First pitch of the DII baseball season is Jan. 31. Teams across the nation will be chasing the defending champion Tampa Spartans in hopes of reaching Cary, North Carolina, and a chance to be the next DII baseball champion.
Here's a first look at some 2020 player-of-the-year candidates. Instead of listing overall players — which could reach as many as 50 worthy student-athletes — I took one from each position that really stood out, including a right-handed and left-handed pitcher to contend for pitcher-of-the-year award. The one exception was the outfield, where instead of picking a specific left-fielder, right-fielder, and centerfielder, I chose three outfielders, regardless of position.
DII baseball: Player-of-the-year candidates at each position
C — John Michael Faile, North Greenville
Faile had little problem acclimating himself to the potent North Greenville lineup in 2019. As a freshman, he hit .391 with 13 doubles, 18 home runs and a team-high 70 RBI to go with a shiny 1.216 OPS. With expectations high in Tigerville, South Carolina, Faile will be at the heart of what should be an explosive lineup and have the opportunity to improve on an outstanding debut.
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1B — Jordan Barth, Augustana (SD)
Barth had an injury-riddled campaign in 2019 and only appeared in 40 games, unable to build off an exciting freshman 2018 debut when he hit .362 with seven home runs while leading the national champion Vikings in both doubles (15) and RBI (61). If Barth is completely healthy and the power returns, he could be one of the best first baseman in DII baseball.
2B — Payton Eeles, Cedarville
You may not know the name because Cedarville was a 14-win team in 2019 and Eeles was a mere freshman, but you certainly should. Eeles became the first All-American in program history, leading the Great Midwest Athletic Conference with a .424 batting average and 27 stolen bases. Though he won't be one to hit many home runs, the 5-8 sophomore has deceptive gap power with 13 doubles.
SS — Shay Whitcomb, UC San Diego
Whitcomb had a big year in helping the Tritons reach the DII baseball championships for the third year in a row. If he takes another step forward, UCSD could make it a fourth. Whitcomb hit .314 with 25 doubles (second in DII) and 11 home runs. We weren't the only ones to notice. D1Baseball ranked Whitcomb No. 116 amongst all college MLB draft prospects after hitting .303 with eight home runs in the Cape Cod Baseball League.
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3B — Osvaldo Tovalin, Azusa Pacific
Tovalin showed his solid 2018 debut season was just the start of big things to come. He responded with a monster sophomore season in 2019, hitting .396 with 17 doubles, 19 home runs and an 1.182 OPS. The Cougars pump out 40-win seasons on the regular. If they plan on getting their fourth in a row, Tovalin's all-around play as one of DII's premier third basemen will play a large role.
OF — EJ Cumbo, New York Tech
Cumbo was the driving force in one of DII baseball's greatest turnaround stories in history. The Bears went from 13 wins in 2018 to 37 wins in 2019, riding the wave all the way to Cary, North Carolina for the DII baseball championship finals. Cumbo was the East Coast Conference player of the year in his redshirt-freshman season. He hit .437 with a 1.175 OPS and 23 stolen bases. Expect more of the same in 2020.
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OF — Josh Elvir, Angelo State
Elvir — the reigning ABCA DII player of the year — put up numbers very similar to Delta State's Zach Shannon. Shannon, of course, replicated those numbers and repeated as DII national player of the year and there is zero reason to think Elvir can't do that same. You would be hard pressed to put up Elvir's 2019 numbers in a video game: he hit .458 with 17 doubles, 20 home runs, 81 RBI and a ridiculous 1.573 OPS.
OF — Erik Webb, Central Missouri
Central Missouri made it to Cary last year, and with Webb and a slew of others back, they can very well do it again. Webb was part of perhaps the best outfield in DII baseball last season and although Mason Janvrin is off to minor league baseball, Webb is back with the rest of his cohorts. He hit .410 with a DII-best 26 doubles and 21 home runs to go along with 15 stolen bases. He also had three big games in Cary showing he can play on the biggest stage.
UTILITY — Cam Kline, Minnesota State
Nova Southeastern's Duncan Pastore certainly made this a tough decision — especially putting up the numbers he did as a freshman — but the Mavericks two-way star may be the best at his trade in DII baseball. Kline went 10-2 over 13 starts, striking out 112 over 80.0 innings pitched and hit .386 with 12 doubles, six home runs, and 36 RBI. It's tough to figure out what Kline does best, making him one of the most valuable assets in DII.
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DII baseball pitcher of the year: A righty and lefty for your consideration
RHP — Brandon Pfaadt, Bellarmine
Throw away his 2019 regular-season numbers, Pfaadt is one of the most promising righties in the Division. After going 3-3 with three saves, Pfaadt had a big summer on the Cape, starting his stint with 12 scoreless innings and then struck out six of the final nine batters he faced. D1baseball has him as the No. 66 best college baseball prospect in the 2020 MLB draft while Perfect Game recognized him as having one of the best pitching performances in the CCBL. Bellarmine is in our top 15 entering the season, and with Pfaadt at its disposal, you can see why.
LHP — Zach Noll, Point Loma
The PacWest pitcher of the year returns with higher aspirations in 2020. The southpaw — who pitched two seasons for DI Oregon — broke out for the Sea Lions, going 10-2 with a 2.92 ERA and striking out 102 in 83.1 innings pitched. We like Point Loma's chances of making some noise in the West Region this year and having to face Noll to open a weekend series is a large reason why.