USC: Austin Wood

Baseball: Trojans lose top two signees

August, 16, 2011
8/16/11
6:41
AM PT
USC 2011 signees Tustin (Calif.) third baseman Travis Harrison and Edison (Calif.) shortstop Christian Lopes each signed with the MLB organizations that selected them in June's draft just minutes before Monday's midnight ET deadline, leaving the Trojans without their top two prospects for this year's class.

Harrison, a supplemental first round selection of the Minnesota Twins, signed for a reported $1.1 million. Lopes, who was thought to have potential to turn down an MLB team and go to USC, signed with the Toronto Blue Jay, who took him in the seventh round, for a reported $800,000.

The Trojans' five other signees who were picked in June -- Palm Desert (Calif.) outfielder Ryan Garvey, Gilbert (Ariz.) left-hander Stephen Tarpley, Villa Park (Calif.) right-hander Wyatt Strahan, Junipero Serra (Calif.) third baseman Trent Boras and St. John Bosco (Calif.) shortstop Dante Flores -- all turned down MLB teams and will enroll in classes at USC beginning next Monday.

There were also three players from last year's team that were selected in the draft and had not yet signed as of Monday, deadline day: first baseman Ricky Oropesa and right-handers Austin Wood and Andrew Triggs. Oropesa signed with the San Francisco Giants for a reported $550,000 bonus; he was selected in the 3rd round by the Giants after entering the 2011 season as a projected first-rounder.

Triggs, also drafted by the Giants in the 21st round, chose not to sign with the team that drafted him for the second straight year. He had been selected in the 24th round by the Cleveland Indians in 2010 but returned to school for his redshirt junior season in 2011. Wood, a junior transfer from St. Petersburg College in Florida, signed with the Los Angeles Angels for a reported $180,000, a giant drop-off from the figure he rejected from the Tampa Bay Rays a year ago.

Four other 2011 draftees who played for the Trojans last season have signed with their MLB teams over the last two months and begun their minor-league careers: infielders Joe De Pinto (White Sox) and Shane Boras (Athletics) and right-handers Logan Odom (Angels) and Chad Smith (Tigers).

Baseball: Trojans take two in unusual way

February, 19, 2011
2/19/11
8:04
PM PT
Now that doesn't happen every day.

After beating Missouri 9-3 in the first game of a doubleheader at 10 a.m., the Trojans were leading Cal Poly San Luis Obispo 5-2 after five innings when the rain started to come down.

A delay ensued. The teams later resumed play in the top of the sixth, with USC switching pitchers and the Mustangs torching three Trojans relievers to the tune of six runs for an 8-5 lead after 5 1/2 innings. Then the rain started again, and another a delay ensued.

Only this time the field was too soaked to start up play again, and the umpires were forced to call the game. Under NCAA rules, a called game due to weather conditions must revert back to the last completed inning, so the game was officially called after five innings and the Trojans were awarded the 5-2 win.

Like we said, that doesn't happen every day. But interim head coach Frank Cruz and his USC squad will gladly take the pair of wins and return to Dedeaux Field on Sunday at 2 p.m. to face North Carolina in the concluding game of the USC Tournament.

The Trojans had originally been scheduled to play Missouri on Friday at 6 p.m., but that game was postponed until Saturday morning because of rain.

(Read full post)

Baseball: 2011 season preview

February, 16, 2011
2/16/11
7:42
PM PT

Courtesy USC Athletics
USC's top hitter, junior infielder Ricky Oropesa, hit .353 with 20 homers and 67 RBIs last season, but those numbers will be hard to surpass in 2011 with college baseball's new wood-like bats.

These Trojans are top-heavy.

It's Ricky Oropesa, Austin Wood, Andrew Triggs and everybody else this year for USC baseball, and interim head coach Frank Cruz doesn't seem too worried about it.

Oropesa (.353, 20 HR, 67 RBIs in 2010) is a big-bopping lefty, the newcomer Wood a hard-throwing righty and Triggs (2-7, 3.95 ERA) a smart sinker-baller. Together, the three Trojans are three of Baseball America's Top 100 college prospects. Together, they represent the hope for this year's USC baseball squad.

Oropesa, a junior, will start the season hitting third in the lineup and manning the hot corner for USC. Triggs will be the Friday night starter and Wood will start on Saturdays.

Behind the top trio, the lineup assembles this way: left fielder Matt Hart (.267, 0 HR, 12 RBIs) will likely lead off against right-handers, with right fielder Alex Glenn (.193, 2 HR, 12 RBIs) taking the top stop against lefties. Freshman James Roberts will start at shortstop and could hit second. With Oropesa essentially entrenched in the third spot, Matt Foat (.275, 5 HR, 33 RBIs) will play first and hit fourth, Alex Sherrod (.315, 6 HR, 28 RBIs) will play center field and hit fifth and second baseman Joe De Pinto (.286, 2 HR, 23 RBIs) will hit sixth. The bottom third of the lineup will be filled out by catcher Kevin Roundtree (.288, 1 HR, 23 RBIs), the designated hitter -- oftentimes senior Mike Greco (.133 in 15 at-bats) or junior Brandon Garcia (.182 in 22 at-bats), Cruz said -- and whichever corner outfielder doesn't lead off.

The coach also said he expected junior Garret Houts (.288, 3 HR, 9 RBIs) to play some left field, likely against lefties, and smooth-fielding sophomore Adam Landecker (.265, 1 HR, 15 RBIs) to be the utility infielder.

There are some inherent problems with that lineup. First, Hart and Glenn recorded the two-worst on-base percentages of any Trojan with more than 40 at-bats last season and will be leading off; Foat and Sherrod combined to hit only 11 homers, numbers you expect out of one four or five hitter in the Pac-10, not both; USC also doesn't have anything close to a true DH, as the two primary candidates at the spot combined to total six hits last season.

And there's still no protection for Oropesa. But Cruz reasons that the rest of college baseball will also be struggling to produce power this season and USC's lack of pop thus won't be as noticeable as in past years.

(Read full post)

Baseball: Trojans keep one signee, lose one

August, 16, 2010
8/16/10
11:08
PM PT
In one week on the job, interim USC baseball coach Frank Cruz has already done what former coach Chad Kreuter often failed to do in four years: get top signees to forgo professional contracts and enroll in school.

Cruz, a volunteer assistant for the Trojans for the last two years, lost one big signee early Monday. But as the 9 p.m. PST deadline neared, Cruz secured the comitment of a top prospect Monday and got another highly-regarded player to return to school.

Junior-college right-hander Austin Wood, a fourth-round selection of the Tampa Bay Rays, did not sign with the organization. He will fly to Los Angeles on Wednesday and begin attending classes on Monday. Redshirt junior Andrew Triggs, who was selected in the 24th round by the Cleveland Indians, also did not sign and will return to school on Wednesday -- where he has two years of eligibility left.

Cruz called Triggs a "hidden gem." Combined with Wood, the two could make for a fairly formidable Friday and Saturday night duo come the start of the season in February.

"We’re not happy about it, we’re elated about it," Cruz said by phone late Monday night, just after the 9 p.m. PST deadline passed. "That’s something the program’s been working on for a long time, getting these kind of high-profile guys to come to school.

"We did it today."

Wood, a hard-throwing 6-foot-4, 220-pounder, was the the surprise of the Cape Cod Baseball League this summer, posting a 0.74 ERA in 36 1/3 innings. Late Monday, the Rays offered him a contract at well-above the major-league recommended level for his selection, only to have the pitcher counter-offer for a significantly higher figure, according to Cruz.

Talks broke off at that point late Monday.

Outfielder Joc Pederson, profiled here, agreed to a deal worth $600,000 earlier in the day with the Dodgers. He had told teams he would require $1 million to forgo his college career at USC, but he seemed to become less enthused about the possibility of going to school when Kreuter was fired last week. Pederson said then that it was "frustrating" to find out about the coaching switch.

"I think he made the best decision for himself," Cruz said. "The Dodgers did a great job getting him to sign."

In four years as the head coach, Kreuter signed perhaps more top prospects than any other coach in the nation, but those players frequently ended up signing with professional teams and never coming to school -- like Mike Moustakas, of the Royals' organization, and Tim Beckham, a Rays' minor-leaguer.

The retention of Wood makes for a fairly big step, although Kreuter had been counting on Pederson to step right into the center field for the Trojans and hit in the top third of the order.

The other four USC signees who were selected -- including Puerto Rican outfielder Omar Cotto-Lozada, a 12th-round selection of the Toronto Blue Jays -- are expected to begin attending classes Monday.

Notes on Chad Kreuter's firing

August, 9, 2010
8/09/10
7:49
PM PT
Today's firing of Chad Kreuter by new USC athletic director Pat Haden means a great deal for the future of the Trojans' baseball program. Let's dissect it a bit:
  • For one, it quickly proves that Haden's emphasis on baseball that was present in his letter to the Trojan Family was not just for show. He immediately set out to change what he was not happy with.
  • Second, it means that this year's recruiting class will likely suffer. A number of Trojan signees were drafted in June's MLB draft -- they have until next Monday, Aug. 16, to decide whether to sign with the organizations that drafted them or enroll at USC for the fall semester. Even though the season doesn't start until February, it's essentially the same situation as firing a football or basketball coach at this time of the year, because all recruits have to start school two weeks from today. "It's frustrating," outfielder Joc Pederson said Monday evening. "Coach Kreuter was a great guy and I was really looking forward to playing for him. He has so much baseball knowledge -- he could have taught me a lot." Pederson, an 11th-round selection of the Los Angeles Dodgers, was often touted by Kreuter as an immediate starter in the Trojans' outfield. He said all he received from Kreuter was a text message earlier today saying he had been let go. The other prize prospect of the 2010 class -- right-hander Austin Wood, a fourth-round selection of the Tampa Bay Rays -- lit up the Cape Cod Baseball League over the summer to the tune of a sub-1.00 ERA. It will be tough to lure in a player of his magnitude with no guarantee of who will be coaching him past this season.
  • Despite Kreuter's public persona as a bit of a fiery character, he tended to take on a calm tone with his team, often leaving the flair and dramatics to assistant Frank Cruz over the last two years. With Cruz now the interim coach, Haden has essentially chosen a risk-reward type to be his next coach -- albeit while not making any sort of long-term commitment to him. But Cruz, who spent 12 seasons as the head man at Loyola Marymount, hasn't had much success either. His career winning percentage checks in at .480; Kreuter's was .487 with the Trojans.
  • And, lastly, it has a sizable effect on the Trojans' cleanup hitter for much of last season. That hitter? 19-year-old Cade Kreuter, a sophomore-to-be. The younger Kreuter hit .283 with eight homers and 24 RBI in 2009. He underwent shoulder surgery this offseason to fix a torn labrum that forced him to play designated hitter throughout the season. It will be interesting to see if he stays at USC.

One-on-one with Joc Pederson

August, 2, 2010
8/02/10
5:01
PM PT
Outfielder Joc Pederson, an 11th-round selection of the Los Angeles Dodgers, has a big decision to make.

Pederson, who signed a letter of intent to attend USC in the fall and play baseball there next spring, must decide whether to attend college for at least the next three years and postpone a professional career -- or sign for a hefty amount of money (think high six figures) and immediately head to the not-so-glamorous life of rookie ball, beginning his trek up to the majors.

And he has to decide in the next two weeks. The deadline for draft selections to sign with the teams that drafted them is at 9 p.m. PST on Aug. 16.

In the meantime, Pederson is finishing up a summer spent in Hawaii, playing for the Waimea Waves of the Hawaii Collegiate Baseball League and leading his team in on-base percentage and hits. The Waves (playoff run will end by Thursday, after which Pederson will head home to Palo Alto, Calif., bunker down and make his decision.


Here's a recent phone interview with the highly-touted outfielder, who USC baseball coach Chad Kreuter calls "an impact player in the Pac-10 immediately:"

Pedro Moura: So, to sum it up, what’s this whole decision-making process like? How are you deciding when you’re away from your parents for the summer and all?

Joc Pederson: Well, we talked about it before I came out, a lot before the draft even happened, and we made up a number that we thought was enough – like life-changing money, you know – and if they gave us the number then I was gonna sign and if they didn’t give us the number then I was just gonna go to USC. Either they were gonna give me the money or they weren’t.

PM: Is it nerve-wracking at all, to know that in a couple weeks you’re going to have to make a decision that will determine a lot of your future in baseball?

JP: I’m not really nervous. I’m excited for both things. If I go to pro ball I’d be really happy but if I go to USC I’d still be really excited to go to college.

PM: Have you gone back and forth at all? Are there some days when you wake up and say ‘I’m going to college,’ and some days you say, ‘I’m taking the money?’

JP: Yeah, definitely. Some days I think, ‘OK, I want to go meet a lot of new people and hang out and have a good time, but then some days it’s like ‘I don’t want to go through all the homework and write essays and I just want to play baseball every day. They both have their pros and cons.

PM: What about your parents’ stances on the topic? Obviously your dad, Stu Pederson, who went to USC and went on the majors for a season, is qualified to advise you on this.

JC: My dad is more pro ball, my mom is more college. And yeah, he wants me to do what makes me happy. He says that either way it’s going to be a grind. At SC, you’re gonna be there late, training and hating stuff in the fall, before the season starts. But he says that, yeah, pro ball is hard, but if your dream is to play in the major leagues then percentages say that the majority of position players in the major leagues signed out of high school.

PM: Does the fact that the USC baseball program – historically one of the top programs in the nation – has struggled in recent years under Chad Kreuter play any role in your decision?

JP: A little bit. But I really like Coach Kreuter and the style that he coaches. One of the reasons that I like it there is it’s more about pro ball. Coach Kreuter was in the majors for so long and he knows exactly how it is. It’s hard making the decision because I want to go play for this coach but I also know that if we don’t win this next year that he could be gone.

PM: Quick question -- is there a thought that the baseball system is a lot harder for the players than other sports, making them choose between going straight to the pros or spending three years in college?

JP: Yeah, if it was like college basketball where you could go for one year and then sign, it’d make the decisions a lot easier.

PM: Now, some expected Kreuter to lose his job after USC finished under .500 in 2010, but he was kept on and has since said he has very high expectations for the 2011 squad. Have you talked to Kreuter about whether he feels he has long-term security in his job?

JP: I called him and I talked to him and he said that he had a meeting with the athletic director like a day before I called and he didn’t say anything about it, but then they just got a new athletic director. That could also be good because I don’t think a new athletic director (Pat Haden) is going to come in firing people.

PM: So, how’s Hawaii? What’s it like? Do you feel like you're getting better?


JP: I like it a lot here. It’s relaxing, and I’m not around the people at home that ask me for updates like every day. It’s nice to be out here, and it’s also nice because I’m playing on my own and I have to make my own adjustments. Usually my dad’s at the games and he tells me but now I have to remember what he used to tell me and make my own adjustments.

PM: Going back to USC quickly – what do you think are some realistic expectations for the baseball team next year? Assuming everything goes right, could the Trojans make the postseason? Is Omaha a possibility?

JP: Yeah, I think so. I mean, they talk about this Austin Wood guy like he’s the real deal, so if I go to school, I hope he goes to school. It’d be exciting. And if Andrew Triggs comes back, that’s basically two Friday-quality guys on Friday and Saturday, giving you a great chance to win series.

PM: Kreuter, in the last couple of years, has signed guys like Tim Beckham, Mike Moustakas -- quite a few big-time players, eventual first- or second-rounders, that would’ve had a big impact on the squad had they come to school. Was that something he alluded to when he was recruiting you? Do you feel like the USC coaching staff understands that a certain amount of money may be too much to pass up for some people?

JP: Yeah, they asked me what it would take me to sign before I signed with ‘SC. They don’t want you to sign for less than your number. They said that if they pay your number, we’re happy for you, but if you sign for something less, then that’s messed up.

Ex-Trojans finding early success in minors, recruits staying unsigned

July, 2, 2010
7/02/10
5:45
PM PT
It has been three-plus weeks since the 2010 MLB draft.

In other words, it's time for a checkup on the state of the USC baseball program. Four 2010 Trojans were selected in the June draft — right-hander Andrew Triggs (24th round, Cleveland Indians), outfielder Mike O'Neill (31st round, St. Louis Cardinals), right-hander Kevin Couture (32nd round, San Francisco Giants) and first baseman Beau Brett (35th round, Los Angeles Dodgers).

Three have signed.

O'Neill agreed less than a week after the draft with the Cardinals and reported to the Class-A Batavia Muckdogs, where he's hitting .333 with three RBIs, a double and a triple in 21 at-bats. Couture signed June 17 and has found success as a reliever with the Class-A Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, throwing 4 2/3 scoreless innings and earning a win.

Brett, draftable as a 21-year-old sophomore, signed with the Dodgers on June 21 and is hitting .158 in 19 at-bats for the Arizona League Dodgers, a rookie-level team.

Triggs has yet to sign. Nursing a sore throwing shoulder, he said before the draft he planned to wait to sign until later in the process.

Meanwhile, shortstop Angelo Gumbs (Torrance, Calif./Torrance), a Trojans signee, remains unsigned as a second-round selection of the New York Yankees. A fourth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays and fellow USC signee, junior college right-hander Austin Wood (Niceville, Fla./St. Petersburg College), also remains unsigned.

In fact, except for outfielder Frankie Christian (Upland, Calif./Upland) all eight Trojans recruits are currently unsigned.

Christian, a 19th-round selection, signed the week after the draft with the Mariners and is playing rookie ball in the Arizona Legaue, but 11th-rounder Joc Pederson (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto) and the Dodgers have yet to agree on a contract. Pederson is spending the summer playing in the Hawaii Collegiate Baseball League, hitting .303 with no homers and four RBIs in 33 at-bats for the Waimea Waves.

Outfielder Omar Cotto (Puerto Rico/Bonneville School), catcher Jake Hernandez (Los Osos, Calif./Los Osos), left-hander Kyle Richter (Santa Margarita, Calif./Santa Margarita) and shortstop James Roberts (San Francisco/Archbishop Mitty) all remain unsigned.

The deadline for players to sign is still a long way away — roughly six weeks from now, on Aug. 16, coinciding almost directly with the start of USC's fall semester.

Former USC shortstop Grant Green agreed to a deal with the Oakland Athletics "30 seconds" before the deadline a year ago, he said.

Triggs goes in 24th round, USC commits taken early and often

June, 8, 2010
6/08/10
10:16
PM PT
Last week, USC right-hander Andrew Triggs said he expected to go anywhere from the fourth to the 40th round in this week's MLB draft.

It turns out he was right.

The redshirt sophomore was selected in the 24th round (720th overall) on Tuesday by the Cleveland Indians, becoming the first Trojan player to be chosen in the 2010 draft.

Triggs, who entered the season ranked as the No. 38 overall draftable prospect by Baseball America, suffered a shoulder injury in April that prevented him from finishing out the season as the Trojans' No. 1 starter. After undergoing Tommy John Surgery during his senior year of high school, Triggs sat out his first year at USC but developed into a bona fide weekend starter during his redshirt freshman season.

Triggs said last week that he would take all of MLB's allotted time — until mid-August — to attempt to prove to whichever team drafted him that he was healthy and worthy of a hefty signing bonus. If he and his family deem the the eventual offer not up to par, Triggs said he has no qualms with returning to school for his redshirt junior season — after which he would still retain the all-important negotiating aspect of leverage to return to school.

While Triggs was USC's only selection through two days of the draft, six high school prospects who have committed to and/or signed with the Trojans were chosen on the draft's second day.

The highest of those was shortstop/outfielder Angelo Gumbs (Torrance, Calif/Torrance), a second-round choice of the New York Yankees. Right-hander Austin Wood (Niceville, Fla./St. Petersburg College) was taken in the fourth round by the Tampa Bay Rays, outfielder Joc Pederson (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto) was taken in the 11th by the Dodgers and center fielder Omar Cotto (Puerto Rico/Bonneville School) went to the Toronto Blue Jays in the 12th.

Outfielder Frankie Christian (Upland, Calif./Upland) and catcher Jake Hernandez (Los Osos, Calif./Los Osos) wrapped up the selections, taken by the Seattle Mariners and Detroit Tigers, respectively.

Each of those players now face the choice to either sign with a major-league organization and receive a signing bonus or head to USC, where — excluding the possibility of a transfer — they will not be eligible to be drafted until the 2013 draft.

As for 2010 Trojans, remaining possibilities include center fielder Mike O'Neill, catcher Keith Castillo, right-hander Kevin Couture and infielder Joe De Pinto, with only De Pinto possessing the opportunity to return to school next year. Rounds 31-50 of the draft will happen Wednesday.

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