Before leading the BoSox to World Series titles, Terry Francona was a college star, becoming one of the first winners of the Golden Spikes Award.
For those of you in keeper baseball leagues that require you to scour the college and high school ranks, you’re probably familiar with the Golden Spikes Award, a USA Baseball honour (sponsored by Major League Baseball) that has been given to the top player in college baseball for the past 31 years.
This year, however, for the first time, USA Baseball has released a pre-season watch list, naming 75 players expected to be in the running for the award. Because it’s a rolling list, players may be added to it throughout the season. On May 20, USA Baseball will cut the list down to 50 semifinalists, and five finalists will be announced on June 3 with the winner unveiled on July 16.
This is a great list to study if you’re a serious prospect hunter, because in looking at some of the past winners of this award (Terry Francona, 1980; Will Clark, 1985; Robin Ventura, 1988; Jason Varitek, 1994; Jason Jennings, 1999; and David Price, last year), many have gone on to enjoy distinguished major league playing or managing careers.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the names on the list:
- Baylor junior shorstop Beamer Weems ranks first among active Big 12 Conference shortstops in home runs. He’s a two-time All-Big 12 player and was a unanimous first-team All-Star last year after batting .321 and tying for the team lead with nine dingers.
- North Carolina sophomore first baseman/outfielder Dustin Ackley hit over .400 last year with 10 homers and 74 RBI. He was the consensus national freshman of the year, bagging top rookie honours from Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and Rivals.com.
- Kentucky’s Collin Cowgill was a 2008 second-team pre-season All-American. He’s back with the Wildcats after redshirting the 2007 season because of a hand injury suffered last preseason. In 2006, he was instrumental in leading UK to its first SEC Championship, batting almost .300 with 16 homers and 61 RBI. Cowgill was a Cape Cod League All-Star last summer after batting .290 with four doubles, four triples, and two home runs.
- RHP Scott Green is another Wildcat that made the list. He’s a 6’8″, 245-pound behemoth who is coming off a big Cade Cod season for the champion Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. He went 3-1 with a 1.56 ERA and one save in 40 1/3 innings, whiffing 35. He redshirted in 2007 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2006.
- Oklahoma State junior shortstop/pitcher Jordy Mercer is a two-time All Big 12 selection and he’s a 2008 pre-season All-American. The two-way star hit .299 with five homers and 24 RBI in 40 games last year, while compiling a 3-1 record and three saves with a 3.81 ERA in 11 games pitched.
- As always, the Rice Owls are well represented, getting three players on the list: LHP Cole St. Clair, IF Aaron Luna and RHP Ryan Berry. St. Clair was drafted last year but opted to return for his senior season. The 2006 All-American is Rice’s career leader in saves. Luna was a third team All-American in 2007 while earning MVP honours at the All-Conference USA tourney. After just two seasons, he’s tied for ninth place on the all-time home run list for Rice. Berry was named National Freshman Pitcher of the Year by Collegiate Baseball Magazine last season. With 11 wins, he matched the Rice freshman mark, held by Matt Anderson and Philip Humber.
- UCLA shortstop Brandon Crawford has been the school’s MVP the past two seasons. The junior was named a second-team All-American last year by Baseball America after batting .335 with 55 RBI.