Expecting freshmen to be major contributors from the start is a lofty goal.
For most freshmen, their first seasons include some success. However, most first-year players also deal with some inconsistencies.
By relying on freshmen for significant roles, teams are taking a gamble. But sometimes that gamble is worth taking based on talent alone.
Florida and San Diego will rely on ultra-talented players to provide a boost this season. The Gators welcome first-rounder Karsten Whitson to the weekend rotation, while San Diego is ecstatic that first-rounder Dylan Covey showed up at college. Covey gives the Toreros some stability when it comes to their weekend rotation.
Other pitchers will be counted on, too.
Arkansas' Ryne Stanek, Rice's John Simms, Nebraska's Logan Ehlers, LSU's Kevin Gausman and UCLA's Adam Plutko are expected to be in their respective teams' weekend rotations this season.
The impact freshmen, at least on paper, favor the pitchers over the hitters. But we'll see if that's the case when the season arrives.
Dylan Covey, San Diego
Covey likely wouldn't be on campus if not for a physical by the Brewers last summer that revealed he had Type I diabetes, but the Toreros will take it. Covey was drafted 14th overall by the Brewers last summer. Though he lost significant weight as a high school senior, Covey is back to normal after a productive fall and is sitting around 92-93 mph with his fastball. The Toreros lost some big-time arms from last year's team, so Covey's addition to the weekend rotation is huge for coach Rich Hill.
Karsten Whitson, Florida
With the MLB draft deadline approaching last August, the Gators already were in great shape with the return of all three weekend starting pitchers. Whitson's addition was going to be icing on the cake. Whitson was drafted ninth overall by the Padres, but he opted to go to college and is expected to start the season in UF's weekend rotation. That gives the Gators four outstanding starting options. UF already was in good shape before Whitson arrived. Now the Gators are a national title favorite.
Adam Plutko, UCLA
The Bruins welcome back the nation's top one-two punch on the weekend in Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer. But after losing left-handed pitcher Rob Rasmussen last summer, the focused moved to finding a No. 3 starter to support the dynamic duo. The Bruins have found their guy in Plutko, a talented right-hander. Plutko could close at times this season, but he is expected to begin the year in the weekend rotation. Plutko was a sixth-round pick of the Astros last summer and has an 88-91 mph fastball .
Kevin Gausman, LSU
He's easily the most important newcomer on the Tigers' roster this season. When they lost Zach Lee to the Dodgers at the deadline last summer, attention in the final hours turned to Gausman, who had packed his things in Colorado and headed to Baton Rouge, La. The Tigers sweated out the deadline, but Gausman decided to go to college. Now, without Austin Ross, Anthony Ranaudo and others, the Tigers expect Gausman to make an immediate impact as a weekend starter. Gausman still has a slender frame to grow into and enters his freshman campaign with a fastball in the lower 90s.
Matt Grimes, Georgia Tech
It'll be interesting to see how the right-handed pitcher increases his stock as the season progresses. Grimes isn't expected to begin the season in the Jackets' weekend rotation, but he could find his way there with a strong start. Grimes, a fourth-round pick in last summer's MLB draft, turned down overtures from the White Sox to attend college. Now, he hopes to give the Jackets a dominant arm after losing Deck McGuire to the draft. Grimes begins his college career with a fastball in the lower 90s.
DeAndre Smelter, Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets caught a break when Smelter decided to go to college after getting drafted by the Twins in the 14th round of the MLB draft last summer. Smelter was a three-star football recruit out of high school, and he turned down an offer from Georgia to attend Georgia Tech as a baseball player. Smelter was a wide receiver and defensive back in high school, and he brings excellent versatility to the Tech outfield this season. We'll see how his offense comes together as the season progresses. He also will contribute on the mound with a fastball that can reach the mid 90s.
Ryne Stanek, Arkansas
It's no wonder coach Dave Van Horn was ecstatic last summer when the MLB draft deadline struck and Stanek decided to attend college. He's a huge coup for the Razorbacks. The Hogs enter the '11 campaign without all three weekend starters from last year's team, meaning Stanek will be a weekend starter from the get-go. Stanek, a right-hander, was drafted in the third round by the Mariners and has a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s. He's expected to have a solid freshman campaign.
Logan Ehlers, Nebraska
The Huskers are in desperate need of a successful season, and the addition of Ehlers makes that more possible. Ehlers was drafted in the eighth round by the Blue Jays last summer, and many believed he would sign by the deadline. Instead, Ehlers decided to stay firm on his commitment to the Huskers. Ehlers gives the Huskers a front-line arm to build off this spring. Ehlers has a good frame, a good fastball and a solid curveball and slider. Look for the left-hander to make an immediate impact.
Austin Wilson, Stanford
Talent certainly won't be an issue when the Cardinal take the field this season. They welcomed a talented group of newcomers in the fall, and Wilson is one of the headliners. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound freshman is expected to have an immediate impact this season. Though he's not expected to hit for an incredibly high average, he's expected to be a consistent contributor. Wilson will be even more important from a defensive standpoint, taking his great defensive skills to right field. He's a freshman All-American if he has a productive year at the plate.
John Simms, Rice
Not having a dominant starting pitcher was an issue for the Owls last season, but the addition of Simms could alleviate some of those concerns this season. Simms only was drafted in the 39th round by the Nationals last summer, but he would've been drafted much higher had he not made it known he was committed to college. Simms could close at times this season, but he is expected to begin the season in the weekend rotation. Either way, he's expected to make a huge impact from the start. Simms hit 93 mph during fall workouts and displayed a nasty breaking ball. He's exactly what the Owls need this season.