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ASU ranked No. 3 in Baseball America Preseason Top 25

(Photo Courtesy Andrew Palla)

Coming off one of its best seasons in recent memory, Arizona State baseball is expected to continue its positive trajectory.

ASU is ranked No. 3 in Baseball America’s Preseason Top 25, behind only reigning national champion Vanderbilt and Louisville.

Last season, the Sun Devils almost went undefeated through March, winning their first 21 games of the season, and finished the year 38-19. Outfielder Hunter Bishop was drafted No. 10 overall by the San Francisco Giants, the highest spot an ASU player was picked since pitcher Mike Leake at No. 8 overall in 2009.

Even with the loss of Bishop, ASU is expected to contend for a national title. Baseball America writes:

“Headlined by Spencer Torkelson, the Sun Devils should again have one of the best offenses in college baseball, but optimism about a pitching staff that could be much-improved is what really pushes Arizona State to the level of a true national title contender.”

Torkelson is the No. 1 draft prospect in Baseball America’s rankings. He bashed 23 home runs and slashed .351/.446/.707 last season.

With him, shortstop Alika Williams (No. 32 in Baseball America’s rankings) and third baseman Gage Workman (No. 48), the Suns Devils will have no problem hitting the ball.

The downfall last year was pitching. ASU had a team ERA of 4.93, which was No. 144 among Division I teams in the NCAA, and the final implosion was blowing a 12-6 lead in the eighth inning of the NCAA Regionals.

Baseball America expresses optimism about the team’s pitching this season.

The site is intrigued by left-handed pitcher Justin Fall, who had a 1.82 ERA and 68 strikeouts last season as a junior at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey. He has a fastball that can reach 95 mph and a slider with “above-average potential, according to Baseball America.

“If ASU’s pitching is going to make a big leap, Fall will almost certainly have to be a big part of it.”

Fall and incoming freshman southpaw Cooper Benson are expected to be difference-makers in the rotation.

Closer R.J. Dabovich is expected to improve off his 4.75 ERA.

“Arizona State’s high preseason ranking is based on confidence that the pitching will be vastly improved, but if several of these pitchers falter in taking the next step in their development, it could be on the offense to do heavy lifting once again.”

If the pitching improvement does amount to Baseball America’s expectations, ASU will be formidable.

“In a Pac-12 that will likely be a step behind where it was last year, Arizona State has the talent to not only win the conference, but also put up a gaudy league record along the way. Its offense is already capable of slugging its way to Omaha. But how well ASU is able to match up pitcher for pitcher with the teams it faces come June will determine whether or not it can make a return to the CWS for the first time since 2010.”


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