Several name programs have huge holes to fill

Fall workouts couldn’t be more important to some programs.

San Diego State, Gonzaga and Kansas State are programs that took huge steps forward last season. They’re also programs with several huge holes to fill this fall.

The Aztecs must replace National Pitcher of the Year Stephen Strasburg and fellow weekend starter Tyler Lavigne in addition to leading hitter Erik Castro.

Gonzaga must replace a pair of weekend starters in Matt Fields and Steven Ames. Replacing position players and leading hitters Tyson Van Winkle and Ryan Wiegand won’t be an easy chore, either.

Then there’s K-State. The Wildcats took a step forward with 40-plus wins last season and would love to build on that campaign. However, losing All-American pitcher A.J. Morris and fellow weekend starter Lance Hoge will be tough.

North Carolina, Georgia, LSU and Mississippi are big-time programs that have some important holes to fill this fall.

Competitiveness will be at an all-time high for some of these teams this fall.

Louisiana State

Key losses. P Louis Coleman, OF Jared Mitchell, SS DJ LeMahieu, OF Ryan Schimpf, 1B Sean Ochinko

Analysis. The Tigers once again will compete for a national title without several key cogs, but there’s no question some guys will be tough to replace. The Tigers must find a way to adequately replace outfielders Jared Mitchell and Ryan Schimpf. Shortstop DJ LeMahieu and first baseman Sean Ochinko also were key contributors on last year’s national title team. There’s also pitcher Louis Coleman, who was the heart and soul for the Tigers last season. He also was a fabulous big-game pitcher. The Tigers will be in great shape entering the spring, but there’s much work to do this fall. It’ll be interesting to see how some of LSU’s newcomers make the transition to big-time college baseball.

North Carolina

Key losses. 1B Dustin Ackley, P Alex White, P Adam Warren, P Brian Moran, 3B Kyle Seager, C Mark Fleury

Analysis. If there’s a campaign where the Tar Heels are vulnerable to somewhat of a letdown, it’s next spring. The Tar Heels have plenty of talent on campus and will begin the season in the top 25. However, they have an uphill climb to be a national title contender. The Heels have the tough chore of replacing 2009 National Player of the Year Dustin Ackley in addition to third baseman Kyle Seager. They also must replace weekend starters Adam Warren and Alex White in addition to reliever Brian Moran. There’s also the departure of Mark Fleury, who was a big-time leader and contributor last season. UNC still is a program that can overcome some tough departures.

Mississippi

Key losses. P Scott Bittle, P Nathan Baker, P Brett Bukvich, P Phillip Irwin, OF Jordan Henry, SS Evan Button, C Kyle Henson, C Brett Basham, OF Logan Power

Analysis. The Rebels are another SEC team that will need a plethora of newcomers to step up next season. Ole Miss certainly has a wealth of talent on campus this fall, but there are several players no longer in the program that will be tough to replace. For starters, the Rebels must replace pitchers Scott Bittle, Nathan Baker, Brett Bukvich and Phillip Irwin. All four appeared in at least 15 contests last season. At the plate, replacing Jordan Henry, Evan Button, Kyle Henson, Brett Basham and Logan Power won’t be easy. Henry finished last season second on the team in batting average and Button, Power and Henson each finished the season hitting over .300. Basham was a key leader for the Rebels. Ole Miss has left-handed pitcher Drew Pomeranz and a crop of position players back this fall. The returnees and newcomers must rise to the occasion.

Georgia

Key losses. 1B Rich Poythress, OF Matt Cerione, C Bryce Massanari, DH Joey Lewis, P Trevor Holder, P Dean Weaver, P Will Harvil

Analysis. The Bulldogs have recruited well the past few seasons and will need several newcomers to rise to the occasion to contend for the SEC title next season. To say the Bulldogs have a few holes to fill is an understatement. The Bulldogs must replace power hitters Rich Poythress, Bryce Massanari and Joey Lewis in addition to versatile outfielder Matt Cerione, who served as a sparkplug for the Bulldogs last season. The ‘Dogs also must find a way to replace weekend starter Trevor Holder and relievers Dean Weaver and Will Harvil. Georgia has some talented returnees such as position players Colby May and Levi Hyams and pitchers Mike Palazzone and Alex McRee, but will have little room for error this fall and in the spring.

Oklahoma

Key losses. P Andrew Doyle, P Garrett Richards, P Chase Anderson, P Antwonie Hubbard, 2B Matt Harughty, C J.T. Wise, 1B Aaron Baker, SS Bryant Hernandez, OF Jamie Johnson

Analysis. The Sooners entered last season with high expectations, but few believed they’d actually earn a national seed before the season was said and done. OU failed to make it to Omaha, but getting a national seed was a step forward. Now the Sooners enter fall workouts with a plethora of huge holes to fill. For starters, OU must find a way to replace position players Matt Harughty, J.T. Wise, Aaron Baker, Bryant Hernandez and Jamie Johnson. On the mound, the Sooners must replace ace pitcher Andrew Doyle and hard-throwing Garrett Richards, who was dominant at times last season. Chase Anderson and Antwonie Hubbard also are losses. Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway has worked his magic before, but this fall may be his toughest test yet.

San Diego State

Key losses. P Stephen Strasburg, P Tyler Lavigne, P Jon Berger, 3B Erik Castro

Analysis. It’s not often that one player causes a team to have gaping holes, but that certainly is the case with the Aztecs. The Aztecs enter fall workouts without perhaps the best college pitcher ever. Yeah, that’s a little tough to replace. Adding to the idea of losing Strasburg are the departures of weekend starter Tyler Lavigne and Jon Berger, who made 15 appearances and logged 88 innings last season. SDSU also must find a way to replace leading hitter Erik Castro, who finished last season with a .382 batting average. The Aztecs welcome back stud reliever Addison Reed this fall, but many more arms must rise to the occasion between now and next spring for the Aztecs to return to a regional. Last season was a step forward, but there’s plenty of work to do.

Oklahoma State

Key losses. P Tyler Blandford, P Andrew Oliver, P Jeff Breedlove, OF Neil Medchill, OF Micheal Dabbs,

Analysis. The Cowboys have a nice collection of hitters and pitchers returning this fall, including weekend starter Tyler Lyons. But the Pokes also have some gaping holes to fill between now and the spring. The Cowboys are without weekend starters Andy Oliver and Tyler Blandford this fall. Neither Oliver nor Blandford had impressive ’09 campaigns, but both had strong moments throughout their careers. There’s also Breedlove, who appeared in 16 games last season. At the plate, Medchill and Dabbs will be tough to replace. Medchill finished last season with 14 homers and Dabbs had 13 and a .337 batting average. Many eyes this fall will be on hitters Tom Belza and Doug Kroll and pitchers Randy McCurry and Lyons.

Florida

Key losses. P Patrick Keating, P Billy Bullock, P Tony Davis, P Stephen Locke, C Buddy Munroe, OF Avery Barnes, SS Mike Mooney, 1B Brandon McArthur

Analysis. Florida sure is glad coach Kevin O’Sullivan has a staff that can recruit at a high level. If not for that, the Gators would enter fall workouts in dire straits. The Gators have several huge holes to fill this fall, beginning with the departures of top relievers Billy Bullock and Tony Davis, who each appeared in 32 or more games last season. The Gators also must replace pitchers Patrick Keating and Stephen Locke. At the plate, leading hitter Avery Barnes is gone and replacing leader Brandon McArthur and Buddy Munroe and Mike Mooney won’t be easy. A crop of pitchers in addition to position players Preston Tucker, Josh Adams and Matt den Dekker must have good fall and spring campaigns. UF will be ranked in the spring, but how high is the question.

Gonzaga

Key losses. P Steven Ames, P Matt Fields, P A.J. Proszek, C Tyson Van Winkle, 1B Ryan Wiegand

Analysis. With San Diego and Pepperdine both down last season, Gonzaga had little trouble taking over the WCC and making an NCAA regional appearance. The Zags have some work to do to take the next step and make a super regional. GU must find a way to replace its top two weekend starters in Matt Fields and Steven Ames. They also will be without reliever A.J. Proszek, who made 13 appearances and logged 49 innings last season. At the plate, replacing leading hitter Tyson Van Winkle and Ryan Wiegand won’t be easy. Van Winkle finished the ’09 campaign with a team-best .362 average and Wiegand hit .318 with seven homers and 65 RBIs. GU has an outstanding coach in Mark Machtolf, but there’s much work to be done this fall.

Kansas State

Key losses. P A.J. Morris, P Lance Hoge, OF Justin Bloxom, 3B Drew Biery, C Rob Vaughn

Analysis. The Wildcats made their biggest statement in years last season by reaching an NCAA regional and accumulating 43 wins. But K-State coach Brad Hill won’t be satisfied unless the Wildcats return to a regional next spring with a chance to take the next step to a super regional. Accomplishing that goal won’t be easy. The Wildcats are without All-American pitcher A.J. Morris and fellow weekend starter Lance Hoge this fall. They also must replace leading hitter Justin Bloxom, who finished last season hitting .361 with 12 homers and 63 RBIs. Also missing this fall are productive hitters Drew Biery and Rob Vaughn. The ‘Cats have some solid returnees in reliever Thomas Rooke and position players Carter Jurica and Nick Martini, but fall workouts will be more important than ever for this program.

Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Yahoo! Sports and Rivals.com. Follow him on Twitter and follow Yahoo! Sports College Baseball on Facebook. Send Kendall a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Thursday, Sep 10, 2009