A Look at 2013 MSU Baseball

With all the momentum of a SEC Tournament Championship the Tallahassee Regional ended a little sooner than we had hoped, but it was a good season. And Ole Miss choked away a chance at a Super Regional so that's good. Moving on to what we can expect next year, here's a quick look at what's coming back (basically the whole team except Brent Browlee, Nick Routt, Caleb Reed and Chris Stratton).

(I'm assuming Chris Stratton, and only Chris Stratton goes pro after his junior season).

Pitching

Caleb Reed and Chris Stratton (how many times am I going to say Chris Stratton?) would ordinarily be two really tough guys to replace. But, State has so many hurlers it may not phase them. Reed was the closer, but Johnathon Holder has already taken over that role...so he comes into his sophomore year not only with a spectacular 0.32 ERA his freshman year, but 9 saves to his credit. First thought on filling Stratton's shoes would be Kendall Graveman, but that may not be the case. Brandon Woodruff is coming on strong after a true freshman season with an ERA of 2.38 and a strong performance in the SEC Tournament.

Other options for weekend starters will be Jacob Lindgren, Evan Mitchell, Luis Pollorena and Ben Bracewell. I would say they'd be in that order. I expect Ben Bracewell to take over Caleb Reed's set up role, and Pollorena to do more of the same: pinch run, defensive replacement, spot starts, long relief, etc. Jacob Lindgren and Evan Mitchell have a lot of talent, and it may come down to those two for the Sunday spot each week.

In the bullpen, you've got to feel good about Ross Mitchell and the aforementioned Holder, Bracewell and Pollorena. Chad Girodo will be back and they may be joined by Daryl Norris who is expected to make a transition to concentrate on pitching.

Hitting

The top 13 hitters from 2012 return next year, so that obviously includes Adam Frazier (.371). With that said, it's only natural to assume they will improve with more experience and time devoted to their craft. Daryl Norris was second on the team at .273, and he may have less of an offensive presence and play more out of the DH spot (perhaps a platoon with Trey Porter). At 3rd base, Nick Flair (who redshirted this year), is expected to take over and be an offensive threat.

Wes Rea and Mitch Slauter are solid at 1st base and catcher, hopefully they will improve with the bats in '13 - especially Rea. Frazier is clearly the man at shortstop, and C.T. Bradford will be back in center field (surgery on labrum in right shoulder - should be 100% by Oct./Nov.). Hunter Renfroe should move back over to right field, and hopefully his hitting will continue to improve.

The biggest position battles will most likely be 2nd base and left field. At 2nd, Sam Frost returns as a senior, Matthew Britton as a sophomore, and Alex Detz comes in as a Juco transfer (and I imagine Detz/Britton could challenge Flair/Norris at 3rd base as well). In LF, DeMarcus Henderson returns; there is also a recruit coming in named Jacob Robson (Canadian) who could challenge him, and Tyler Fullerton will be looking for playing time as well.

Defense

Just don't make errors, right? It's good to have Slauter back behind the plate again as he is very familiar with a pitching staff that posted a 2.58 team ERA - keeping things the same is a good thing.

Having Renfroe and Bradford's arms in the outfield is a huge plus. Wes Rea can pick it a 1st, Frazier led the SEC in assists by a long shot and of course State led the nation with 71 double plays. As long as Frost doesn't find his way to 3rd base again we should be fine.

Overall

I don't think I'd be crazy to say 2013 should be our year. Despite losing the SEC Pitcher of the Year, Butch Thompson still has plenty of weapons (and let's hope Thompson is still wearing a maroon jersey next year). Considering Brownlee was the only returning player who had more than 100 ABs in 2011 (he only had 98 in '12), it's no surprise the team struggled offensively as it was pretty much everyone's first year in the SEC...so you've got to figure they improve.

I'm looking for BIG things in '13...as in a Regional host at the minimum. State should be in contention for a SEC West title all year, and a national seed in the NCAA Tournament. It's time to get back to Omaha, and next year is when that should happen.

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