It may only be October, but that does not mean it’s too early to talk about Pac-12 baseball.
Even with guys like Nick Madrigal, Trevor Larnach, and Nico Hoerner gone, the Pac-12 is still chock full of hot talent lava, as Scott Boras would call it. With summer leagues done and minimal activity until the spring, here are a few players you need to become familiar with.
Andrew Vaughn, Junior First Baseman, UC Berkeley
Is it really a Pac-12 baseball story if it doesn’t include Andrew Vaughn? In short, the answer is no. If you want a more elaborate answer, Vaughn was the Golden Spikes winner in 2018, beating out Kody Clemens, Brady Singer, and this year’s number one overall draft pick Casey Mize. This amazing accolade gave him the honor of becoming the first player from the Pac-12 to win the award since Trevor Bauer in 2011. He hit .402 on the season with a 1.350 OPS, tied for third in the nation for home runs with 23, was a First Team All-American, and earned a spot on the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team. You could argue that he’s pretty well rounded. He hit .308 with a 1.022 OPS and added five dingers in the Cape Cod League with the Wareham Gatemen. He is the best first baseman, if not the best player, in the country right now and will definitely be taken early in the 2019 MLB Draft. Oh, and he also threw a scoreless inning for the Golden Bears last season. Eat your heart out Shohei Ohtani.
Spencer Torkelson, Sophomore First Baseman/Outfielder, ASU
Breaking Barry Bonds’ home run record for a freshman Sun Devil is no small feat. Torkelson was the nation’s home run king this year, knocking 25 out of the park during the 2018 season and adding 7 more while playing for the Chatham Anglers in the Cape. And he did it all as a 19-year- old. The closest freshman on the home run leaderboard was Le Bassett from Mercer with 17. Torkelson walked almost as much as he struck out. He was Second Team All-American, only behind the aforementioned Vaughn. He was in the running for the Golden Spikes Award last year but didn’t make the cut as a finalist. If he continues to mash, he’s a shoe-in for the award next season. He’s one of the most electric players in NCAA baseball and his sophomore campaign should be the encore everyone wants.
Nick Quintana, Junior Infielder, Arizona
Coming out of high school, Quintana was one of the highest touted recruits in the country. He was an 11th round draft pick in 2016 by the Red Sox and was expected to be a top 10 pick in his draft class after he opted to go the college route. The hype has cooled a bit on Quintana, but that doesn’t mean he’s no longer a phenom. The Wildcat infielder hit .313 with 14 jacks and 55 RBIs this year and is poised for a breakout junior season. While he spent most of his time playing shortstop over the past two years, he played third in the Cape this year and profiles more as a third baseman at the higher levels. With excellent raw power and a swing that resembles Nolan Arenado’s, Quintana could still find a way back up the draft boards. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him taken within the first 25 picks of next year’s draft.
Adley Rutschman, Junior Catcher, Oregon State
Last year, we saw Joey Bart taken by San Francisco with the second overall pick. We very well could see Rutschman follow these footsteps by being just the second catcher taken within the first five picks in the past five years. It’s not often you see a catcher hitting over .400 with a 1.133 OPS. If he wants to lead the Beavers back to the College World Series, he’s going to have to keep his bat going, as he is the most important cog this year in the machine that is Oregon State.
Tim Tawa, Sophomore Outfielder, Stanford
Tawa was the 2017 Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year coming out of high school and had an incredible freshman year for Stanford. He slashed .301/.353/.507 this season for the Cardinal and was a big part of their postseason run. Much like Torkelson, he’s a guy who is lighting the world on fire as a 19-year-old. He followed up a strong NCAA season with an even better summer performance in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, where he matched his home run total with 7 in 31 games, had a 1.026 OPS, and was named the league’s top prospect by Perfect Game. If he can tap into his power, he has legit 15 home run potential while providing excellent defense and good speed. He may be the most well-rounded player in his class and could sneak into the early rounds of the 2020 MLB Draft if he has strong sophomore and junior seasons.
Joe Wainhouse, Infielder/Pitcher, Washington
The reason why there is a question mark next to Wainhouse’s class is due to the fact that he was thought to be a senior last year. Well, the NCAA gave him an extra year of eligibility after he missed most of 2017 due to injury, meaning that the Huskies get their power hitting infielder and spot pitcher back. The Mississippi and JuCo transfer hit 19 homers last season en route to leading the Huskies to their first College World Series appearance. CBBSN’s very own scout, Ben Pickett, talked to me more about what Wainhouse’s impact could be on this UW roster. He said, “It is pretty huge [he is coming back]. The team lost three upperclassmen to the draft and he was dugout leader last year. He will need to be more of a leader as 2019 is full of speedy juniors and sophomores. While not real vocal, the guys just naturally gather around him and follow his demeanor. He is a lineup changer. He attempts to bunt/hit against the shift, makes great adjustments from at bat to at bat, and with him there, that offense will be more than enough.” If Wainhouse continues his hot postseason into 2019, the Huskies can challenge OSU, UCLA, and Stanford for the Pac-12 title.
Matt McLain, Freshman Infielder, UCLA
It’s not every day that you see an 18-year-old get drafted in the first round and turn down a $2.6 million dollar offer to play pro ball. McLain was the Arizona Diamondbacks’ selection with the 25th overall pick but decided to turn down the offer down and play for his hometown Bruins. The Southern California kid was one of four first rounders who opted to go the college route in this years draft (Atlanta Braves draft pick Carter Stewart and Dodgers pick J.T. Ginn both decided to head to Mississippi State instead of signing after they were chosen with the eighth and 30th overall picks respectively. (A’s draft pick Kyler Murray was selected with the number nine pick and signed, but will stay at Oklahoma this fall to play football). McLain could be a key piece in the Bruins’ mission to get back to Omaha for the first time since they won it all in 2013. Only time will tell if McLain will be a first rounder again in three years, but with his combination of speed, good bat-to-ball skills, and solid defense, he very well could be a top pick again in 2021.
This conference is obviously loaded with talent, and there will be plenty of more names like the ones above who make an immediate impact once the spring rolls around! The Conference of Champions will look to continue their reign in 2019, and these guys will be a big part of that production.