While Major League Baseball continues to hum along in the middle of its season, college baseball is reaching its apex in Omaha. With college baseball on the brain, here are rankings for some of the most successful college baseball careers from the current White Sox roster.
(NOTE: This ranking only applies to players from Division I colleges. For example, Tim Anderson does not appear because he went to a community college.)
6. Gavin Sheets, Wake Forest (2015-2017)
Sheets contributed three solid years to the Demon Deacons program, finding his stride in year two after missing time during his freshman year with an oblique injury. His sophomore season in 2016 was good enough for All-ACC honors, as he started 60 games and finished with a .326 batting average and nine home runs. He also recorded a 22-game hit streak, good for the fourth-longest in Wake Forest history.
While 2015 was good and 2016 was better, Sheets’ final season in 2017 was his strongest. He started at first base in all 63 games. While his average stayed about the same at .317, he more than doubled his home run count from the previous season, mashing 21. Even more impressive were his 84 RBIs. These stats were good enough to be named a second-team All-American by ABCA.
Sheets helped lead Wake Forest to only their second regional title in school history, and the Demon Deacons came up one game short from reaching Omaha, losing to Florida in game three of the Super Regionals.
5. Lance Lynn, Ole Miss (2006-2008)
Lynn was a dominant starting pitcher for Ole Miss during his three-year career. His first and third years were solid, as he pitched at least 80 innings and had an ERA in the fours. However, his second year as a Rebel, 2007, was a year of true dominance.
In 2007, Lynn set the Ole Miss single season and career records for strikeouts, 146 and 332 respectively. He posted a 2.85 ERA over 123.1 IP. This performance earned him second-team All-SEC honors.
Ole Miss found postseason success in Lynn’s three years. They won their regional in 2006 and 2007 and lost in the regional final in 2008. In his dominant 2007 season, Lynn threw a complete game two-hit shutout in the regional semifinal.
4. Jake Burger, Missouri State (2015-2017)
Burger is the only player on this list to earn All-American honors as a freshman, being recognized by Collegiate Baseball as a third-teamer. He slashed .342/.390/.518 as a freshman and led the team in hits. Burger also performed well in the postseason, batting .417 and earning regional all-tournament honors. The Bears would fall one game short of Omaha, as they lost to Arkansas in the Super Regional.
Burger’s sophomore year was just as successful as his stellar freshman year. He nearly earned the Missouri Valley Conference Triple Crown, leading the league with 72 RBIs, and finishing second in average (.349) and home runs (21). He was also voted the top defensive third baseman in Division I baseball with a selection to the ABCA’s Rawlings Gold Glove Team. These stats were good for second-team All-American status.
His Junior year featured the same dominance as the two years before it. In 2017, Burger slashed .328/.443/.648 with 22 home runs, earning him the title of Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. Once again the Bears won their regional and once again came up just short of Omaha in the Super Regionals against TCU.
3. Andrew Benintendi, Arkansas (2014-2015)
Benintendi had a very respectable freshman year at Arkansas. He started nearly every game in the outfield and batted .276 with 27 RBI. It was a strong enough season to earn him a spot on the SEC All-Freshman team. However, it is his second and final year with the Razorbacks where Benintendi truly left his mark.
In 2015, Benintendi won almost every award imaginable. SEC Player of the Year, National Player of the Year, consensus First Team All-American Honors, and the coveted Golden Spikes Award, beating the likes of Alex Bregman and Dansby Swanson. He did so by leading the SEC in batting average and home runs, .376 and 20 respectively. His Razorbacks team would make it to the Men’s College World Series but be eliminated without winning a game.
While Benintendi had a great college career, two players appear in front of him on this list. That is because they sustained their dominance at the college level for longer than the one season that Benintendi managed.
2. Yasmani Grandal, Miami (2008-2010)
Grandal burst onto the scene in the second half of his freshman year in 2008. This was not just any Miami team for which he muscled his way into the starting lineup, it was the number one team in the country. Grandal’s performance in the postseason earned him regional honors, and the team made it all the way to the Men’s College World Series before being knocked out.
Miami had found their starting catcher, as Grandal posted strong numbers once again in 2009. He slashed .299/.414/.599, and led the Hurricanes in home runs with 16. This Miami iteration was knocked out by in-state rival Florida in their regional final.
While Grandal’s first two seasons were impressive, they pale in comparison to his incredible 2010 campaign. He finished the year with an absurd line of .401/.528/.721, as well as a 20.14% walk rate.
His otherworldly statistics were good enough to make him both a consensus All-American as well as the ACC Player of the Year. He finished second in Golden Spikes award voting. The man who edged him out? Bryce Harper. Miami made it to the Super Regionals that season, only to have their season ended yet again by Florida.
1. Andrew Vaughn, Cal (2017-2019)
The White Sox selected Vaughn with the third overall pick for a reason. Vaughn’s prolific career at Cal unfortunately was not met with team success, as the Golden Bears only reached one NCAA tournament over his three years. However, that does not make his individual performance any less impressive.
As a freshman, Vaughn was actually a two-way player, with 10 relief appearances. It was his offense, though, that earned him Freshman All-American honors. Vaughn slashed .349/.414/.555 as a freshman on his way to being named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.
Vaughn only improved as a sophomore. His batting average eclipsed .400, at .402, and his OBP was a ridiculous .531. He pounded 23 homers to go along with 63 RBI. The consensus first-team All-American failed to reach base in only two of Cal’s 54 games. He won the coveted Golden Spikes award that goes to the best collegiate player in the country.
In Vaughn’s final season, his numbers were just as impressive, slashing .374/.539/.704. He also drew 60 walks, a Cal single-season record. While Adley Rutschman won the Golden Spikes Award, Vaughn was a finalist. Cal reached the NCAA Tournament but was knocked out in the regional round.
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