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2016 MAC Baseball Preview: Top ten outfielders

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Many teams enter the 2016 season looking to at least one outfielder to be the heart and soul of a tournament run.

Alex Call
Alex Call
BSU Photo Services

We've officially reached our last preview before the regular season gets underway, and if that doesn't your whole week worth it, I don't know what will. MLB pitchers and catchers may have just reported this week, but in the college baseball ranks, teams are playing for real life wins and losses starting Friday. But before that, let's talk about some outfielders.

The outfielding group is probably the most experienced of any area in the MAC, with many returning members of last season's All-MAC teams, including its freshman of the year and player of the year. We'll talk about those guys in a minute, but first, some honorable mentions:

Scott Tyler (Sr, Ball State Cardinals): .277 batting average/.340 on-base percentage/.380 slugging percentage in 153 plate appearances, 5 doubles, 3 home runs, 24 runs batted in, 12 walks, 43 strikeouts, 2 stolen bases, .981 fielding percentage.

Matt Eppers (Jr, Ball State Cardinals): .263/.324.392 in 222 PA, 8 2B, 7 3B, 1 HR, 24 RBI, 16 BB, 42 K, 16 SB, .993 fld%.

Kory Brown (Sr, Bowling Green Falcons): .293/.394/.368 in 220 PA, 7 2B, 2 HR, 23 RBI, 21 BB, 33 K, 18 SB, .979 fld%.

Mason Mamarella (So, Kent State Golden Flashes): .248/.341/.268 in 182 PA, 1 2B, 1 3B, 8 RBI, 10 BB, 30 K, 14 SB, .991 fld% - Akron transfer, All-MAC Defensive team.

Stephen Letz (Sr, Northern Illinois Huskies): .310/.371/.389 in 140 PA, 7 2B, 1 HR, 15 RBI, 11 BB, 25 K, 1 SB, .981 fld%.

John Martillota (Sr, Toledo Rockets): .281/.350/.378 in 249 PA, 15 2B, 2 HR, 26 RBI, 12 BB, 34 K, 6 SB, .960.

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10. Jordan Peterson (Sr, Eastern Michigan Eagles): .292/.374/.364 in 238 PA, 12 2B, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 24 BB, 41 K, 18 SB, .992 fld%.

Finished second on the team in hits, and third in batting average and on-base percentage. Was a national gold glove recipient in the NJCAA the year before his transfer to Eastern Michigan. Peterson is a top of the order bat with plus contact and plus defense, and shows solid discipline around the plate. He doesn't generate much power, but he's got a solid knack for hitting the ball into the gaps. Another member of the Eagles' exciting senior class.

9. Matt Smith (Sr, Bowling Green Falcons): .296/.369/.416 in 231 PA, 8 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 38 RBI, 18 BB, 25 K, 6 SB, .991 fld%.

Second team All-MAC in 2015. Led Bowling Green in batting average and hits while providing above-average defense. Smith's bat came a long way last season after a sophomore campaign that saw him post a batting average of exactly half of what he posted last year in 25 games. Smith's glove was never a question, and if he gets even stronger in 2016, the Falcons have a formidable middle of the order force to go with Greg Basalyga and Randy Righter.

8. Jake Romano (Sr, Miami RedHawks): .296/.401/.425 in 216 PA, 6 2B, 4 3B, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 24 BB, 26 K, 9 SB, 1.000 fld%.

Made the All-MAC Defensive team after a full season of never making an error in 49 starts in center. The bat was another great asset, with his batting average ranking fourth on the team. His 44 runs on the season were the most of anyone in the Miami lineup. While he didn't regain the sky-high batting average that made him MAC Freshman of the Year in 2013, his 2015 was still an improvement in nearly every way from a sophomore season that was lackluster even before he got hurt. Losing All-MAC first teamer Matt Honchel will be big for Miami, but Romano's presence should be enough to soften the blow considerably.

7. Luke Burch (Jr, Kent State Golden Flashes): .360/.442/.441 in 129 PA, 5 2B, 2 3B, 8 RBI, 16 BB, 25 K, 17 SB, .965 fld%.

Torched his way through non-conference competition before suffering a season-ending injury shortly into the MAC season. 2015 was the first year Burch has gotten more than negligible playing time with the Golden Flashes, and with 2016 being his fourth year with the program, both he and the team will have high hopes that he can stay healthy for a full campaign. Burch isn't good for much in the power department, but that's not to say another breakout isn't in the cards for the 6-foot-2, 180 pound 21 year old. Then again, because of the next entry on our list, the Flashes shouldn't be hurting for power much anyway.

6. Conner Simonetti (Jr, Kent State Golden Flashes): .283/.344/.578 in 187 PA, 10 2B, 3 3B, 11 HR, 41 RBI, 16 BB, 51 K, .957 fld%.

Left off All-MAC teams despite leading the conference in home runs and slugging. A former Cincinnati Reds draftee out of high school, Simonetti has been a power explosion waiting to happen since he signed with the Flashes. The bonus for Kent State was how consistent he was with the bat in general, compiling two separate hit streaks of seven and eight games during the season. Simonetti will need to cut down his 27% strikeout rate, something that should be doable in his with his first full season of experience under his belt. How much time he spends between corner outfield and first base has yet to be seen, but he'll be a terror with the bat wherever he lines up in the field.

5. A.J. Montoya (So, Toledo Rockets): .305/.363/.502 in 261 PA, 17 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR, 39 RBI, 21 BB, 70 K, 5 SB, .968 fld%.

MAC Freshman of the Year in 2015, led the Rockets in runs (36), hits (71) and slugging, while placing second in the MAC in doubles. Montoya signed with Toledo as a catcher, but was moved to the outfield for good after nine starts behind the dish. He's now listed as an outfielder exclusively, and will likely get the chance to show he can stick in center before he's penciled in as the everyday guy in left. The strikeout total is ghastly, but like Simonetti, he'll get the benefit of the doubt for it being his first full season of college ball, as well as just how hard the contact is when his bat does find the ball.

4. Logan Regnier (Sr, Central Michigan Chippewas): .312/.372/.452 in 239 PA, 11 2B, 7 3B, 1 HR, 45 RBI, 12 BB, 36 K, 19 SB, .971 fld%.

Second team All-MAC in 2015. Led the team in slugging and RBI's, with the RBI's also ranking fourth in the MAC. Also led the MAC in triples. Regnier was regarded by some as one of the top ten prospects in Michigan out of high school, and four years later, he's one of the best all-around talents in the MAC. Regnier's speed and contact are both plus traits, as he also finished with the sixth most stolen bases in the conference. 2016 will be Regnier's fourth season as a starter in the Chippewas program, and he'll be as essential as anyone on the team to any title run his team makes.

3. Manny DeJesus (Sr, Ohio Bobcats): .311/.406/.360 in 270 PA, 9 2B, 1 3B, 27 RBI, 33 BB, 15 K, 7 SB, .993 fld%.

Made the All-MAC defensive team in his first year with Ohio. Arguably the conference's best defender in the outfield, and possibly its best leadoff man as well. DeJesus has an excellent approach at the plate, maintaining an absurd strikeout rate of under six percent throughout the season, and constantly made himself available on base for the Bobcats' lethal middle of the order to drive him in, evidenced by his second place finish in the conference in runs scored (56). DeJesus' size (5-foot-10, 155 pounds) puts him in jeopardy of being undervalued by pro scouts, but the number of dazzling plays he's responsible for in center speak for themselves.

2. Alex Call (Jr, Ball State Cardinals: .339/.392/.465 in 256 PA, 10 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 42 RBI, 19 BB, 31 K, 12 SB, .950 fld%.

Second team All-MAC. Team-leader in batting average, hits, runs, slugging, total bases, and third in OBP. Possibly the best pro outfield prospect in the MAC. Call's freshman season raised plenty of eyebrows when he posted a 41-game on-base streak to finish the year, and his sophomore campaign was remarkably consistent with that standard. While the overall average dipped, he witnessed an improvement in nearly every other category, most notably the home run department, where he ballooned his total from one to five. He also, however, took his stolen base total from two to 12, and threw out twice as many runners on the bases. As far as MAC players go, Call is as close to a five-tool guy as you'll see in 2016, unless you prefer...

1. Mitch Longo (Jr, Ohio Bobcats): .357/.421/.498 in 271 PA, 13 2B, 7 HR, 49 RBI, 22 BB, 16 K, 10 SB, .966 fld%.

2015 MAC Player of the Year. Ranked in the conference's top five in batting average, runs scored, hits, RBI, home runs, total bases, and at bats. As complete of a hitter as there is in the MAC, Longo combines power and bat speed with innate ability to avoid striking out. That makeup turns him into the toughest out in the MAC. The now-junior is still a work in progress defensively, but did look more comfortable in the field last year, and he has the speed to make up for a reasonable lack of natural range in a corner outfield spot. Longo and Call are two of the most consistently dangerous players in the league, but if I had to pick between the two to lead my team on a title run, I'd side with Longo.