Yesterday, USA Baseball announced their Mid-Season Watchlist for the 2011 Golden Spikes award. Some 60 college baseball players from around the country were chosen, based on their on field performances and exemplary sportsmanship. Since 1978 the award has been given annualy to the best amateur baseball player in the country.
To break it down for those less college baseball-centric, the Golden Spikes Award is the Heisman of college baseball. Past winners is a who's who list of exceptional amateur baseball players. Red Sox fans will notice a few of the winners: their manager and former Step Up to the Plate guest speaker Terry Francona won the award in 1980, their Captain, Jason Varitek won in 1994, and J. D. Drew won for FSU in 1997. Some of the more recent winners have already made a splash on the MLB stage: Tim Lincecum (2007), David Price (2008), Buster Posey (2009), and Stephen Strasburg (2010). Last year, the #1 overall pick and the 2nd coming of Jesus, Bryce Harper, was chosen as the winner even though he played junior college baseball.
All year I have been lobbying on Twitter and through my articles for UVa's own Danny Hultzen to be considered for this honor. Apparently someone was reading and listening because not only was Danny chosen for the watchlist but so was 2nd year closer Branden Kline. Sure, maybe the committee looked at Hultzen and Kline's stats and chose them but that is an assumption I can't make given the information I have.
Hultzen has been one of, if not the, greatest player to ever wear a UVa baseball uniform. This year alone he has amassed a 9-1 record which ties him for 3rd most in the country, and a 1.19 ERA that is 5th in the country. His best stat is probably his strikeouts. Danny has 112 on the year and is 2nd to only UCLA's Trevor Bauer (also on the GSA watchlist). Match those strikeouts with only the 12 BB's he's given up this year and you have one the top K/BB ratios in the country. He's not doing too bad at the plate either batting .333 with 16 runs and 28 RBIs.
2nd year Branden Kline has also been appointed to the watchlist. Kline was not on the preseason list but with the amount of Saves and other stats he has for the Cavs, nobody can be shocked he was listed. Kline has stepped into the closer's role that was opened by Kevin Arico leaving last year to pitch in the Reds organization. Kline has closed the game out 13 times so far this year which is 5th most in the country. Kline and the 'Hoos should be able to keep that pace up the rest of the year which would allow him to set the UVa single season record for saves that Arico owns at 18.
The list of 60 will be cut down again at the end of May to 30 players and the three finalists will be announced June 7th. Unfortunately, I don't think Kline is on the field enough for him to be widely considered for the award. Hultzen, on the other hand, will most certainly be considered and I would be shocked if he is not in the final three. He is having an amazing year and is very deserving.
You can find out more about the Golden Spikes Award here.