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Author Topic: The Best Part of the 2018 Team - The Depth  (Read 992 times)

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ucahogfan

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The Best Part of the 2018 Team - The Depth
« on: January 20, 2018, 08:53:51 pm »

One thing that we have consistently talked about being elite on this team along with everything else is the depth that we will have.  It is not just at one position, but all around the field.  A few names stick out to me as they are not even being mentioned about starting, but would start on 99% of teams in the country IMO.

Evan Lee - Sophomore OF / LHP - With the emergence of Heston Kjerstad being potentially the best hitter on the team which would make him one of the best hitters in the country, it has pushed Evan Lee out of the starting lineup.  He hit .333 in 42 ABs as a freshman with as many walks as strikeouts which is impressive and then followed it up by hitting .350 in Cali this summer and I think DVH mentioned about 5 HRs this fall.  Add on top of that he is one of the best baserunners on the team and has an elite arm, he should be in the starting lineup, but that is how good this lineup is.  He will also be a solid contributor on the mound with a 92-95 MPH fastball and a plus curveball.  Would like to see DVH put him at the back end of the pen.

Jordan McFarland - Sophomore INF/OF - If a former top 100 recruit hit .271 in 70 ABs as a freshman, what would the expectation be as a sophomore?  That is a considerably better clip that what Luke Bonfield hit as a freshman before being one of our top hitters the last two years.  His raw power is on the same level as Koch, Fletcher, Spanberger, and he possess plus speed.  He has an elite set of tools and was posied for a huge 2018 campaign, but with seven starters returning and Gates being shifted over to 1B, he will find trouble getting full-time ABs this year.

Cole Turney - Freshman OF - Yes, Turney is currently injured and might not play this year, but if he was healthy, he might not be a starter on this team.  He has elite raw power on the Spanberger level and has a more elite pedigree being a Perfect Game AA.  He also has pretty good speed and a good arm and profiles as a RF.

I also factor in Jack Kenley and Hunter Wilson as being excellent depth, but we do not know who is going to start at 3B.  I feel like both Plunkett and Opitz will see a good amount of ABs behind the plate to give Koch some rest as we saw what happens when he has to catch full time.  If healthy, I think Koch has 20 HR potential.
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Re: The Best Part of the 2018 Team - The Depth
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2018, 11:03:35 pm »

IMO Lee has to get a lot more AB's than he had last year, I can't recall a bad AB by him, while there were very many by the starters up and down the lineup.
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ucahogfan

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Re: The Best Part of the 2018 Team - The Depth
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2018, 08:27:15 am »

IMO Lee has to get a lot more AB's than he had last year, I can't recall a bad AB by him, while there were very many by the starters up and down the lineup.
Everyone has bad ABs over the course of a season.

Who would he start over?  Fletcher is a Freshman AA coming off a big season and is looking ready to make a big leap.  Cole was one of our top hitters down the stretch last year after hitting about .100 in non-con play.  Kjerstad was our top hitter in the fall and it sounds like he is a potential superstar.  Our OF is loaded with excellent players.  At 1B, it looks like Gates is going to start there.  I know he struggled at times last year, but he was one of our top hitters in fall 2016 and was an excellent hitter at the JUCO level.  I feel like he would have been one of our top hitters if he was healthy all of last season.  We have seen several times before where a player's season is de-railed by an injury just before the season starts.  Ficociello his junior year comes to mind in that regard.
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TebowHater

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Re: The Best Part of the 2018 Team - The Depth
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2018, 09:20:13 am »

Everyone has bad ABs over the course of a season.

Who would he start over?  Fletcher is a Freshman AA coming off a big season and is looking ready to make a big leap.  Cole was one of our top hitters down the stretch last year after hitting about .100 in non-con play.  Kjerstad was our top hitter in the fall and it sounds like he is a potential superstar.  Our OF is loaded with excellent players.  At 1B, it looks like Gates is going to start there.  I know he struggled at times last year, but he was one of our top hitters in fall 2016 and was an excellent hitter at the JUCO level.  I feel like he would have been one of our top hitters if he was healthy all of last season.  We have seen several times before where a player's season is de-railed by an injury just before the season starts.  Ficociello his junior year comes to mind in that regard.

Not only did he hit .333, more impressive to me - Evan Lee had a .500 OBP in conference play. Coupled with his base running ability, that was a nasty combo. Not to mention he saw the most pitches per at bat by far of anyone on our team, and working pitchers was not our greatest strength last year. The lack of Lee PT was, imo, the biggest (and one of the only) failures by DVH last year, which I think he acknowledged as much after the season. I was screaming for more Lee all year - I know everyone loves his arm, but relative to how little we used him as a pitcher, he would have been far more valuable in the line-up.

Who would I have played him for? Whoever was struggling, yes, including: Arledge, Bonfield, Gates, Shaddy. This year, I would say the same. I know in baseball you want to stay the course with your guys to get them out of their slumps, but the reality is we are so deep this year, if someone isn't getting it done, we do not have to stay with them! Even if their max potential might be the tiniest bit higher, there is no reason or need to wait on that to come out.
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dotnet

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Re: The Best Part of the 2018 Team - The Depth
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2018, 02:33:53 pm »

Who would I have played him for? Whoever was struggling, yes, including: Arledge, Bonfield, Gates, Shaddy.

I think the biggest thing with the depth is this.  Especially if Kjerstad is starting. Every year we see freshman who go through a pretty signifigant struggle either at the beginning of SEC play or a few weeks into it.  Fletcher definitely did it last year.  Its a long season and facing that many quality pitchers in a row is unusual for those guys. 

I think being able to sit them down with out every day pressure whenever guys start pressing will be pretty beneficial.  Especially since there are not too many breaks during the mid-week. 

With that said, if I had to pick right now I'd rather have Gates (instead of Lee) be the odd man out due to the emergence of Kjerstad.  Well, I want whoever performs the best, but I am higher on that being Lee at this point.
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dotnet

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Re: The Best Part of the 2018 Team - The Depth
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2018, 02:41:53 pm »

I'll also add - I am still not comfortable with the pitching depth.  How many good bullpen guys do you need to feel comfortable?  I think its clear you need 5 starters with so many 2 game mid week series this year.  That leaves about three guys mentioned over and over for the bullpen:  Reindl, Cronin, and Bonnin - how confident are we that he'll throw enough strikes?  There is Loseke, but I need him to prove he can throw strikes before I believe it - though there will be a game or two where he comes up huge. 

Starters:
Knight
Campbell
Murphy
Lee
Rutledge

Bullpen:
Reindl
Cronnin
Loseke
Bonnin

Other guys:
Denton
Kostyshock
Weston Rodgers
Bolden
the other freshmen...


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Knot2brite

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Re: The Best Part of the 2018 Team - The Depth
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2018, 02:52:50 pm »

I am terrified of the bullpen because there is so many new or big question marks. I have hoped the last two winters that Loseke would figure out his control problems because he has a look that suggest high ceiling. Weston Rodgers is another that I really want to do wel because of his frame. I think Denton has a role but it is a one batter situational role and he should not be in a position to have to pitch multiple innings. I just hope that we find some youngin' s to pitch some quality innings during the mid week so we don't have to use them up then and can save them for weekend series( except for the BIG games during the midweek)
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ucahogfan

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Re: The Best Part of the 2018 Team - The Depth
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2018, 03:46:02 pm »

I think the biggest thing with the depth is this.  Especially if Kjerstad is starting. Every year we see freshman who go through a pretty signifigant struggle either at the beginning of SEC play or a few weeks into it.  Fletcher definitely did it last year.  Its a long season and facing that many quality pitchers in a row is unusual for those guys. 

I think being able to sit them down with out every day pressure whenever guys start pressing will be pretty beneficial.  Especially since there are not too many breaks during the mid-week. 

With that said, if I had to pick right now I'd rather have Gates (instead of Lee) be the odd man out due to the emergence of Kjerstad.  Well, I want whoever performs the best, but I am higher on that being Lee at this point.
But like Fletcher last year or Benintendi in 2014, you can't sit Kjerstad for an extended period in time.  Now, I could see him getting some midweek games off to rest, but DVH has shown in the past that he will keep his elite freshman in there every day to help work through the freshmen struggles.

I don't know how to deal with Lee.  He is a rare breed that can truly impact games both on the mound and at the plate.  DH would be his best spot, but Bonfield has that on lock down this year baring injury.
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ucahogfan

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Re: The Best Part of the 2018 Team - The Depth
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2018, 03:58:10 pm »

dotnet,

Regarding the bullpen depth, I think it depends on how long you expect your starters to give you on any given week.  Knight and Campbell are both guys we should expect at least 6 innings (and more like 7-8 innings) during their SEC starts which would limit the impact on the pen on Friday and Saturday.  Murphy is another guy who proved to be an effective starter who could go 5-6 innings as a sophomore so you would expect that we won't be needing 5-6 innings out of our pen multiple times in the weekend baring extra innings.

With that in mind, it would probably lend to needing 4-5 arms out of the pen we could go to and I think we have that.

Jake Reindl will be our top arm out of the pen.  He was the top arm out of the pen last year.  His arm angle makes it difficult on opposing hitters and he has added some velo this fall.  He will be more 90+ compared to the 88-90 he was last year.

Matt Cronin will probably be our top LHP out of the pen.  While he did struggle with command last year, his fastball played up at 90-94 because it jumps on hitters and leads to a lot of strikeouts.  He also has an excellent curveball which keeps hitters off balance.  I feel like he might be our best bet to close games out.

Keaton McKinney can be our long guy once he gets back up to full strength.  He had TJ just before the start of last season so he will be at the tail end of his recovery process.  At his best in the past, he has been 90-94 with that nasty change.  He could even turn into a weekend starter once he gets back up to full strength.

Evan Lee is another option to be a top LHP out of the pen.  He sat mainly 92-95 this fall with his fastball with that excellent curveball.  He has that attitude which lends to an excellent closer type.

Jackson Rutledge and Bryce Bonnin are both freshmen RHPs who I expect to be solid options.  Bonnin struggled early in the fall, but got better as the fall went along.  He is 93-96 with a plus slider.  Rutledge is 93-96 as well, but has a nasty hook instead of a slider.

Those are 6 options who can be big contributors and does not factor in someone like Kole Ramage who could fill the Kopps role from last year.  I feel like Caleb Bolden might be the most likely option among the freshmen to start in the midweek based on what DVH said last fall.
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Knot2brite

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Re: The Best Part of the 2018 Team - The Depth
« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2018, 05:26:34 pm »

Cronin is the key...if he can stay consistent and throw strikes we are good...if he is up and down this year...we aren't as good....Lee is going to have to figure out this year if he is a pitcher or a fielder. This isn't going to be popular but he isn't good enough to be both. He either has to be a fielder who swings ( where do you play him) or a pitcher ( how do you use him) I figure he does both  this year but next year he has to decide. There is no place for a two way in the pros and he has to develop into one or the other
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dotnet

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Re: The Best Part of the 2018 Team - The Depth
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2018, 06:19:07 pm »

UCA - DVH let AB and Fletcher work through their struggles because there were no alternatives.  Even if you had a legit alternative to Fletcher (for example), you're not going to bench him completely - just let him sit for a saturday in the middle of the weekend, or not run him out against a tough matchup for him. 

I have similar thoughts to you on the bullpen - but to my point... the third guy you mentioned is still recovering from TJ.  There are arms and potential down there for sure, but its definitely the biggest question mark going into the season. 

Similar to knot2brite, but before he went off the rails (next post) - I think Cronin is a key.  If he doesn't become the best bullpen arm then I think the bullpen is in serious trouble. Cronin has all of the raw tools to be a top bullpen arm in the country.  This team really needs him to put it together and be the shut down guy he was at times at the end of last year.
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dotnet

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Re: The Best Part of the 2018 Team - The Depth
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2018, 06:28:27 pm »

Lee is going to have to figure out this year if he is a pitcher or a fielder. This isn't going to be popular but he isn't good enough to be both. He either has to be a fielder who swings ( where do you play him) or a pitcher ( how do you use him) I figure he does both  this year but next year he has to decide. There is no place for a two way in the pros and he has to develop into one or the other

The only part of your quote that is remotely agreeable is the part where you acknowledge this is not going to be popular.   

He may turn out to struggle doing one or the other, and I think his future is on the mound, but he has done nothing except to be a very valuable and flexible scholarship (or piece of). 

When you are limited in your scholarships and roster spots, and play 5 games a week and 10 games in 20 days multiple times like Arkansas does... having a guy who can hit and pitch is extremely valuable.  Especially if he can do both as well as Lee has so far. 

Even in this thread (or maybe the one below it and here?) I have argued for him being one 5 starting pitchers and having a spot in the starting lineup over other older players.  Why would you want to give one of those up? 

What has Lee done to make you think he can't do both?  Dominate in the Cal league last year?  Dominate in high school?  Do really well during his freshman year?

The only issue that has come up with him playing both ways so far is DVH's usage - which DVH admitted himself.  It is less common, but there have been several great college players who have played both ways.  Most recently Brenden McKay, who was the 4th pick in the draft this year, and AJ Reed who was also a sandwhich 1st round pick by the Astros who played both ways at UK. 
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ucahogfan

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Re: The Best Part of the 2018 Team - The Depth
« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2018, 08:37:27 pm »

dotnet,

What about Cole and Spanberger last year during the first third of the season?  Both of them struggled mightily, but DVH kept them in the lineup consistently even though we had options like McFarland and Lee.  DVH sees these players every day and gives hitters opportunities to work out of slumps and adjust to the game.

Yeah, McKinney is recovering from TJ, but the recovery from TJ is very promising now and the vast majority of pitchers return completely healthy and some actually add velo.  The pen does have a lot of promising arms, but losing Kopps hurts our depth big time in terms of solid pitchers returning.  He did add a nice little change with his cutter being his main pitch.  The rest of the pen can light up the radar gun.

Reindl had a sub 1 ERA in SEC play last year and appears to have gotten better.  He was one of the top relievers in conference play last year and we should expect the same this year.  Cronin has the ability to be another top arm out of the pen in conference play.  It might actually be a little better to be a little wild to keep hitters off balance.

As far as Lee, I fully agree with you that he can be extremely successful as a two way player.  We have seen it a few times in the last decade or so with LHPs who also excelled at the plate.  Danny Hultzen at UVA, AJ Reed at UK, and Brendan McKay at Louisville all come to mind.  Lee fits more in the Hultzen mold as both Reed and McKay both hit for a lot of power, but Lee is more of a guy who you could have lead off and set the plate for the thunder in the middle of the lineup.
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Knot2brite

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Re: The Best Part of the 2018 Team - The Depth
« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2018, 09:01:25 pm »

The only part of your quote that is remotely agreeable is the part where you acknowledge this is not going to be popular.   

He may turn out to struggle doing one or the other, and I think his future is on the mound, but he has done nothing except to be a very valuable and flexible scholarship (or piece of). 

When you are limited in your scholarships and roster spots, and play 5 games a week and 10 games in 20 days multiple times like Arkansas does... having a guy who can hit and pitch is extremely valuable.  Especially if he can do both as well as Lee has so far. 

Even in this thread (or maybe the one below it and here?) I have argued for him being one 5 starting pitchers and having a spot in the starting lineup over other older players.  Why would you want to give one of those up? 

What has Lee done to make you think he can't do both?  Dominate in the Cal league last year?  Dominate in high school?  Do really well during his freshman year?

The only issue that has come up with him playing both ways so far is DVH's usage - which DVH admitted himself.  It is less common, but there have been several great college players who have played both ways.  Most recently Brenden McKay, who was the 4th pick in the draft this year, and AJ Reed who was also a sandwhich 1st round pick by the Astros who played both ways at UK. 

The sample size for either isn't very big from last year. That is why I think he will do both this year but the reality is that he has to decide which he is going to roll with his junior year. I have heard some guys say that he is a better pitcher and some say that his bat plays well in the pros. If he is going to get to the next level he needs to figure which he is going to be and stick with it after this year. I personally don't think he should swing a bat after this year. He does have a good swing but there hasn't been much sign of pop in it. He does hot for a decent average and if he wants to play at eh next level as a fielder he needs to dedicate his offseason and season to being a fielder and improving his swing. If he is going to be a pitcher then he needs to take next offseason and season to establish himself as a pitchers. All those names that you and UCA mentioned as two way players had more of a dominate side to them that they eventually would go to...Lee doesn't have that ...he can be either one but I just don't see him being a two way guy and being able to be dominate at one while still doing the other. Eibner was in the same boat. He wanted to do both but when he decided to swing the bat he was able to be dominate at it and he is in the pros because of it. Lee needs to decide which one he is going to be and be that one NEXT year. He needs to take this year to figure it out. It isn't a slam against him it is just a fact that he has to decide at some point. The guys in front of him in the field are more numerous. The only place I can see him being able to do both might be a DH situation and he isn't doing that this year...
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dotnet

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Re: The Best Part of the 2018 Team - The Depth
« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2018, 11:12:03 pm »

dotnet,

What about Cole and Spanberger last year during the first third of the season?  Both of them struggled mightily, but DVH kept them in the lineup consistently even though we had options like McFarland and Lee.  DVH sees these players every day and gives hitters opportunities to work out of slumps and adjust to the game.

Yeah, McKinney is recovering from TJ, but the recovery from TJ is very promising now and the vast majority of pitchers return completely healthy and some actually add velo.  The pen does have a lot of promising arms, but losing Kopps hurts our depth big time in terms of solid pitchers returning.  He did add a nice little change with his cutter being his main pitch.  The rest of the pen can light up the radar gun.

Reindl had a sub 1 ERA in SEC play last year and appears to have gotten better.  He was one of the top relievers in conference play last year and we should expect the same this year.  Cronin has the ability to be another top arm out of the pen in conference play.  It might actually be a little better to be a little wild to keep hitters off balance.


I think we're talking about two different things with the depth.  I'm talking about a guys who have a three week rough patch in the middle of the season getting a few extra games off that wouldn't normally be there.

Still, Spanberger and Cole both got a few extra days off towards the end of non conference if I remember things correctly.  Yeah - Cole started 13 less games than Bonfield and my guess is most of that came when he was struggling. 

I'm not talking about benching guys.  That and I think we'd both agree that there isn't one way to deal with a slump.  I think every slump/player is different in what is needed. 

Also - I know there are some quality arms in the bullpen.  But are you honestly saying you think it isn't the biggest question mark on the team? 
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Re: The Best Part of the 2018 Team - The Depth
« Reply #15 on: January 22, 2018, 08:51:18 am »

Dot and UCA, I appreciate both you young pups (and you know I love you both!) - but, the fact is I dont remember a time when we had both this amount of quality and quantity of excellent ball players to sort it all out from.  The statistics alone suggests we will be fine.  Throw in the competition for scarce playing time, and everyone will be well motivated.  DVH has upon occasion broken from the mold and benched established players (not often, but he has).  The thing is that if you bring in a player for a game or two and they dont light it up, you go back to the veteran.  But is they do light it up, then you have a decision on whether to let the vet sit longer or not.  Thats the way it works.

In today's game where you dont have people for four years, you either use em or lose em. 

DVH is well aware of all this and all his variables.  We will be fine, trust me.
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ucahogfan

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Re: The Best Part of the 2018 Team - The Depth
« Reply #16 on: January 22, 2018, 10:31:45 pm »



I think we're talking about two different things with the depth.  I'm talking about a guys who have a three week rough patch in the middle of the season getting a few extra games off that wouldn't normally be there.

Still, Spanberger and Cole both got a few extra days off towards the end of non conference if I remember things correctly.  Yeah - Cole started 13 less games than Bonfield and my guess is most of that came when he was struggling. 

I'm not talking about benching guys.  That and I think we'd both agree that there isn't one way to deal with a slump.  I think every slump/player is different in what is needed. 

Also - I know there are some quality arms in the bullpen.  But are you honestly saying you think it isn't the biggest question mark on the team?
Yeah, we are talking about two different things.  Thank you for clearing that up.  And yeah, I fully agree with you.  If a player is in an extended slump, it would be a great idea to give him a couple days rest and replace him with our depth.

I would still like to see McFarland and Lee get about 100 ABs this year regardless (if possible) as I think they have excellent potential.

The bullpen is one of my biggest concerns on the team along with the overall team speed.  We have a lot of potential down in the pen, but outside of Reindl, it is mainly unproven.  This pen might have the most potential we have seen in a long time, but let's wait and see with the results.

I would also like to see us run more as a team this year; however, I understand why we did not run much last year.  With the power up and down the lineup, DVH did not want to lose baserunners to caught stealings.  If we were more of a 50-60 HR team last year, I think it would have been more of a 45-50 SB type team.
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