Saturday, January 24, 2015

Why I am so excited for the 2015 season? And recruiting is the key.

We will look back upon the 2015 season, I predict, and really show appreciation for what John Cohen has built. He went out and recruited specific players to help this team win.

Returning infield starters: we return the starting catcher (Gavin Collins) who is all conference material, we return the starting first baseman (Wes Rea) who was the starter the past 3 years, we return the starting short stop (Seth Heck) who made only 4 errors last year and we return the starting third baseman (Matthew Britton) who found a home at third and excelled defensively for most of the 2014 season. That is 4 of the 5 infielders we have returning starters. Cohen recruited a JC player to fill the spot at second base after Bret Pirtle graduated. The JC player (John Holland) started a few games his freshman season at Florida State (College World Series participant that year), then transferred to a junior college and played two years. Holland's last year he was Player of the Year for his conference! What a pickup!

Infield backups: we return a former JC player (Cody Walker) and recruited another JC player (Josh Lovelady) to compete for the backup catchers role (believe me, the catcher needs a backup), we recruited another JC player for first base (Trent Waddell) along with a very talented freshman (Cole Gordon) to bolster that position, at second base we have another JC transfer (Matt Spruill) and ultra talented freshman (Ryan Gridley), short stop Holland can slide over or Gridley can play it, then third base we have yet another JC transfer (Luke Reynolds) who bats left and has wowed with his glove diving for balls.

We have 4 of 5 starters that returned, the 5th is a talented JC player. The backups are also mostly JC players who bring the experience factor.

The outfield is wired differently. We have 3 returnees that have started some over the past two years (Jake Vickerson, Jacob Robson and Cody Brown) then in order to get his huge bat in the lineup ultra talented (Reid Humphreys) was moved to LF from the infield. Two other very talented prospects redshirted last year (Brent Rooker and Joey Swinarski). Then we recruited a super fast recruit JC transfer (Michael Smith) that has had such an impact, he must start somewhere. These three positions is the mix and match portion of the lineup. But as of this writing, I would have to go with Humphreys in LF, Robson in CF and Smith in RF.

The OF does not have any first year college players. That experience is so important.

Pitching

The two starting pitchers that are leading the way right now are Lucas Laster and Preston Brown. Both started several games last year. Both have shown the ability to shut the other team down. We have over 15 pitchers on the staff. If we get these two starters to average 6 innings per start we will have a great year. The trickle down effect is the bullpen will be rested and the inexperienced guys will have time to develop. The biggest recruit to the pitching staff is freshman sensation (Jesse McCord) who has impressed our hitters to the point that they give him all kinds of nicknames. He is an impact pitcher. I could go into great detail about the pitchers but I will do that later.

To recap: the defense will be outstanding, the infield and outfield have tons of experience, the hitting is there. I think most people will be surprised at how good we will be.

My lineup as of today:

1  Michael Smith  RF
2  John Holland  2B
3  Gavin Collins  C
4  Reid Humphreys  LF
5  Wes Rea  1B
6  Seth Heck  SS
7  Luke Reynolds  DH
8  Matthew Britton  3B
9  Jacob Robson  CF


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

2015 Season: Intangibles

The middle of the field defense is outstanding. Catcher, shortstop, second baseman and center fielders are all great defenders. We have vast experience at 1B and 3B.

We have as much depth as anyone in the country. Barring major injury, this will be a major positive as the season progresses.

We have some quality pre-SEC opponents who won't drag us down RPI wise when it comes to picking regional hosts.

The toughest SEC opponents are at home. LSU, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina. That is a huge advantage.

We have quality hitters coming off the bench. When we need a big hit, we have the talent now to get it done. Pinch hitting won't be a problem this year.

Losing the first game of 2014 set the tone. We were unsettled. We lost too many non-conference games. Plus we were not settled at catcher or shortstop, two key positions. This year we are settled at those two and by what I have read, the players mean business this year.

John Cohen did a great job building the 2015 team. He recruited JC players to plug holes and build depth. He got talented freshman players to bolster the lineup. Now it is almost time to stop talking and start playing. I think the fire in the belly of the players is back. Maybe last year they thought, we just going to show up and win. I don't know.

I do know we are primed for a great year. Time to play.


What it will take to be at the top and stay there?

Good question. I get asked this on occasion. First of all, it takes elite players. We have plenty coming in August of 2015. Let's hope the MLB Draft don't kill us. The 2016 season is really big in my opinion. We lose 8 seniors off the 2015 club and I don't foresee any draft eligible player leaving (maybe John Holland if he has a great year). The 2016 may be young in spots but the talent level on it will be tremendous. Reid Humphreys, Dakota Hudson, Gavin Collins and others will be juniors. These guys will be great players in 2016. Couple this with the immense talent of the 2015 class and it is recipe for a top 5 club.

The 2016 class already has 8 commits and all of those are rated by Perfect Game as top 500 in the nation.

We just need to keep getting these elite players and keeping them.

Then in the near future, the brand new ballpark will be built and you will see our program take off like a rocket. We should get elite players knocking down our door.

The future is indeed very bright.

2015 Season: Prediction

I predicted in 2014 that we will go to a Super regional. Once you get to this level, then it depends on being hot at the right time. Pitchers and hitters being at the top of their game, like in 2013. Well, we ended up 1 game shy of a Super.
This year, I am going with the same prediction. I think we can make it to a Super. Again, I can't predict injuries or how hot a team will be. I do predict this team to improve. Of course, if there aren't any major injuries too.
Within the conference, I see our record as winning more than 17. We can win 20 non-conference games. 17-13 and 20-6 equals to 37 wins. That prediction is right now. Once the season starts, I will probably change my prediction. I have a feeling we can be better than what I'm predicting.

The development of young players is the key to each season. With this, players who have struggled or injured the season before and have them perform well is another. 

I see the infield defense as superb, the outfield as deep, starting pitchers as we have never had in Cohen's years. 

Bottom line is, I see us in the postseason for the 5th consecutive year. Can we go to Omaha? Sure, we can. It all has to come together though.

2015 Season: Left Handed Pitchers

Starting off with the man, who else? Senior redshirt Ross Mitchell, 6-1 165 from Tennessee. He has gotten us out of more jams. Even though he did well as a starter, I think they will move him back to a long reliever. A starter, who usually throws harder than Ross, falters they will bring Ross in throwing in the low 80's. This has worked numerous times in the past, why not again in 2015? We want him to duplicate the 2013 season. Another senior is Lucas Laster, 5-11 178. He was a JC transfer last year and came on late to really dominate other teams. He should be a weekend starter. He will throw in the upper 80's but with deception. He is one of those leftys that don't give up hits, hence little or no runs. Junior Trent Waddell, 6-3 210 a JC transfer might get some innings as a reliever. He has a history of getting hurt. But he is also a backup at first base. Sophomore Vance Tatum, 6-4 210 is highly competitive. He will man one of the closer roles. He has swing and miss capabilities. He is a star in the making. Sophomore JC transfer Daniel Brown, 5-10 183 came to Ms State after an All-American campaign at a Texas JC. As of this writing, he still has a chance to start some games but he will probably be a stellar reliever this year. The coaches did a great job to find him. The last two guys are true freshmen. Paxton Stover, 5-11 195 is from Tennessee. He did very well in the fall. He still is in the hunt for a starting role. Another great find by pitching coach Butch Thompson. I think this kid will have a great career here. Alabamian Andrew Mahoney, 6-2 210 did not pitch his senior year due to Tommy John surgery. He was highly rated by Perfect Game before the injury. He only pitched 3 innings in the fall. He could be a candidate for a redshirt. But in 2016, I see him as an impact pitcher.

Baseball is a game of statistics. Half of SEC hitters bat from the left side, so you need quality LH pitchers to counteract them. I do see this group to have a huge impact. Just like any position, we need to stay healthy. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

2015 Season: Middle Infielders

Shortstop

Senior Seth Heck, 5-11 170 returns after only committing 4 errors all of last year. What you want in a shortstop...makes all the routine plays. Bats right. He is a solid hitter, not flashy but puts the ball in play. A tremendous find by the coaches. He hails from Washington state.

Second Base

Junior John Holland, 5-11 185 is the starter. He is in his first year at Ms State but played one year at Florida State before going to junior college. He has the experience you want. He also bats left and is very fast on the bases. He really is the total package. If Heck wasn't at short then Holland would start there. He will be the leadoff or 2 hole hitter. Another great job by the staff to recruit him here. Britton and Spruill can play here also. True freshman phenom Ryan Gridley, 5-9 180 is a backup to both MIF spots. He had a great fall. Really good player in all phases. Should get some playing time to get ready for 2016. Gridley is a star in the making.

This MIF could go down as one of the best we have ever had at Ms State.

Monday, January 19, 2015

2015 Season: New Impact Players

From an everyday standpoint, John Holland was a great get by the coaches. He bats left, leadoff and a great defender in the middle of the field.

Right behind him is CF Michael Smith. He is super fast. He will run down balls where ever he plays. He can pressure the defense when he runs the bases.

True freshman RHP Jesse McCord will start and pitch us in a lot of games. He has the ability to get people out. A highly rated player coming out of HS.

You can't forget about a backup catcher. This one position is a grind. JC transfer Josh Lovelady really impressed in the fall. A tough kid who blocks pitches. Had a pretty good offensive fall too.

I think Luke Reynolds will get even better by the end of the season and will have many big hits along the way.