Ill start with a little bit of craziness. Just think how this year would look if Max Peterson and Kyle Bellows would still be here to play. Bless their souls as they did well while here and they have moved on. Thanks for the memories as Bob Hope would say.
Fall ball gave me a good look at a lot of new guys and Im still pretty impressed by the fact that it was hard to tell the returning players from the newbies. Thats the good news. The bad news must be the simple fact of untested under fire. Well have to wait for that one but it will be a short wait.
Pitchers and catchers are my mantra. None are so important as those two positions. One manages the other and by the time hes my age, his knees hurt.
C Bryson Rahier (JR) will start as he knows the returning staff and probably thinks as one with coaches Piraro and Kunis during the game.
C Chris Carillo (FR). I thought that he would be too small coming in but he showed me he can catch and is no stranger to the bat. He will get more playing time than I originally figured. I like this kid.
1B Danny Stienstra (JR) is set for a monster year. He hit well last year, in summer ball, and fall ball. Thats what he does. Could play second in a pinch but dont expect to see that too soon. He fields his position well but Id still like to see homeruns in the lower double digits from him.
1B Breyon Canez (JR) returns as the backup. I also see him as the number one left-handed bat in pinch-hitting situations.
1B Timothy Quiery (FR) is another lefty all the way that is valuable in that he can also play the outfield.
1B Anthony Bona (SO) is one of my favorite players. He comes off a very nice freshman year (as a walk-on) by hitting .343 and making my all WAC freshman team. His main problem is finding a full-time job in the lineup. If anyone falters, hell be there.
2B Karson Klauer (SR) will probably get the nod to start at second but he also saw a fair amount of time at DH. The point is that the Spartans need his senior leadership as well as his bat in the lineup most of the time.
2B Craig Hertler (JR). Its time for this kid to make a move. We saw some pretty good production from him last year (.322) so this year could be big for him. The second base position is definitely up for grabs.
2B Nick Borg (JR) is a juco transfer who will get some time in most of the infield positions.
SS Zack Jones (FR) is a shortstop with a fine arm and will push Reiling for the starting position. I cant get inside coachs head at this time but he should get the nod at short on starting day.
SS Michael Reiling (SO) could very well be the penciled-in starter. Didnt get a lot of starts last year as Bellows was always there and never got hurt. This is Reilings year to show why he was the Mercury-Newss Player-of-the-Year two years ago. Ive heard hes been hitting and has a sure glove at short but Im a little skeptical of his arm; especially in the hole.
SS Richie Johnson (FR) is one of the two freshman who could also start. We werent able to get a look at him during fall ball as he was hurt. Coach Piraro speaks highly of him. Nice problem to have at this position.
3B Corey Valine (SR) is the starter without a doubt. Projected as an All-WAC pick for 2010 and I cant say I disagree. He will hit in the middle of the lineup and Id like to see a little more power from that great bat of his.
3B Tyler Christian (FR) will be Valines primary backup and great things are expected from him also.
OF Jason Martin (JR) will start as I think hes been the centerfielder for about six years. The perfect lead-off hitter as his OBP is very good. He also is a projected All-WAC player for 2010. Stay healthy, kid.
OF Alex Sofranac (SR) was off to a great start last year when he broke a bone and was done for the year. What could have been for him was lost in an instant. I remember it well. He gets a medical redshirt year and he comes back with something to prove. He will be in right field and Im hoping he can add some pop from the left side.
OF Tommy Gale (JR) has my vote based on the strength of his fall ball play. All those tweeners he hit (three triples if I remember correctly) made for an exciting time for this kid. The triple has to be the most exciting play in baseball; especially if the bases are jammed. Hit a ton in fall ball.
OF Kerry Jenkins (JR) looks like a player ready to happen. Comes in with good size and good numbers (11 homeruns in jc ball last year) so hell get time to show his stuff. He looked a little over anxious during fall ball but I liked what I saw. He can also chase down the fly ball. Ask Reiling about that.
OF Tim Quiery (FR) comes in as left-handed hitter and adds options to the mix. May not get a lot of time this year but has a great upside.
OF Andrew Rodriguez (FR) looks to be a defensive replacement at this point. He appeared to be a little overwhelmed by D1 pitching but certainly played an impeccable centerfield while he was in.
DH Barney Evans (JR) comes as an option for this position. He hit the ball very well and with authority in fall ball and his size says that will probably be an everyday occurrence. He can also play 1B.
DH Kolton Klauer (JR) will also get a look in the outfield. Where to put him?
DH Bona, Valine, etc. on occasion.
P Esteban Guzman (SO) is the surprise of fall ball and this years staff. He looked great and was virtually un-hittable in the fall. Because of that, I have him penciled in as the number one starter for this season. That means hell start on the Friday game of a three or four game set. He could be a good one after a mediocre freshman year.
P Blake McFarland (JR) is a juco transfer that I had figured would be a starter this season and he has given me no reason to change my mind. He and Guzman are both in the 64 230 pound range so they certainly fit the mold for big starting pitcher. Probably starts one of the Saturday games.
P Drew Bradshaw (FR) is a lefty who gets the tail end of Saturdays doubleheader (when they have them). He really impressed during fall ball and should get the ball on Saturday.
P Sundays pitcher could be John Austin (JR) who is another leftie who had a good fall and summer ball. He was also one of the best pitchers to come out of San Mateo CC. Whats not to like?
P Zack Jones (FR) should get the mid-week games. This alone tells me the depth of this years staff. Here comes this widely heralded kid from Santa Teresa HS and coach doesnt know where to put him. Shortstop as a position player and a pitcher with drop dead stats. I expect him to be on the field, one way or another, every day.
RP Luke Mazzanti (JR) might get the crown for being the closer. This part is all very iffy at this point.
RP Craig Broussard (SO) looked much improved on the mound this fall. Could get an occasional start. A bit small so endurance is a question. He will get expanded innings this year. I actually see closer mentality in him also.
RP Eric LeBaron (JR) came to the Spartans from College of Marin last year and I expected big things from him. Well, it didnt happen so I expect big things from him this year. If he delivers as he did in fall ball, Coach Piraro will have a problem most coaches would die to have. All these great pitchers and I cant throw them all at once.
Andy Hennessey (SO) is young and unproven and Ill leave it at that.
Pat Hennessey (FR) is the same as his brother.
Michael Kwan (SO) one of many young pitchers who need more time to develop.
Sean Martin (SO) comes in as a juco transfer and I have no idea what the plans are for him. Had good numbers at Ohlone.
Dylan Morrow (FR) needs to spend a year learning all about D1 pitching.
Ryan Vander Tuig (JR) is another one of my favorites but really hasnt delivered as of yet. Hes been on the team for three years now so something good needs to happen this year or next. I hear his brother (Oakdale HS) is pretty good also.
Graham Rodriguez (JR) is a real mystery. He had an excellent summer experience but didnt do too well in fall ball. Im hoping he gets his game squared away and makes another tough decision for Coach.
David Wayne Russo (FR). I wanted to end up with him. By all accounts this kid could be one of the regular starters for the Spartans. He had only a fair fall but, then again, he is a freshman. Im hoping that he lives up to the expectations that have been heaped on him. The staff is so deep that there is no sense of urgency for him to succeed immediately. Should be a very good one.
As I worked on this what did I see? This roster is blessed with only two seniors. With that being said I have to say that they may be a year away from dominating the WAC. However, they might do it this year if everything falls in place. The same could be said about Fresno, Hawaii, and Louisiana Tech. Shortstop will be a question as will second base. Far too many capable players demanding playing time. This gives Coach Piraro the luxury of many options. I still think third place.
The starting lineup:
CF Jason Martin
SS Zack Jones
1B Danny Stienstra
3B Corey Valine
RF Alex Sofranac
DH Anthony Bona
2B Craig Hertler
LF Tommy Gale
C Bryson Rahier
P Esteban Guzman
P Blake McFarland
P Drew Bradshaw
P John Austin
P Zack Jones
Why I should be shot. Hey, wheres Reiling?! He has improved so much. What? No Barney? How can you forget Karson? And. And. And what a great problem to have.
Why I should be spared. Hell, I cant think of a reason.
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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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