|Third Base||Corey Valine||Sr|
|Third Base||Josh Silver||So|
|Second Base||Craig Hertler||Jr|
|Second Base||Karson Klauer||Sr|
|First Base||Danny Stienstra||Jr|
|First Base||Anthony Bona||So|
|First Base||Breyon Canez||Jr|
|RHP Starter||Luke Mazzanti||Jr|
|RHP Starter||David Luna||Jr|
|RHP Starter||Sean Martin||So|
|RHP Starter||Blake McFarland||Jr|
You're may be looking at the above list and wondering who I've forgotten. Seniors-to-be Kyle Bellows and Max Peterson aren't on the roster. Both of these players would be important cogs in the building of the Spartans for 2010. Bellows had a monster year and deserves the high praise of a high draft pick and the money that brings. Peterson has signed with the Oakland A's so he's gone. They've been valued players. Let them earn their money.
Now back to the list. Let's go item-by-item or, position-by-position. I started with catcher because I think that's the most important position on the team - you've heard me write that before. Anthony Aguilera had a great year hitting as well as behind the plate and he will be missed. I was hoping he would have a good year and he outdistanced my expectations with his hitting. Who will take over? Bryson Rahier saw limited action but now it's his turn to deliver. He hit .333 in limited at-bats last year but he has big shoes to fill. If he does become the starter who will back him up? I suspect Corey Valine will get some time in the squat but I have not seen him enough at the position to know if he can do it for an extended period.
The outfield is pretty set. Jason Martin is the centerfielder and he exceeded expectations at the plate. How many times will he get hit next year? Alex Sofranac will be the starter in right. His bat was just starting to catch on fire when he went down last year with an arm injury, and he will be welcomed back with open arms. He should be the third hitter. I'm also looking for a few home runs from his also. Who replaces John Shaffer in left? That's a good question. Little was seen of Tommy Gale for most of the year but he does come back with some experience so he gets it by default. I am hoping he has a good summer at Folsom. Did I ever tell you guys about the time I played a game against the prison team in Soledad when I played Junior College ball? No? OK, let's leave that one alone. I think one or two of the incoming freshmen might get a look in the outfield. Timothy Quiery should get a long look because he comes from such a strong program at Serra.
Third base was filled quite nicely last year by Corey Valine and he probably will get the call at that position in the coming year. If he is catching then Josh Silver will probably get the call. It sure is nice having a backup like Silver as he had an impressive freshman year - hitting well over .300. It's hard to keep that kind of bat on the bench. Newcomers will get some looks here also.
Shortstop is going to be a difficult position to fill assuming Bellows leaves. Let's hope he does and makes millions and remembers ol' SJS in the future. It looks to me that Michael Reiling has the inside track for the position but he needs to hit a little more than the .264 he did last year. I also expect few home runs from him. He will be pushed by others possibly Tyler Christian or Richard Johnson.
Second base is pretty much set with Craig Hertler and Karson Klauer. Hertler outhit Klauer by quite a bit but Karson has a little more pop as he hit four home runs to Craig's none. Who is the better fielder? That's a question for the coaches.
First base is set with Danny Stienstra. He has been a fixture at first since his freshman year and I see no change in the future. Backups will be Anthony Bona and Breyon Canez. Bona had an absolutely great year as a freshman as he hit .343. I'm hoping he strengthens so as to develop a little more pop. An oddity for the position is that in a traditionally power position this three-some produced no home runs.
The pitching staff is one that doesn't need any overhaul. It needs refueling as all of the main parts either graduated or were drafted. No surprise as it was the strongest staff by far in the Western Athletic Conference. Gone are David Berner, Ryan Shopshire, Scott Sobczak, Jack Adams, Anthony Vega, Trevor Gibson, and Peterson. I know all the names I've listed are righties and that's a problem. They need some lefthanders to start. I'm hoping some lefties are coming as they have none from last year to fill the void. The lone returnee that has had some success is Luke Mazzanti who was 2-2 in 41 innings of work. The next-most innings were 14 by Craig Broussard. The newcomers will challenge those that return and Luna, Martin, and McFarland all had pretty good years as starters at their respective JCs. I pencil them in as starters because they all had plenty of innings so they're used to the work. Some of the returning Spartans such as Ryan Vander Tuig, Eric LeBaron, Broussard, Estaban Guzman, and Andy Hennessey will get more than a chance at nailing down a spot in the rotation. The returnees, however, did not get a lot of work due to the experience and strength of last year's pitching. They will all get their chance next year. A closer must be found as well as middle relief.
So I've touched all the bases on this very preliminary discussion of next year's squad. What is needed? Another catcher. A shortstop. A lefthanded starter. A closer. Overall the future looks good but far too many questions must be answered in terms of pitching. As I've said in the past, if the pitching is strong, they will win as pitching is the WAC's weakness.
Don Starks is the Baseball Editor of Inside Sparta. You may contact Don with any questions, comments, or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org
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