2014 Outlook for the Mississippi State baseball team
Well, the 2013 season is a tough act to follow. We were in the finals playing for our first National Championship. But I sincerely believe, we have more talent on this years club. The new players will have to adjust and gain experience, the step-up players as I call them (former backups) will have to step up and the seasoned veterans will have to sustain their level of play.
The 2014 non-conference schedule is a bit tougher than 2013. The highlight is traveling to Tucson, Arizona to play UC Santa Barbara and Arizona for two games apiece. Both are real talented and experienced. The 2014 conference schedule, on the other hand, on paper, not the tough 2013 slate where we finished 16-14. We play Tennessee, Missouri and Georgia. All three were ok in 2013 but I look for them to rebound and be a tough opponent. We dropped South Carolina, Florida and Kentucky. Carolina and Florida are perennial postseason teams.
My prediction for the schedule is 22-4 wins in the non-conference slate and 18-12 for SEC play. That should again put us on the 40 win mark for the regular season. Of course, many of the SEC games will be decided by a run, thus with our experience in the bullpen, will help decide these in our favor. I do think we will be good enough to host another regional. Another milestone would be to be picked for a National Seed. We need to win 40 plus and be 1st or 2nd in the SEC. Every teams goal is to reach Omaha and the College World Series. This year we need to win the SEC Regular Season championship first. It is very hard to predict what will happen during postseason play, a lot has to do with momentum. Tune in later…
The 2013 recruiting class certainly fared well in the national rankings, earning a 2nd place in one publication. The 2014 class is shaping up nicely and the 2015 is even better (my opinion). Winning will take care of recruiting. Getting a brand new stadium in the next few years won’t hurt either. We are headed to become a perennial power in college baseball for years to come.
First Base: Wes Rea, Jr.RS. He is the captain and leader. His hitting really took off the latter part of 2013 but his defense was always there. All-Star and MLB draft pick in 2014. The backup looks to be Reid Humphreys, Fr. Freshman Dylan Ingram and Brent Rooker are expected to redshirt.
Second Base: Brett PIrtle, Sr. He could play shortstop but he needs to play 2B. Excellent defender and probably third hole hitter in the lineup. A clutch, clutch performer. The backup I think is Kyle Hann, So. I think Hann will take a huge step this year.
Short Stop: Matthew Britton, Jr. He has always had the talent and after much work it is paying off. He has developed into a great player. The backup is Seth Heck, Jr., a JC transfer from Washington state. A really nice defender who gets on base with the best of them.
Third Base: Alex Detz, Sr. or Reid Humphreys, Fr. I am putting this as even. I think Detz will start the year here but will play a lot of DH too. Humphreys, I believe will be a really good player by May. He is a bona fide star in the making.
Catcher: Cody Walker, Jr. or Daniel Garner, Fr.RS. I give a slight nod to Walker because he is a JC guy who has experience and the defensive tools. Garner is still developing defensively but his offense is great. Highly touted Gavin Collins, Fr., will have his shots. Again, I think by May, Collins will be a force. Jr.RS Zach Randolph, still in the mix also.
Left Field: Jacob Robson, So. or Jake Vickerson, Jr. Another closely battled position. Both bat left, run fast and can make a difference on the base paths.
Center Field: C.T. Bradford, Sr. Another captain and leader. I expect another big year from Bradford especially in the pitching department.
Right Field: Demarcus Henderson, Sr. He came on strong at the end of 2013. The backup is Derrick Armstrong, Sr. A very fast OF. He showed flashes last year. Another highly touted player to watch is Joey Swinarski, Fr. He was hindered in the fall but now is 100 %. Another player who could blossom by May.
Designated Hitter: Alex Detz, Daniel Garner, Reid Humphreys. This spot will start out with one of these guys. Gavin Collins and Joey Swinarski I can see coming in to pinch hit sometimes. This spot is a strength in 2014.
The pitching staff revolves around the weekend starters. We have a mixture of veterans and newcomers. The bullpen is similar. A very exciting mixture.
Friday Starter: Brandon Woodruff, Jr. I think he will take control of the Friday role. I expect a big year from him. A very possible top 3 round pick in MLB Draft.
Saturday Starter: Trevor Fitts, Jr. I would start out with Fitts in this role. Ben Bracewell, SrRS, is another that could very well emerge. Maybe both for 4 innings?
Sunday Starter: Dakota Hudson, Fr. I think by SEC play, he will be the starter here. C.T. Bradford, Sr., is another that could come in on Sunday. Hudson throwing 95 MPH on Sunday is a good thing.
Mid-Week Starter: Austin Sexton, Fr. and Preston Brown, SoRS. We have 10 mid-week games and they are very important to win. These two guys, I think are good in this role. Both will gain experience and are capable. Sexton is future rotation guy.
Long Relief: Ross Mitchell, JrRS and Jacob Lindgren, Jr. Long relief means these guys could start. Both are lefty’s and have plenty of experience. Mitchell was the fireman in 2013. Maybe same role in 2014.
Short Relief: (Submarine) Will Cox, Jr. and Myles Gentry, So. I think Butch Thompson has hit on something converting some guys to side arm relievers. Whatever it takes to get the hitters out and extend the life (playing time) of a pitcher. Happens all the time in MLB.
Closer: Jonathan Holder, Jr. I am glad they tackled him several times in 2013. He put too many grey hairs upon my head. He is an All-American and I do expect him to be drafted.
Unknowns or Miscellaneous: These guys I don’t know much about and they could turn out to be a great contributor. JC transfers Ben Hudspeth and Lucas Laster did ok in the fall. John Marc Shelley, So. pitched a little in 2013. Will he be groomed for the closer role? Paul Young, So. to me is the biggest wildcard we have. If he can duplicate what he did at the end of his junior college year than he will be a major contributor in 2014. His elbow hurt all fall but now it is fine. I expect him to start slow but gradually get more innings but in what role? True freshman Avery Geyer, Zac Houston, Jacob Billingsley, Levi Mintz, Vance Tatum and Glenn Irby may redshirt or may become a short reliever in 2014. We just have to wait and see.
Four true freshmen as of right now, will have the most impact. Reid Humphreys, Gavin Collins, Austin Sexton and Dakota Hudson. These guys will start and/or play a whole lot. Junior college signees are a big part of our program and we have 4 that will contribute significantly their first year. Cody Walker, Jake Vickerson, Seth Heck and Paul Young. These guys add great depth to their spots. Young was injured in the fall and couldn’t pitch but now in early spring, he is starting to show what he can do. Again, it may take a few games but these guys will make an impact.
These are the 8 players who have excelled so far. It wouldn’t surprise me if another signee made an impact late in the season. An excellent job by the coaches to recruit top notch talent.