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Monday, January 20, 2014

2014 "Best of the Rest" Players to Watch

Tori Almond, BYU - Almond's Cougars were quickly eliminated from last season's NCAA tournament with back-to-back losses in the first round, depriving fans from seeing this excellent pitcher on a national stage. The 6'1" righty hurler saw her 2013 statistics slide a bit from a fantastic 2012 campaign, but she still continued to make opposing teams take note of her, and I think she stands as a solid prospect to play professionally this summer. Opponents are batting .206 against her in her career, and she's posted a career ERA of 2.59.

Jailyn Ford throws out the ceremonial first pitch
at a Salem Red Sox (Single-A) game.
Jailyn Ford, James Madison - The way I had originally begun this piece about Ford was calling her "the best player nobody knows". That may be accurate at this point in time, but I don't think it will be for very much longer. By the time this season has run it's course, I believe she'll be one of the top players in the game! Only a sophomore, in her inaugural campaign in 2013, she put up great numbers both offensively and in the circle. As a hitter, she finished the season with a .373 batting average; 15 home runs; and a .716 slugging percentage. She was one of only nine "dual threats" to rank in the national top fifty in home runs. As a pitcher, she posted a 1.61 ERA in almost 200 innings. Opponents batted just .177 against her, putting her in top twenty-five in that category nationally (that's as a freshman, mind you!). Her SO/BB ratio was just more than 3/1. She pitched for the USA Junior Team last season; don't be surprised if some room opens up for her on the Senior National team.

Kate Poppe, Villanova - Though her W/L record at season's end didn't reflect it, Poppe had an above-average freshman campaign. In more than 237 innings of work, she put together a SO/BB ratio of better than 2/1; a quite respectable 2.56 ERA; and opponents hit just .225 against her. With a year of experience under her belt, I think she'll end up in the black as far as wins and losses this season, and post a stat line very similar to that of last season.

Randi Rea, Mercer - Rea has started for the Mercer Bears since she arrived in 2011, and she posted her best season to date last year. She hit .320 while playing in all fifty-three regular-season games, also recording a .646 slugging percentage and 12 home runs. I think she's one of the best senior third basemen out there, and I think she fits the NPF mold well. Don't be surprised if she's suiting up in the pros next season. I project a .330/15/40 season for her collegiate swan song in 2014.

Shelby Wisdom, UC-Santa Barbara - When I saw Wisdom pitch last year, she wowed me immediately. She is another dual threat, potent from both the circle and the batter's box. As a pitcher, she put up a 2/1 SO/BB ratio and as a hitter, she knocked eight over the fence and recorded a batting average just a single 0.001 below .300. I anticipate her 2013 hitting numbers to continue, while pitching-wise, I predict she'll return to her 2012 form. Another all-Big West first-team honor is easily within expectations for the Gauchos ace.

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