The college baseball season is just weeks away and players are returning to campus to prepare. While the 2021 season might not be completely normal, it will be much closer to a normal season than the shortened 2020 season was. Most teams are on track for 40-56 games including a mix of non-conference and conference games.
Due to players receiving an additional year of eligibility and a shortened 2020 MLB Draft, the depth of talent in college baseball is better than ever. Because of that, we are expanding our typical preseason top 25 into a preseason top 50. While some things are changing, others remain very much the same. Six teams from the top ten of College Baseball Nation's final poll of 2020 remain in the top ten in our Preseason Top 50.
Number one Florida survived the 2020 MLB Draft completely unscathed, to the surprise of many. From a talent perspective, the Gators are led by Jud Fabian, College Baseball Nation's top-ranked prospect. (Yes, we know we're higher on him than others, but what's not to like about a young-for-his-class prospect with five-tool potential?) Pitchers Tommy Mace, Ben Specht, and Jack Leftwich also crack the top 50 college prospects. It is rare to have a clear national title favorite in college baseball, but if there were to be one, Florida is it.
UCLA at number two and Texas Tech at number three represent the Pac-12 and Big 12 favorites, respectively. UCLA has four top 50 college prospects for the 2021 MLB Draft, including seventh-ranked middle infielder Matt McClain. Texas Tech is experiencing a youth movement. Second-year freshman Jace Jung (younger brother to Josh, former Red Raider third baseman). will anchor the hot corner for Texas Tech.
With the best rotation in the country, fourth-ranked Vanderbilt will look to defend its 2019 College World Series title. Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter are both likely top five picks in the 2021 MLB Draft, and early-enrollee Christian Little will also make some noise on the Commodore pitching staff. Checking in at number five, Ole Miss marks the highest ranked SEC West team, and immediately following the Rebels is fellow SEC West team, Arkansas.
Seventh-ranked Louisville is the highest ranked ACC team. Mississippi State (8), TCU (9), and Virginia (10) round out the top ten. Eleventh-ranked Arizona is looking to return to national prominence in 2021. Since finishing as College World Series Runner Up in 2016, the Wildcats have not been able to rekindle that spark. Head Coach Jay Johnson told College Baseball Nation that Arizona is not likely to shy away from the national spotlight this season. “We embrace expectations,” Johnson emphasized. “We want to be a team that that’s said about. We’re fired up.” Texas (12), LSU (13), Florida State (14), and Georgia Tech (15) follow.
East Carolina (16) and UCSB (17) mark the first two teams in the rankings from outside of the Power 5. East Carolina's Head Coach Cliff Godwin was direct in his assessment of the 2021 Pirates squad. “This is the most talented team we’ve ever had, top to bottom.” Duke (18), Wake Forest (19), and Georgia (20) finish off the top 20.
Next in the Preseason Top 50 are Arizona State (21), Miami (22), NC State (23), Long Beach State (24), and UCF (25). UCF earned one of the best series victories in 2020 when the Knights swept Auburn on the road. UCF Head Coach Greg Lovelady says his team is confident heading into 2021. “[Sweeping Auburn] gave our guys a lot of confidence. They could say ‘hey, I just did that against a first-rounder.’”
The rest of the top 50: Pepperdine (26), Oklahoma State (27), Southern Miss (28), Tulane (29), Auburn (30), Clemson (31), Tennessee (32), San Diego (33), Dallas Baptist (34), Texas A&M (35), Oklahoma (36), Coastal Carolina (37), Alabama (38), San Diego State (39), South Carolina (40), Indiana (41), Boston College (42), Baylor (43), Texas State (44), Connecticut (45), Oregon State (46), Stetson (47), Michigan (48), West Virginia (49), and Kansas State (50).