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College Station Regional Preview: Can A&M Overcome Loss Of Stilson?

Though Texas A&M had a terrific season, they were shafted by the tournament selection committee with a non-National seed and a potential trip to Florida State for the Super Regionals, should they survive their initial group. They'll host the College Station Regional to open up the NCAA Baseball Tournament, and the Aggies (42-18) will play host to the Arizona Wildcats (36-19), Seton Hall Pirates (33-23), and Wright State Raiders (36-17). The games will begin on Friday, with A&M facing the Raiders at 6:35 PM CT and Arizona dueling with Seton Hall at 12:35 PM CT.

1) Texas A&M Aggies
Best draft-eligible player: This would have easily been right-hander John Stilson a few weeks ago, before he tore his labrum. Now it's up in the air. Their two best remaining players aren't draft eligible, Shortstop Kenny Jackson could be a decent 8-15th rounder.

So here's what it comes down to: without Stilson, the Aggies have lost the confidence of the selection committee. Texas A&M's pitching was always pretty good though, and while likely replacements for their ace starter may not be of his caliber, they still have plenty of great pitching. A&M was 10th nationally with a 2.68 ERA, and sophomore Michael Wacha could very well pitch the Aggies past whoever is in their path.

The Aggies are weakest on offense, where the Big 12 season put a lot of wear on their bats. Sophomore Tyler Naquin is their biggest bat: .379/.449/.528, with 17 doubles. Matt Juengel also has some pop, as he socked five homers and slugged .460. Outside of that, A&M looks remarkably like Rice does: they have hitters that can work the count and be gnats, but nobody who can really power one over the fence on a consistent basis. Losing Stilson hurts, but pitching was the deepest part of their team, and they have a lot of live arms to go to.

2) Arizona Wildcats
Best draft-eligible player:
Here's an interesting toss-up. Kyle Simon (10-3, 2.81) has the most college success, but because of his low strikeout rate, he doesn't really have the arm of someone that's going in the first couple of rounds. Meanwhile, lefty Bryce Bandilla can pump it up to 95 but doesn't have a clue where it's going, as he's allowed 32 walks in 44.1 innings. 

The Wildcats have a fairly good chance at knocking off A&M without Stilson in my estimation. While the park effects have to be adjusted for, what with playing in Tucson and all, their offense seems better on paper. Arizona was fourth nationally with a .322 average, and had five separate players slug .436 or higher. On the mound, Kurt Heyer and Simon give Arizona a terrific 1-2 punch, and though the bullpen is a little shaky, stars win more games in a shorter format. 

3) Seton Hall Pirates
Best draft-eligible player:
Senior Joe DiRocco leads the team with an 8-1 record and a 1.68 ERA. Unfortunately, he isn't regarded as much of a prospect due to advanced age, a low strikeout rate, a relatively high walk rate, and a mid-high 80's fastball. I'm pretty sure he'll be drafted, but it probably won't be in the first 10 rounds.

Seton Hall backs up DiRocco with a terrific overall pitching staff. A 2.61 team ERA ranked them eighth nationally, and their bullpen and rotation both have depth, if not many traditional flamethrower types. Ryan Harvey does have 72 K's in 43 innings out of the pen. 

The Pirates have won 13 of their last 15 to get here, upsetting several teams in the Big East Tournament. With Seton Hall, it really depends on which offense shows up. They've had quite a few explosions for 9+ runs, but more often than not, it winds up with the Pirates trying to eke out a low scoring win. There isn't a single player on their roster with a .400+ slugging percentage, and that could cost them.

4) Wright State Raiders
Best draft-eligible player:
Coming into the year, right hander Casey Henn was probably the most well-regarded coming into the year, but all junior Jake Hibberd has done is hit .412 with a .618 slugging percentage. Both of them could potentially go in the top 10 rounds.

Hibberd gets backup from junior outfielder Tristan Moore, who has hit .365/.442/.581, with five bombs. Unfortunately, the terrific cumulative offense that the Raiders have (.329 batting average, 3rd best in the NCAA's) has to carry the cumulative 4.24 ERA of the pitching staff. 

Prediction: Texas A&M beats Wright State, but can't overcome the balance that Arizona has. Wildcats go the Super Regionals.

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