Baseball Preview: CP-SLO Lineup

Cal Poly had one of the best offenses in the Big West in 2009 and expected to again have a productive lineup despite losing Buschini, Smith and Lee but that hasn't come close to happening this year.

The Mustangs were 1st or 2nd in the Big West in just about every major offensive category last season but they are currently last in the conf in AVG at .277, including .259 in conf games, after hitting .325 in 2009.  Cal Poly was 2nd in the Big West in scoring last season but are only 6th in runs and have been limited to five runs or less in about half of their games.  The Mustangs will work counts and see lots of pitches because they lead the conference in walks but they also aren’t making enough contact because they have 40 more strikeouts than any other Big West team.  Cal Poly has also struggled to hit for power and is 6th in the conference in HR’s and 7th in SLG.  The Mustangs usually will not play much little ball by bunting (two hitters have about half of their 21 SAC bunts) or stealing although they will take advantage of a team who is weak at stopping the running game and they stole seven bases last Sunday at Northridge.

Cal Poly was doing an adequate job on defense during the non-conf part of their schedule but things have gone south with their gloves recently.  The Mustangs have committed 19 errors in the last ten games that have contributed to 18 unearned runs.  Cal Poly’s FLD % is down to .965 (7th in the Big West) and they have committed 44 errors.  They have inexperienced players on the corners, limited range in the middle infield and OF’s with solid range.



Infield

Cal Poly returned three starters around the infield but some injuries and lineup decisions have resulted in some players being shuffled around playing out of position and a weaker all-around defense than last season.

C – JC transfer #14 Elliot Stewart (RH – .227/.271/.348, 2-6-0) and Soph #12 Jordan Hadlock (RH – .319/.396/.383, 0-6-1; ’09 – 3-14) have been splitting time recently with Hadlock playing most of last weekend after Stewart was injured after one AB.  If Stewart is able to play he will be in the lineup.  Either would be likely to hit 6th or 7th.  Hadlock was going to redshirt in 2009 but had to start against Fullerton due to injuries to the first two C’s and went 2-8 in the series.

1B/DH – SR #24 David Van Ostrand (LH – .282/.311/.412, 1-15-0; ’09 - redshirt) was splitting time in the lineup but has started 9 of the last 10 games due to injuries to other players.  He is on a seven game hitting streak and has the best AVG on the team in conf games at .323 but is not a patient hitter and has only walked four times.  Van Ostrand will usually hit 5th.  He does not move well at 1B and has made eight errors.

SR #15 Ross Brayton (RH – .318/.356/.427, 2-21-1; ’09 – .393/.445/.518, 1-28-0) was honorable mention all conf as the starting catcher in 2009 but was moved to 1B after the first few weeks of the season.  He has not hit as well as he did last year but he has been solid and is 2nd on the team in AVG and usually hits cleanup.  Brayton has not started the last five games and was only available to pinch-hit last weekend.  He is questionable for this weekend but if he can play 1B then Van Ostrand would start at DH.  Brayton was injured and missed last year’s series against Fullerton.

DH – JR #31 D.J. Gentile (RH – .196/.361/.261, 0-9-1; ’09 – 304/.386/.459, 5-41-0) received regular playing time in 2009 but hasn’t played much this year until recently due to injuries to other players and has started the last seven games at DH.  Gentile has not hit well but he is patient and has walked 10 times in 46 AB’s and hit 5th in all three games last weekend.  He is 1-11 in his career against Fullerton.

2B – Soph #8 Matt Jensen (RH – .272/.374/.472, 2-29-2; ’09 – .375/.493/.650, 9-53-2) was the Big West FR of the Year in 2009 and 1st team all-conf despite missing the last fifteen games of the season (including the Fullerton series) because of a broken collarbone.  He has been invited to try out for Team USA this summer, was drafted in the 11th round out of HS and is projected to go in the first few rounds of the 2011 draft.  Jensen has been pitched around often this year and he is a patient hitter (2nd in the conf with 21 BB’s) but he has often chased pitches to try to generate some offense, resulting in much less power but he is still 6th in the conf in RBI.  Despite not hitting as well as he did last year, Jensen is one of the most dangerous hitters on the team and will hit 3rd.  Jensen has improved defensively from last year, making only two errors in the first 27 games before making two last weekend, but has average range.

SS – JR #20 J.J. Thompson (RH – .202/.350/.333, 2-9-1; ’09 – .292/.338/.439, 7-41-2) is another player who has not hit as well as he did in 2009 and he has been hitting either 8th or 9th.  Thompson is a patient hitter who is tied for 2nd on the team in walks but is 2nd in the Big West in K’s and was 3rd in the Big West in K’s in 2009.  He was the starting 3B last season, did not field well and made 15 errors.  Thompson has struggled with the switch to SS, has limited range and has made 8 errors.  He is 5-23 with an HR in his career against Fullerton.  JC transfer #2 Mike Miller (RH – 4-25) has seen some time at SS and is a better defensive player but would be in the lineup primarily for his glove.

3B – FR #1 Evan Busby (Both – .253/.404/.313, 0-15-3) has been in the lineup almost every game hitting 8th or 9th.  He doesn’t have much pop in his bat but is patient and is tied for 2nd on the team in BB’s.  Busby is 2nd on the team with four SAC bunts. He has solid range at 3B but has struggled with consistently making plays and has made seven errors.


Outfield

Cal Poly lost their CF from last season but returned three other OF’s who played regularly and have had a FR making a solid contribution.

LF – SR #5 Luke Yoder (RH – .315/.392/.591, 6-19-5; ’09 – .301/.416/.528, 9-40-9) is a four year starter and has been one of their most productive players.  He is in the top ten in the conf in HR, SLG and 3B and gives Cal Poly power in the leadoff spot.  Yoder has been one of the hotter hitters on the team and went 6-12 last weekend.  He is one of the most patient hitters in the Big West and was 2nd in the conf in BB’s in 2009.  Yoder also has an all or nothing swing and he led the Big West in K’s in 2009 and is 3rd this season.  He has a good power/speed combo and was drafted in the 33rd round in 2008 as a draft eligible Soph but wasn’t drafted last year.  Yoder is 5-16 with an HR in his career against Fullerton.

CF – SR #11 Adam Melker (LH – .290/.356/.430, 2-12-3; ’09 – .282/.387/.388, 0-26-3) is another player who has seen regular playing time for four years.  He doesn’t have much pop in his bat and had only one HR in his career going into last weekend but he hit two HR’s at Northridge and went 5-9 for the weekend to raise his AVG by 25 points.  He is a good bunter and was 3rd in the Big West in 2009 in SAC bunts and leads the team with six.  Melker is a solid defensive player who has played all three OF positions in his career.  He is 10-31 in his career against Fullerton.

RF – Soph #23 Bobby Crocker (RH – .304/.377/.440, 3-28-12; ’09 – .323/.419/.488, 5-24-10) is one of the better athletes on the team and is projected to be drafted in the first ten rounds in 2011.  He has usually hit 2nd to combine with Yoder to give Cal Poly two SB threats at the top of the lineup and he is 4th in the conf in SB’s.  Crocker has been a productive hitter and is 7th in the conf in RBI.  He is also able to play CF with his good speed.

FR #19 Ryan Haniger (RH – .337/.409/.531, 4-20-3) got off to a great start in his FR season, leading the team in AVG and 2nd in SLG.  He has missed the last five games with back problems and is questionable for this weekend.  Haniger was drafted in the 31st round but decided to go to school and looks like a good prospect for the 2012 draft.