I'm absolutely ecstatic about the WSU baseball team and their performance that past couple of seasons. Last year, they got it done finishing second in what was a considered a down year for the Pac-10. This year? Well, all they've done is finish third in a year where the conference sent eight of ten teams to the NCAA tournament. The previous best for the Pac-10 was five out of ten teams. Needless to say, the conference has been incredible this season and the Cougs really played well to finish near the top.
All the articles I've read this season started to get me thinking about whether or not this sort of quality is something we should come to expect every season. Then I read this quote from a Grippi article in the Spokesman , "Not that I wasn’t proud last year, but this year kind of put a stamp on (the program) because I kind of feel like we’re here to stay,” Marbut said of WSU, which has won 12 of its last 15 games. “I felt like we’ve built it right and we built it to last.”
That quote and two years of 30+ win seasons had me wondering one thing…..is it true? Has Marbut built something to last?
For some odd reason there is nothing on the WSU athletics site covering the 2010 recruiting class for baseball. So, I decided to embark on my own odyssey to see what we having coming into the program next year. Rather than just aggregate articles which are always rosy, I decided to look at Baseball America's player rankings for the upcoming draft. I wanted to see how many players are on the radar of professional teams.
Let's take a look:
One of the interesting things about baseball is the amateur draft and recruiting are intertwined. The object of the game for college baseball coaches is to recruit great players that aren't likely to be drafted so high that they'll see signing bonus checks that are too large to turn down. It got me wondering about the class coming in next season for Marbut. Is he doing a good job of recruiting? Well, as luck would have it Baseball America covers the amateur draft better than anyone and they have come out with their state-by-state player rankings. How do WSU's recruits stack against the best college and high school talent in their given states?
2010 Recruiting Class:
This season, WSU is recruiting the Northwest better than any college out there if you go by BA player rankings. There are 24 players worthy of a ranking in Washington State. You may as well throw out the top 3 (two are signed with Gonzaga and a third with Oregon State) because they are all in the Top 200 nationally and there is a VERY low likelihood of any choosing college over a pro contract with their draft status profiling in the first four to five rounds. Additionally, you've got 11 of the 24 that are college players. That leaves you exactly ten players that fit the profile of pro quality high schoolers that are likely to be drafted low enough to forego signing money and make it to campus. How many has WSU signed? Four out of the ten are going to be showing up in Pullman this Fall.
The highest rated player is Trace Tam Sing out of Newport HS in Bellevue and he'll likely play shortstop for the Cougs. He's the #5 prospect in the state according to Baseball America. Next on the list is Jason Monda at #11 out of Capital in Olympia. He'll play outfield for the Cougs. A couple of pitchers (Taylor Williams and Nick LaRoy) round out the crew coming to Pullman among BA's rankings. BA has great bio's on each player and they've got three current WSU players in their rankings. You can see the article here (it's a pay site) with those bio's.
WSU is also branching and grabbing players from surrounding states. They picked up a commitment from the top high school player in Idaho . His name is JD Leckenby and he'll be headed to Pullman to pitch. In Oregon, they have picked up the commitment of the top rated JC recruit in that state. He's #8 overall according to Baseball America. He's got an interesting bio here and looks like a power hitting first basemen. They also dropped into the Portland area and grabbed Brandon Snyder out of Tualatin. He is having an insane season on the mound. As of May 31st, he was 10-0 with a 0.65 ERA on the season.
Inevitably, a couple of kids will jump at pro offers even though they are drafted very low. But when you look at the core of the 12 players I've been able to find signed by WSU it's easy to see the quality. Five are already ranked by Baseball America as legitimate pro prospects in their state. If you follow the draft, the names you'll want to keep an eye on that are WSU signees and likely to be drafted somewhat early are:
Trace Tam Sing
The other seven signees might go a bit later in the draft based on the excellent Senior season they are having. But it stands to reason that this class is an excellent one and there is high likelihood that at least 9 or 10 of them will make it to campus this Fall.
If you look at their current roster of players it does appear that the team is going to return a nice group of draft eligible juniors to Pullman for their Senior years. This will be influx through the entire Summer but we should expect to see a roster with 4 or 5 Seniors next season that will start or play significant roles in 2011.
Perhaps even more exciting is that they appear to have found their Friday/Saturday starters for next season in Adam Conley and James Wise. Both have been lights out the past month and could anchor the rotation next season. Additionally, they've got two excellent young hitters returning in Brett Jacobs and Derek Jones to secure the middle of the lineup. The freshmen class of 2009 wasn't nearly as touted as this current class but Brett Jacobs has already shown to be a player that should be very good and the player that was rated the 3rd best pro prospect in Canada hasn't played yet. His name is Adam Nelubowich and he's a third basemen that will hopefully show up in a big way next season.
Finally, with the success you are seeing in Pullman the inevitable question of whether Donnie Marbut is a target for another school will come up. I will say that I believe our likelihood of keeping him is pretty good maybe even great with Bill Moos in the fold. He's got a team built for solid production for the next couple of years and he's got an AD that seems willing to invest in their success. It should also be noted that in 2006, Marbut endured a relatively minor scandal that uncovered inconsistencies in his resume. WSU was unwavering in their support of Marbut back then and it's hard to recall but that was a time period in which resume falsification was a very hot topic because of George O'Leary's credential falsification that got him fired from Notre Dame. You have to believe that Marbut would account for that when thinking about whether it makes sense to explore other potential offers.
It wouldn't be unreasonable to compare today's baseball program to the end of the Tony Bennett and Mike Price era's. If Marbut decides to stay it could be a situation where WSU moves one step closer to reclaiming it's throne as the undisputed heavyweight baseball program in the Northwest. Get used to watching WSU in the NCAA tournament. It appears that they are indeed here to stay.