SS Josh Kasevich
24. Auburn Tigers
Last season: 43-22 (16-13 in SEC), reached CWS
Top Returner: RHP Joseph Gonzalez
Top Newcomer: OF Justin Kirby, Transfer (Kent State)
Biggest Loss: 
RHP Blake Burkhalter
25. Texas Longhorns
Last season: 47-22 (14-10 in Big 12), reached CWS
Top Returner: RHP Tanner Witt
Top Newcomer: C Garret Guillemette, Transfer (USC)
Biggest Loss: 
3B Ivan Melendez

 Top Opening Weekend Series/Games

College Baseball Showdown:
10 Oklahoma State vs. Missouri
Friday, February 17 at 12:00 p.m. EST
5 Vanderbilt vs. 14 TCU
Friday, February 17 at 3:00 p.m. EST
25 Texas vs. 11 Arkansas
Friday, February 17 at 8:00 p.m. EST
5 Vanderbilt vs. 10 Oklahoma State
Saturday, February 18 at 12:00 p.m. EST
25 Texas vs. Missouri
Saturday, February 18 at 4:00 p.m. EST
14 TCU vs. 11 Arkansas
Saturday, February 18 at 8:00 p.m. EST
5 Vanderbilt vs. 25 Texas
Sunday, February 19 at 11:30 a.m. EST
10 Oklahoma State vs. 11 Arkansas
Sunday, February 19 at 3:30 p.m. EST
14 TCU vs. Missouri
Sunday, February 19 at 7:30 p.m. EST
MLB Desert Invitational:

Michigan vs. Fresno State
Friday, February 17 at 1:00 p.m. EST
Michigan vs. Michigan State
Friday, February 17 at 6:00 p.m. EST
Arizona vs. 2 Tennessee
Friday, February 17 at 8:00 p.m. EST
Arizona vs. Fresno State
Saturday, February 18 at 3:00 p.m. EST
Michigan vs. UC San Diego
Saturday, February 18 at 3:00 p.m. EST
Grand Canyon vs. 2 Tennessee
Saturday, February 18 at 8:00 p.m. EST
2 Tennessee vs. UC San Diego
Sunday, February 19 at 2:00 p.m. EST
Fresno State vs. Michigan State
Sunday, February 19 at 3:00 p.m.
Grand Canyon vs. Michigan 
Sunday, February 19 at 7:00 p.m. EST
Arizona vs. Michigan State
Sunday, February 19 at 8:00 p.m. EST
College Baseball Classic:

19 Oregon State vs. New Mexico
Friday, February 17 at 2:00 p.m. EST
Minnesota vs. UCSB
Friday, February 17 at 7:00 p.m. EST
19 Oregon State vs. Minnesota 
Saturday, February 18 at 2:00 p.m. EST
19 Oregon State vs. New Mexico
Sunday, February 19 at 2:00 p.m.
Minnesota vs. UCSB
Sunday, February 19 at 7:00 p.m. EST

Season Predictions

2023 National Player of the YearDylan Crews (Kielar), Matt Shaw (THE Coach Bruce William), Jack Findlay (Brandon Braasch)

The bonafide number overall player in the country and for the upcoming MLB Draft, Crews has the best shot of anyone to win the award. His strongest competitors for NPOY this season are probably his own teammates in White and Skenes. Crews has so much in his toolbox that it’s his award to lose. But with all the talent around him, if another possible candidate performs up to or close to the level of Crews, then there could be some potential for an upset.

Sleeper Pick: Garret Forrester

National Champions – Stanford Cardinal (Kielar), Tennessee Vols (Coach Bruce)

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Twitter: @KindomProspect
LinkedIn: The Baseball Prospect Kingdom
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Main Image Credit: From Prospects Live


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