UM Baseball will have big expectations in '15

In a lot of ways, 2014 was a bounce back season for Miami Hurricanes baseball. They won 44 games, their most since 2008, they won the ACC regular season title, and they were among the two or three best teams in college baseball over the second half of the regular season.

And hey, if nothing else, they finally got some good fortune in the draft process. Over the last few years, Miami has been ravaged by the draft more often than not. Stellar recruiting class after stellar recruiting class fell apart as the Hurricanes watched their blue chip recruits get drafted and signed into pro ball. But this time around, Willie Abreu and Zach Collins, two highly-touted prospects that both got drafted, decided to come to campus. Both were big parts of the squad this season.

In large part thanks to this youth movement, for the first time in a while, you can also say for certain that the program is headed in the right direction once again.

But that doesn't make the disappointment of losing a deciding regional game seven at home to Texas Tech any easier to take. The fact that it was the offense, so often the bugaboo for this program over the last few years, that let them down again makes it even tougher still.

With the exception of the elimination game against Bethune-Cookman when they scored ten runs against a Wildcat team that was running out of pitching, they scored one, three, two, and zero runs in their other four games. Even with pitching as good as theirs, you can't expect to get out of a regional with that type of production.

Just a month ago, no one would have expected the Hurricanes to be sitting at home so soon, but they are and now they look ahead to 2015.

Although the Canes had several younger players make a huge impact, they did have a veteran core of players that have now exhausted their eligibility, most notably Dale Carey. After three years of up and down play, Carey put it all together and emerged as the biggest offensive threat in the Miami lineup. He will be a great senior sign for some MLB team.

Also leaving will be Javi Salas, Brad Fieger, Tyler Palmer, Alex Hernandez, John Lawroski, A.J. Salcines, and Adam Sargent. Although their roles on the 2014 team were all a little bit different, each was a big part of the team's success at some point in their careers.

That is enough to try to replace as it is, but there's a decent chance that it won't be all head coach Jim Morris has to replace before next season.

In the Baseball America 500, ranking the top 500 prospects for the 2014 draft, starting pitcher Andrew Suarez is ranked 75th. That puts him as a second or third-round prospect. With the type of bonus he can command in that range, it will be tough to get him back to Coral Gables.

Likewise, Baseball America has fellow starting pitcher Chris Diaz ranked 126. That's a couple of rounds later, but it's still not likely we see Diaz back in a Miami uniform. Unless it's the Marlins that draft him, of course.

Bryan Radziewski, who has a year of eligibility left thanks to a redshirt year, is ranked 389 on the same list. That far back, there is a better chance he returns, but given that he has already been in the program for four years, he might be inclined to sign to get a start on his pro career.

Then there are the high school recruits. Miami may have been fortunate this last time around to get a couple of players to spurn the pros in favor of college, but that doesn't guarantee anything for this year.

Justin Smith, Carl Chester, John Jones, and Brian Gonzalez are all players on the list of 500. Morris will have to sweat it out in the case of all four of those players.

But the cupboard will be far from bare come next season, even in a worst case scenario as far as the draft goes. Abreu and Collins will be back to lead the offense, of course, and they will be joined by the likes of Johnny Ruiz, Jacob Heyward, and Brandon Lopez, who contributed in 2014. Edgar Michelangeli, Sebastian Diaz, and Ricky Eusebio will likely be expected to step into bigger roles as well. Catcher Garrett Kennedy should also be back, which will be as important to the pitching staff as it is for the offense.

The player they will lean on most is David Thompson, however. Thompson was off to a great start this season before a freak injury sidelined him for much of the rest of the season. He played well after returning, but he will be expected to carry a huge load in 2015.

On the mound, closer Bryan Garcia will be back, as will his setup men, Thomas Woodrey and Cooper Hammond. In the rotation, Derik Beauprez will likely be asked to move into the weekend rotation, but the other two spots are very much up in the air and will likely be decided close to the start of next season.

Sure, the Hurricanes will be forced to replace a ton of production from 2014, but with the momentum the program currently holds, I'm not going to bet against them being back in 2015, hosting a regional with a chance to get back to Omaha for the first time since 2008.

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