#4 UCLA Baseball Preview

UCLA Bruins

Overall Rank: #4
Conference Rank: #1 Pac-12
UCLA College Baseball Top 44 Team Previews
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Even baseball fans that casually follow the college game know the initials UCLA. The Bruins, year in and year out, are among the top teams in college baseball thanks to a strong recruiting pipeline and a rich tournament history. It seems as if Major League Baseball knows the UCLA pipeline too, as 65 players have gone on to play in the big leagues. All seven players drafted last season were signed. It looks like 2013 will be another strong campaign in Los Angeles, but will a solid Pac-12 schedule help the Bruins come tournament time?

2012: 48-16, 20-10
2012 Postseason: College World Series
Coach: John Savage

Field Players:
As a team UCLA hit 23 home runs last year, and 11 of those were hit by Jeff Gelalich. Of the position players returning in 2013, these players combined for just four homers. Kevin Williams (.302-2-21) had 28 runs and 48 hits a year ago, and that is the extent of the returning power from last year. Pat Valaika, the team’s returning hits leader, had one home run, as did Cody Regis. The good news from this group is only one player, Regis, is in his final season of eligibility. There are 11 position players back with various degrees of success hitting the ball, but none of these players have stood out in a way Gelalich did.

You may have guessed this. The true backbone of the UCLA lineup lies in its pitching. Savage uses his pitching staff in two divisions, midweek and weekend. Of the midweek options Grant Watson (9-2, 4.45 ERA) struck out 46 batters a year ago and is one of the stronger options to use entering the season. David Berg (5-3, 1.46) fanned 63 batters a year ago and is poised for another strong season. Of the weekend starters Adam Plutko (12-3, 2.48) struck out 99 hitters and Nick Vander Tuig (10-4, 4.43) fanned 77, and that should make a strong 1-2 punch in the starting rotation. Scott Griggs (3-1, 2.65, 15 saves) is not there this season, meaning the team will need to find a closer.

Who to Watch:
Keep an eye on Plutko and VanderTuig, because this team will fly as far as these two can stand it. The Bruins have 11 players coming in this year as recruits, all from California, but these two pitchers combined for nearly half of UCLA’s victories a year ago and they will need the two to stand out one more time. Although it is not known which player it will be at this time, keep an eye on whoever can hit the long ball because UCLA could sure use it.

Final Projection:
In all honesty there is no need to worry about the Bruins in 2013. UCLA will ride its pitching and some offense to another strong showing in the Pac-12. How much farther the team goes depends on how it plugs the obvious holes. UCLA needs home runs badly. It has the pitching, but if the offense sputters it could be a long season at Jackie Robinson Stadium. If the Bruins can score some runs then things will be much better. Expect good things from this club this spring.

Projected Postseason: College World Series

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Pat Valaika, IF, 229
Hits: Pat Valaika, IF, 61
Home Runs: Kevin Williams, IF, 2
RBIs: Pat Valaika, IF, 39
Runs: Pat Valaika, IF, 37
Stolen Bases: Pat Valaika, IF, 5

Wins: Adam Plutko, P, 12
Innings Pitched: Adam Plutko, P, 119.2
Strikeouts: Adam Plutko, P, 99
Saves: David Berg, P, 1

Madness 2013 MLB Draft Rankings:
#60 Adam Plutko
#123 Brenton Allen

Madness 2013 Baseball Recruit Rankings:
#18 Hunter Virant
#39 Cody Poteet
#90 Felipe Perez


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