KINGSTON, R.I. - Seven different Rhode Island student-athletes have been recognized in D1Baseball's preseason preview of the Atlantic 10, which was released Friday afternoon. Newcomer Xavier Vargas was predicted to be the conference's Freshman of the Year, while redshirt junior Tyler Wilson, senior Jordan Powell and redshirt senior Matt Murphy all were identified among the A-10's top-10 MLB Draft prospects for 2018.
Sophomores Vitaly Jangols and Sonny Ulliana were listed among the conference's top prospects for the 2019 season, while Vargas and fellow freshman Austin White were predicted to be two of the Atlantic 10's top-10 Impact Freshmen.
The veteran trio of Wilson, Murphy and Powell will be called upon to lead Rhode Island this season, as the Rams look for their second A-10 title in three years. Wilson - a four-time Preseason All-American in 2017 - missed the majority of the his junior year with a shoulder injury. He will return to the weekend rotation looking to pick up where he left off as the A-10's Pitcher of the Year in both 2016 and 2015.
In Wilson's absence, Murphy ended his first year at URI as Rhody's Friday guy, going 5-4 with a 3.96 ERA in his first full season as a pitcher. Powell, meanwhile, turned in a team-best .352 batting average en route to earning All-Conference and All-New England accolades.
Jangols put together a freshman season similar to Wilson's in 2015 as he pitched his way into the weekend rotation and went 7-1 with two saves. His 2.23 ERA - with just 15 walks - over 60.2 innings pitched earned him respect on a national level as he was named to the Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American squad. Ulliana - whose time behind the plate was limited due to an injury - ended the season on a tear, showing promise for an even better sophomore season.
Vargas (infield) and White (outfield) are among several newcomers expected to make an immediate impact for the Rams, who will look to replace 42 of the team's 51 home runs from a year ago.
Despite losing a bulk of the offensive power from last year's 31-22 campaign, Rhode Island still was picked to finish third in D1Baseball's preseason poll. VCU was tabbed the A-10's preseason favorite, ahead of second-place Saint Louis. Rounding out the top-5 were Davidson (4th) and Saint Joseph's (5th).
VCU's Paul Witt was predicted to be the conference's Player of the Year, while Tim Brennan of Saint Joseph's was identified as the league's Preseason Pitcher of the Year.