With construction of the greatest college baseball park to ever be assembled still ongoing, fall ball for the Diamond Dawgs has been a little different this year with majority of the scrimmages taking place in the Palmeiro Center with no outfielders. Coach Cannizaro found a fun and unique way to combat this by bringing the Diamond Dawgs to Jackson, MS for a weekend and played a scrimmage series at the historic Smith-Wills Stadium. Based on the games and reports, here are my thoughts and hopes:
- Water is wet, the sky is blue, and Jake Mangum will probably hit .450 this year. For those social media warriors, it has been a running trend that Cannizaro will tweet out that Mangum has led off yet another scrimmage with a hit. Let me know when any of this surprises you.
- The belief is Luke Alexander and Hunter Stovall are competing for the vacant SS position with the “loser” sliding over to 2nd base. I have happy with either of these options as they were both very solid defensively last year and we can hope/expect them to make strides this year at the plate, especially Alexander with his HR pop. Well need to make up for the 145 HRs (or something around that number) Rooker sent into orbit last year.
- Elijah MacNamee is playing a lot of 1st base in these scrimmages. I imagine this is due to none of the other 1B prospects stepping up as of yet and Cannizaro wanting to get as many good bats in the lineup as possible. It seems our depth is in the OF this year so sliding MacNamee to 1st opens up a spot in a corner position for a up and coming freshman to get some reps.
- I am going to go out on a limb and say that I think Dustin Skelton has a big year for us in 2018. He should be the starter going into the spring and has a good build to be a power alley catcher in this line up. JUCO transfer Marshall Gilbert might give him a good push and will obviously catch a good bit to keep everyone rested but I expect Skelton to be the weekend catcher come SEC play. Gilbert is supposed to be a great hitter though so perhaps he could settle into the DH position on his off days.
- 3rd base seems to be the position Cannizaro is considering letting a freshman hold down this year as Justin Foscue and Jordan Westburg have played there throughout the fall. They both have great frames for a projected 3rd baseman with plenty of power and solid arms to get the ball across the diamond.
- While last year it seemed to be a thin position for us, I expect our pitching staff to carry us this year. We will have an inexperienced line up of hitters and will need good pitching to pick up the slack, we have that this year….I think.
- Just this past weekend we had 10 (7 righties and 3 lefties) pitchers throwing 90+mph. GAS. This should not be surprising when you imagine how strong one might get working out with the strongest coach in the land in Cannizaro.
- FINALLY WE GET SOME OF THOSE INJURED PITCHERS BACK. Ethan Small and Noah Hughes are already back to throwing 90+mph after Tommy John Surgery which is a great sign as they continue to shake off the rust. Blake Smith, Keegan James, and John Mason are all supposed to be on track to be pitching hopefully by the end of the fall and be contributors in the spring. LETS GO.
- It would appear that we have 2 of our weekend starter roles penciled in with Pilkington and JP France, the Tulane grad transfer who brings a ton of experience and leadership to this young squad. I look forward to seeing the other spots such as closer and 3rd weekend starter play out. My way too early prediction/hope is Riley Self back as the closer and Graham Ashcraft (flamethrower) as the Sunday guy but if someone is better I will not object.
Fall ball is just a taste of what is to come in the spring. Based on last year’s results and early fall reports, I think it is safe to say clear your June the Dawgs are heading to Omaha…..maybe.