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Beaver Baseball is Back! Part 2

Pitcher Preview and 2024 Expectations

COLLEGE BASEBALL: MAY 25 Pac-12 Baseball Tournament Photo by Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The good news is that the Beavers return two thirds of their starting rotation from a year ago, along with nearly 200 innings of quality relief and spot starts. The bad news is OSU needs to replace their Friday starter, closer, and the two thirds of that starting rotation are coming back are returning from injuries. The Beavers have brought plenty of talent in through the transfer portal as well as recruiting and should have the depth needed to make it through the regular season. The question will be whether there is the top end performance to carry through in the tournament.

Starting Rotation

Friday - Aiden May: A former high school teammate of Jacob Kmatz, May pitched for Arizona last year predominantly as the Sunday starter. The ERA and results were not great, but the underlying stuff may be the best on the Beaver staff. May’s fastball runs into the mid-90s but was hit hard at times last year. He has discussed the work that he and pitching coach Rich Dorman have done to find the right balance between his cutter and sinker to mesh with May’s slider and changeup. The healthiest of the three starting candidates, May is likely to take the ball first to open up the season.

Saturday - Jacob Kmatz: With 29 starts under his belt at Oregon State already, Kmatz brings a ton of experience to the rotation entering his junior year. He held down the Saturday starter role for most of the year in 2023 before going down with an injury late in the year. With a low-90s fastball mixed with a cutter, slider, and curveball Kmatz is a fly ball pitcher and can run into issues with home runs. He worked around those well last year, which kept his ERA well below his FIP, but getting his home run per fly ball rate closer to his freshman year mark of 8.8% (rather than last year’s 13.5%) will help him go deeper into games and take the next step.

Sunday - Jaren Hunter: Hunter was arguably the most effective starter the Beavers had up until his injury mid-way through the season. Mixing good control with a ground ball-inducing sinker, Hunter was a needed backstop to Sellers and Kmatz, both of which were talented but frequently tapping out after 5 innings leading to a worked bullpen going into the final game of the weekend. Hunter should be healthy to start the year, although the coaching staff may want to keep him close to the 56.2 innings, he pitched in 2022 as he builds his arm strength back up.

Other Starting Candidates and High Leverage Relievers

AJ Lattery stepped into the weekend rotation after Hunter was hurt and held his own. He pairs a high-80s fastball with a big curveball... Adien Jimenez saved his best performance of the year for the biggest stage, throwing 6 scoreless innings in relief during OSU’s elimination game against Sam Houston in the regionals. The staff was worn out at that point, and Jimenez allowed just 3 hits, striking out 6 and walking none as a freshman. He pairs a low-90s fastball with a slider and splitfinger and will be a candidate for weekday starts and an option if one of the weekend rotations goes down...

Ian Lawson filled a multi-inning relief role last year, plugging the gap between those 5-inning starts and the back end of the bullpen. He filled that role well but put up a season high 4 walks when given his first start in that Sam Houston game Jimenez backed him up in... Nelson Keljo is a rare lefty on the staff (one of two that is likely to see significant innings). He rode a mid-90s fastball along with a slider and changeup. He was third on the team with 23 appearances last year and kept a clean sheet in 15 of them. If he does not work his way into the starting mix, he will be heavily used against teams that stack their lineups with lefties to combat an otherwise heavily right-handed OSU pitching staff.

Laif Palmer and Eric Segura are both highly regarded freshman who are expected to follow in the footsteps of Jimenez and Keljo and see some high leverage innings throughout the year. Palmer brings mid-90s heat from his 6-6 frame, while Segura mixes a low 90s fastball with a changeup.

Other Impact Relievers

Transfer Kyle Scott is the leading candidate to close, with a mid-90’s fastball paired with a slider. He spent last season at Cal Poly and picked up a save against Oregon State in their 4-game series (he walked Bazzana and struck out both Turley and Garret Forrester). He is another ground ball pitcher with a mid-90s fastball that ran into issues with home runs when hitters were able to lift the ball, over a quarter of fly balls left the park. Outside of that,

The Beavers used around seven relief pitchers over the course of a weekend series, and both AJ Hutcheson & Tyler Mejia were a part of that mix as freshman. Hutcheson brings a different look to the mound, he is the shortest of the Beaver pitchers at 5-11 and delivers a high-80s fastball and low 70s slider from a sidearm delivery. Mejia Is the other lefty in the bullpen who pairs a fastball and curveball who picked up a couple saves and ran his pitch count into the 30s on multiple occasions.

Bridger Holmes and Tephen Montgomery are both tall junior college transfers that will fill in bullpen depth. Holmes is from North Bend and provides another sidearm delivery to change hitters’ angles throughout the game. Montgomery has slowly moved across the country, starting in his hometown of Tampa, FL before a stint at Iowa Western CC, and now Corvallis.

Joey Mundt is the senior member of the 2024 Beaver team and looking to make his return from injuries that have taken him out of the last two seasons. Freshman Drew Talavs and Matthew Morrell both have fastballs in the mid-90s and will have an opportunity to make an impact this season, likely starting with weekday relief work and moving from there.


2024 Expectations

The Beavers definitely lost some talent from the 2023 season, but the depth they return (particularly on offense) is as impressive as anyone on the west coast. That is not as true for their Pac-12 counterparts, which is a large reason that the Beavers are picked to win the Pac-12 by both D1 Baseball and the Pac-12 coaches themselves.

OSU consensus top 8 team in the country heading into this year and ranked as high as 5th by Baseball America (the other notable rankings are 7th by D1 Baseball and 8th by Perfect Game). Both externally and internally the expectation is for this team to reach Omaha for the first time since 2018.

Oregon State will get a good barometer of whether or not they meet those expectations as early as the second week of the season when they head to Arlington, TX for the Kubota College Baseball Series to take on Texas Tech, Arkansas, Michigan, and Oklahoma St, which is as good a collection of talent as they will see all year. There are talented teams such as UCLA, Stanford, USC, and Oregon that will pose a threat in Pac-12 baseball’s final season, but if the Beaver lineup hits like they are expected to, and the pitching staff develops it should be a good year for to see baseballs flying in Goss.