It’s finally here! After a long wait from the end of last season that saw the Oregon State Beavers win their third national championship, the 2019 college baseball season officially begins this weekend. Ranked once again in the top ten by D1Baseball, the NCBWA, Perfect Game, and Collegiate Baseball, OSU has the makings of another strong team. That being said, losing talents like Nick Madrigal, Trevor Larnach, and Cadyn Grenier leaves a tall task ahead.
To break it all down, our baseball loving brains got together to ask and answer some of the burning questions we have heading into the 2019 campaign. Here’s what we said:
Well guys, Pat Bailey has the keys to the boat this year after Pat Casey retired over the summer. How do we feel about the new leader of the Beavs?
Joe Londergan: I wouldn’t say that the team is in bad shape. He knows this program and these players after being around for a number of years and I don’t think that chemistry could have developed quickly enough had they brought in someone from the outside. But he’s an experienced coach and he’ll probably do fine.
Ross Parker: I am not that concerned about Bailey taking over for the Beavs. Quick history lesson for our readers; Bailey has won before without Casey. He won the Division III championship in 2004 while he was with George Fox University, ironically after taking over for Casey when he left to come to OSU in 1995. Four years after winning in D-III, Bailey followed Casey to OSU, and he has been here ever since. Now, I know D-III baseball at George Fox isn’t close to the same level as the Pac-12 conference, but I think having some coaching experience is a comfort for me. Also, Bailey has coached with Casey at OSU for 14 years. He watched Casey turn Oregon State into a national championship contender, and he should know how to keep this badass baseball machine running. I trust Bailey here.
John Severs: This is about as smooth a coaching transition as you can hope for. Last year’s team was a Casey/Bailey squad, and this year’s team is as well. Bailey knows all these players, and was instrumental in many of them coming to play for OSU. I don’t know if we’ll really know how well Bailey is working out until a few years into his tenure, when he has to put together squads without Casey’s help. He certainly looks like he’s up to the task; as Ross said he had a championship pedigree before he came to Corvallis.
Adley Rutschman was phenomenal in his first two seasons and looks all but a lock to be a top draft pick after this season. Where does he fit on the OSU Baseball Mt. Rushmore?
Joe: After being a part of a championship team and setting the program single-season record for hits and RBIs and coming really close in a few other offensive categories, it’s safe to say Rutschman is one of the greatest players in Beaver history.
Ross: I honestly think Adley has clinched a spot on the OSU Baseball Mt. Rushmore. The dude has helped taken the Beavs to Omaha twice in his career, including one year where he stroked it at the plate for a .400 average on the season and went on to win the 2018 CWS MVP award as well as a national championship. I think anything else done this year will be icing on the cake for Clutchman’s legacy. If he propels OSU to another deep postseason run, in addition to a top-5 draft pick, this guy may go down as one of the best players to ever come through Corvallis.
John: I think putting together an MVP performance and winning the CWS gets him a spot on the mountain pretty easily. The question for Rutschman this season is whether he can take the spot as Oregon State’s all time greatest, and get that number one draft pick.
What area of this team, whether it is a specific position group or a skill set, that gives you the most concern?
Joe: The middle-infield. Madrigal and Grenier were insanely good defenders and by the end were so in-sync they were practically in each other’s heads. I expect a few teams to sneak some hits through there this year. Hopefully they get it shored up quickly.
Ross: For me, it’s got to be the almost entirely new starting lineup. The starting lineup will be almost completely overturned from last year. The Beavs will be fielding practically an entirely new defense and batting lineup this year. Adley and Zak Taylor were the only two players returning that regularly started in 2018. Not to mention a lot of these guys will be young dudes. The Beavers coaching staff consistently produces quality defenses, so I mainly look to the hitting as the biggest cause of concern because of this youth.
John: I agree with Joe, middle infield. Nick Madrigal and Cadyn Grenier is going to be an impossible act to follow. SS Beau Philip, transferring from JUCO San Joaquin Delta, looks like he’s got a lot of potential, and I’m optimistic about Andy Armstrong, but you’re just not going to replace the amount of production you got from last year’s team.
Who is the one team in the Pac-12 that will give OSU a run for their money in the league title race?
Joe: There’s a lot of hype around UCLA in the buildup to this season, but I’m not buying it. It’s hard to ignore the success that Stanford has year after year after year. At a certain point, it’s not the coach, but the larger culture that engulfs that program and Stanford’s culture is that of a really competitive baseball team.
Ross: I have been preaching about this team for the past two years, and I’m sticking with my guns on this squad. The Stanford Cardinal are no joke. Even after losing their head coach, David Esquer comes in as the new coach of Stanford and casually wins the Pac-12 conference in his first season as the skipper. UCLA will get a ton of love, and deservedly so. But my gut always starts to hurt when I see Stanford come up on the Beaver schedule.
John: I guess I’ll stick up for UCLA. They don’t quite deserve the lofty rankings some publications are giving them, but there’s a lot for the Bruins to be excited about this year. Their pitching is suspect, but they’ve got several offensive weapons to watch out for. They’ve got talented juniors in Chase Strumpf and Michael Toglia, and one of the best recruiting classes in the country. With the Beavers offensive undergoing a rebuild, UCLA has the potential to be an especially tough match up.
What game or series are you most looking forward to and why?
Joe: The Stanford series is going to be very important. It’s the second to last one of the season, on the road, and you just know it’s going to be neck and neck between OSU and the Cardinal all the way to the end.
Ross: I’m going to be pumped for the Seattle Baseball Showcase at T-Mobile Park. It still feels weird to not call the park Safeco Field anymore, but this mini-tournament will be an awesome showcase for the Beavs. The Beavs will take on Indiana, Coastal Carolina and Minnesota. All three of these teams were in regionals last season and all of them should push for regionals, and possibly Omaha runs. These are some seriously good teams that will give us an idea of how legit the Beavs will be this season.
John: I’m excited about the early series at UCLA. It’s the Beavers first conference road trip this season, and if we can punch a hole in the UCLA hype balloon early in the year, it’s going to set us up for a great 2019.
Does this season end in Omaha again?
Joe: I’m going to say yes, but they’re going to have work a lot harder. I just don’t see this team winning 50+ games the way that they did each of the last two years.
Ross: I want to say yes. I really do. The Beavs have possibly the best starting and relief pitching staff in the nation, and that will help the team out a ton if they can make a run. But, I can’t confidently tell you all that Omaha is in the cards this year. All the new pieces on defense and in the lineup leave a ton of questions for me. Until I see that the new lineup can consistently put up runs, I’m setting super regionals as our best-case situation for this season. I hope they all prove me wrong.
John: I think Oregon State still has the best batter in the country, and the best pitcher in the conference, so while a trip to Omaha is going to be hard to pull off, it doesn’t seem out of reach. If Washington can do it last year, I think a team with Adley Rutschman should be able to pull it off.
Beaver baseball begins their season this Friday (February 15th) at the Sanderson Ford College Baseball Classic in Surprise, Arizona. Stay tuned all season long for more Beavs coverage.