I may be jinxing us, but pitching appears to be an area of concern again in 2018 for State baseball. We started off wobbly last year and it took us a little while to set our weekend rotation. Brown's injury kept him out of the rotation for a while and Sean Adler was eventually removed from it. We had some freshmen that showed some promise, but then got roughed up in conference play. The good news, Johnny Piedmonte got a 12th year of eligibility and will be holding down one of the weekend spots next to Brian Brown who is also on his last year. Senior leadership will be great and I am guessing PIedmonte gets the Friday tip with Brown's arm looking to secure series on Saturday. Then questions arise.
WHAT ARE WE LOSING FROM THE MOUND/BULLPEN
Loses (numbers) fall heaviest for this State team in the bullpen.
LHP - Sean Adler - starter/bullpen
LHP - Cody Beckman - starter/bullpen
RHP - Evan Brabrand
RHP - Tommy Dejuneas
RHP - Tim Naughton
RHP - Christian Demby
RHP - Zach Ussleman
RHP - Cory Wilder
It may sound bad but not sure we are losing a lot. Adler was an ineffective starter but became hot out of the bullpen at the end of the year. Other than that, Naughton had the best ERA but only worked 12 innings. The only one of these pitchers with better than a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio was Adler, and many of them (I am looking at you, Tommy) were wild things on the mound. A number of these guys did get mid-week starts and actually ended up accounting for 24 out of 61 first pitches (Adler had 12 of those 24). Again, minus Adler, these were primarily mid-week games.
One caveat to all this is the unfortunate case of Dalton Feeney. We will not have the services of this talented young man as he will be recovering from Tommy John is my understanding. I will not list him in either section as he should not be available this year, but hopefully will return for our 2019 season. His surgery was in early November.
WHO IS COMING BACK
LHP - James Ferguson - red-shirted last year
LHP - Brian Brown - weekend starter last year
LHP - Connor Centala - red-shirted last year
LHP - Kent Klyman - bullpen
RHP - Austin Staley - bullpen
RHP - Michael Bienlien - weekend starter last year
RHP - James Vaughan - red-shirted last year
RHP - Mathieu Gauthier - bullpen/week-day starter last year
RHP - Johnny Piedmonte - weekend starter last year
RHP - Joe O'Donnell - bullpen
Ok, we have some things we can work with here. Looking above, it is not unreasonable to set our weekend starters now. Piedmonte, Brown and Bienlien looks good, not great, but good. Piedmonte, when allowed to start, showed pretty good command and went 7-0 for us. He had an ERA under 3.00 and got most of his starts during ACC play. He is reliable and a great competitor. Brown took a while to see the field and did not have his best stuff when he got there. His numbers were not too far off his sophomore campaign but there is the rub. He saw 20 more innings two years ago. A bit better command of the strike zone this year can make his senior year one to remember. Bienlien has talent, and showed it last year, and then he had games where he was lucky to get through the 2nd. A year in a collegiate gym and some refining of his tools will hopefully make him a more effective starter. O'Donnell and Staley return to bolster a bullpen that will need to identify a lot more pieces. These two were about everything you could ask out of a bullpen last year, and it felt they were the only ones at times. Gauthier showed some promise and then slowly disappeared and Kent Klyman should get the chance to build on really good statistics. I really hope we were saving some of those red-shirts or that someone has distinguished themselves, because we will need some help.
WHO IS COMING IN
Total - 9; Freshmen - 3 RHPs, 4 LHPs; JUCO - 1 RHP, 1 LHP
Nine new pitchers replaces what we effectively lost with Feeney going down. The JUCO lefty, Josh Jimenez came out of the bullpen and I imagine that is the role he will fill with us, too. His numbers were pretty good, but that was not the ACC. Nolan Clenney will bolster the right-handed portion and not much is known about what he brings. I believe he was "a part" of the program last year (he shows up on some of our draft eligible reports last year) but there is no mention of him on the roster. He did squat 415 and that was tops among pitchers according to the Pack baseball twitter feed, so that is something. Our freshmen are going to have to show something (because pure numbers say they will have to) and David Harrison, Evan Justice, Cole Hooper and Nick Swinney all show raw ability from lefties. My bet is Justice is the most likely to see extended action from this group. Of the righties, on paper, Cameron Cotter is the only one that really stands out and with so many righties already in the bullpen, he may be the only one that has to this year.
Friday - Johnny Piedmonte - RHP
Saturday - Brian Brown - LHP
Sunday - Michael Bielien - RHP
Weekdays/Bullpen - Mathieu Gauthier - RHP, Evan Justice - LHP
Bullpen (in order of most likely innings) -
RHPs - Joe O'Donnell, Austin Staley, Nolan Clenney, everyone else
LHPs - Kent Klyman, Josh Jimenez, David Harrison, everyone else
We really need to hope that some of the freshmen are ready to contribute because we will be thin without them. We used 16 total pitchers last year and there are 11 here right now. I am skipping some of the red-shirts as I just do not know what to expect. Anyone with better information, please feel free to fill in.
The projected starters all had at least three wins last year and none of them finished under .500. To expect Piedmonte to go undefeated again may be asking a lot, but asking Brown and Bielien to improve is not. To get more than 15 wins out of those three will probably be a must this year. I really like the idea of O'Donnell, Staley and Klyman as returners and really do believe that Jimenez will be a help unlike Usselman last year. That leaves about five or six guys to eat up a good chunk of innings somewhere. Bueller, Bueller...
The pitching is definitely the biggest unknown. It better get known really quickly because there are a lot of draft eligible or seniors on the roster currently getting the bulk of work. The loss of Feeney really does hurt and there have been some whispers regarding Bielien and injury, but I cannot confirm anything. I wish I could paint a rosier picture with this group of young men but that is just not the possibility with what is known at this point.
Let us end on a high note. This is the last week without baseball!!!