Earlier this week, the Big Ten Conference announced their preseason baseball coaches poll and the Fighting Illini have been picked to finish fifth. Illinois, the reigning Big Ten champions, won a program record 50 games last season while reaching their first-ever NCAA Super Regional.
Big Ten Preseason Coaches Poll (Top 6 Teams)
- Michigan State
The Big Ten also announced their 'Players to Watch' list, and it features three members of the Fighting Illini: Jason Goldstein, Adam Walton, and Cody Sedlock.
Goldstein was named First Team All-Big Ten a year ago after hitting .286 with 8 HR and 47 RBI. The senior catcher decided to return to school despite being selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 17th round of the MLB Draft last June. Baseball America recently tabbed Goldstein as the Big Ten's best defensive catcher in their 2016 preview.
Walton, a 20th round pick of the Baltimore Orioles, returns after starting every game at shortstop as a sophomore. Like Goldstein, Walton was named a First Team All-Big Ten selection last year after hitting .289 with 3 HR and 31 RBI.
Sedlock went 4-0 with a 4.02 ERA in sophomore in 2015; he's expected to be Illinois' ace this season. Per Baseball America, Sedlock is the No. 3 overall prospect in the conference.
The Fighting Illini will begin their 2016 campaign in Florida next week with two separate three-game series against No. 19 Tulane and Florida Golf Cost. That makes sense because, well, we're still freezing our asses off in Champaign. Your first chance to see the Orange and Blue play at Illinois Field will be the Penn State series from March 25-27.