The 2019 Golden Spikes watchlist is down to its midseason top 40. Here's one contender from college baseball at each position.
Adley Rutschman, Oregon State, catcher
Rutschman's record-setting 2018 College World Series performance led many to peg him as the preseason player of the year. There’s a lot to be said about a player that’s not only lived up to that hype but has surpassed it. Rutschman is having a career year. He's hitting .422 with 13 home runs but has also walked 51 times to post a .577 on-base percentage, tops in college baseball.
MIDSEASON WATCHLIST: The remaining players in the hunt for the 42nd GSA
Andrew Vaughn, California, first baseman
Arizona State’s Spencer Torkelson definitely deserves recognition here, building on his outstanding freshman campaign with an even bigger sophomore year. But Vaughn is the reigning Golden Spikes winner and has done everything he needs to in his quest to become the first repeat winner of the Award.
It was going to be tough to match the stats Vaughn put up last year (.402, 23 home runs, 1.350 OPS). But he’s done his part, currently slashing .379/.539/.710 with 11 home runs and 39 walks. Vaughn is as good as it gets in college baseball and is currently on a seven-game hitting streak in which he’s piled up 14 hits.
Nick Gonzales, New Mexico State, 2B
If the season stopped after the first week, Gonzales was the runaway winner of this award. The 2018 WAC freshman of the year had 20 hits in his first five games with four home runs and 16 RBI. Unfortunately for the WAC, he hasn’t really slowed down, currently leading DI with a .451 average for the top scoring team in college baseball.
Logan Davidson, Clemson, SS
Full disclosure: This pick went back and forth so many times between Bryson Stott of UNLV, Will Wilson of NC State, and Davidson that our head hurt. But there's nothing wrong with deciding on Davidson.
Stott is as steady as they come, hitting over .360 for the second straight year, but Davidson does a little bit of it all and powers the No. 24 team in college baseball. He leads the Tigers in home runs, RBI, and OPS and brings the extra bonus of speed, swiping 16-of-18 attempts. Davidson is swift in the field as well, putting his stamp on Golden Spikes contender.
Kody Hoese, Tulane, 3B
Hoese is enjoying a breakout campaign, tied with Division II’s Matt Malkin to lead all of NCAA baseball in home runs with 21, 16 more than his first two seasons combined. But there’s more to Hoese than power. He’s been red-hot at the plate. The junior has a 12-game hitting streak in which he’s recorded 27 hits, scored 26 runs, and driven in 21 more. His average is up to .417 on the year with an absurd 1.381 OPS.
Jake Mangum, Mississippi State, OF
JJ Bleday, Vanderbilt, OF
Hunter Bishop, Arizona State, OF
Like any outfield, we went with the best three options here.
Mangum made it to the College World Series last season as a junior and turned down an MLB Draft selection to return for his senior year. The Diamond Dawgs couldn’t be happier. Mangum leads the team in hitting (.382), runs (48), doubles (17), and stolen bases (19).
Bleday was already a star for the Vandy Boys, but he’s taken it to a whole new level in 2019. He’s hitting .363 and his 20 home runs are second best in the Division. He’s particularly homer-happy of late with eight in his last eight games, including a current four-game run with at least one home run in each of them.
One of college baseball’s more successful programs is returning to relevance. As much as Torkelson has to do with that resurgence, so does Bishop. The junior has exploded onto the scene, posting career highs in average (.382), home runs (17), RBI (47), and runs (52), while posting a 1.364 OPS.
Ethan Small, Mississippi State, LHP
Alek Manoah, West Virginia, RHP
Picking just one pitcher was also tough, so we took one of each. Small has been one of the best southpaws all season, posting the best strikeout-per-nine amongst both lefties and juniors at a whopping 15.45. He’s struck out more than 10 in seven of his ten starts and has only allowed 14 earned runs in 60 innings.
Manoah slightly edges out Navy’s Noah Song as the righty. Song has been on it all season, leading college baseball with a 16.09 K/9 rate and 118 strikeouts while posting a 1.36 ERA. If you told us we were crazy for not choosing Song, well, we may just agree with you.
Congrats to Alek Manoah, the @NCBWA National Pitcher of the Week! Alek is the 2nd Mountaineer ever to earn the award twice in the same season.— WVU Baseball (@WVUBaseball) April 23, 2019
📰➡️ https://t.co/1BMIs9M0NB#HailWV pic.twitter.com/JkvLMwclPt
That said, Manoah has been absolutely lights out of late, and as the saying goes, what people remember most is not how you start, but how you finish. Just how good has Manoah been since the calendar turned to April? He’s made three starts, going 26 innings, allowing just 10 hits, while striking out 41 and not allowing a single run or walk. That’s not just utterly dominant, that’s utterly absurd.