With the regular season quickly approaching two of the top priorities for Mississippi State is finding a starting catcher after Gavin Collins changed positions and also a first baseman to replace Wes Rea.
There's a long way to go but two newcomers are showing promise to fill those voids.
Junior college transfer Nathaniel Lowe and true freshman Elih Marrero received player of the week honors after MSU held its first three scrimmages of the spring last weekend.
Lowe is a couple of inches shorter than Rea so we'll have to see what kind of range he has at first base. Where I think he'll be an upgrade over Rea is with the bat. Lowe belted 17 home runs and hit .372 last season on the way to receiving NJCAA First Team All-American honors and being drafted in the 10th round of the MLB Draft. He was named the Florida Junior College Player of the Year.
In last weekend's scrimmages, the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder went 5-for-7 at the plate with 4 RBI's.
Lowe bats from the left side and either way Cohen decides to go MSU will have a power-hitting lefty at first base. Big redshirt freshman Cole Gordon can hit the long ball as well. However, I think Lowe ends up winning that job.
If he can be half the power hitter he was in JUCO that's a great sign for how this season will play out. State has lacked power far too many seasons under Cohen and that's usually been their downfall. Lowe is a guy that Cohen can't afford not to play if he keeps slugging at this rate. Assuming Reid Humphreys and Brent Rooker live up to their potential, and Gavin Collins is healthy, I expect to see a lot more extra base hits out of this team even if the long ball is lacking.
As far as Marrero goes he's not going to bring a lot of power with the bat. He's a solid contact hitter but his strength is his defense. Marrero owned one of the better pop times to second base out of all the catchers in the 2015 class. He's not a lock to win the starting spot but he's certainly the favorite at this point. I talked about him being one of the key players to MSU's season in an article last week.
That's another element this team has lacked under Cohen -- an elite arm behind the plate that consistently throws out runners. Marrero has the potential to be that player from day one. Anything they get out of him offensively is just icing on the cake at that point.
Perhaps the biggest impact last year's class will have this season is on the mound. Of MSU's 20 signees, 12 were pitchers. They will be relied on heavily after losing Trevor Fitts, Lucas Laster, Ross Mitchell, and Preston Brown. Their replacements -- who were an integral part of MSU landing the nation's No. 3 recruiting class -- are also making noise in spring scrimmages.
I'll get into specifics more with those guys leading up to the season and break down who I think will pitch major innings.
Right now I don't think any of the freshman pitchers will win a starting spot, at least early on. That's in good hands with Dakota Hudson, Zac Houston, and Austin Sexton (BTW, I read where Houston hit 97 on the gun multiple times during Wednesday's scrimmage). But the fact that all three are right-handers does open up the door for one of the talented lefties like Kale Breaux, Jared Padgett, or Konnor Pilkington to jump into the rotation if one of the older players starts to slack.