The start of the 2023 college baseball season is getting closer. Friday, the Golden Spikes Award Advisory Board released the 55 names on its preseason watch list for the upcoming season.
The SEC has 17 players on the list, the most of any conference, with LSU and Tennessee each having four represented. The ACC was next with 10 players.
Our analysts weighed in on who they think will take home the award at the end of the season, and they offer potential sleeper picks as well.
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Who’s your preseason pick?
Chris Burke: Dylan Crews, OF, LSU. The reigning SEC co-player of the year returns to Baton Rouge with numbers that certainly stand out. But what’s really scary is the fact that he’ll have Tommy White, aka Tommy Tanks, hitting behind him in the lineup. Crews is arguably college baseball’s most talented player, and now he has the game’s most feared slugger on-deck behind him, making for a very difficult decision for opposing pitching coaches on how to attack the talented center fielder. Crews has the rare combination of an incredibly high prospect ceiling and consistent elite production. Tough to see him doing anything but having a monster year that could lead to being the first pick in the MLB draft.
Ryan McGee: Dylan Crews, OF, LSU. I was at LSU last week and chatted with Crews. Five tools, natural leader and the nicest guy. He has that same presence as a Tanner Allen or a Tim Elko. It’s about way more than numbers. He’s the guy who has taken the lead in making sure that all of the new big-name transfers and five-star freshmen are meshing with the guys who were already in the dugout, and based on what I saw last week his efforts are working. If baseball doesn’t work out, he should become an Avenger.
Kyle Peterson: Enrique Bradfield Jr., OF, Vanderbilt: There are a lot of right answers to this question, but “EBJ” has a skill set combination that is so rare. In his first two years he was 93-99 in SBs (46-46 last year alone) and is just 52 stolen bases away from the all-time SEC record. He is an elite defender in CF and a true leader. And… the power is getting better. Just one home run his freshman year but that number jumped to eight last year. He’s going to steal bags and he’s going to get on base, but if he turns into a double-digit HR guy this year too then he only gets scarier.
Mike Rooney: Enrique Bradfield Jr., OF, Vanderbilt. EBJ is the fastest player in college baseball. And maybe the fastest in a long time. His defense is already big-league caliber, and that makes him a game changer in center field. Getting back to his running back, Bradfield is 93-for-99 as a collegiate base stealer. And it’s not like he benefits from the element of surprise. Here’s the sneaky great part, EBJ hit eight home runs in his sophomore season, slugging .415. If he steals 60 bags, hits 15 dingers and scores 80 runs, that feels like a national player of the year to me.
Who’s your sleeper pick?
Burke, Vance Honeycutt, CF, North Carolina. Coming off a season where Honeycutt earned freshman All-America honors and almost led his team to Omaha, the rangy center fielder offers one of the most attractive skill sets in the college game today. Posting an OPS over 1,000 and delivering 25 HRs and 29 SBs as a freshman is one of the loudest first-year campaigns we’ve seen in a while. He can change the game defensively with world-class range, he can completely disrupt teams on the base paths, and with 25 homers, he has shown he has elite power. The sky’s the limit for this young man, and although he’s up against a very talented class of junior prospects, it wouldn’t shock me if at the end of the season Honeycutt is at the top of the heap.
McGee: Jake Gelof, 3B, Virginia. Virginia currently sits in the second tier of the preseason Top 25s and a loaded ACC, but I feel like the Hoos are going to climb those rankings by midseason. And last year, who was everyone’s midseason POY? This guy. He’s an RBI machine, setting the UVA season record last year with 81, and he has a flair for the dramatic. Last March I saw him bang one off the outfield Durham Bull sign against Duke. If Virginia makes a run into the top 10, Zack’s little bro will make a run onto everyone’s Golden Spikes list.
Peterson: Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee. OK, he could be the first player taken in the draft so sleeper is maybe not the right word here. But no one else was taking a pitcher, so I needed to take care of my guys here. He is a Big Leaguer, right now. The reigning SEC pitcher of the year has a 99 MPH fastball with carry, two solid breaking balls and a changeup that is underrated. And he combines elite stuff with elite command, his K:BB ratio last year was over 8:1.
Rooney: Jacob Wilson, INF, Grand Canyon. Can a WAC player win the Golden Spikes Award? If yes, then I’ve got your guy. Wilson, who is the son of longtime big leaguer Jack Wilson, is a unique prospect who should surpass Tim Salmon as the best player in GCU history. Wilson is an elite defender with incredible hands and one of the truest throwing strokes you’ve ever seen. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-handed hitter posted a 1.003 OPS in 2022, adding 65 RBIs. Here’s the separator: He struck out just seven times in 275 plate appearances. Pedigree, premium defense, slug and contact… mark me down for yes.
Jeremy Adorno, RHP, Southern Arkansas (D-II)
Maui Ahuna, SS, Tennessee
Drew Beam, RHP, Tennessee
Enrique Bradfield Jr., OF, Vanderbilt
Chase Burns, RHP, Tennessee
Michael Carico, C, Davidson
Max Clark, INF, Franklin High School
Carlos Contreras, OF, Sam Houston
Dylan Crews, OF, LSU
Wyatt Crowell, LHP, Florida State
Chase Davis, OF
Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee
Hunter Elliott, LHP, Ole Miss
Kendal Ewell, OF, Kentucky
Jake Gelof, INF/OF, Virginia
Evan Giordano, 3B, Stony Brook
Jacob Gonzalez, INF, Ole Miss
Joseph Gonzalez, RHP, Auburn
LuJames Groover III, INF, NC State
Tanner Hall, RHP, Southern Miss
Carter Holton, LHP, Vanderbilt
Vance Honeycutt, OF, North Carolina
Jack Hurley, OF, Virginia Tech
Mitch Jebb, INF, Michigan State
Walker Jenkins, OF, South Brunswick High School
Kennedy Jones, INF/OF, UNC Greensboro
Caden Kendle, OF, UC Irvine
Sam Kulasingam, INF, Air Force
Nick Kurtz, INF/OF, Wake Forest
Wyatt Langford, OF, Florida
Ryan Lasko, OF, Rutgers
Rhett Lowder, RHP, Wake Forest
Quinn Mathews, LHP, Stanford
Nolan McLean, OF/INF, Oklahoma State
John Michael Faile II, C, North Greenville (D-II)
Braden Montgomery, OF, Stanford
Yohandy Morales, INF, Miami
Tre’ Morgan, 1B/OF, LSU
Jack Payton, C, Louisville
Carson Roccaforte, INF/OF, Louisiana
Will Sanders, RHP, South Carolina
Jason Savacool, RHP, Maryland
Nolan Schanuel, INF/OF, FAU
Cody Schrier, INF, UCLA
Matt Shaw, INF, Maryland
Paul Skenes, UTIL/RHP, LSU
Bobby Sparling, OF, Saint Leo (D-II)
Brayden Taylor, INF, TCU
Kyle Teel, C/INF, Virginia
Tommy Troy, INF/OF, Stanford
Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida
Juaron Watts-Brown, RHP, Oklahoma State
Levi Wells, RHP, Texas State
Tommy White, 3B, LSU
Jacob Wilson, INF, Grand Canyon
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