2020 Big Ten Preview (D1Baseball.com)


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Aug 29, 2004
Link: https://d1baseball.com/featured/2020-big-ten-preview-mighty-michigan-leads-the-way/

2020 Big Ten Preview: Mighty Michigan Leads the Way
by Nick Faleris and Burke Granger, D1Baseball.com

Michigan did wonders for the Big Ten in 2019, as it not only reached the College World Series, but played Vanderbilt for the national title as well. Though the Wolverines fell short of the national title, it was a statement made. Now, a year later, Michigan is expected to be strong yet again, while Minnesota and Ohio State are hot on its heels. The rest of the Big Ten looks to be much improved as well.

Without further ado, let's take an in-depth look at the Big Ten in 2020.

Projected Order of Finish
1. Michigan
2. Minnesota
3. Ohio State
4. Indiana
5. Illinois
6. Nebraska
7. Iowa
8. Rutgers
9. Maryland
10. Northwestern
11. Michigan State
12. Purdue
13. Penn State

Projected Regional Teams (4)
Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Indiana

Player of the Year
Dillon Dingler, Ohio State (C)

Pitcher of the Year
Max Meyer, Minnesota (RHP)

Freshman of the Year
Steven Hajjar, Michigan (LHP)

Top Prospects (2020 Draft)
1. Max Meyer, Minnesota (RHP)
2. Jeff Criswell, Michigan (RHP)
3. Jordan Nwogu, Michigan (OF)
4. Dillon Dingler, Ohio State (C)
5. Jesse Franklin, Michigan (OF)
6. Seth Lonsway, Ohio State (RHP)
7. Patrick Fredrickson, Minnesota (RHP)
8. Bo Hofstra, Purdue (RHP)
9. Sam Thoreson, Minnesota (RHP)
10. Ben Dragani, Michigan (LHP)
27. Aaron Palensky, Nebraska (OF)
46. Max Schreiber, Nebraska (RHP)

Top Prospects (2021 Draft)
1. Steven Hajjar, Michigan (LHP)
2. Colby Gomes, Nebraska (RHP)
3. McCade Brown, Indiana (RHP)
4. Aiden Maldonado, Illinois (RHP)
5. JP Massey, Minnesota (RHP)
6. Willie Weiss, Michigan (RHP)
7. Spencer Schwellenbach, Nebraska (SS)
8. Zaid Walker, Michigan State (OF)
9. Gabe Bierman, Indiana (RHP)
10. Justin Williams, Penn State (3B)
22. Cam Chick, Nebraska (3B)

Impact Freshmen
1. Jack Frank, Michigan State (OF)
2. Ethan Vecrumba, Indiana (OF)
3. Sean Burke, Maryland (RHP)
4. Cameron Weston, Michigan (RHP)
5. Jimmy Obertop, Michigan (C)
6. Sam Ireland, Minnesota (RHP)
7. Nate Karaffa, Ohio State (CF)
8. Nick Dean, Maryland (RHP)
9. Brandon Voth, Indiana (C)
10. Tucker Flint, Maryland (OF)
13. Ethan Bradford, Nebraska (LHP)
15. Leighton Banjoff, Nebraska (OF)
40. Aaron Dolney, Nebraska (C)
47. Braxton Bragg, Nebraska (RHP)
48. Sayer Diederich, Nebraska (LHP/OF)

Projected Regional Teams
Ohio State

Keep An Eye On

The Rest of the Pack
Michigan State
Penn State

Will Bolt returned to Lincoln this summer as the head coach of Nebraska following Coach Darin Erstad's voluntary exit at the end of the 2019 season. He inherits a deep and talented club with plenty of big game experience and postseason potential. Offensively, the Huskers return nine players who logged at least 125 plate appearances in 2019 and eight who logged at least 150. Junior OF Aaron Palensky (.320/.420/.482, 7 home runs) returns as the team's best statistical performer from 2019, with sophomores Cam Chick (.240/.333/.327, 4 home runs) and Spencer Schwellenbach (.275/.415/.400, 5 home runs) ready to help bolster the offense. Both have the potential to reach double-digit home runs, though neither has fully tapped into that raw power in game action. This duo will be tasked with holding down the left side of the infield, defensively, with Schwellenbach capable of providing quality defense at the six spot while Chick has worked hard throughout the fall to refine his actions at the hot corner. Senior C Luke Roskam (.221/.354/.336) was hot and cold last spring but enjoyed a very loud fall and looks poised to emerge as an important contributor in 2020. Seniors Mojo Hagge and Joe Acker and junior Jackson Hallmark should all figure into outfield action this spring, with Hagge and Acker expected to take a developmental step forward this spring and Hallmark capable of impacting the game with his double-plus speed. Freshmen 1B Luke Boynton and 3B Leighton Banjoff could make impacts with the bat as early as this spring and junior C Gunner Hellstrom (.289/.353/.314) could lock down time behind the dish off the strength of his solid defensive profile and feel for the barrel.

While the Huskers return a robust group of players on the positional side, they will need to replace their entire weekend rotation from 2019. This rebuild starts with last year's standout closer, sophomore RHP Colby Gomes (13 saves and 19 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched), who is transitioning into the Friday night starter role. When on, Gomes has the stuff to hang with a deep collection of Big Ten aces, boasting a 92-to-96 mph fastball, a mid-80s slider, low-80s changeup and upper 70s curve. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound power arm made big strides this fall revising his approach and improving his pacing in order to facilitate the transition to starting and looks the part of an impact starter. A pair of transfers -- sophomore LHP's Cade Povich and Gareth Stroh -- round out the weekend rotation, with each working more in the upper-80s-to-low-90s range with their fastballs. Povich excels at mixing up tempo while Stroh disrupts timing off the strength of his quality off-speed offerings -- all of which he commands in the zone. Junior RHP Max Schreiber could provide quality innings in either a starter or reliever role for the Huskers, leaning on a low-90s heater with power sink, above-average slider and quality changeup. He's a big body that creates good angles and comes with a fluid arm action. Sophomore Shay Schanaman transitioned to pitching full time this fall after a two-way freshman season in 2019 and is lined up to fill the closer role in 2020. His best offering is a plus to double-plus curve with hard bite, backed by a fastball that woks 88-to-91 mph and can reach 93 with regularity. Junior RHP Trey Kissack (transfer from UNC-Greensboro) adds additional depth in the pen utilizing a little bit of funk to create deception and helping his fastball/slider combo to play up. If the staff can stay healthy, there are a lot of arms here that can go multiple innings and a nice mix of power and command. Gomes' emergence as a true frontline starter could help push the Huskers into competition for yet another NCAA Regional bid and the overall depth on the roster should make this a dangerous club throughout the spring.

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