Top 11 College Baseball Relievers To Watch In 2011

February 14, 2011

Our position by position tour is about to end as the 2011 season is about to begin. We have looked at catchers, first basemen, third basemen, shortstops, second basemen, outfielders, and starting pitchers. Links to all those lists are provided below. We’re going to close with the guys who close the games: relief pitchers.

1. John Stilson – Jr. – RHP – Texas A&M

After spending a season in junior college at Texarkana College, Stilson broke onto the Division One scene in a big way in 2010. Stilson started his Aggie career with 18 1/3 scoreless innings. In fact, he retired all 12 Seton Hall batters he faced in order in his first career appearance. He went on to go 9-1 with 10 saves and a ridiculous 0.80 ERA in 33 appearances out of the bullpen. He rang-up 114 strikeouts with a .181 opponent batting average in 79.0 innings. Stilson’s ERA set a new school record, while his 13.49 strikeouts per nine innings ranked second in the nation. Stilson closed the season strong as well. He didn’t allow an earned run after May 11-a span of 22 2/3 scoreless innings, which included 6 2/3 scoreless frames in the Coral Gables NCAA Regional. The All-American earned two saves and a win to help the Aggies win the Big 12 Tournament.

2. Mitchell Lambson – Jr. – LHP – Arizona State

Lambson has made an amazing 70 relief appearances in his first two seasons at Arizona State. He earned first team All-Pac-10 and Freshman All-American honors after going 9-5 with five saves in 31 relief appearances in 2009. In his only career start he fired a complete game against Washington to earn the win. Lambson was even more dominant last year, going 8-2 with three saves, a 2.16 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 75.0 IP, while working in tandem with former ASU closer Jordan Swagerty. He earned the win against Arkansas in game one of the Tempe Super Regional after striking out seven in five shutout innings to help the Sun Devils to a second straight College World Series appearance. Lambson’s two-year totals are a 17-7 record with eight saves, a 2.61 ERA, 195 strikeouts, and a .181 opponent average.

3. Matt Price – So. – RHP – South Carolina

The last 2 2/3 innings of Price’s freshman season were his biggest. He gave-up just a hit against UCLA with three strikeouts to help the Gamecocks beat the Bruins 2-1 in 11 innings for the school’s first national championship. It was the capper on a great season for both the flame thrower and his team. Price was 5-1 with 10 saves and a 2.26 ERA as the closer for the national champs. He struckout 83 with just 19 BB in 55 2/3 innings, while allowing a tidy .183 opponent batting average. The bullpen was one of the Gamecock’s strengths in 2010, and Price could have even more responsibility place on him in 2011 with Michael Roth, who started that title game after making 29 relief appearances last year, going to the starting rotation full-time this year.

4. Nick Ramirez – Jr. – RHP – Cal State Fullerton

Ramirez is not only a top-notch closer, but also one of the top two-way players in the country. He also made our list of top first basemen to watch this season after batting .346 with 16 home runs and a team-leading 75 RBIs last year. As Fullerton’s closer, he had 11 saves with a 3.50 ERA in 2011. He made 26 relief appearances and one start, with 38 strikeouts and just eight walks in 43 1/3 innings. His overall efforts earned All-American recognition. Ramirez was 3-1 with seven saves and a 2.61 ERA to earn Freshman All-American honors in 2009. He joined teammate Noe Ramirez and Titan head coach Dave Serrano on the USA Collegiate National Team last summer.

5. Matty Ott – Jr. – RHP – LSU

Despite an up and down 2010 sophomore season, Ott enters 2011 just two saves away from tying the LSU school record of 29. Ott earned Freshman All-American and All-American honors in 2009, while going 4-2 with a 2.68 ERA and a single season school record 16 saves for the national champion Tigers. His 4th win came over Texas in game one of the College World Series finals. He was 2-4 last year, and still managed 11 saves despite a 6.38 ERA. The Chalmette, LA native also pitched the last seven innings in a 14-inning win over Alabama. Ott has 109 total strikeouts in 93 career innings. He was named the Cape Cod All-Star Team as a member of the Harwich Mariners last summer.

6. Chris Dennis – Sr. – RHP – Portland

Like Stilson, Dennis has just one season of Division One experience. Like Stilson, it was a big one. After transferring from Edmonds Community College, Dennis was 5-1 with 14 saves in 30 appearances for a 34-win Portland team that just missed out on an NCAA Regional bid in 2010. Dennis had 51 strikeouts and just 11 walks with a 1.88 ERA in 43.0 innings of work, while his 14 saves tied for third in the nation. He earned All-West Coast Conference and All-American honors, while his efforts also made him one of five finalists for the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award.

7. Ryan Duke – Sr. – RHP – Oklahoma

Duke worked as a starter in his freshman season in 2008, but after two years and 28 saves as OU’s closer over the last two years he is tied for the program saves record. He became Oklahoma’s first All-American pitcher since 2000 when he led the Big 12 with 16 saves in 2009. The Corpus Christi, TX native had 43 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings that season, while holding opponents scoreless in 20 of 26 outings. Duke was 3-2 with 12 saves and a 3.75 ERA for the Sooner’s College World Series team last year. He earned his 12th save in Omaha in OU’s opening round 4-3 win over eventual national champion South Carolina.

8. Mike McGee – Sr. – RHP – Florida State

McGee is another talented two-way player. He earned All-American honors last year after batting .328 with team-highs of 17 home runs and 73 RBIS, while also finishing among the nation’s leaders with 13 saves. McGee was 4-1 with a 2.96 ERA in 20 appearances in his first full season as FSU’s closer. He held opposing batters to a .160 average with 33 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings. The Port St. Lucie, FL native is on our list of top outfielders to watch this season as well. McGee was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 37th round in 2007 and was picked in the 41st round by the Arizona Diamondbacks last year. He opted to return for his senior season, in part because most pro scouts see him as a pitcher, while he would like to remain an everyday player.

9. Collin Cargill – Sr. – RHP – Southern Mississippi

Cargill emerged as Southern Mississippi’s closer in 2009 en-route to the team’s run to the College World Series. He totaled 13 saves that year, including both of the Golden Eagles’ upset Super Regional wins over Florida to advance to Omaha. The Hatiesburg, MS native was 4-3 with a 3.55 ERA that season. He followed that by going 4-2 with nine saves and a 1.75 ERA in 27 appearances last season to earn first team All-Conference USA honors. Cargill’s 22 saves over the last two seasons have him ranked third on the USM career saves list. He redshirted in 2007 and is back this year for his fifth year of eligibility.

10. Scott Matyas -Sr. – RHP – Minnesota

Matyas has been, arguably, the top closer in the Big Ten over the last two years. He set the Minnesota single-season saves record with 15, including 10 in conference play, in 2009. He sported a 2.22 ERA that season, with 45 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings. That gave him a 14.3 strikeouts per nine innings average. The North Prairie, WI native was 5-1 with eight saves and a 2.19 ERA last year. He fanned 60 with just 14 walks in 37.0 IP and 27 appearances out of the Golden Gopher bullpen. Matyas had Tommy John surgery after his junior season of high school. He redshirted at Minnesota in 2007 and is now in his fifth year of eligibility.

11. Kevin McKague – Sr. – RHP – Army

McKague is yet another two-way player on this list. He notched 13 saves with a 1.33 ERA in 17 appearances in 2010. The 6’5 right hander fanned 26 batters with seven walks in 20 1/3 innings, while also batting .331 with team-highs of eight home runs and 36 RBIs. He batted .389 and also posted seven saves as a sophomore in 2009 to help the Black Knights to the Austin NCAA Regional. The Fayetteville, NC native was also a Freshman All-American in 2008 with a save and hitting a school record 19 doubles. His low 90s fastball and splitter have helped him save 21 games heading into his senior season.

Others To Watch…

James Allen – Kansas State

Pat Christensen – LaSalle

Alex Frederick – Clemson

Grayson Garvin – Vanderbilt

Tyler Gebler – Rutgers

Brian Hamilton – Charlotte

Brett Huber – Ole Miss

Chris Kaminski – Jacksonville

Kevin Lee – Iowa

Lenny Linsky – Hawaii

Jose Mata – South Carolina

Scott McGough – Oregon

Andy Mee – Florida Atlantic

Hoby Milner – Texas

Nick Pepitone – Tulane

Brooks Pinckard – Baylor

Ryan Purcell – Eastern Kentucky

Joe Rogers – Central Florida

Chad Sheppard – Northwestern State

Seth Simmons – East Carolina

Paul Snieder – Northwestern

Kevin Vance - Connecticut

Trever Vermeulen – South Dakota State

John Soldinger – Manhattan

Jason West – Stephen F. Austin


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