continuing on with our preview of this year's Diamond Dogs from this morning, we pick up with our Q&A with Sixpackspeak baseball guru Todd4State.
Q4: Give us some names of newcomers, pitcher and position, to look for to contribute this season
Todd: I mentioned many of them previously, but I'm most excited about Brandon Woodruff. He has the talent to play in the Major Leagues one day, probably as a pitcher. He has already been selected to go to the Cape Cod League and he hasn't even played an inning yet! One player that I haven't mentioned yet is Jonathan Holder who is a right hand pitcher that I think will be very valuable out of the bullpen as his career progresses. He has a very good curveball and he can throw in the low 90's. Will Cox was one of the better freshmen pitchers in the fall. He is 6'4" and he doesn't throw 94, but he hides the ball well, and is very durable. His pitches have a lot of sink on them, so he should get a lot of ground balls. The guy is an absolute workhorse. I think he will get his velocity up as he progresses.
Jacob Lindgren is a left hand pitcher that was drafted by the Cubs in the 12th round and he can throw in the low 90's. His out pitch is a sinker, and I wouldn't be surprised if he pitches the most among the freshman pitchers because he is left handed, and that's valuable coming out of the bullpen. Trevor Fitts is going to be very good as well. Tyler Fullerton is an outfielder that we may see off the bench as a freshman as a pinch hitter and pinch runner.
Wes Rea is someone I'm looking forward to seeing play as well. He was hurt last year, but if he was healthy, I think he would have been our starting first baseman. He is almost 300 pounds, but he is very strong. He almost can't help but hit with power. I think people will be really surprised at how good he is defensively though. He moves pretty well: he was a legit SEC offensive line prospect but he loves baseball. I think we are going to let him pitch some next year once we make sure that he is 100%, so he's another dual position player for us. I talked to a scout who told me that he wanted his team to draft Rea, but they decided not to because of his injury.
Demarcus Henderson had eye surgery last year, and he should be a 100%. He is very athletic and he could play a number of positions for us. Trey Porter is a first baseman from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College by way of East Central High School, which I call Mississippi's best kept secret as far as baseball programs. He is a left handed hitter with some power. Nic Amiratti is a catcher that will be in the mix from the JUCO ranks and he was drafted by the Marlins out of high school, but Mitch Slauter, another JUCO catcher has pretty much won the job from what I understand.
Q5: State opens with 17 straight home games and 22 out of 27 games at home to begin the year. Do you feel like this was designed to help break in some young position players in the lineup this year?
It's like Tony LaRussa used to say- "you have a different team every year even though you may have a lot of the same players." Since there is no spring training in college baseball, we and everyone else in the SEC has four weeks to answer all of the questions that you are asking me. No one, even the coaches, know how everyone is going to perform until they are put out there against live competition. So, yes, part of the reason for the schedule being what it is is for evaluation of not only the position players, but to also figure out the rotation as well. And it's also designed so that a lot of players will play and get a fair shot to prove themselves.
But it's a lot deeper than that- we have to consider RPI and SOS much like a basketball team does. LSU didn't make it because they played too many home games from what I was told. But you look at our schedule and even though we have a lot of home games, we have some teams like Washington State and Kansas coming in from some strong conferences, UConn has become a very strong program, and then Memphis is from C-USA, which is a strong league as well.
The economy is part of it as well. I can't imagine that Scott Stricklin would love to pay for the baseball team to go to California for a week and then Florida for a week. The weather up north is part of it as well. As my Dad likes to say- some of those teams up north haven't even seen grass until they get to Dudy-Noble Field. I think being in the SEC and having a good baseball tradition is part of it as well. Playing a SEC team is an attractive thing to a team like Penn State, who we are playing this year, because it helps their RPI and SOS win or lose and their players don't get a chance to play at a baseball field as nice as Dudy-Noble Field a whole lot in the Big 10, and they probably want to know about the cowbells and the Left Field Lounge and everything else that makes MSU baseball what it is. Plus, if they're going to pick off a SEC team, it's more likely that will happen early in the year when we are trying to figure things out, so that evens the playing field out sometimes.
Also, Cohen and Stricklin understand that we have good fans, and they want to give them an opportunity to watch MSU play baseball.
Q6: What are your predictions on how this season can/will go for State?
I am the World's worst at making predictions, just a disclaimer. And as they say, in baseball anything can happen. I think we will actually start of pretty well offensively. The reason I say that is because even though we lack experience- that also means that our first opponents have no scouting report on our guys either. And that's probably to our advantage. Then the hitting will probably cool off, but I think they will come back later in the year and improve and make adjustments.
We should be good pitching wise as you said, and we should be pretty good defensively, and that will win us our share of games. I really think we can have a season like last year as far as wins- somewhere between 34-36 wins, and I think finishing third in the SEC West is likely given the other teams in the SEC. At a minimum, we should go to a regional, and I would like to see us host a regional. If we get hot at the right time and get a good draw in the postseason, I could definitely see us going to Omaha. Especially if we have some hitters really step up. All in all, I think we will be a pretty good team. I think the key for us as far as winning a National Championship one day is to host Super Regionals and go to Omaha consistently.
Our preview of this year's squad will wrap up with Part 3 of 3 tomorrow morning #HailState