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NATION'S TOP ROOKIES LEADING THEIR TEAMS
May 2, 2006

SCS.comEvery season, there are a select few freshmen from around the country who seem to make the transition from high school to college with relative ease and therefore make big contributions to their teams in their first year on campus. Many of these guys are a large part of the reason that their squad is doing as well as they are this season, and consequently, a great deal of these rookies are up for national honors and awards this spring.

Here are some of the newcomers who’ve made the biggest noise around the country.

Jared Prince, P/OF, Washington State

Prince was a highly-rated quarterback coming out of high school, along with being one of the top baseball players in the nation, but he decided to focus on the latter. It looks like he made the right choice. He sports the Pac 10’s top batting average at .426, and he’s one of the leaders in RBI with 44. Throw in 14 doubles, four homers, and nine steals, and you’ve got a pretty solid line.

Oh, and that’s not even taking into consideration what he’s done on the mound. The freshman is 6-1 with a 3.80 ERA in eight starts for the Cougars. Prince has helped spearhead the turnaround of a program that was, to say the least, not very good lately. With the super frosh’s help, Washington State stands at 29-16 and has a shot at making it to a regional. If he keeps it up, he’s going to be a very, very high draft pick in 2008. With him leading the way, Cougar fans have every reason to be optimistic about the near future.

Allan Dykstra, 1B, Wake Forest

Dykstra has been another newcomer who’s had a big hand in helping a program turnaround. The sensational San Diegan has been a monster at the plate from the outset of the season. He leads the ACC in homers with 14, ranks third with 53 RBI, and is tied for fourth with 16 doubles. His .356 average puts him in the top fifteen in the conference. After three down years, Wake Forest sits at 30-14, 14-7 in the ACC, and Dykstra has been a big part of their success. He’s definitely one of the top three freshmen in the ACC this year.

Jacob Thompson, P, Virginia

Thompson has stepped into Virginia’s rotation and, along with Sean Doolittle and Mike Ballard, has made it one of the nation’s best. Cavalier skipper Brian O’Connor knows how to build good pitchers, and Thompson seems to have followed his coach closely. He’s tied for third in the ACC with 9 wins and is sixth in ERA at 2.39. Those numbers put him in elite company with names like Doolittle, Andrew Miller, Tyler Chambliss, and Bryan Henry. Six seems to be his number, because he also rates sixth in the ACC in strikeouts (64), innings pitched (75.1), and opponents’ batting average (.218). If he was on another staff, he would be the ace, but he’s probably not complaining too much as it is.

Buster Posey, SS, Florida State

Rounding out a trio of impressive ACC newcomers is FSU middle infielder Buster Posey. Shortstop was a position of concern for the ‘Noles last season, but the Leesburg, GA native has been the starter since day one. He leads FSU and is 7th in the ACC with a .370 batting average. While he’s still learning the nuances of being a big-time college shortstop, he’s made several outstanding plays in the field to compliment his solid bat.

Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Vanderbilt

Vandy had one of the nation’s best recruiting classes last year, and Alvarez was one of the top prep prospects who opted to go to Nashville instead of take the money from the pros. It’s paid off well. Alvarez has by far been the best hitter for a team who, instead of being in a ‘rebuilding’ year, has been in the thick of the SEC Eastern Division race all season. The kid from the Big Apple has carried a big stick, with his 14 homers and 49 RBI both among the leaders in the conference. He’s 4th in the SEC in slugging percentage, third in on-base percentage, and tied for 7th in runs scored. And he’s hitting .333 to boot. Not bad, not bad at all.

Tommy Hunter, P, Alabama

Hunter has been one of the best pitchers in the SEC in his first year, but the presence of a guy named LeBlanc means he’s only second best on his staff. But, second best on one of the nation’s premier pitching staffs is nothing to frown about. Hunter is 7-2 with a 3.17 ERA in ten starts. He’s got the control thing down pretty well, having walked only 18 batters in 76.2 innings. In his last start against Auburn, Hunter pitched eight shutout innings in a 9-1 sweep-clinching win. LeBlanc is more than likely headed for big money after this season, so Hunter will have the chance to be Alabama’s ace next season. If he can perform at the level he has this year, he’ll see to it that Tide fans won’t be missing the big lefty too much.

Austin Wood, P, Texas

Texas has had a couple of fine closers in the past few seasons in Huston Street and J. Brent Cox, and Wood is steadily making his claim to be held in high regards with them. Coach Augie Garrido hasn’t been shy about handing the ball to Wood, as he’s logged 28 appearances thus far. Wood has performed like a veteran, recording seven saves, giving his coach all the more reason to hand him the ball in crunch time. In 40 innings, he’s given up only five earned runs (1.12 ERA). It must be something about putting on that Longhorn uniform that brings out the best in those closers. Or it could be the water down there in Austin. Whatever it is, it’s working very, very well.

Ike Davis, P/OF, Arizona State

Davis has loads of talent both at the plate and on the mound, but he’s on this list for solely his bat. The son of former MLB reliever Ron Davis is third on ASU’s club with a .343 average, and he leads the conference with 53 RBI. His 17 doubles rank highly in the conference as well, and he’s tied for the team lead in homers with six. On the mound, Davis leads the team with 11 starts, posting a 2-3 record with a 7.46 ERA. That’s three more losses than he had in his entire high school career (where he went 23-0). On a positive note, he averages nearly a strikeout an inning (39 in 44.2 innings). He’s getting his chances as a starter so he’ll undoubtedly improve with more innings and experience, but he has certainly had no problems tapping into his abilities at the plate.

Roger Kieschnick, OF, Texas Tech

Familiar name, isn’t it? But he’s not as closely related to former Texas star and recent College Baseball Hall of Fame selection Brooks Kieschnick as one might think (they’re only third cousins apparently, and Roger’s never even met him). But he sure hits like his namesake. After having his average up around .400 just a few weeks ago, Roger’s cooled off, but he’s still hitting .362. That average is actually higher than what we hit for his entire high school career. He ranks high among the Big 12’s leaders in hits (72), runs (48), doubles (14), and RBI (51). Usually, if there’s any difference between a player’s performance in high school and their first year of college, it’ll be a dropoff in production. But he’s stepped it up and then some.

Warren McFadden, OF, Tulane

McFadden was expected to be one of the nation’s top freshmen in 2005, but an early wrist injury meant a redshirt year for him. Looks like the wrist is fine now. He’s hitting .394, which is by far the best average on his team and rates a close second in Conference USA. His 19 doubles lead C-USA and put him in the top ten nationally. He also ranks high in the conference standings in hits (67, 4th), on-base percentage (.445, 5th), and RBI (39, 10th).

Alex Wilson, P, Winthrop

Wilson has stepped in where Kevin Slowey left off last season, mowing ‘em down and picking up wins. The redshirt frosh is 9-2 with 101 punchouts in 102 innings. His 3.62 ERA is tops among Winthrop’s starters. He and Heath Rollins provide a dangerous 1-2 combo in the rotation and will definitely cause some problems in a regional.

Special Mention

  • Yonder Alonson, Miami: .313, 15 doubles, 6 homers, 53 RBI
  • Jemile Weeks Miami: .320, 10 doubles, 7 triples, 3 homers, 22 RBI, 42 runs, 8 steals
  • Miles Morgan, Texas Tech: 5-5, 91 strikeouts in 84 innings, struck out 15 in a complete game win vs. Texas
  • J.B. Shuck, Ohio State: 6-2, 1.57 ERA as a starter for the Buckeyes, .282, 15 RBI at the plate
  • Tony Delmonico, Tennessee: .358, 9 doubles, 2 homers, 30 RBI
  • Kyle Russell, Texas: .305, 8 doubles, 9 homers, 37 RBI, 7-8 steals
  • Jay Jackson, Furman: .331, 10 doubles, 3 triples, 8 homers, 35 RBI, 10-10 steals
  • Cody Satterwhite, Mississippi: 7-2, 5.48 ERA
  • Tommy Milone, USC: 7-1, 5.19 ERA

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