(Photo credit to the ASU Baseball Twitter account, @ASU_Baseball, for the shots of Hogueisson and Mader)
The talk about last season is over, and the Sun Devils are happy to be moving forward, and begin focusing on 2018. With a core of returning players along with a top five recruiting class according to Baseball America, ASU looks to make progress after taking a step backward last year.
As mentioned, the core of returning ASU players will be key in stabilizing the everyday lineup. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the following players should be starters come opening night:
- INF Carter Aldrete, Sophomore
- OF Hunter Bishop, Sophomore, Honorable Mention All-Pac-12
- OF Gage Canning, Junior, 2017 1st team All-Pac-12
- INF Taylor Lane, Senior
- 1B/C Lyle Lin, Sophomore, Honorable Mention All-Pac-12
- C Sam Ferri, Sophomore
Sam Ferri started last year’s season opener, but ended up playing behind Lyle Lin and Zach Cerbo. Despite unimpressive offensive numbers, Ferri put together strong at-bats and is praised defensively. Given regularly playing time, expect Ferri to improve at the plate and help lead this year’s pitching staff.
The infield will likely be Aldrete at short, Lane playing second, and Lin at first base. Aldrete and Lane also played some games at third, along with Aldrete playing a chunk of games at second as well.
Junior Jeremy McCuin played most of ASU’s games at third base in 2017, but struggled defensively at times and lacks the offensive potential of some of the incoming freshman. Junior infielder Cole Austin will sit out this year per NCAA rules, as he transferred this year from West Virginia following a breakout offensive season.
It’s very possible the final spot will be filled by a true freshman. The top candidates will be Drew Swift, Adisyn Coffey, Gage Workman, Trevor Hauver, and Alika Williams. All five players are ranked by Perfect Game as top 500 national recruits, as well in the top 50 for shortstops.
In the outfield, Myles Denson is the only other returning outfielder on the roster, so he will likely have an edge heading into the fall, but freshmen Zach Hogueisson and Scott Mehan will also look to make an impact as they try to work their way into the lineup come spring time.
For the pitching staff, Senior left-handed pitcher Eli Lingos will remain a staple in the weekend rotation. Sophomore lefty Chaz Montoya seems likely remain in the rotation after transitioning from the closer role midseason. The competition for that third weekend spot and the pecking order in the bullpen will be very competitive.
Likely contenders for the rotation include sophomore left-handed pitcher Spencer Van Scoyoc, right-handed pitcher Alec Marsh, redshirt freshman, right-handed pitcher Zane Strand, and true freshman, right-handed pitcher Boyd Vander Kooi.
Out of the bullpen, expect junior left-handed pitcher Connor Higgins to fill the closer role. Higgins is coming off a solid sophomore campaign, as well as posting solid numbers in the Cape Cod League over the summer.
The rest of the bullpen will consist of guys looking to make statements. Returning senior right-handed pitchers Ryan Hingst and Jake Godfrey look to improve upon a disappointing 2017 season, and freshman right-handed pitchers Drake Davis and Colby Davis will aim to prove themselves worthy of being reliable arms in relief.
Other returning pitchers for the bullpen are as follows:
- Garvin Alston Jr. , Senior
- Dellan Raish, Redshirt Freshman
- Tanner West, Sophomore
- Brady Corrigan, Freshman
- Sam Romero, Junior (Transfer from Phoenix College)
- Grant Schneider
- Fitz Stadler, Junior
The pitching staff was the biggest weakness of the team last year, and they hope the hire of Mike Cather as Assistant Coach/Pitching Coach will rectify the struggles on the mound in 2018. Cather has coached for minor league affiliates of the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, and was recently serving as the Minor League Pitching Coordinator for the Miami Marlins.
Some notable players from last year not included on the roster when it was released in August were infielder Andrew Snow, left-handed pitcher Reagan Todd, and right-handed pitcher James Ryan. It is confirmed that these players are no longer with the program, but no formal reason has been giving for their departure.
Outfielder Tyler Williams also announced his transfer from ASU over the summer. In only 98 at-bats, Williams was tied for second on the team in home runs and ranked third in RBIs.
One of the big issues Head Coach Tracy Smith stated last season as a “lack of buy in” from players, many of whom were cut from the team or left on their own terms. This year is a turning point for Sun Devil Baseball, as the team looks to rebound and make the NCAA tournament. With a young group of players, Smith hopes to build the team culture he wants moving forward, and bring the Devils back to Omaha.
Check out ASU’s site for more on Sun Devil’s baseball – TheSunDevils.com