The First-Year Player Draft is less than a week away, but first some of the nation's brightest collegiate talent has other plans on their minds as the NCAA baseball tournament kicks off on Friday with the start of Regionals. These talented players will get one final chance at leading their teams to Omaha for the College World Series before turning in their aluminum bats.
This season's field of 64 teams, announced on Monday, features some of the best amateur talent in the country, from mound stars like Ole Miss hurler Drew Pomeranz to infield gems like Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox and Cal State Fullerton shortstop Christian Colon.
Divided into 16 Regional groupings, the opening round will see four teams battle it out in a double-elimination format. The 16 winners of each Regional will move on to the Super Regional, in which two teams duke it out for a chance to go to Omaha in a best-of-three format. Only eight teams will play in the College World Series -- to be held for the last time in Rosenblatt Stadium this year.
Entering tournament play, only the top eight teams were nationally seeded, and all feature talent who could net big rewards in the impending Draft. The top teams in the nation were no big surprise, with Arizona State, Texas and Florida taking the top three spots. Coastal Carolina, Virginia, UCLA, Louisville and Georgia Tech rounded out the national seeds.
Monday's announcement offered no big surprises, as has been the case in years past, but did offer a few smaller ones, such as the deferment of defending national champion, LSU, to a No. 2 seed in the Los Angeles Regional bracket.
MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft from June 7-9 on MLB.com/Live. The first round and Compensation Round A will be broadcast live on MLB.com and MLB Network on Monday, June 7, beginning with the Draft preview show at 6 p.m. ET.
With the Draft looming, some prospects will get one last chance in this weekend's opening Regional round to impress and improve their stock before the big day. Chock full of potential Major League talent, this year's field definitely carries some names that could be heard in next Monday's first round.
With everything on the line, coaches will be throwing out their big guns in the early going. Mississippi coach Mike Bianco is no different, electing to send Pomeranz to the hill in his team's first-round opener against St. John's in the Charlottesville, Va., Regional. In a potential rematch of last year's Super Regional, Ole Miss might have to battle it out with Virginia, who yielded deep Draft talent in last season's Cinderella run to Omaha.
Miami's junior catcher, Yasmani Grandal, will lead his team into Regional action, as the Hurricanes host a Regional bracket that includes Texas A&M and Florida International. FIU's Garrett Wittels will continue his quest to overtake Robin Ventura's 58-game Division 1 all-time hitting streak record. At 54 games, Wittels needs just four hits to tie the record, but likely would prefer four wins for his team.
No. 2 national seed Texas returns to the tourney, hosting the Austin, Texas, Regional, in hopes of avenging its loss to the LSU Tigers in the College World Series finals last season. The Longhorns are lead by catcher Cameron Rupp, who boasts big power behind the plate and could find himself going in the first few rounds of the Draft.
Georgia Tech will host a regional of its own. The Yellow Jackets are armed with right-hander Deck McGuire, who could find his name being called in the Draft's first round. McGuire and Georgia Tech will have to get around Alabama, which is no stranger to Omaha, to advance.
Auburn first baseman Hunter Morris, who was drafted in the second round by the Red Sox in 2007, will lead his club into the Regional round, where it could eventually face off with Clemson and its quarterback-turned-power-hitter, Kyle Parker.
The Fullerton, Calif., Regional will see Colon and teammate Gary Brown lead the Titans against New Mexico in the first round of action.
It's not just the big baseball schools that enter the tournament sporting Draft-worthy talent, Citadel will bring right-hander Asher Wojciechowski to the Columbia, S.C., regional, where it will square off with Virginia Tech in the opening round.
From behind the plate to the corner outfield, from Texas to the Citadel, it's clear that this year's Draft is stocked with major talent at the collegiate level, and the final weekend of play before the big event should only heighten anticipation as teams narrow down their selections.
Bailey Stephens is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.