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February 8, 2008

Impact Freshmen: The Rivals 10

Rivals.com Top 25 Rankings | National Message Board

Who will rise to the occasion and become one of the nation's fabulous freshmen?

That question will be answered sooner rather than later.

North Carolina right-handed pitcher Matt Harvey is the most highly touted freshman. Some expected Harvey to sign. But in the end, he decided to attend school and will likely be a weekend starter.

While Harvey leads the charge, Georgia Tech's Derek Dietrich and Auburn's Hunter Morris are also earning rave reviews.

We break down the nation's top freshmen.

IMPACT FRESHMEN: THE RIVALS 10
P MATT HARVEY
With the departure of weekend starters Robert Woodard and Luke Putkonen, the Tar Heels will look to freshman right-hander Matt Harvey to immediately join the weekend rotation. Harvey was a third-round pick of the Angels last June but chose to attend UNC. As a senior in high school, Harvey went 6-1 with a 0.64 ERA in 54 2/3 innings of work. He also struck out 112 batters. When it comes to upside, Harvey is among the elite. North Carolina is ecstatic to have him on campus.
P SHAWN TOLLESON
The Bears enter the season with the tools to go the distance, and the arm of Shawn Tolleson could be the difference. Tolleson was one of the Lone Star State's top recruits two years ago, but an arm injury kept him from being an immediate contributor for Steve Smith and the Bears. With Tolleson expected to be a front-line ace by April, the Bears could be in great shape. In his last full season action as a high school junior, the right-hander had a 0.89 ERA in 80 innings.
P BRANDON WORKMAN
With the Longhorns hoping Riley Boening and Kenn Kasparek can return from injuries, they will likely look to freshman right-hander Brandon Workman to be a staple in the weekend rotation. Workman was a third-round selection of Philadelphia in last summer's MLB Draft, but chose to attend Texas. As a high school senior, Workman posted a 10-2 record and had a 0.81 ERA in 76 innings of work. He also struck out 171 and walked 12. He will be an immediate contributor.
OF GARY BROWN
After losing offensive contributors Clark Hardman and John Curtis form last year's team, the Titans need immediate production from gritty Gary Brown. Brown was a 12th-round selection by Oakland in last June's MLB Draft, but chose to attend Fullerton. Known as a fire starter and the likely leadoff hitter for the Titans, Brown is a player Coach Serrano is excited about. As a high school senior last season, Brown batted .612 with four homers. He was also a HS All-American.
UTI DEREK DIETRICH
After failing to reach the postseason last year, Georgia Tech enters 2008 hoping for immediate production from freshman talent Derek Dietrich. Despite getting drafted by Houston in the third round of last year's MLB Draft, Dietrich decided to attend college. In addition to playing shortstop, Dietrich might also pitch. As a high school senior, he hit .421 with eight homers and 39 RBIs. He also had a .581 on-base percentage. Dietrich is going to be a good one sooner rather than later.
P GREG PEAVEY
Even with the return of weekend starters Jorge Reyes and Mike Stutes, the Beavers anticipate a strong campaign from Greg Peavey. The talented right-hander was a 24th-round selection by the New York Yankees in last June's MLB Draft. The Beavers expect Peavey to join Reyes and Stutes in the weekend rotation. As a senior in high school last season, the righty was regularly throwing in the low-to-mid 90s. Peavey is a pitcher to watch as OSU aims for three-straight titles.
1B HUNTER MORRIS
The Tigers finished near the bottom of the SEC last season, and hope to take a giant step forward this year. Even with the return of outfielder Mike Bianucci, the Tigers look forward to having Hunter Morris in their lineup. Morris was a second-round selection of Boston in last June's MLB Draft. Despite his draft status, Morris decided to attend college. As a senior in high school, he batted .476 with 13 homers and 44 RBIs. Morris is a great addition for an Auburn team hoping to make a statement.
C YASMANI GRANDAL
The Hurricanes enter the season with one of the nation's most experienced offenses. While veterans Yonder Alonso and Dennis Raben lead the charge, Miami also expects immediate production from freshman catcher Yasmani Grandal. Grandal was drafted in the 27th round by Boston, but chose to attend college. The switch hitter hit 13 homers and knocked in 48 runs as a high school senior last season. Look for Grandal to have success hitting around a plethora of veterans.
OF KENTRAIL DAVIS
When asked if Kentrail Davis was a good addition to the program, the Tennessee coaching staff tabbed him as a great addition. Davis turning down the Colorado Rockies was somewhat of a surprise. But with the season a few weeks away, the Volunteers have high hopes for the outfielder that is often compared to Kirby Puckett. Davis missed some of his senior season because of a car accident, but hit .444 with 12 homers and 34 RBIs as a junior. He could lead off for UT.
P BARRET LOUX
With the Aggies losing weekend starters Kyle Nicholson and David Newmann, they entered fall workouts looking for a pair of reliable arms. Freshman right-hander Barret Loux fits that mold. The talented righty was offered a lucrative contract by Detroit at the last second last summer but opted to join the Aggies. Loux could become the Aggies' front-line pitcher by conference play. As a high school senior, he posted a 0.39 ERA and struck out 70 and walked 10.
THE NEXT 10
Tommy Toledo (Florida), Christian Colon (Cal State Fullerton), Rick Hague (Rice), Kyle Blair (San Diego), Garrett Nash (Oregon State), Cameron Rupp (Texas), DJ LeMahieu (LSU), Victor Sanchez (San Diego), Evan Danieli (Notre Dame), Seth Blair (Arizona State).

Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at rogersk@yahoo-inc.com.