Who would have thought probation would haunt Miami the way it did this year, but as with the football team, it dropped the ‘Canes from the elite to the rest of the pack?
It plagued Miami all year.
Even when the ‘Canes were sitting at 38-11-1 before they dropped six in a row heading into the postseason, they were plagued by it.
And it was not just in the starting lineup, but on the pitching staff as well. Chirino declined and quit the team.
Depth or the lack there of is something the ‘Canes battled all season. It was so bad that Jim Morris asked former Hurricanes pitcher Chiqui Chirino to play some outfield as well, while coming out of the bullpen as well.
Unlike past seasons when the ‘Canes could bring a number of guys off the bench to fill in at just about any time, mainly with freshman and sophomores that were ready to compete at a high level, this UM team didn't have it.
Why? Because over the past three years, the ‘Canes have lost a total of five scholarships and will lose another next season because of rules violations that earned them this probation period.
It didn't cost the ‘Canes a trip to the CWS the past two seasons because the ‘Canes had some quality recruiting classes and had more than one quality starting pitcher, but with the exception of Walter Diaz and Alex Garabedian, no incoming freshman contributed anything of value to the team.
And average starting pitching at best does not lead to a berth in the CWS.
Looking ahead to next season, it could be worse.
We'll take a look at this past season position by position and look at what could be in store next season.
Eddy Rodriguez was a pleasant surprise. A very good defensive catcher from Coral Gables High School, Rodriguez was very good this season behind the plate. But the pleasant surprise wasn't his glove, but his bat. Rodriguez hit .310 with 8 home runs and 33 RBI. In his entire career at Coral Gables, Rodriguez never hit .300 and was not known for his ability to swing the bat.
Rodriguez, a sophomore, returns next season and will be a key cog in the ‘Canes offense. But the difference is he'll probably move up in the lineup to the clean up or fifth position in the batting order. And he'll be relied upon rather than a pleasant surprise to be a power hitter and run producer for the ‘Canes.
Danny Valencia had an up and down season for the ‘Canes. Stepping in for former fan favorite Jim Burt, Valencia was faced with numerous challenges. One was filling in for Burt that was tough enough, but has was also a transfer from UNC-Greensboro who had to find his niche on the team.
Valencia found out quickly that the ACC was not the same as the Southern Conference. He had goals to improve his power hitting, but did not meet that hitting only six home runs in the fifth slot in the lineup. He had 63 RBI and hit .300, but those were not numbers he expected.
He'll need to be much more productive offensively next season with the loss of Ryan Braun and will surely be in the top five of the batting order.
In the field, Valencia was very inconsistent. His error in the field in the first game of the Super Regional cost the ‘Canes the first game possibly cost the ‘Canes a trip the CWS. He has a penchant of botching the easy grounder and not making easy plays.
His 12 errors at first base were a generously low number, but are still way too high for a first baseman.
The ‘Canes lose Paco Figueroa who split time at second base and in the outfield, a huge loss to the team as he is a graduating senior and was a ninth round draft choice by the Baltimore Orioles. He had his most productive season as a Hurricane hitting .361 with 5 home runs and 38 RBI. His 70 runs scored were tied for first on the team and his 24 stolen bases were also good for second on the team.
Who replaces him next season is up in the air with the ‘Canes being so thin on the bench with only one back up infielder on the bench this season?
The logical choice says Roger Tomas moves over to second base from shortstop, but if his battle with Krohn's Disease doesn't improve, expect to see freshman Danny Robitaille starting at second next season.
And he had all off 47 at-bats hitting a paltry .255. His nine starts were the most of any player off the bench.
This is another position that is safe for at least two more seasons following this one.
Although he started the season at second base and played most of the year at second, freshman Walter Diaz stepped in and did a great job as a freshman hitting .303 with 5 home runs and 21 RBI and by the end of the season was the starting shortstop as Roger Tomas moved over to second base.
Diaz admitted early in the season that he had freshman jitters while getting adjusted to college pitching, but he came around and hit over .300 and was solid for most of the year at the plate.
He had 15 errors, but should be better next year now that he has one under his belt.
This is a position where questions float on and float on some more.
All-American Ryan Braun was the fifth pick in the draft and will be gone. The ‘Canes lose their best offensive producer with a .388 batting average, 18 home runs and 76 RBI.
Braun was the only consistent source of power this season and will be a devastating loss to the 2006 team.
But just as big a problem will be replacing him at third base.
Braun was actually a fill-in at third base. Starting third baseman Gaby Sanchez was suspended prior to the regular season, and although he was slated to play in the outfield and/or catcher prior to the season, it was Braun's first full season at the position and it would have been nice to have someone to take Braun's spot at third had he been a disaster at the new position.
But he did the job for the most part, committing 16 errors. Too many for most third baseman. Not bad for a first year player at the position.
Who replaces him next season? The hope is Tomas can play second. If he does, expect Robitaille to be at third. If Tomas can't, then who knows.
The outfield situation is up in the air.
Danny Figueroa and Brendan Katin were drafted.
Katin is gone because he is a senior, but Figueroa could return because he was drafted in the 43rd round, not exactly something to get excited about.
But he was drafted by the Orioles, the same team that drafted Paco, so ‘Canes fans can only hope Danny returns with the hope of raising his draft potential.
If he returns, the ‘Canes will have Figueroa in centerfield and Jon Jay in left field.
Figueroa was the lead off hitter this season hitting .319 with 5 home runs and 32 RBI. He led the team in stolen bases with 25 and was tied for the team lead in runs with 70.
Jay hit a team leading .408, but the reality is, Jay is not a clean-up hitter and had no business whatsoever hitting in that spot.
He is a spray singles hitter and hits for zero power with only one home run coming in the final game of the season against Nebraska.
He led the team in doubles, but will probably be second in the order next year if any sense is used in deciding who hits third or fourth because that is a position Jay does not belong in.
The third outfielder will probably be Patrick Feeney, a little used freshman this season, having hit .163 and started only four games.
This remains the biggest question on the team.
Top starter Cesar Carrillo who went 13-3 with a 2.22 ERA and was named ACC Pitcher of the Year and Consensus 1st Team All-American is gone after being drafted with the 18th pick of the first round by the San Diego Padres.
After that, the UM starting pitching was barely average.
Sophomore Ricky Orta started off strong, but faded as the season progressed until he found his stuff again in the Coral Gables Regional with a strong start against VCU and a good relief performance against Nebraska in a game he probably should have started.
The problem is, he will be relied upon to be the ‘Canes number one starter.
Brandon Camardese is gone as he was a senior this past year, but his performances were nothing to brag home about.
For every good outing, he had two bad ones. His 6-1 record was extremely misleading as he lacked consistency.
And well, that's about it. Who will step up remains a huge question.
The reality is that closer Chris Perez may be forced back into the starting rotation because he came to UM as a starter and went to the bullpen this season.
Manny Miguelez might end up being the third starter, but that remains a huge question.
The ‘Canes can't depend on any potential freshman being great in his first season because that's like hold a match to a gasoline take, i.e. playing with fire.
The ‘Canes look to be okay in the bullpen especially if Perez remains in the pen as closer.
Set up man Andrew Lane was fantastic this season and he might even be tried as a starter because he forces opponents to swing by consistently throwing strikes. He's not overpowering, but spots his pitches wonderfully.
Lane was 3-0 with a 2.66 ERA in 36 appearances.
Danny Gil might be a pitcher who moves to the starting rotation because he struggled out of the pen this year.
As a freshman, he was phenomenal, but this year, it was a different story.
As a junior, he'll be counted on to start producing the way his brother did, and that might just be in the same capacity, as a starter.
Call me the pessimist, but call me a realist.
The ‘Canes will struggle next season.
The ACC proved to be a very tough conference this season for UM, especially on the road. The team next year will be in a worse position than it was this year because losing Carrillo is losing guaranteed wins.
Miami travels to Florida State, travels to Georgia Tech.
Pitching will be key. It always is, but more than ever for the ‘Canes because this team lacks offensive power to park the ball in the seats.
And there is no clue as to who will lead this pitching staff next season.
The offense will need to manufacture runs unless some freshman phenom comes in and smashes the ball the way Braun did and Pat Burrell did as freshmen.
The defense has to improve a great deal. This year's team committed far too many errors finishing the year with 93 in just 61 games, more than one a game.
Morris will need to coach more than he's ever had to in his career at UM.
And even then, the ‘Canes will need to find some serious surprise contributors to be anywhere near what they were this season.
For most fans that was disappointing, as they didn't get to the CWS.
But you need look no further than probation being the main cause of all of it.
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