Top 11 College Baseball 1B To Watch In 2011

February 1, 2011
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We have finally made it around the infield. After this list of first basemen, we only have pitchers and outfielders remaining as we continue to look at some of the top players in the country at each position.

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First base is, obviously, the power position in baseball. That distinction makes it one of the toughest to pare down for a list like this. Here we go…

1. Paul Hoilman – East Tennessee State

Hoilman went from good as a sophomore in 2009 to great in 2010. The 6’4, 230 pound slugger hit .380 with 17 home runs, 19 doubles, 66 RBIs and a .740 slugging percentage in ’09.  He elevated those numbers to a .421 avg., 25 HR, 24 doubles, 84 RBIs, and a Division One-leading .860 slugging percentage last year. Hoilman had a Ruthian 1.386 OPS for the season, while his home run total tied for fifth in the nation. He won the inaugural TD Ameritrade Home Run Derby in July when he hit seven home runs in his first 11 swings in the contest at Rosenblatt Stadium. Hoilman received All-American accolades and was also named the 2010 Atlantic Sun Conference Male Scholar Athlete of the Year. He was drafted in the 49th round last June by the Tampa Bay Rays, but opted to return for his senior season at ETSU.

2. Jordan Ribera – Fresno State

Ribera finished second to Hoilman at the TD Ameritrade Home Run Derby. He came absolutely out of nowhere in 2010 to become one of the premiere power hitters in the country. His junior season included a .343 average with 20 doubles, 69 RBIs and a nation-leading 27 home runs. He also sported a healthy 1.187 OPS. That from a player who hit just nine home runs in 2008 and 2009 combined. Ribera was named WAC Player of the Year and also earned All-American honors from four different publications for his efforts. The 6’0, 220 pound senior is one of the few remaining players from Fresno State’s 2008 National Championship team.

3. Ricky Oropesa – USC

While Hoilman and Ribera are both more pure first basemen, Oropesa is one of several players on this list who play both 1B and 3B. Now a junior, Oropesa led the Trojans last year in the following categories: Batting average-.343, HR-20, RBIs-67, Doubles-22, Runs-53, Hits-83, Total Bases-167 (next closest was 87), Slugging % – .711, OBP-.434, Stolen Bases- 7, and BB – 33. He was a Freshman All-American in 2009 and earned All-Pac-10 Conference and All-American accolades in ’10 for a 28-32 Trojan team. Oropesa was a 24th round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox coming out of high school in 2008.

4. Nick Ramirez – Cal State Fullerton

Ramirez is one of the top two-way players in the nation. It showed last year when the sophomore hit .346 with 17 home runs, with team-highs of 28 doubles and 75 RBIs. He also recorded 11 saves (and made one start) with a 3.50 ERA as Fullerton’s closer. His efforts made him a finalist for the inaugural John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award and also garnered All-Big West first team and All-American honors. Ramirez also played for the USA Collegiate National Team last summer, with two HR and 16 RBIs, along with a save and a 1.59 ERA in 5 2/3 IP. Titan head coach Dave Serrano also served as his pitching coach for Team USA.

5. Riccio Torrez – Arizona State

Torrez could be the top all-around athlete on this list. He started 56 games at first base last year, while his now graduated brother, Rauol Torrez, played third base. He won the Pac-10 batting crown with his .393 average, and also had 10 home runs with a team-best 27 doubles, 54 RBIs, 65 runs, and 20 stolen bases. Torrez committed just four errors for a .992 fielding percentage and was hit by pitch a Pac-10 leading 25 times. His efforts earned First Team All-Pac-10 and Third Team All-American honors, while helping the Sun Devils to their second straight College World Series. With his brother gone, Torrez is expected to also see time at third base in 2011.

6. Barrett Barnes – Texas Tech

Barnes got his college career off to a fast start and he never really cooled down last year. He was 3-for-4 with two home runs and six RBIs on opening day, enroute to being named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year.  He also became just the fifth Texas Tech player to ever receive Freshman All-American honors in 2010. Barnes had team-highs with a .341 average, .641 slugging percentage, 14 home runs, and 71 runs. He also had 19 doubles and 12 stolen bases. His 71 runs were the second-most in the Big 12, while his 14 HR were the most by a Red Raider freshman since 1986 (he was the only TT player with double digit long balls). Barnes helped the Falmouth Commodores to a second place finish in the Cape Cod League over the summer.

7. Christian Walker – South Carolina

Walker’s 2010 freshman season was one to remember. His three-run Super Regional home run against Coastal Carolina on June 13 sent the Gamecocks to the College World Series, but Walker didn’t stop there. He was named to the CWS All-Tournament Team after helping South Carolina win its first National Championship. Walker batted .327 with nine home runs and 51 RBIs in 2010. He also batted a team-best .346 in SEC action, while striking out just 18 times in 226 at-bats-the fewest of any USC batter with at least 100 ABs during the ’10 campaign. Walker was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team and earned Freshman All-American honors.

8. Mike Nemeth – Connecticut

Nemeth’s junior season at UConn was a career-best for him as well as a program-best for his team. Nemeth was solid in his first two years for the Huskies, with a .314 batting average, six home runs and 76 total RBIs. He put those to shame though in 2010, batting .386 with 84 RBIs (both team-highs), 15 home runs and 20 doubles to help the Huskies to a school-record 48 wins and an NCAA Regional berth. He was also one of three UConn regulars to start and play in a program-topping 64 games. Nemeth sported an 1.120 OPS, while striking out just 24 times with 38 walks in 254 at-bats. He also played for the Bourne Braves in the Cape Cod League over the summer. Nemeth is part of a nucleus of returnees that includes George Springer and Matt Barnes who will try to take UConn even farther in 2011.

9. Nate Woods – Belmont

The 6’6 senior had a junior year to remember in 2010. Woods set Belmont school records with 20 home runs and 78 RBIs, while batting .319 to earn All-Atlantic Sun honors. It was also his first full season as an everyday starter. Woods had his 2009 season cut short due to injury after starting 35 times as an A-Sun All-Freshman performer in 2008. He has also made 30 starts on the mound over his first three seasons in Nashville, including 13 last year with a 5-6 record. The 2011 Preseason All-American was drafted in the 28th round of the 2007 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of Cedar Rapids, IA.

10. Nick O’Shea – Minnesota

As a redshirt sophomore, O’Shea was the top run producer for the Big Ten champion Golden Gophers. He hit .334 with team-highs of 13 home runs and 60 RBIs to help Minnesota win its conference tournament and the Fullerton NCAA Regional bid that came with it. O’Shea was one of three Gophers to start all 62 of his team’s games in 2010. He scored 44 runs with 19 doubles to land on the All-Big Ten First Team. After a redshirt 2008 season, the Blaine, MN native hit 11 HR with 44 RBIs to earn Freshman All-American honors in 2009.

11. Cameron Seitzer – Oklahoma

Seitzer’s breakout 2010 season helped Oklahoma reach the promised land at the College World Series. He batted .323 with three home runs and 14 RBIs before his season ended with a broken wrist in 2009. Things went much better last year when Seitzer hit .305 with 16 home runs, 15 doubles and 53 RBIs. Seitzer’s .600 slugging percentage was second on his team to third baseman Garrett Buechele’s .630. His .431 OBP was helped by being hit by pitch a team-high 20 times. Like Buechele, Seitzer comes from good lineage. He is the the son of 12-year MLB veteran Kevin Seitzer (Buechele’s dad is 11-year MLB vet Steve Buechele).

Others To Watch…

Alex Aurrichio – Columbia

Troy Channing – St. Mary’s

Ryan Durrence – Bethune-Cookman

Dean Espy – UCLA

Kelvin Freeman – North Carolina A&T

Jonathon Griffin – Central Florida

Brian Johnson – Florida

Max Muncy – Baylor

Jerrud Sabourin – Indiana

Doug Schribman – Bucknell

Matt Snyder – Ole Miss

Aaron Westlake – Vanderbilt

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