A Look at 2014 MSU Baseball

USA TODAY Sports

"There's always next year"

First let me say that 2013 was an AWESOME year for Mississippi State! I wrote this post last year and said we ought to make it to Omaha - but I never dreamed it would be without Woodruff, Lindgren and Evan Mitchell. John Cohen did a terrific job with this team and surpassed EVERYONE'S expectations for the season. Most folks just wanted to host and win a Regional - we got the the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES - that is amazing to think about still!

I don't want to turn the lights out on the 2013 Diamond Dawgs, but it's always fun to take a sneak peak into next year to see what might be in store. This team will never be forgotten - and here's to hoping next year's team will create similar impressions on our memory.

Attrition

First we've got the seniors we know are gone: Kendall Graveman, Luis Pollorena, Sam Frost, Trey Porter, Chad Girodo, Nick Ammirati and Mitch Slauter. This is a solid group of leaders and contributors. It will definitely hurt to lose this group.

Then you've got the juniors likely to go pro: Hunter Renfroe is 99.9% gone. Adam Frazier is probably 95% gone. I'd say Evan Mitchell is 90% gone - he was drafted after hardly playing and not doing too well when he was; I can't imagine there is much scholarship money for him if he wants to return so he might as well go pro.

Maybe, maybe not: Daryl Norris was drafted in the 22nd round I presume to be a pitcher - he was the 666th pick overall so if I was him I wouldn't take it - I think he'll be back next year as a RHP to improve his stock.

Starting Pitching

Like I said in the intro - how did we make it here without Woodruff, Lindgren and Evan Mitchell? If those three would have produced like we thought - or really just Woodruff and Lindgren, we wouldn't have heard all the "MSU's crazy starters/bullpen" talk. Mitchell should be gone, but even if he's back I wouldn't rely on him unless he has a reckoning like Girodo did in summer ball.

With a healthy Woodruff and Lindgren as a junior, we have the talent to have one of the best 1-2 punches in the SEC. Will Cox and Trevor Fitts will vie for the Sunday role. I'd anticipate Myles Gentry getting a few starts, maybe as a mid-week guy.

You never know - but I wouldn't expect nearly the same set up with the starters next year. Before this season I said starting pitching was our strongest asset - but it turned out to be just the opposite after injury and poor performance. This starting rotation should be very good next year.

Bullpen

The only thing leaving the bullpen will be Chad Girodo. Of course as we all saw down the stretch run that he is a big loss.

Ross Mitchell (13-0, 1.53), Ben Bracewell (1-1, 1.76), Johnathon Holder (21 saves, 1.65), all return along with guys like John Marc Shelley and Myles Gentry. Preston Brown is a serviceable arm and we may see more of C.T. Bradford as well.

There are a bunch of arms coming in to help as well. RHP Dakota Hudson should see the field a good bit - he was drafted in the 36th round out of high school. RHP Ben Hudspeth is a juco transfer coming in, and LHP Vince Tatum is an excellent pitcher from Olive Branch.

It's hard to expect as good of results from the bullpen next year because 2013 was about as good as it can get, but next year shouldn't be too far off. I expect it to be a strength once again.

Position Players

Catcher - Obviously we lose two seniors here who were good players in Ammo and Slauter. We have a couple of jucos, one being Zach Randolph who redshirted this year. Daniel Garner was a true freshman this year who redshirted as well and is supposed to be really good. We shall see what happens here but I don't look for a significant dropoff at the plate - the biggest thing will be calling games for an excellent pitching staff.

First Base - Big Wes Rea will once again roam the area. Rea missed a most of the non-conference schedule with an injury. Had he been healthy the entire year he would have hit 10+ home runs. If he is able to play a complete year I fully expect 12-15 big flies from him in his junior season.

Second Base - There is no unseating Mr. Consistency: Brett Pirtle. He was a difference maker at the plate and with the glove in 2013. He is leaps and bounds ahead of Kyle Hann who will back him up, and probably never play, once again.

Third Base - This one is kind of up in the air. I assume Darryl Norris will stick to pitching next year and he is out of the equation, and Sam Frost has graduated. Nick Flair has a lot of talent but has been rumored to transfer. Alex Detz will be back but he isn't a great fielder and is better suited for the DH role, however, he could play third some. Incoming freshman Reid Humphries may be in a position to get a lot of playing time - he was just drafted in the 36th round.

Shortstop - Matthew Britton hardly played in 2013 after getting some PT in '12. But next year is his to take over at SS. We haven't seen what he can do over there because Adam Frazier has manned the position the entire time Britton has been on campus, but hopefully he can be a serviceable player.

Left Field - Jacob Robson got some playing time over here as a freshman, and should be poised for a big year as a sophomore. Jake Vickerson is a juco transfer with similar measurables and talents as Robson - he is a lefty too. Also we could see Demarcus Henderson here if he doesn't move to right field. Derrick Armstrong as well. Tyler Fullerton has been rumored to have transferred but I'm not so sure I buy that one. Bottom line - this position should be improved.

Center Field - C.T. Bradford has held the reins here for the last three years except for his time out with injury in 2012. He will be back and ready to have another solid year. Hopefully his hitting can improve back to the level of his freshman year in 2011.

Right Field - See LF, except this position won't be improved with the loss of a 1st team All-American. There is no one left who has the arm strength or power at the plate Renfroe had. As far as speed, there is plenty to go around among the outfielders, and lookout for what Henderson could do as a senior - he may be able to hit well over .300.

Starting Rotation

Friday - Woodruff

Saturday - Lindgren

Sunday - Cox

Tuesday - Fitts

Lineup

This is a tough one because there is so much speed and scrapiness. There are legitimately five guys who could hit leadoff on this team. But here's a guess...

vs. RHP

1. Robson/Vickerson, LF
2. Detz, DH
3. Pirtle, 2B
4. Rea, 1B
5. Bradford, CF
6. Henderson, RF
7. Britton, SS
8. Randolph/Garner, C
9. Humphries, 3B

vs. LHP

1. Armstrong, LF
2. Detz, DH
3. Pirtle, 2B
4. Rea, 1B
5. Bradford, CF
6. Henderson, RF
7. Humphries, 3B
8. Randolph/Garner, C
9. Britton, SS

Expectations

I think it would be a little silly to say anyone expects to make the championship series or win it again in 2014. What the team did this year was special, and it would take something special to happen again to repeat the feat. What they can do is have the goal of Omaha and we'll see what happens then. As far as whether or not they can get to Omaha - sure, I don't see why not.

This team will be loaded with pitching. In power hitters - not so much. Wes Rea will probably hit 80-90% of the team's home runs next year. We are going to be like UCLA was this year, only slightly better from a batting average standpoint. That's not to say our starting pitching will equal what theirs was, but the talent is definitely there.

I think hosting a Regional is something very attainable for this year. The SEC schedule won't be as tough so expect a better conference record, but maybe not as high of a RPI unless they just have a gaudy overall record. A national seed is a possibility, but I'm not going to expect it. Losing Hunter Renfroe will hurt, and there will probably be a pretty significant adjustment period early in the year as we figure out how to manufacture runs with this offense. We may be back to our 2012 bunting selves again.

It looks like the future is bright for the Diamond Dawgs. 2014 should be another fun year. Hail State!

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