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Patrick Wisdom and the NCAA college baseball field of 64

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What does the newest Cubs hero have to do with this year’s college tournament? Plenty, if you look deep enough.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, the College Baseball Regionals start. For some of you, you might be about ready to check out of this article, as college baseball doesn’t move the needle for you. Others are wondering why I’m using Patrick Wisdom as a cover picture when his St. Mary’s team in his draft year was largely horrible (despite the presence of Kyle Barraclough). This isn’t a Draft Prep piece, but it does touch on draft strategy, and is an homage to the best college baseball weekend of the season.

Sixty-four teams begin play this Friday in double-elimination four-team brackets. If the weekend goes calm weather-wise, the 64 should be to 16 by sometime on Monday, and eight by the following Sunday. If you have a team, or even kind of do, the season goes into a different gear on Friday, and all the MLB teams will presumably have scouts at all 16 sites. It comes down to this weekend for quite a few teams if this was a successful campaign.

The ESPN family of networks will have games available on televisions or computer screens. As I’m usually toggling between four or five different browser screens, one option would be far too limiting. I’ll be listening to an announcing squad that I enjoy, and hoping for my teams to advance. That said, I try to not let my biases color my appreciation for players on the other side. The guy on the other side could be the Cubs’ 14th Round draft pick. Here are some top draft prospects who will play in the tournament.

For most of the Theo Epstein seasons, the Cubs were far too reliant on drafting pitching, after taking big name hitters in the first round. I’ll hold to that, and this season both proves and disproves my opposition. By grabbing so many pitchers, the Cubs did, eventually, put together what’s resembling a solid bullpen with years of flexibility ahead. That’s a fantastic thing, regardless how the next two to five months play out.

However, by not selecting enough hitters in the lower rounds, whether guys like Wisdom, Rafael Ortega, Nick Martini or whoever, the Cubs had fewer players to run through the offensive side of the minor league pipeline. Only now are Cubs fans starting to realize it’s entirely possible (and very astute, as well) to have more competent hitters than MLB roster spots. It’s not criminal or negligent to have a hitter do really well in MLB, but have to say “Back to Des Moines with you.” It might seem evil or harsh, but teams with functioning pipelines have done it for decades.

May the Cubs get to a point soon where that is more “standard operating procedure” than calling up a hitter out of desperation.

As the tournament begins on Friday, the Cubs are ensconced on the West Coast with a late game, so you could watch one of several earlier in the day. Among my follows are the third national seed Tennessee Volunteers. They were banged with playing the Wright State (Dayton, Ohio) Raiders, who have won 21 of their last 22, or something absurd like that. Games start at 11 a.m. (East Carolina jumps then. They’re one of my teams), and start at the top of the hour until 9 p.m. Central time. Find a game that interests you, and by the fourth inning, you might have a guy — that guy you’re wanting the Cubs to draft.

Among the interesting things with COVID is that teams had to submit paperwork and meet qualifications to host. Old Dominion (Norfolk, Virginia) didn’t submit paperwork to host. They’ve gone on an absurd late-season run, and are the top seed in their bracket, even though they’re not hosting.

I hope you can find the time to catch a game from the start, or see who good teams use as a back-end reliever in college these days. In college, if not all other places, they play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back. The ones that do that well enough might get drafted in July, perhaps by the Cubs.

And, if college games do nothing for you, remember that some players from this college tournament will be important in professional baseball for the next decade.