Yes, the Arizona Wildcats were one of the two teams playing in the final game of the college baseball season in 2016.
They also finished in a three-way tie for third in the Pac-12, posting a 16-14 conference record, and lose many of the key contributors from last year’s team.
So it’s not entirely surprising that Arizona will start the 2017 campaign somewhere in the 20 range on most respected polls.
Here’s a summary of where the Cats stand:
Arizona Baseball rankings
|USA Today Coaches Poll||19||18|
It should be noted that Collegiate Baseball tends to favor teams in the Southwest more than any other organization that releases polls, which can explain why they have Arizona so much higher than anyone else.
TCU is the consensus No. 1 team in the country. Oregon State finds itself inside the top ten in each poll, plus Washington and Stanford are both ranked just about everywhere.
While Arizona probably does have more talent on the roster this year compared to last year, it is unproven talent at this point.
The Wildcats lose the only three guys that hit above .300 last year (Cody Ramer, Zach Gibbons, and Ryan Aguilar). Plus they lose the bat and arm of Bobby Dalbec, and the arms of Nathan Bannister and Kevin Ginkel.
Those are all enormous losses, and are all projected to be filled either by incoming freshmen or junior college transfers. The outfield basically just returns Jared Oliva, while the infield returns JJ Matijevic, Louis Boyd, and Cesar Salazar.
The starting rotation will have JC Cloney and Cameron Ming in the mix again, with Cody Deason likely moving into that role as well. Again, there will also be plenty of newcomers that will get chances.
Arizona’s schedule essentially starts with three four-game weekends, so they will need more than the traditional three-man rotation to begin the season, which could set them up well for Pac-12 play. The season starts on Friday, February 17th when Eastern Kentucky travels to Tucson.