California Blog - College

Although the 2012 season is not yet finished, with six conference games to go for the Cal baseball team, it's about time to make some way-too-early predictions about what next year's team could look like.

First impressions: Young, but deep, with a lot of promising talent but not a lot of veteran presence.

Head coach David Esquer has said that after last year's cancellation/reinstatement drama, it will take the Bears three years to "get back to square one." 2013 will be Year Two.

Key Losses:
RHP Matt Flemer (Draft, graduation)
LHP Justin Jones (Draft)
2B Tony Renda (Draft)
C Chadd Krist  (Draft, graduation)
IF Mitch Delfino (Draft*, graduation)
CF Chad Bunting (Draft, graduation)
OF Danny Oh (graduation)
RHP Stephen Pistoresi (graduation)
RHP Joey Donofrio (graduation)

* = If Delfino gets drafted anywhere after the 17th round, I wouldn't be surprised if he came back, thereby adding a proven veteran bat, but making the infield situation a bit more crowded. It would be a very good problem to have.

Losing Renda is a foregone conclusion, and it will really sting. There is no way around that reality. There is no one in the program who can hit like him, and in fact, very few players in college baseball who can, for that matter. The good thing is that incoming freshman Mitchell Kranson has Renda's work ethic. The question will be if he can develop into that kind of complete hitter.

Losing Krist and Flemer hurt almost as much. Krist has been a rock behind home plate for three years, and because of that, Knapp hasn't gotten much time to practice his craft in game situations. As a hitter, though, Knapp is a slight upgrade, if he stays within himself and doesn't try to do too much. Flemer is, along with Renda, the heart and soul of this team. His fire and competitive drive will be sorely missed, as will his rubber arm and control. Luckily, there are two youngsters coming in who can throw harder and provide real power arms in his stead, but they'll be fresh out of high school.

Projected Lineup:
CF SR Darrell Matthews (L)
DH JR Mike Reuvekamp (R)
1B SR Devon Rodriguez (L)
C JR Andrew Knapp (S)
3B SO Chris Paul (R)
LF RSF Brian Celsi (R)
RF SR Vince Bruno (L)
2B SO Brenden Farney (L)
SS JR Derek Campbell (R)

Projected Weekend Rotation:
LHP JR Kyle Porter
RHP SR Logan Scott
LHP JR Michael Theofanopoulos

Weekday Starter Candidates:
LHP SO Chris Muse-Fisher
RHP SO Keaton Siomkin
RHP Fr Cal Becker
RHP Fr Ryan Mason

Projected Depth:
C: Knapp, Alex Egber, incoming FR Mitchell Kranson (Kranson is the heir apparent at the position)
1B: Rodriguez, Jacob Wark, incoming FR Nick Halamandaris
2B: Farney, Reuvekamp, incoming FR Max Dutto
SS: Campbell, Paul, Reuvekamp, Dutto
3B: Paul, Campbell, Kranson
RF: Bruno, incoming FR Grant Diede, Halamandaris
CF: Matthews, Brian Celsi, Diede
LF: Celsi, Diede, Halamandaris, Paul, Knapp
DH: Reuvekamp, Bruno, Wark, Kranson

Long Relief -- RHP RSFr Michael Jordan, LHP RSFr Robb Woodcock, Becker, Mason, Siomkin, Muse-Fisher
Middle Relief -- RHP JR Ryan Sandler, RHP SO Eric Walbridge, LHP Fr Jake Schultz, RHP Fr Jordan Talbot
Late-Game -- RHP JR Michael Lowden, LHP JR Matt Evanoff, RHP Ryan Wertenberger (Expect Lowden and Wertenberger to compete for the closer job)

Celsi is a spark plug with a strong arm and a good bat for contact. Wouldn't expect much power from him, but he could run into some doubles. Diede is a tremendous athlete, as is Halamandaris, and that alone might get them at-bats and time in the field, especially with the losses of Oh and Bunting.

The infield situation, apart from Rodriguez, will be fluid, particularly if Delfino returns. If Campbell's fielding at short doesn't improve -- he got no help in the summer wood-bat leagues, where he played mostly outfield -- he can slide over to third Paul and Farney would slide into the middle. As of now, Farney looks to be the superior shortstop, and Paul wouldn't be at-home at second, and it would be a waste of his arm. Halamandaris appears to be the type of player who could be the heir apparent at first, and he's got a lot of pop.

Becker and Mason could compete for starting slots right away. Both are power arms, but need to fine-tune their control and improve their secondary pitches.  At this point, it looks like Woodcock and Jordan were recruiting misses. They may find a home in long or middle relief, but Becker and Mason could both easily cut their teeth in those roles, as Kyle Porter did, in preparation for 2014 rotation slots.

Muse-Fisher has recently proved that he has the stuff to compete against Pac-12 teams as a starter, and soft-tossers like him have succeeded in weekend roles in the past (Oregon ca. 2011 comes to mind), but he'll be more at home during the week, as will Siomkin.

The thing that the 2013 team will have that this year's edition lacks is pitching depth. Granted, it will be young and unproven, but arms like Becker and Mason show a lot of promise, and a healthy Kyle Porter teamed with a durable Logan Scott will give Cal front-line starters with veteran experience. Theofanopoulos is the wild card. His stuff is electric, but he tends to get in his own way and over-think situations. He is a quietly intense competitor with the same kind of fire as this year's Saturday starter Matt Flemer, though he's not as outwardly expressive. That has changed in recent weeks, however.

What this team will need to find are vocal leaders. Paul is quiet, Farney and Campbell are excitable and Matthews isn't a pot-stirrer. The ring leaders will have to be Reuvekamp, Rodriguez -- who watches his game-winning knock against Baylor three times a day since he's been injured this season -- and Porter.

The one concern will be power at the corners. Bruno is a contact bat, as is Celsi. Diede has to prove he can hit college pitching, but has the build to be a gap power guy. If Matthews hits a home run, it will be of the inside-the-park variety. Halamandaris has a ton of pop, and that alone could get him into the lineup at the very least as a late-inning one-swing weapon.

The only real proven power on this team comes from Rodriguez and, to some extent, Knapp. Paul has the ability to go long, but he has to close up a few holes in his swing and really work on driving the ball, and he'll use summer ball to do just that. Farney thinks he has more power than he does, but more than half of his hits this year have been doubles. He needs to play to the gap and not try to hit it over the fence. If he does that, he could drive in runs in the bottom half of the order.

So, there you have it, a hilariously-too-early look at the 2013 Cal baseball team.

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