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2016 College Conference Preview: Big Ten

BA breaks down the Big Ten Conference, including our projections for player of the year, pitcher of the year and top prospects.

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The new front office's emphasis on analytics and new training and coaching methods have unlocked potential in several prospects, including Sedlock.

Baseball Members: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers.
Team to Beat: Michigan. The Wolverines won the Big Ten Tournament last season, sending them to regionals for the first time since 2008. With much of that team coming back, expectations are higher for Michigan in 2016. The loss of Jacob Croneworth affects both the Wolverines’ lineup—where he played the infield—and pitching staff—where he served as closer. But with Carmen Benedetti, their other two-way star, infielder Jake Bivens, the 2015 Big Ten freshman of the year, as well as rotation members Brett Adcock and Ryan Nutof all returning, Michigan has enough firepower to emerge from a competitive Big Ten.
Top 25 Team: (15) Michigan
Other Projected Regional Teams Maryland. The Terrapins snapped a 43-year NCAA tournament drought in 2014 and have now made back-to-back super regionals. While several significant pieces from those teams have moved on (eight players from last year’s team were drafted and signed, led by all-Big Ten second baseman Brandon Lowe), Preseason All-American righthander Mike Shawaryn will give Maryland a chance to win every Friday night. The Terrapins will need some young players to step up behind him, but they planned for the inevitable turnover and brought in back-to-back Top 25 recruiting classes that will now be called on. Indiana. The Hoosiers have made three straight regionals, a streak that continued last season under first-year coach Chris Lemonis after Tracy Smith left to take over at Arizona State. Going into his second year with the Hoosiers, Lemonis has a veteran pitching staff and an athletic lineup capable of contending in the Big Ten. Indiana will be looking for third baseman Isaiah Pasteur and outfielder Logan Sowers to take a step forward as sophomores and add dynamism to the lineup.
Player of the Year: Ryan Boldt, of, Nebraska. After suffering a knee injury as a senior in high school, Boldt will be hoping for a healthier spring leading into this year’s draft. The junior center fielder is coming off a strong season for the Cornhuskers (.344/.429/.408), and continued his solid play in the Cape Cod League. He is a Preseason All-American and will be counted on to lead the way again.
Pitcher of the Year: Mike Shawaryn, rhp, Maryland. After leading the Big Ten in wins (13) and strikeouts (138) and leading the Terrapins to super regionals last season, Shawaryn has lofty expectations entering his junior year and is a Preseason All-American. The big, physical righthander offers a solid all-around package and could become the first Maryland pitcher drafted in the first round since Eric Milton went 20th overall in 1996.
Freshman of the Year: Jonathan Engelmann, of, Michigan. An unsigned 28th round pick of the Twins, Engelmann had as much upside as any position player in Northern California last spring. Now he will take over right field for the Wolverines, where his strong throwing arm and raw power profile well.
Notable Storylines: After helping guide Illinois to a Big Ten regular-season championship and super regionals as an assistant coach last year, Spencer Allen has moved a few hours north to take over Northwestern’s program. Allen takes the reins from longtime coach Paul Stevens, who led the Wildcats for 27 years before retiring after the 2015 season … Nebraska coach Darin Erstad interviewed for the Dodgers’ managerial opening this winter before deciding to pull his name out of the running and remain in Lincoln. After going 34-23 but finishing in eighth place in the Big Ten with a 9-14 record last year, Erstad will be looking for a bounce-back season. Boldt will anchor the lineup, and the Cornhuskers have a pitching staff that includes talented arms such as Derek Burkamper, Colton Howell and Max Knutson, but they’ll need someone to assume the top rotation spots occupied last year by Kyle Kubat and Chance Sinclair … Illinois had the best season in school history a year ago, reaching super regionals for the first time and setting program records for wins (50), longest winning streak (27) and most players drafted (nine). From that team, the Fighting Illini lost the Big Ten player and pitcher of the year (first baseman David Kerian and lefthander Tyler Jay) and the entire weekend rotation. Dan Hartleb, the Big Ten coach of the year, will have his work cut out for him as he retools the team, but rival coaches expect Illinois to again be a contender in the Big Ten. Seniors Nick Blackburn (closer), Jason Goldstein (catcher) and Adam Walton (shortstop) will provide the foundation, as well as righthander Cody Sedlock, who broke out during the summer in the Cape Cod League.
Tournament: Eight teams, double-elimination, May 18-22 at TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha.
Best Tools Best Pure Hitter: Ryan Boldt, Nebraska. Best Raw Power: Logan Sowers, Indiana. Best K-Zone Discipline: Jake Bivens, Michigan. Best Athlete: Jawuan Harris, Rutgers. Fastest Runner: Ryan Boldt, Nebraska. Best Runner: Troy Montgomery, Ohio State. Best Defensive C: Jason Goldstein, Illinois. Catcher/Best Arm: Jason Goldstein, Illinois. Best Defensive First Baseman: Tyler Peyton, Iowa. Best Defensive Second Baseman: Connor Schaefbauer, Minnesota. Best Defensive Third Baseman: Nick Sergakis, Ohio State. Best Defensive Shortstop: Adam Walton, Illinois. Infielder/Best Arm: Nick Roscetti, Iowa. Best Defensive Outfielder: Troy Montgomery, Ohio State. Outfielder/Best Arm: Joel Booker, Iowa. Best Fastball: Mike Shawaryn, Maryland. Best Breaking Ball: Jake Kelzer, Indiana. Best Changeup: Tyler Peyton, Iowa. Best Control: Cam Vieaux, Michigan State.

1. Ryan Boldt, of, Nebraska
2. Mike Shawaryn, rhp, Maryland
3. Cody Sedlock, rhp, Illinois
4. Ronnie Dawson, of, Ohio State
5. Carmen Benedetti, 1b/lhp, Michigan
6. Troy Montgomery, of, Ohio State
7. Brett Adcock, lhp, Michigan
8. Jake Kelzer, rhp, Indiana
9. Tyler Peyton, 1b/rhp, Iowa
10. Nick Cieri, c, Maryland
11. Colton Howell, rhp, Nebraska
12. Derek Burkamper, rhp, Nebraska
13. Alex Krupa, of, Indiana
14. Jason Goldstein, c, Illinois
15. Cam Vieaux, lhp, Michigan State
16. Adam Walton, ss, Illinois
17. Max Knutson, lhp, Nebraska
18. Mason McCoy, inf, Iowa
19. Walter Borkovich, rhp, Michigan State
20. Dalton Sawyer, lhp, Minnesota
1. Logan Sowers, of, Indiana
2. Kevin Smith, ss, Maryland
3. Jake Bivens, inf, Michigan
4. Ryan Nutof, rhp, Michigan
5. Alex Troop, lhp/1b, Michigan State
6. Isaiah Pasteur, 3b, Indiana
7. Brandon Hughes, of, Michigan State
8. Zack Engelken, rhp, Nebraska
9. Bryan Pall, rhp, Michigan
10. Sal Biasi, rhp, Penn State

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