The College World Series has for years given fans an early glimpse at some of the best baseball talent in the world. Dave Winfield, Roger Clemens, Mike Schmidt, Barry Larkin and Buster Posey have all starred in Omaha before reaching the big league stage.
While not every player in the College World Series is destined for MLB stardom, the final eight teams remaining for a Division I baseball national championship inevitably have several future MLB players and a number of the top prospects in the upcoming MLB draft.
Just as scouts in the Charles Schwab Field Omaha stands will watch the college talents with an eye toward the future, so too will fans at home as eight teams compete for a title.
Who are some names to keep an eye on for each team? The Sporting News breaks down the top prospects in the College World Series.
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The Fighting Irish pulled off the improbable in upsetting the top-seeded Tennessee. Perhaps most impressively, while the Volunteers were loaded with top prospects, Notre Dame only has a few that have garnered early draft attention. Jack Brannigan, a third baseman and right-handed pitcher, can hit the baseball a long way and reach 99 mph on the mound, with Baseball America listing him as the No. 148 draft prospect and one of the best two-way talents. He joins fellow Fighting Irish relievers Liam Simon (No. 220) and alex rao (No. 261) as the top prospects on the team.
Ivan Melendez has had a dynamic season at the dish, leading all of college baseball with 32 home runs and a 1,404 OPS. He’s considered a bat-first first baseman, which limits his draft upside, but MLB Pipeline still lists him at 115th overall and Baseball America has him at No. 86. The lineup is loaded with MLB draft talents, as catcher silas ardoin (No. 119 on Baseball America), shortstop Trey Faltin (No. 140 on Baseball America) and outfielder Douglas Hoddo (No. 293) join him in the top draft rankings. south paw Peter Hansen checks in at No. 125 on MLB Pipeline’s top 200, and is a must-watch any time he toes the rubber for the Longhorns.
Michael Dallas has at times been ranked by Baseball America as one of its top draft prospects, but after a down year with a 5.40 ERA in 76.2 innings, he’s fallen out of their top 300. First baseman Jack Moss is listed at No. 45 among 2023 college players as he has racked up a .391 batting average with six home runs and eight stolen bases in 2022.
The Sooners are strong up the middle with one of the best collegiate shortstops and catchers in the draft. Peyton Graham has five tools and has put them all on display in 2022 with a 1,076 OPS, 20 home runs and 32 stolen bases, warranting his placement on the top 50 for both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline. At catcher, Jimmy Crooks has put together a solid campaign at the plate with a .956 OPS while playing above-average defense. Oklahoma has an ace on the hill in Jake Bennett, who earns top 100 spots from both sites as he’s pitched to a 3.53 ERA. Chazz Martinez and David Sandlin haven’t had the best seasons on the hill, but each have flashed the upside that MLB teams will look at on draft day.
The Cardinal boast one of the best power-hitting lineups in college baseball with a team slugging percentage that ranks 10th and the 14th most home runs. Leading the charge in the feared lineup is Brock-Jones, an outfielder ranked by both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America as a top 35 prospect as he’s posted a team-best 1,120 OPS with 20 home runs. 2nd baseman Brett Barrera paces the team with a .355 batting average, and has emerged as a promising middle infield prospect with his hit tool. Catcher Kody Huff offers impressive defensive versatility to go along with his .584 slugging percentage. The pitching staff has also had a dominant season, but its Quinn Mathews that has stood out the most, as both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America list him in their top draft prospect lists thanks to a diverse arsenal of pitches and a 2.62 ERA with 110 strikeouts in 96.1 innings of work.
The Razorbacks were the No. 1 team for much of the 2021 season, and clearly, much of the talent from that standout 2021 team returned to Arkansas in 2022. Cayden Wallace has provided both power (15 home runs) and speed (12 stolen bases), while middle-infield duo of Robert Moore and Jalen Battles has comprised one of the best double play partners in college defensively. Brady Slavens is a feared power hitter as he’s tied with Wallace and Braydon Webb for the lead in home runs and is second in slugging percentage (.543). This team would be even better had right-hander Peyton Pallettea top 40 prospect between the two sites, did not need Tommy John surgery before the season.
Hayden Dunhurst is one of those catchers that opposing baserunners should not consider running against. He has one of the strongest arms behind the plate in the draft to go along with the athleticism that makes him one of the class’ best defensive catchers. Similarly, TJ McCants can make just about any play in the outfield with his speed that has helped him swipe 10 bases in 2022. Derek Diamond hasn’t had the best season to date, but he commands the zone well and stands out for his refined approach on the mound.
The Tigers lack the star power of several other SEC programs in the College World Series, but senior first baseman Sonny DiChiara stands a good chance of hearing his name called early in the draft. A transfer from Samford, DiChiara has torched the ball to the tune of a .392/.560/.809 slash line and has launched a team-leading 22 home runs. He is the only player on the team with double-digit home runs. Trace Bright has struggled on the mound to a 5.23 ERA, but with 86 strikeouts in 75.2 innings, he has shown the ability to miss plenty of bats.