Baseball Concludes Preseason

The Cardinal played their final intrasquad game of the preseason Monday afternoon at Sunken Diamond. We've got the report plus detailed notes and analysis on a potential starting lineup and pitching rotation for this weekend. Stanford begins the 2007 regular season on Friday night with the opener of a three-game series at Cal State Fullerton.

The Cardinal played their final intrasquad game of the preseason Monday afternoon as the team continues their preparation for this weekend's season-opener.  Seven pitchers saw time on the mound while the hitters were broken up into three different groups.  Offensively, Joey August hit the only home run of the afternoon - a three-run blast to right field off of David Stringer.  Multi-hit games Monday came from Adam Sorgi (2-for-4, 2B, RBI), Grant Escue (2-for-5, 2B, 2 RBI), Jeff Whitlow (2-for-4, 2B, 3B), and August (2-for-7, HR, 3 RBI).

On the mound, it was notable to see freshman Cory Bannister back in action.  Bannister was moved up to the first pitching group earlier in the preseason and continued to shine on Saturday with two scoreless innings.  In likely an effort to see how his arm bounces back on short rest, Mark Marquess went back to Bannister for a three-inning stint today.  The Arizona native came through with another quality outing working three innings without allowing a run.  Bannister surrendered three hits with no walks and three strike outs.  He finished the preseason with a 2.35 ERA (4 ER/15.1 IP) and will no doubt be given early opportunities out of the bullpen - probably as early as this weekend.

Preseason Hitting Leaders (12 games)
- Batting Average -
Michael Taylor: .432 (19-44)
Austin Yount: .393 (11-28)
Sean Ratliff: .391 (18-46)
Brent Milleville: .370 (10-27)
Adam Gaylord: .333 (15-45)
Steven Swinford: .320 (8-25)
Cord Phelps: .319 (15-47)
Toby Gerhart: .304 (14-46)

- Doubles -
Cord Phelps: 6
Randy Molina: 5
Jeff Whitlow: 4
Austin Yount: 3
Adam Gaylord: 3
Brian Juhl: 3
J. J. Jelmini: 3

- Triples -
Joey August: 3
Sean Ratliff: 2
Brendan Domaracki: 2

- Home Runs -
Michael Taylor: 3
Sean Ratliff: 2

- RBI -
Michael Taylor: 12
Adam Sorgi: 11
Sean Ratliff: 10
Toby Gerhart: 9

The statistics speak for themselves: Michael Taylor is the best all-around hitter on this team.  Austin Yount was perhaps the biggest surprise during Fall Ball as one of the club's top hitters.  The sophomore remained hot through the preseason and should begin the year as the starting second baseman.  Sean Ratliff hit just a shade under .400 after a standout Fall Ball and has now positioned himself to garner regular playing time in the outfield.

Brent Milleville is another sophomore that appears ready to make the big step forward.  The versatile Milleville, who will likely open the season at first base with Jason Castro injured, combined both batting average with power in practice games.  Milleville again was held out from hitting during Monday's game, but looked fine defensively at both catcher and first base. 

As for the freshman, both Adam Gaylord and Toby Gerhart hit over .300 during preseason games.  Gaylord has a bright future as a middle infielder and could get a chance early this year with questions surrounding Adam Sorgi's health.  Meanwhile, Gerhart proved throughout intrasquads that he is the real deal and will push for immediate playing time in left and center.

A look at my projected starting lineup this weekend at Cal State Fullerton:

C - Brian Juhl
Switch-hitting junior is ready for a full-time role ... Excellent eye at the plate ... Above-average defensive catcher.

1B - Brent Milleville
Big-time power bat should improve dramatically on his .198 average from a year ago ... Leading candidate to fill-in at first with Castro's injury ... Can provide Juhl with a breather at catcher once Castro returns ... Most of his time in the starting lineup, long-term, will likely come at DH.

2B - Austin Yount
Another sophomore poised for a breakthrough year ... Has hit his way into the starting lineup with Fall Ball and preseason efforts ... Still a key member of the bullpen.

3B - Randy Molina
Junior hit .308 last season and will need to hit to keep his spot in the lineup ... Has struggled defensively at the hot corner ... Could slide over to first base with Castro out as well.

SS - Cord Phelps
Had a solid preseason with the bat after missing Fall Ball with a back injury ... Is completely healthy and looking to improve on his .196 average from a year ago ... Most experienced replacement option at shortstop - also the best defensively.

LF - Joey August or Toby Gerhart
Gerhart was the better hitter during the preseason and has tremendous potential ... Two-sport star is one of the fastest players on the team ... August started 29 games last year (.273 AVG) and possesses a solid left-handed bat ... August may be the better option versus the tough righty Wes Roemer on opening night.

CF - Sean Ratliff
Yet another sophomore ready for a breakout season ... Was hitless in 12 early-season AB's last year as most action came as a relief pitcher ... Big-time hitting recruit found his groove during Fall Ball and continued hot streak through the preseason ... Good speed and a solid defensive player.

RF - Michael Taylor
6'6", 260 lb. junior expected to lead the offense ... Third Team Preseason All-American and a possible top five round draft pick ... Starred at the plate during Fall Ball and the preseason hitting for both average and power.

DH - Adam Sorgi
Redshirt junior missed all of last season because of labrum surgery ... Shoulder is still not 100% and was held out from throwing during the preseason ... May get a shot to play third base early in the year (this weekend?) with the hope he can move back to shortstop before too long.

Batting Order
1. Sean Ratliff
2. Adam Sorgi
3. Michael Taylor
4. Brent Milleville
5. Brian Juhl
6. Austin Yount
7. Joey August/Toby Gerhart
8. Cord Phelps
9. Randy Molina

Sophomore Grant Escue had a big final week of the preseason and is another left-handed bat who could find his name on the lineup card this weekend (especially if Sorgi starts at third base then Escue could get the nod at DH).  Escue hit .422 in starting ten games late last year and is a natural first baseman.  Senior Ryan Seawell is working his way back to full strength after a hamstring injury early in the preseason.  Seawell was hitting, but not playing the field in the closing days of the preseason.  Because he's not yet running at 100%, it's hard to envision Seawell playing center field this weekend, but it shouldn't be long before he's back at full capacity.  He's an above-average defensive player and thrived in the leadoff role during the second half of 2006 and should return to that role.  Potentially a pinch-hitter this weekend especially with the lack of right-handed bats in my projected lineup.

Obviously no Castro in the projected starting lineup for the weekend.  A big-time hitter who will probably bat clean-up when he returns, the sophomore has a broken bone in his right hand.  Primed for the biggest year of any of the sophomore hitters after a .283 batting average a season ago.  Castro may only miss a couple of weeks.

There is not yet an official announcement on the starting rotation, but here is a projection:

Friday - Nolan Gallagher
Junior right-hander was the #2 starter at the end of last season ... A potential top five round draft pick this June ... Explosive breaking ball to go with a high 80's fastball ... Up-and-down in the preseason, but has the most big-game experience of any pitcher on the staff.

Saturday - Jeff Inman
Freshman immediately impressed with a standout Fall Ball ... Also threw very well during the preseason and has positioned himself to begin the year in the starting rotation ... Hardest thrower on the team with a fastball that reaches 95 ... Could have been a top five round draft pick last year if not for his strong commitment to Stanford.

Sunday - Jeremy Bleich
Sophomore lefty had a stellar preseason and looks to build on his freshman campaign (4.05 ERA, 7 Saves) ... Was the Sunday guy by the end of the year and started some big games down the stretch ... Has a chance to become one of the top pitchers in the conference ... May get a look out of the bullpen in a tight game on Friday with his history as a spectacular closer (if he doesn't pitch in relief then should start later in the weekend).

Erik Davis is another option to start with his two years of experience.  Davis, who has recovered fully from his gruesome summer injury, had an outstanding Fall Ball before struggling in the preseason.  Junior David Stringer (19 appearances last year) and sophomores Austin Yount (16) and Max Fearnow (16) saw significant action last year and that shouldn't change in 2007. 

Newcomers to the bullpen include sophomore left-hander Tom Stilson.  Stilson missed last year with an injury, but is now healthy and is riding high from a solid preseason effort.  Freshman Cory Bannister doesn't have a typical pitcher's body (5'11", 170 lbs.), but saw nothing but success in practice games and should join the regular rotation of relievers.  Fellow freshman Brandt Walker has tremendous stuff and a bright future.  Walker had some issues with his control in practice games, but could still get a look early in the season out of the bullpen.

Finally, sophomore Sean Ratliff made 19 appearances last year and figures to again be a big part of the bullpen.  Ratliff, however, is coming off of an arm injury and may be limited on the pitching side early in the year.

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