Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE
Ending the countdown with MSU's most prized possession, the starting rotation
Would I sound crazy if I called Mississippi State's starting rotation deeper than it was in 2012 despite losing it's ace, 1st round MLB draft pick Chris Stratton?
Well, I might. I can remember not so long ago thinking State's defensive line might deeper in 2012 despite losing 1st round pick Fletcher Cox from the 2011 unit. Well, that didn't happen so much.
Hopefully baseball will be a bit different.
The Diamond Dawgs relied heavily on Stratton last season, and he delivered, going 11-2 with a 2.38 E.R.A. He was the horse in the rotation throwing 109 innings - 20 more than the guy with the second most, Kendall Graveman. Cohen depended on these two for quality starts each weekend - no other starter logged more than 45 innings (Nick Routt).
The issue in 2012 was a lot of young talent. Guys like Jacob Lindgren, Brandon Woodruff, Evan Mitchell, Will Cox and Trevor Fitts, plus the injury to Ben Bracewell who was expected to be the Friday night starter.
But now, despite losing Stratton and Routt from the starting rotation, you are replacing them with as many as five quality arms:
- Brandon Woodruff is battling some injury concerns. His elbow/shoulder (not sure which) could be a factor in how much he can do, and if he can be relied upon to be a weekend starter. He has tremendous stuff, that much we know from the excellent outings he had towards the end of last year, which he ended with a 2.38 E.R.A. in six starts. If he can stay healthy (he was throwing low-mid 90s thru 4 innings in a scrimmage on Wednesday), I don't think there's much debate - he'll be the Friday night starter.
- Jacob Lindgren is a southpaw who has great potential. We've already seen some flashes, and his role will be upped a great deal this year. Lindgren is the odds on favorite to grab one of these starting spots, perhaps the Sunday slot, but he could slip into Friday or Saturday if Woodruff can't go.
- Evan Mitchell has the ability to start, and we've seen him make 11 of them over his two years in Starkville. He has the experience (all-tournament team for the 2011 Georgia Tech Regional), and the stuff, but will he work himself into that weekend role?
- Trevor Fitts and Will Cox are both sophomores, and are most likely on the outside looking in as far as the weekend rotation. Fitts has actually never started a game at MSU, while Cox has started six as a mid-week starter. Fitts appears to have more of an inside track, but I look for both to be mid-week guys this year.
Then there's the anchor of the staff, the senior leader in Kendall Graveman. He by far has the most starts under his belt with 29, and his name is inked in as the Saturday night starter, but that may move to Friday night. Graveman has improved with each year - 6.66 (double yikes) E.R.A. in 2010, 3.65 in 2011, and 2.81 in 2012. He's a sinker-baller, and a very effective pitcher.
There's not much experience here, so it feels weird to say this is a very good team's best asset. One senior (Graveman), one junior (Mitchell), and a bunch of sophomores, plus any possible contribution from the incoming freshman. But there are some ultra-talented guys in this group. Lindgren, Woodruff and Mitchell have some excellent stuff.
Add to this group a guy like Luis Pollorena who is a veteran lefty having started 9 career games. If Ben Bracewell can gain enough strength and get past his injuries to start, you could add his talents to the rotation as well.
My expected rotation would be:
- Brandon Woodruff
- Kendall Graveman
- Jacob Lindgren
- Evan Mitchell
- Trevor Fitts
- Will Cox
- Luis Pollorena (if needed)