Fullerton Regional: #2 Arizona State

Unlike the other two teams who are traveling to Fullerton this weekend, Arizona State is traditionally one of the elite programs in the country and when you ask somebody to name some of the best college baseball programs, ASU will be on the short list of names that comes up.

#2 Seed – Arizona State Sun Devils

Overall Record – 35-20-1

Conference Record – 16-14 (4th place, tied with Stanford)

How they qualified for a regional – At-large

Last regional appearance – 2011.  3-0 at Arizona State regional – wins against New Mexico, Charlotte and Arkansas.  1-2 vs. Texas at Austin super regional.  Ineligible for post-season in 2012.

RPI/ISR – 21/17 (Fullerton opponent ISR comparison – Cal Poly 18)

SOS – 30 (RPI)/12 (ISR)

Record vs. tournament field – 12-5.  Non-conference – 2-0 vs. Arkansas, 2-0 at Wichita State, 1-0 vs. New Mexico, 2-1 vs. Valparaiso.  Conference – 2-1 vs. Oregon, 2-1 vs. UCLA, 1-2 at Oregon State.

Record vs. top 50/top 100 RPI – 7-4/17-12

 

Season Summary

The Sun Devils have made 36 regional appearances, won five national championships and have gone to Omaha eleven times since their most recent College World Series title in 1981, including four times in six years between 2005 and 2010, and they have won at least 30 games for fifty straight seasons.  ASU played in regionals twelve straight times from 2000 to 2011 until they were placed on probation for violations committed by former head coach Pat Murphy and were ineligible for the post-season in 2012 so they came into this season looking to make amends and start a new post-season streak.

ASU lost their four leading home run hitters, their best starting pitcher and their closer from 2012 but a program like ASU doesn't rebuild, they reload and that is exactly what they did with a consensus top ten recruiting class.   The Sun Devils got the season started by winning series at home against Bethune-Cookman and on the road at Tennessee before hosting a tournament that included Arkansas, whom they beat twice, Pacific, whom they beat once, and Gonzaga, whom they tied due to a travel curfew.  ASU improved their record to 11-2-1 going into conference play when they swept Long Beach at home and won a midweek game against New Mexico in extra innings. 

ASU got off to a slow start in Pac 11 play by losing their first two series to Washington State and at Oregon State, the highlight of which was a no-hitter by FR LHP Ryan Kellogg at OSU.  The Sun Devils returned home and re-established themselves as one of the better teams in the conference when they won their series against UCLA and Oregon, which got them started on a 16-5 run that included series wins against USC, Valparaiso and Utah and wins in five of six midweek games.  ASU has not been playing well over the last month and is only 6-7 during that time while losing three of their four weekend series, which includes losing a series at home to Stanford, winning a series at Cal and losing series at home to Arizona and at Washington to end the regular season.

 

Offense

  • Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 118 (increases offense by 18%).  The elevation at Packard Stadium is almost 1200 feet high so the ball flies out of the ballpark, especially in the short power alleys at 365 feet.  The grass on the playing surface is kept short and gets rock hard when the weather warms up so balls get through the infield quickly.
  • Batting Average – .296 (NCAA ranking – 41, conference ranking 1st); .289 in conf. games (2nd).
  • Scoring – 360 (44, 2), 6.4 runs per game; 183 (2nd), 6.1 runs per game in conf. games.
  • Home Runs – 46 (27, 1); 26 in conf. games (1st).
  • Slugging Percentage – .450 (21, 1); .441 in conf. games (1st).
  • On Base Percentage – .378 (53, 3); .374 in conf. games (1st).
  • Walks – 212 (168, 4), 3.8 per game; 120 (3rd), 4.0 per game in conf. games.
  • HBP's – 63 (107, 5); 33 in conf. games (3rd).
  • Stolen Bases – 43-66 (209, 6); 18-30 in conf. games (8th). 
  • Sac Bunts – 24 (253, 10); 18 in conf. games (10th).
  • Strikeouts – 358 (DNR, 3), 6.4 per game; 184 (4th), 6.1 per game in conf. games.

 

Playing little ball isn't part of ASU's game plan because they hardly ever bunt to move runners over and don't attempt to steal bases too often.  With their ballpark, that's not a bad way to run their offense because the Sun Devils go up to the plate looking to swing their bats and hit the ball somewhere – hard – and the result of that philosophy has been the Sun Devils having the best offense in the Pac 11.  ASU's hitters will work counts and see lots of pitches because they walk at a good rate and they also strike out quite a bit.  The Sun Devils have played 39 games in the desert or at elevation and have averaged 7.1 runs per game in those games and in the seventeen games they have played at sea level the offense has averaged a more pedestrian 4.8 runs per game and been held to four runs or less in ten of those games.

 

Batting Order

CF – JR #8 Kasey Coffman (LH – .335/.431/.532, 7-43-9) only hit .234 as a Soph but is a good athlete who has played up to his ability level this season and is among the leaders in the Pac 11 in AVG, R, H, 3B, HR, RBI, SLG, OBP and total bases and was an All-Pac 11 selection.  He has very good plate discipline with a 24/25 BB/K ratio and also leads the team with 12 HBP's.  Coffman has really turned it on in conference games and leads the Pac 11 with a .589 SLG % and six HR's and has been one of the hottest hitters on the team, going 11-29 over the last two weeks.  He has good speed and leads ASU with nine SB's and will probably be drafted in the teens in the MLB draft.

3B – JR #9 Michael Benjamin (RH – .349/.377/.569, 8-44-4) hit .322 as a Soph and is another player who has taken a leap forward, increasing his SLG % by almost 150 pts to lead the Pac 11.  He is also among the conference leaders in AVG, R, H, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI and total bases and was an All-Pac 11 selection.  Benjamin is tied for the lead in Pac 11 games with Coffman with 6 HR's and leads the conference in runs scored by one over Coffman. He has been productive over the last two weeks with ten RBI in the last seven games.  The one area that Benjamin has issues with is his plate discipline because he has a poor 9/47 BB/K ratio and is third in the Pac 11 in strikeouts.  He will probably be drafted in the teens in the MLB draft.

SS – JR #7 James McDonald (Both – .264/.356/.407, 5-35-6) has good power for a middle infielder who isn't that big with twenty extra base hits.  He doesn't hit for a high average but he is a good run producer with solid plate discipline with a 26/34 BB/K ratio that has been even better in Pac 11 games, where he has an excellent 22/16 BB/K ratio.  He has cooled off recently and only gone 5-27 over the last two weeks.  McDonald was drafted in the eleventh round out of HS and will probably be drafted in the late teens to early twenties in the MLB draft.

C – SR #55 Max Rossiter (RH – .279/.377/.363, 1-25-2) was the only returning position player to receive all-conference honors in 2012 and has had a decent year but not quite like he did last season when he hit .326.  He has very good plate discipline with a 23/22 BB/K ratio and does a good job of making contact and spraying the ball around the field.  Rossiter has only gone 5-28 over the last two weeks but has stayed patient by drawing six walks.  He will probably be drafted around the 10th round as a good SR signing and was an honorable mention All-Pac 11 selection. 

DH – Soph #11 Nathaniel Causey (LH – .287/.421/.451, 4-24-1) will start vs. RHP's and is a big man with solid power potential.  He has an excellent 27/22 BB/K ratio for somebody hitting in the middle of the lineup and is second on the team with a .328 AVG in Pac 11 games and has been one of the hotter hitters on the team, going 8-19 with six walks over the last two weeks.  FR #14 R.J. Ybarra (RH – .315/.372/.514, 5-22-0) will start vs. LHP's and is one of the team leaders in SLG.  Unlike Causey, he has a poor 5/28 BB/K ratio and takes a big swing but when he connects the ball usually goes a long way.

RF – Soph #20 Trever Allen (RH – .304/.378/.525, 9-48-7) is one of the better athletes on the team with his power/speed combo and leads the team in HR's and is second in SB's.  He has been one of the better power hitters in the Pac 11 and is among the conference leaders in HR's, RBI's, SLG, R and total bases and was an honorable mention All-Pac 11 selection.  Allen's plate discipline is average with a 19/34 BB/K ratio.  He has cooled off some recently and only gone 6-27 over the last two weeks.  Allen is draft eligible and will probably be the highest drafted position player for ASU in the 8th-10th round range. 

2B – Soph #17 Drew Stankiewicz (Both – .312/.379/.420, 2-25-7) originally committed to Fullerton but changed his mind when there was a change of coaches after 2011.  He is hitting much better than he did as a FR when he hit .265 and his plate discipline has been excellent in Pac 11 games with a 13/13 BB/K ratio and he is hitting .318 in conference games.  Stankiewicz has good speed and is one of the few threats in the lineup to steal a base. 

1B – FR #13 Dalton DiNatale (LH – .313/.406/.426, 2-25-3) is a big man with quite a bit of potential that figures to develop over the next two seasons.  He has a good line drive stroke that figures to turn doubles into HR's as he gets stronger.  DiNatale's swing can get a little long and he has struck out about 1/4 of the time.  He has been hitting well over the last two weeks, going 9-27 with an HR and six RBI. 

LF – Soph #21 Jake Peevyhouse (LH – .261/.369/.415, 2-26-3) has struggled during conference games with a .236 AVG but does a good job of making contact and taking good AB's with a 23/28 BB/K ratio.  He has been hitting better recently with five RBI in his last seven games.

 

Defense

  • Fielding – .964 (181, 9) – 83 errors, 54 unearned runs.  ASU has underachieved on defense because their players should not be making this many errors.  McDonald and Stankiewicz have good range and are second and third in the Pac 11 in assists but those two and Benjamin have combined to make 46 errors, with Stankiewicz making twelve of his errors in Pac 11 games.
  • DiNatale doesn't move around that well at 1B.  Peevyhouse is average in LF.  Coffman in CF and Allen in RF both have good arms and good range.
  • Stolen Base Attempts – 88-112 (DNR, 11).  Runners are 72-83 against Rossiter and the other three teams in this regional are aggressive on the bases so it could be a long weekend for Rossiter with runners looking to run often against him.
  • WP's/PB's Allowed – 35 (DNR, 2).  Rossiter may have issues throwing out runners but he does an excellent job of blocking pitches in the dirt.

 

Pitching

Friday SP Brady Rodgers and closer Jake Barrett were both third round picks in 2012 so some of the younger pitchers needed to step up and ASU brought in several FR and two of them have moved right into prominent roles on the pitching staff.  The Sun Devils were getting solid pitching during the non-conference schedule when they allowed three runs or less in nine out of fourteen games going into Pac 11 play.  ASU's pitching staff started to falter during conference play and the team ERA ballooned up to 5.18 and is next to last in conference play.  The Sun Devils are a pitch to contact, ground ball staff and they have allowed the fewest HR's in the Pac 11 but that has also resulted in lots of chances and errors by their infielders.  ASU's pitchers have tended to be wild and they have allowed the most free bases on walks and HBP's in the conference.


  • ERA – 4.22 (141/8); 5.18 in conference (10th). 
  • AVG – .264 (79/5); .292 in conference (6th). 
  • HR – 11 (DNR/1); 9 in conference (4th). 
  • SLG – .331 (DNR/3); .370 in conference (5th).  
  • Walks – 216 (168/10), 3.8 BB's/9 IP; 115 (9th) in conference, 3.8 BB's/9 IP. 
  • HBP – 73 (DNR/1); 39 in conference (2nd). 
  • OBP – .358 (DNR/7); .380 in conference (8th). 
  • Strikeouts – 366 (141/5), 6.5 K/9 IP; 175 in conference (8th), 5.8 K/9 IP. 

 

Starters

JR #43 Trevor Williams (RHP – 5-6, 4.17 ERA, 15 GS, 3 CG, 104 IP, 116 H, 23 BB, 77 K, .287 AVG, 1 HR, 7 HBP, 1 WP, 12-17 SB) was an all-conference selection in 2012 after he went 12-2 with a 2.05 ERA and pitched for Team USA last summer so big things were expected for him this season.  He delivered on those expectations in his four non-conference starts when he went 3.0 with a 1.20 ERA but things changed when ASU got into Pac 11 play.  Williams allowed nine runs in his first conference start to WSU and four runs at OSU in losing his first two starts.  He had a strong start against UCLA when he only allowed one run in 7 2/3 IP but he has allowed at least four runs in six of his last eight starts and went 1-6 with a 5.59 ERA in ten conference starts and Pac 11 teams hit .329 against him.  Williams usually has solid control but has walked three batters in four of his last six starts.  He is still expected to be drafted in the 2nd-3rd round range despite his poor season because of his big frame and a fastball that sits around 91-92 and can get up to 95 but it tends to straighten out and his slider and breaking ball are average so he doesn't really have a swing and miss pitch and when he gets strikeouts they usually come by blowing his fastball by hitters. 

FR #49 Ryan Kellogg (LHP – 11-0, 3.26 ERA, 14 GS, 97 IP, 89 H, 15 BB, 51 K, .243 AVG, 3 HR, 6 HBP, 2 WP, 12-13 SB) was one of the two highest rated players in ASU's recruiting class and was drafted in the 12th round out of HS because he is a 6'5" LHP with a fastball that sits around 90 and his best off-speed pitch is a curveball with good break to it.  He has been in the rotation since day one and has been the anchor of the weekend staff with the inconsistencies that Williams has had.  Kellogg was outstanding in his first five starts with a 4-0 record and a 0.79 ERA, allowing only eighteen baserunners (14 H, 4 BB) in 34 IP, culminating with a no-hitter at Oregon State with only two runners reaching base, both on errors.  He wasn't as sharp in his next two outings against UCLA and Oregon, allowing 11 runs in 15 IP, but still picked up two more wins.  Kellogg was better against lesser competition, picking up wins against USC, Valparaiso and Utah, but has struggled over the last month with only one strong start against Arizona two weeks ago when he allowed one run in 6 2/3 IP and allowed seventeen runs in 16 2/3 IP in his other three starts and he ended up going 7-0 with a 4.06 ERA in conference games and was an All-Pac 11 selection, one of two FR to receive All-Pac 11 honors.  He has outstanding control and has allowed two walks or less in thirteen of fifteen starts, allowing three walks in his other two starts.  Kellogg prefers to let his fielders do the work behind him because he hasn't struck out more than four batters in any of his past seven starts.  Kellogg has a good move to first with three pickoffs but if runners get a break on him, they are almost always successful because only one runner has been thrown out against him. 

JR #25 Zak Miller (RHP – 4-0, 4.56 ERA, 12 apps, 10 GS, 49 IP, 60 H, 23 BB, 22 K, .316 AVG, 2 HR, 8 HBP, 2 WP, 12-14 SB) was originally the midweek starter, where his stuff profiles better, but ASU ran through several other options in the Sunday SP spot before deciding to go with Miller in the weekend rotation for the last month of the season.  He made six midweek starts, going five to 5 2/3 innings in five of them, and allowed three runs or less in five of them, with his worst midweek start his last one when he allowed five runs in five innings to Arizona.  Miller picked up a win against Stanford when he allowed three runs in 5 IP and three no decisions when he allowed five runs in 3 1/3 IP at Cal, five runs in 3 2/3 IP against Arizona and two runs in 5 2/3 IP at Washington in one of his best starts of the season.  He isn't a hard thrower and relies on pitching to contact and letting the fielders do their jobs.  Miller made a midweek start against Fullerton in 2012 when he allowed no runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 IP. 

  

Relievers

The bullpen for ASU has been a mixed bag.  They have two relievers that they have relied on heavily, one a FR who has taken over in the closer role and one a SR who has provided good leadership, and the others are a combination of guys who tried their lot at being the Sunday SP without much success and high profile arms who haven't had much of an impact.  The effectiveness of their closer and primary set-up man is a big reason why ASU is 13-1 when they score either four or five runs due to their ability to shorten games.  One thing to note with their bullpen is the group of relievers most likely to come into games this weekend have combined to allow an average of 5.4 walks per nine innings.

FR #32 Ryan Burr (RHP – 4-2, 2.18 ERA, 11 saves, 29 apps, 41 IP, 19 H, 20 BB, 56 K, .140 AVG, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 3 WP, 10-10 SB) came into ASU with quite a bit of promise as one of the top 100 players in the country as a HS SR and he has lived up to it by taking a stranglehold on the closer position and was an honorable mention All-Pac 11 selection.  He is a big man who throws hard with a fastball that sits in the 92-94 range that bumps up into the mid 90's, uses a curveball as his swing and miss pitch and he is averaging over 12 strikeouts per nine innings.  Burr has been extremely difficult to hit but he has had control issues, averaging well over four walks per nine innings. 

SR #31 Matt Dunbar (LHP – 1-1, 2.01 ERA, 1 save, 35 apps, 40 IP, 35 H, 24 BB, 29 K, .248 AVG, 0 HR, 5 HBP, 2 WP, 2-5 SB) has been a very effective and often used reliever for the last couple of seasons (1.54 ERA in 23 apps in 2012) who is in the top five in the Pac 11 in appearances.  He is tough on LH hitters but the coaches don't mind letting him go over an inning as the bridge between the starters and Burr.  Dunbar is ASU's most difficult pitcher to run on and has picked off three runners.

Soph #15 Darren Gillies (RHP – 2-2, 4.81 ERA, 1 save, 27 apps, 1 GS, 34 IP, 28 H, 17 BB, 28 K, .235 AVG, 0 HR, 9 HBP, 4 WP, 12-14 SB) was a starter for most of 2012 but has been working out of the bullpen as a middle reliever.  He is tall and has a fastball that sits in the low 90's but has had control issues and averaged four walks per 9 IP during and hit twenty batters during his two years at ASU. 

SR #47 Alex Blackford (RHP – 4-1, 4.88 ERA, 1 save, 23 apps, 3 GS, 31 IP, 24 H, 23 BB, 33 K, .209 AVG, 0 HR, 7 HBP, 8 WP, 14-15 SB) has mostly been a midweek starter and middle reliever during his career.  He isn't a big guy but has been throwing harder this year, averaging a strikeout per inning, but he has also had control issues that he didn't have earlier in his career. 

JR #58 Josh McAlister (RHP – 0-1, 1.29 ERA, 11 apps, 14 IP, 11 H, 7 BB, 9 K, .220 AVG, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 0 WP, 1-1 SB) has been effective in his limited amount of appearances. 

JR #3 Billy Young (RHP – 0-2, 6.75 ERA, 10 apps, 3 GS, 23 IP, 32 H, 10 BB, 10 K, .333 AVG, 3 HR, 2 HBP, 2 WP, 7-9 SB) started in ASU's most recent midweek game against BYU so he might get the ball if they play a fourth game this weekend. 

Soph #51 Adam McCreery (LHP – 2-3, 5.94 ERA, 14 apps, 7 GS, 36 IP, 37 H, 34 BB, 30 K, .287 AVG, 1 HR, 13 HBP, 6 WP, 4-8 SB) came onto campus to quite a bit of fanfare as a 6'8" LHP who was drafted in the 14th round out of HS but he has had injury issues going back to HS that have limited the amount of time he has been able to pitch and his effectiveness.  He started the season as the Sunday starter but wasn't effective in that role due to his is wildness.  McCreery leads the conference in HBP's despite the limited amount of innings he has thrown. 

FR #26 Brett Lilek (LHP – 2-1, 4.42 ERA, 10 apps, 1 GS, 18 IP, 16 H, 8 BB, 16 K, .246 AVG, 0 HR, 5 HBP, 4 WP, 0-2 SB) was a big prospect in HS as a tall LHP who can throw in the low 90's but he hasn't been able to get many opportunities to pitch until recently.

 

Outlook

ASU doesn't enter this regional with much momentum after losing three of their previous four series and none of the teams that they lost series to will be playing in regionals this weekend.  The Sun Devils have tended to play to the level of their opponents, winning two games against Arkansas and winning series against UCLA and Oregon, so they hope that trend continues this weekend but they played all of those teams much earlier in the season.  ASU will take some confidence into their match-up with New Mexico after going 8-1 against the Lobos over the last six seasons, although New Mexico gave the Sun Devils all they could handle with ASU coming from behind to win the opening game of the 2011 regional, split games with ASU in 2012 and lost a midweek game in extra innings in Tempe earlier this season. The Sun Devils and Fullerton are also not strangers to each other after playing midweek series each season from 2008 to 2012 and prior to that matching up in some memorable regionals and super regionals four times in five seasons from 2001 to 2005.  It is critical for ASU to win the opening game and get a good outing from Williams because they probably don't have the pitching depth to win the regional coming from the loser's bracket.  The Sun Devils should be one of the final two teams standing this weekend but it doesn't look like they will have enough arms to get past Fullerton.