Beaver baseball season is upon us, and the jolly crew at BTD wanted to get in a last minute roundtable chat to share our thoughts on the upcoming season.
Alright boys, Beaver Baseball is back. But with a new season, comes a new coach. How do we all feel about Mitch Canham taking over the reigns of this program?
Ross Parker: You know, I think I speak for a lot of Beaver fans when I say that I was initially really disappointed that Nate Yeskie didn’t get the job. But after learning about Canham, I have faith in the decision makers that this was a good call. Canham played under Casey from 2005-2007, before ultimately becoming a manager in minor league baseball. The dude has earned his chops winning in the minors, which is no small feat. The last thing I’ll leave you with is this; there’s no way the Beavs would’ve made this call without some advising from Pat Casey, so if Casey had some say in picking this dude then I’m game for him.
Joe Londergan: I think they could have done a lot worse with that hire. My expectations for the team this season are not over the moon because, let’s face it, the team lost a lot of talent from the past two seasons and a first year coach is never going to have everything figured it out right away. This year is more about setting the tone for what will hopefully be a long and prosperous career at the helm. I do think this team can go back to the postseason in 2020, however.
John Severs: I think Canham is a pretty good hire. Looking at his resume, and the disappointment among Mariners fans that he was leaving the organization, it was pretty clear he was going to get shot as a Manager somewhere, and I’m happy it’s in Corvallis. There are obviously a lot of questions going forward, especially about how he’ll handle recruiting, but I think his connection to both the area and to MLB should help him build a solid pipeline.
Marcus Russell: Mitch Canham is a stud. I’m a bit worried about the next couple of seasons; but long-term I really like the outlook for the program. Recruiting talented pitchers should be the first priority for Canham and company. As long as he’s able to do that I won’t have any complaints.
Who will be the most important player for the Beaver lineup heading into this season?
Ross: I will go ahead and claim the easy answer here, but that’s Kevin Abel without a doubt. Abel’s Tommy John surgery threw the starting rotation into disarray before the season even started. Abel is one of the bright young arms in all of baseball and after coming off one of the most dominant CWS runs in history, last year was definitely a letdown for Abel. Now, he has a chance to come back and lead a pitching roster that could be absolutely filthy.
Joe: Ross is totally not wrong with the Abel answer. For the team to be as competitive as they have been nationally, it hinges on him putting together some fantastic starts. I’ll also say this: this team is very light on senior leadership and what those guys like Preston Jones and Jake Mulholland do is going to be very important to their success.
John: It’s boring but I’ve also got to go with Abel. The Beavers absolutely need an ace if they want to compete, and with the departures of the past few seasons I’m not sure they have one. Mulholland and Chamberlain look like they should be solid starters, but I’m not sure they have that extra gear to shift into for clutch situations.
Marcus: Pitchers are obviously super important, but they don’t play every game. Instead I’ll go with the new full-time catcher in Troy Claunch. The junior catcher would relieve Adley Rutschman behind the plate at times, but he’s going to play as much as he can handle this season. Watch out for Claunch, I think he’s going to have an impressive season.
What is a strength for this Beaver lineup heading into the season?
Ross: I touched on it before in my last answer with Kevin Abel, but the starting rotation could quickly become one of the best in the Pac-12, and quite possibly the country. Obviously we know about Abel, but the rest of the starting lineup has proven, quality arms that can shut teams down. We know Abel will be one of the starters, Jake Mulholland will be another, while Christian Chamberlain, Nathan Burns, and Jake Pfennigs all duking it out for the last spot. Even with the last spot up in the air, the rest of the Pac-12 should be getting nervous.
Joe: I don’t want to just say what Ross said all over again, but...yeah. There’s a reason that Nate Yeskie was so sought after: he brought a ton of quality talent to the mound in Corvallis.
John: We’ve covered pitching, but I want to talk about the outfield for a bit. because I feel like the Beavers have a solid core in place there. Joe Casey may be ready to take a step forward, Preston Jones had flashes of brilliance last season, and while Greg Fuchs didn’t get the chance to do much in his freshman season, I’m still pretty high on him as a prospect. That’s not to mention all the infield guys who could potentially rotate into the outfield if need be. Pitching is still definitely the team’s strength, but I think the outfield will be surprisingly solid.
Marcus: Relief pitching. I’m not positive that Jake Mulholland and Christian Chamberlain will end up being starters, but they will pitch a ton of innings and are crazy good pitchers. Kevin Abel probably won’t be back, but I expect the Beaver bullpen to be active and be a strength this season.
And a weakness?
Ross: The offense is still a big concern for me, and losing Adley Rutschman doesn’t help. The Beavs finished last year fifth in overall offense, and ninth out of eleventh in terms of straight up batting average. The offense flat out wasn’t good enough last year, and they were a big reason we went 0-2-BBQ last year. The offense will have some serious questions heading into this season. And deservedly so.
Joe: OSU was a middle of the road offensive team last season and they lost their two leading hitters from last season in Rutschman and Beau Phillip. Beaver fans have every reason to be clenched up a little bit when they are at the plate.
John: Yeah, just hitting in general. The Beavers’ bats would already disappear for a game or two at a time last season, and they just lost their best hitters. The prospects aren’t there to replace that power yet either, so I’d expect a lot of low scoring games this year.
Marcus: Offense is obviously a concern, but I’ll go a different route. Defense or more specifically defense from the infielders. Beau Phillip is gone and elite middle infielders Nick Madrigal/Cadyn Grenier are long gone. Can the Beavers trust Andy Armstrong, Matthew Gretler, Jake Dukart, Alex McGarry etc? Infielders will earn playing time depending on how they do at the plate; but mixing it up in the infield could lead to some uncharacteristic fielding errors.
Who will be the strongest opponent in the Pac-12 this season?
Ross: Arizona State has a ton of hype going into this season, but I’m not fully bought in yet. Stanford and UCLA are always great teams, so I think that’s the first way you have to look. Normally I lean the Cardinal, but this year I’ll mix it up and go with UCLA. The Bruins defense and starting pitching will be among the best in the conference. While they lost some dudes on offense, this is still a quality starting lineup that can make you hurt.
Joe: This year could definitely be a return to form for Arizona State baseball (finally). They had 38 wins last season and infielder Spencer Torkelson is arguably one of the better individual talents in the nation. If he gets some help, the Sun Devils could put a nice little run together.
John: On paper, Arizona State has one of the best offenses in the country. Spencer Torkelson, Trevor Hauver and Greg Workman is an incredibly stacked lineup. The question for the Sun Devils is going to be whether they have the pitching to make this team a title contender, because last year that’s what killed ASU. It looks like they’ve taken that step, but until they start playing quality opponents, we won’t see how their JC transfers and freshmen are up to the challenge.
Marcus: I’ll go with UCLA. They are returning their top two hitters in Noah Cardenas and Garrett Mitchell. They recruit well and look like they’ve reloaded vs. rebuilt their roster.
What are our predictions for the 2020 baseball season?
Ross: The Pac-12 coaches poll projected us at finishing fifth in the conference. I think that’s BS. The Beavs will be too well coached and too talented to finish in that spot, and I’m adamant on that (please don’t hammer my twitter mentions if this turns out poorly for us). I think a third place finish is a solid expectation for us, with hopes of shooting to win the Pac-12 outright. I think this team can hit 40-plus wins and host another regional for this season.
Joe: I mentioned before that I was expecting some kinks to get worked out over the course of the year. But I think they can definitely get back to the postseason, if they get past a regional, bonus. But just with the overwhelming youth in that clubhouse, it might take a couple of years to be a national championship contender again.
John: It’s going to be a bear year. I think there’s enough quality on this squad to get back to the tournament, but I don’t think they’ll make a deep run. Probably a three seed in some far flung regional.
Marcus: I see a disappointing year unfortunately. This team is very young and lost a ton of talent the last two seasons. 30-ish wins wouldn’t surprise me , but I hope I’m wrong and the Beavers easily make the postseason.
Is Adley really gone? Like can he come back? Is there anything we can do?????
Ross: I guess we can pray the Orioles get relocated to Portland. That is probably the closest Adley will ever be to playing in Corvallis again. :(
Joe: Not unless there’s some archaic NCAA eligibility rule that we don’t know about...Like if a player can say the alphabet backwards while dipping his toes in vinegar on the third Tuesday of the month while citizens of his team’s town sacrifice a goat, then he can come back? Is that a thing? No? Then Adley’s gone for good, it would seem.
John: I don’t want to ruin any surprises, but you might want to open up that huge, catcher sized present next to the Christmas tree...
Marcus: He lives on in my heart...
The Beavers open their 2020 campaign against New Mexico this Friday, February 14th in Surprise, Arizona. Stay tuned all season long for more Beavs coverage.