Here's a recent article that projects a college All-America team. I fully expected to see Florida, Georgia, Florida, Florida State, NC State, Florida, and LSU represented. I didn't expect to see New Mexico on the First Team twice. Looking at the schools represented, they aren't from the schools you would guess, especially if you only pay attention to the College World Series. Dallas Baptist? Campbell? Mercer? Stephen F. Austin?
Today I want to touch base on the two hitters from New Mexico on that projected team. Feel free to comment below on them, or, of course, any others. D. J. Peterson is probably the best hitter in college baseball. He hit for his league's Triple Crown last year after mastering doubles as a freshman. I doubt that a guy that pencils in as a corner outfielder at the next level will be seriously considered for the second pick in the draft, but I don't foresee him being available at somewhere around 40, when the Cubs pick again.
Peterson's teammate is catcher Mitchell Garver. He was named a Johnny Bench Award finalist in 2012, and was the Co-Player of the Year in the Mountain West Conference. His OPS was over 1.000 as a junior. Garver may be available when the Cubs pick at the 40th spot, but since he isn't a pitcher, he might be ruled out. Read that last bit with a slight bit of sarcasm, though not a whole lot.
Let's assume you're intrigued by these two, or any guys I preview. How can you check on them without waiting for me to mention them? D1Baseball is a great site for college baseball main-liners. It has scores, schedules, links to boxscores, links to media coverage, and is where I will settle in on Friday nights starting in February. Checking New Mexico's schedule, they travel to Corpus Christi, Nebraska, Arizona State, UNLV, Air Force, Arkansas, Nevada, Texas Tech, Fresno State, and San Diego State this season. I'm not entirely sure if they have any pitching, but they should be a force in their conference if they do with two offensive forces in their daily lineup. They're ranked 21st pre-season. The Lobos host Oklahoma State in a series beginning on February 15th.
On to non-Lobo news, it's never too early to speculate about the upcoming Cubs minor-league season. Today, who will be the early starting pitchers in Kane County and Daytona? Specifically, who will be the first five starters out of the gate for those two teams? Here are some options, with my projections.
Jose Arias was among the trio of quality starters in Boise last season. His WHIP was under 1.3, and though he only fanned 6.5 per nine innings, I'm comfortable slotting Arias as a Kane County starter.
Kyler Burke was a free agent last season, and the Cubs were able to get him to stick around the system another season. The 6-3 lefty used to be an outfielder, and the team wants to see if he has the stuff to contribute in a big league bullpen. Despite mediocre numbers last season in Daytona, I see him as a starter, possibly in a piggy-back situation (where two pitchers both go in the neighborhood of 4 or 5 innings, giving most of the rest of the bullpen the night off).
Josh Conway was a fourth-round pick by the Cubs last June out of Coastal Carolina. He had top-round talent, but dropped due to Tommy John surgery. It sounds like he's progressing well, and he may well be ready for a rotation spot in Geneva in April. My hunch is, they might hold him back a few weeks to let the weather warm up some. I have Conway as a 'No' for the Cougars' first five starting pitchers option, but I hope I'm wrong.
Michael Jensen was Peoria's best pitcher last season. He led the team in wins, innings, and strikeouts, also sporting a WHIP of 1.12. He has a solid three (or more) pitch repertoire, and I'll peg him as a Daytona starter come April.
Pierce Johnson was selected by the Cubs with the 43rd overall pick in last year's draft. A 6-3 righty with a nice fastball/curve (or is it a slider/change) repertoire, his destination is about where rather than whether. I'm guessing they'll start him in Kane County, moving him up as effectiveness mandates, but he could start in the Florida State League as well.
Juan Paniagua's numbers in the Arizona Summer League were comical, though small sample size applies. His WHIP was 0.273, as he walked one (and hit one) in just under four innings. The Cubs main international grab since July's new salary limit set-up (with infielder Frandy de la Rosa being the only other I've heard about), Paniagua will be starting somewhere come April. I project a rotation spot in Kane County, though Daytona isn't out of the question.
Felix Pena relieved last year in Peoria with little fanfare. He ended up in Boise, struggling to find a rotation spot. On the road in the decisive Game 3 of the Midwest League semi-finals, his seven inning start helped Boise into the finals. I'm reading too much into it probably, but I think that start puts Pena in line to be an early starter in Kane County.
Starling Peralta isn't even in Cubs camp. Arizona selected him because the Cubs refused to add him to their 40-man roster. That is, in my view, a main reason the Rule 5 Draft exists, to push teams to add guys to the list. I doubt Peralta sticks with the Diamondbacks. I expect he will get a few appearances for them (I guess I should follow their site some then), get run through waivers, and return to Cubs camp. I have him pegged for a rotation slot in Daytona.
Jose Rosario was among the Midwest League strikeout leaders last season before an arm injury ended his season. The team hasn't volunteered much information on what the injury was, or when he will be back. As I write this, I haven't decided whether I think he will start in Mesa on continued rehab, or in Daytona.
Tayler Scott was a 5th-round choice in 2011 from, originally, South Africa. He was 5-1 in Boise last season, starting in all 15 regular season outings. Scott ought to be a starter in Kane County.
Frank del Valle is one of the Cubs' earlier Cuban imports. He had a decent year in Daytona in 2012, and could get the big bump to AA Tennessee this time around. I think the Cubs still want him to start, and Tennessee's rotation might be a bit crowded early on. I have del Valle as a starter in April, possibly in a piggy-back set-up.
Ben Wells is one of those options that, if I don't list him, I will be asked why I didn't list him. For whatever reason, I've never developed a 'mental book' on the 2010 seventh-round selection. This is probably a big season in the system for Wells. I hope he responds well to roving pitching instructor Derek Johnson's tutelage, and I see him in Daytona's bullpen, possibly piggy-backing with Burke or del Valle.
The argument could be made that Robert Whitenack should start 2013 in Tennessee. Depending upon how his arm responds his second year back from TJ surgery, he might do that. However, I think there are enough viable arms at the upper levels for Whitenack to re-try Daytona, where he enjoyed success in 2010 and 2011. If he succeeds in Daytona, he will see Tennessee sooner than later.
Daytona Cubs first five projected: Whitenack, Jensen, Peralta, Burke, del Valle
Kane County first five projected: Johnson, Scott, Arias, Paniagua, Pena
Options in Mesa early: Rosario, Conway