Mississippi State held its first scrimmage of the spring on Friday. A lot of new faces were present on both rosters, with the usual upperclassmen as well. To live up to the hype of their consensus top 20 preseason ranking, the Bulldogs will need both the youngsters and veterans to contribute.
With just three short weeks until opening day, I've picked out five Bulldogs that will make or break the 2016 season.
We know what we're getting with players like Jacob Robson. It's the pieces around him that need to step up, along with several unknowns on the pitching staff.
At 5-foot-8, 200 pounds, Marrero isn't your typical catcher. But with Gavin Collins making the move to third base, that's exactly where Marrerro will start. What the freshman from Miami, Florida lacks in size he makes up for in talent. Marrero possesses an elite arm to throw out baserunners with a pop time around 1.8. At the plate, Marrero is a Cohen favorite contact hitter who bats from both sides. Marrero chose to play with MSU instead of signing a professional contract -- he was taken by the Cincinnati Reds in the 29th round of the MLB draft. His dad Eli played in the MLB for 10 seasons.
The scouts rave more about Hudson than any player on MSU's team, largely due to his 95+ velocity and an excellent showing in the Cape Cod summer league. His preseason All-American accolades are mostly a result of his potential and not what he accomplished his first two years on campus. MSU has lacked that true SEC-ace hurler since Chris Stratton departed. And they're hoping Hudson's junior season is exactly what Stratton's was in 2012. Don't forget, Stratton struggled with consistency as a freshman and sophomore too. It's not unrealistic at all to think Hudson can make that big of a jump.
Reid Humphreys/Brent Rooker
MSU desperately needs to find some more pop with the bats after a season that produced only 22 home runs as a team. I lumped these guys together because Humphreys and Rooker are the top power hitters on the club, at least with what we already know. They didn't exactly live up to their potential last season when it came to the long ball -- Humphreys blasted five and Rooker hit two in limited at bats. One, or even better both players, need breakout years at the plate for MSU's offense to catch up with the rest of the league in the power department.
Reliable lefties Lucas Laster and Ross Mitchell are no longer in the MSU bullpen -- and with Daniel Brown and Vance Tatum still works in progress -- State could use a lefty who can come in right away and make an impact. Padgett is the man for the job, with a decent fastball that runs 90-92 and a nasty breaking ball. The coaches will start him out slow as a true freshman, but by the end of the season Padgett could become the long relief southpaw that Mitchell was throughout his career, only with more velocity. He turned down a third-round offer in the MLB draft to attend college.
Collins made a lot of noise as a freshman before a sophomore season in which he never found any consistency. Most of that can be chalked up to a hand injury at the beginning of the season. After his surgery he was never able to find a rhythm at the plate. His batting average dipped to .228 after he hit .304 as a freshman. One of the things I've noticed about Collins is the energy and passion in which he plays the game. The rest of the team feeds off of that, and it's critical that he stays healthy this year and provides a punch in the middle of the lineup.