ASU’s 2017 Recap
This season didn’t exactly play out as ASU would have hoped. With a 23-32 record, the Sun Devils failed to win 30 or more games in a season for the first time in 54 seasons; their first losing season since 1985, and the first time they have missed the postseason since 1999.
On top of the on-field struggles, several players were dismissed or left the team by season’s end, most notable was junior OF Andrew Shaps.
The season started off fairly well with a sweep of Northwestern, stealing the first game of a weekend series against TCU in Fort Worth, and sweeping Long Beach State at home. Heading into Pac-12 play, ASU was 10-7.
In the first four conference series, the Devils lost 10 of 12 games, highlighted by sweeps from Oregon State and UC-Berkeley, and a weekday loss to Arizona in Tucson. But all was not lost, as the team managed to go 7-2, with wins against UNLV, Washington State and CSU – Bakersfield.
Sweeping the weekend series against Washington State proved to be the only Pac-12 series the Sun Devils would win, losing two of three games each to Stanford, Washington and Oregon (first-round pick David Peterson of Oregon recorded 20 strikeouts in a shutout against ASU), and losing six-straight games against Arizona and Utah to cap off a 23-32 record, with a dismal 8-22 record in Pac-12 play.
ASU’s strength this season was its offense, especially from the underclassmen. Sophomore OF Gage Canning was named to the All PAC-12 team, with Honorable Mentions being awarded to freshmen OF Hunter Bishop and C/1B Lyle Lin. Infielder Carter Aldrete also led the team in RBIs as a freshman, driving in 31 runs this year.
As a whole, ASU’s offense finished third in the conference in hits and home runs. This is a good sign of things to come, especially with plans to move in the outfield fences approximately 15 feet next year.
Sophomore OF/DH Tyler Williams also saw significant playing time, hitting five home runs and showing some refinement of his raw athletic ability at the plate. Senior C Zach Cerbo had a breakout season as a first year starter, contributing a .299 average and knocking four home runs, while also being a defensive stalwart behind the plate.
Cerbo is the only position player the Devils will lose to graduation, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be position battles for next year. With another highly touted recruiting class, battles for third and fourth outfielder spots, as well as solidifying the ever-evolving infield, will be crucial to the team’s performance.
Despite the offense doing its part for most of the season, pitching and defensive woes remained constant. Of the pitchers who logged at least 20 innings, only three recorded an ERA below 4.00: senior RHP Eder Erives, sophomore LHP Connor Higgins, and freshman LHP Spencer Van Scoyoc.
Five of the other six pitchers with 20-plus innings finished with ERAs above 5.00. The staff as a whole walked 100 more batters than opponents pitching against the ASU offense.
Defensively, 70 errors committed led to 53 unearned runs scored by opponents as ASU finished 2017 with a -72 run differential.
Freshman LHP Chaz Montoya started out as the closer, but earned his way into a starting role where he showed mild success. Junior LHP Eli Lingos made 16 starts and posted a 4.21 ERA and is pretty much a lock for the rotation next year.
However, there are five pitchers for the remaining two spots: Higgins, Van Scoyoc, Montoya, and Zane Strand–who missed most of season to injury– will all fight for starting spots, along with Arizona’s 2017 High School Player of the Year, Boyd Vander Kooi.
The search has begun to fill the vacated pitching coach position, which should be the number one area of focus to improve for 2018. A solid core of position players who are All-Conference hopefuls should bring much needed positive energy to the program, along with several top players who should form another highly ranked recruiting class.
ASU athletic director, Ray Anderson, has publicly backed head coach Tracy Smith, despite a disappointing season on the field, as well as issues surrounding player dismissals.
While 2017 was certainly a low point for ASU baseball, Smith will need to find a way to show progress and deliver the expectations that come with Sun Devil Baseball in the coming years.
Team MVP: So. OF Gage Canning – .332 Avg, 26 XBH (6 HR), .538 SLG, .366 OBP, 0 Errors
Pitcher of the Year: Jr. LHP Eli Lingos – 16 Games Started, 87.2 IP, 4.21 ERA, 66 K
Defensive Player of the Year: Sr. C Zach Cerbo – 40 Games Started, 47.8 % CS, .987 FLD%
Freshman of the Year: OF Hunter Bishop – .301 Avg, 5 HR, .484 SLG .363 OBP, 4/4 SB
Check out which Sun Devils are competing in summer leagues below: