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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | February 7, 2020

1 college baseball player-of-the-year contender at every position for the 2020 season

1 college baseball player-of-the-year contender at every position for the 2020 season

College baseball season is quickly approaching with opening day slated for Feb. 14. Is there anything more romantic than first pitch on Valentine’s Day?

2020 IS COMING: Our preseason top 25 | Eight for Omaha | When college baseball starts

So far, we’ve taken a look at our early preseason top 25 as well as taking a stab at predicting our eight for Omaha. Now, let’s take a look ahead at some individuals you should know heading into 2020.

A quick note. We all know that many college baseball players are quite versatile and often play multiple positions. Take a guy like Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin, for example, who can seemingly play everywhere but catcher and pitcher (who knows, maybe even there, too). When taking a player like Martin into consideration, we slotted him in the spot we felt he'd see the most starts. While that position could change with injuries down the road, we don’t think it will have any effect on the offensive output these players are capable of producing. 

There is also no designated hitter spot because many of those players often rotate from the outfield or first base, a guy like Aaron Sabato on North Carolina for example. Those DH players are slotted at their primary position as well.

BASEBALL AWARDS: Ultimate guide to the Golden Spikes | Complete history of the Dick Howser Award

Let’s take a look at one player from each position — and who their stiffest competition may be — that we think can contend for the Dick Howser or Golden Spikes Award — or as Adley Rutschman pulled off last year — both. 

Catcher: Adrian Del Castillo, Miami (FL)

Miami (Fla.) Athletics Adrian Del Castillo had a big freshman year for Miami (FL) baseball.


Del Castillo split time in right field, DH and catcher last season, but it looks like he'll shift behind the plate full-time in his sophomore campaign. His debut season was pretty darn exciting, earning consensus Freshman All-America team honors and leading the Hurricanes with a .331 average while adding 12 home runs and 72 RBI, reaching base via hit in his first 15 games of his career. Miami should take another step forward in 2020 and the big bat and solid defense of Del Castillo will be a big reason why.
On deck: Patrick Bailey, NC State; Griffin Lockwood-Powell, Central Michigan; Austin Wells, Arizona

First base: Spencer Torkelson, Arizona State

Arizona State Athletics Spencer Torkelson is a college baseball player of the year candidate.


Torkelson should be one of the first players off the board in the 2020 MLB Draft. The 6-1 right-handed junior has already been a Golden Spikes Award and Dick Howser semifinalist in his career, one which has seen him lead the Pac-12 in home runs the past two seasons. Expect Torkelson to make a charge at the NCAA home run crown in 2020 after smashing 48 over the first two years of his career.
On deck: Jason Hinchman, Tennessee Tech; Aaron Sabato, North Carolina; Bobby Seymour, Wake Forest; Alex Toral, Miami (FL)

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Second base: Nick Gonzales, New Mexico State

New Mexico State Athletics Nick Gonzales is an offensive weapon for New Mexico State baseball.


Gonzales dominated college baseball everywhere he went last season. The 5-10 junior led Division I with a .432 batting average and added a 1.305 OPS. He then showed off his wood bat skills in the Cape Cod Baseball League by hitting .351 with seven home runs in a championship run with the Cotuit Kettleers. Gonzales is set up for another monster season offensively in a lineup with plenty of firepower protecting him. 
On deck:  Justin Foscue, Mississippi State; Brian Klein, Texas Tech; Danny Serretti, North Carolina

Shortstop: Casey Martin, Arkansas

NCAA Photos Casey Martin has led Arkansas baseball to two-straight College World Series.

The dynamic duo of Martin and Heston Kjerstad has helped make Arkansas the Omahogs the past two seasons. The junior was unreal as a freshman and followed it up with another strong campaign in 2019, hitting .287 with 15 home runs and 0.925 OPS. The pitching staff will have a new look but with Martin near the top of this Hogs lineup, Arkansas is geared up for another deep run in 2020.
On deck: Trei Cruz, Rice; Sam Frelick, Boston College; Alika Williams, Arizona State

Third base: Austin Martin, Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt Athletics Austin Martin had a big 2019 for the national champion Vandy Boys.


Martin is a guy who can — and likely will — play all over the place, but should find his home base at the hot corner, especially after the Jayson Gonzalez injury. The junior was a Golden Spikes and Dick Howser semifinalist and was simply one of the best all-around players in college baseball, leading the SEC with a .392 batting average and .486 on-base percentage while also earning SEC All-Defensive team accolades. If the Vandy Boys make another run to Omaha, Martin will be leading the way.
On deck: Alex Binelas, Louisville

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Outfield:
This is where it gets tough, as there are obviously more outfielders than any other offensive position rostered on college baseball teams. There will be plenty of debate on these three choices (strictly chosen as an outfielder as opposed to a left fielder, center fielder, and right fielder). In fact, it is welcomed.

Heston Kjerstad, Arkansas: I know what you're thinking. If there are two Razorbacks on this list, can't they cancel each other out? That's not the case, as Martin and Kjerstad have seen nothing but success as a team and as individuals. Kjerstad was the model of consistency in 2019, his sophomore campaign almost mirroring his breakout freshman season. Kjerstad hit .331 with 15 home runs and a 0.975 OPS batting all over the heart of the lineup. 

Chris Lanzilli, Wake Forest: The junior outfielder had a solid freshman debut in 2018 but completely broke out in 2019. Lanzilli hit .347 with 16 home runs and a 1.029 OPS. Our friends at D1baseball.com have Wake Forest at No. 18 in the preseason poll and if the Deacs are going to live up to those lofty standards, Lanzilli will lead the way for a rather intriguing offense. 

UCLA Athletics Garrett Mitchell hits for UCLA baseball. Expect Garrett Mitchell to be in the hunt for the 2020 stolen base crown.

Garrett Mitchell, UCLA: Mitchell broke out in a big way in his first full season during his 2019 sophomore campaign. The junior outfielder brings some of the best speed in college baseball to the top of the Bruins lineup. He also showed he can make contact all over the field last year hitting .349 with 14 doubles, 12 triples, six home runs, and adding 18 stolen bases. He also made no errors with two assists in centerfield, so he's an asset on both sides of the ball.

On deck: Daniel Cabrera, LSU; Jordan Nwogu, Michigan; Ethan Wilson, South Alabama

Utility: Alec Burleson, East Carolina

East Carolina Athletics Alec Burleson may be the best two-way player in college baseball in 2020.


Pencil in Burleson as an early contender for the John Olerud Award as well as perhaps the best returning two-way player in college baseball. He'll likely be in the rotation in his junior season but has been a force at the plate and on the bump. Over his first two seasons, he's pitched to an 11-4 record with nine saves and a 3.31 ERA while hitting .335 with nine home runs and a .866 OPS. The Pirates are always a tournament threat and Burleson is a special weapon that could help get them there.
On deck: Logan Allen, FIU; Casey Schmit, San Diego State

Pitcher:
Like the outfield, there are a ton of pitchers between the weekend rotation, mid-week starters and bullpen. Here, we narrowed it down to starters and took one from the right side and left side. 

RHP Emerson Hancock, Georgia: There are high expectations and College World Series aspirations in Athens this spring, and the two-headed monster atop the rotation of Hancock and Cole Wilcox is a big reason why. Hancock went 8-3 last season with a sparkling 1.99 ERA and 0.84 WHIP, both top 20 marks in college baseball. Some reports have seen him hit 99 on that fastball as well, so expect Hancock — a 2019 Golden Spikes and Dick Howser semifinalist — to bring the heat in 2020.
More to watch: Tanner Burns, Auburn; Jeff Criswell, Michigan; JT Ginn, Mississippi State; Kumar Rocker, Vanderbilt

Louisville Athletics Reid Detmers hopes to lead Louisville back to the College World Series. Reid Detmers hopes to lead Louisville back to the College World Series.

LHP Reid Detmers, Louisville: Detmers was absolutely absurd in the first half of the season, allowing just five earned runs in his first seven starts. Overall, Detmers finished strong with a 13-4 record and 2.78 and 0.92 WHIP. The southpaw is also one of the best strikeout artists in college baseball, finishing second in strikeouts with 167 and seventh with 13.26 strikeouts-per-nine. The Cardinals opened the season at No. 1 and our own Anthony Chiusano predicted them to win their first College World Series. Detmers being a player of the year ace would certainly help the cause.
More to watch:  Garrett Crochet, Tennessee (if back in the rotation); Asa Lacy, Texas A&M 

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