We're two weeks out from opening day in Pensacola.
Back in October, I broke down the schedule.
A few weeks ago, I contemplated new pitching coach Drew Dickinson.
And last week, we predicted and ranked the competitive roster.
I made some way too early lineup projections in July if you want to reference those for fun.
Now it's time to make our final lineup projections with the season looming. Kendall and I used our projected roster to predict the defensive lineup, the batting order, the weekend pitching rotation, the midweek pitching rotation, the closer, and the top bullpen arms. The coaching staff will certainly have their own opinions on the lineup. But where's the fun in sitting around and waiting for them to hand in the lineup card?
|C||Logan Michaels||Logan Michaels|
|1B||Devin Ortiz||Devin Ortiz|
|2B||Walker Jenkins||Walker Jenkins|
|SS||Nic Kent||Nic Kent|
|3B||Zack Gelof||Zack Gelof|
|LF||Brendan Rivoli||Brendan Rivoli|
|CF||Chris Newell||Chris Newell|
|RF||Mack Lebreux||Marc Lebreux|
We hope you weren't looking for variety here as Kendall and I submitted identical lineups.
We've put a lot of belief in the JUCO transfers (Jenkins and Lebreux) as well as first year Chris Newell. What's even more interesting is that we arrived at the same conclusion regarding Devin Ortiz's ultimate destination in the field this year.
You can probably expect the coaching staff to come up with an entirely different defensive alignment since ours were identical.
|1||Chris Newell||Chris Newell|
|2||Nic Kent||Nic Kent|
|3||Devin Ortiz||Devin Ortiz|
|4||Brendan Rivoli||Zack Gelof|
|5||Zack Gelof||Brendan Rivoli|
|6||Tate Ballestero (DH)||Marc Lebreux|
|7||Marc Lebreux||Alex Tappen (DH)|
|8||Walker Jenkins||Logan Michaels|
|9||Logan Michaels||Walker Jenkins|
Finally, a little variety in our projections!
Things finally begin to diverge when we hit the cleanup spot. Kendall and I flipped the 4 and 5 spots. He likes Rivoli's lefty bad following the right-hander Ortiz. I suspect the coaches expect more power numbers from Gelof and will slot him into the spotlight of the cleanup position.
We differ on our DH projections. I like the veteran Tappen and hope our prediction of a bounce back season ring true. Kendall's selection of the switch hitting Ballestero for DH makes a ton of sense. But I wonder if the coaching staff will prefer a veteran in that role.
The Jenkins-Michaels flip flop at 8 and 9 is another interesting divergence. While Michaels will hit for average, he won't wow you with his power stats. So, you stick him at the bottom of the lineup and hope he can routinely move Jenkins from first to third or second to home. I like using Jenkins as a second leadoff batter in the 9 hole but perhaps his speed on the bases could be blocked by Michaels in front of him in the order.
|Friday||Nate Savino||Griff McGarry|
|Saturday||Devin Ortiz||Mike Vasil|
|Sunday||Chesdin Harrington||Nate Savino|
Well Kendall is all in on Nate Savino. He picked him first in the draft and gives him the ball on Friday. That's asking a lot from a player who should be attending his senior prom this spring. Kendall certainly believes the hype. Of course, I have him starting on Sunday. It's not like I'm easing him into college baseball either. How the coaching staff handles Savino's freshman year will be one of the big stories to monitor in 2020. Last year, Mike Vasil did not have a noteworthy freshman campaign despite being a weekend rotation mainstay. He was a much-hyped prospect as well, but not ranked quite as highly as Savino.
Kendall opts for the two pitchers throwing the best balls at the end of the 2019 season while I opt for what's essentially the status quo. There's a great philosophical debate in there somewhere, especially considering the numbers put up by McGarry and Vasil in 2019. I'm definitely projecting our new pitching coach to be a difference maker for the pair.
The wildcard in all of this is Drew Dickinson. No one really knows what he'll do with the pitching staff. It's one thing that promises to make this season so compelling. One reason I picked McGarry and Vasil for the weekend rotation is that I suspect that Coach Dickinson will find more value in Harrington and Ortiz as relief pitchers.
|1||Griff McGarry||Evan Sperling|
|2||Mike Vasil||Zach Messinger|
|3||Brandon Neeck||Brandon Neeck|
Three pitchers are overkill, so this is more like a depth chart. It's highly unusual to need three starters in the middle of the week. You're typically looking at one or two, at the most. But at least we found where Kendall was hiding McGarry and Vasil.
As for me, I've bought into the reports coming out of fall baseball about a new Sperling. It would make for such a great story. Fool me once, though...
There's going to be a wide-open spot in the 2021 weekend rotation. I'm looking at Zach Messinger to use this season as a springboard into that role as a junior in 2021. It's the expected career progression for a pitcher like Messinger.
Brandon Neeck missed the 2019 season due to injury. But he was a highly touted recruit coming into UVA. He's also another lefty and you need one or two of those as starting options. We're both on the edge of our seats to see what he can do in 2020. But I'd expect him to be brought along slowly at the beginning of the year.
|Closer||Stephen Schoch||Stephen Schoch|
This is another Dickinson wildcard. But Schoch (pronounced like shock, I've heard) seems like a fair bet given his background. He also seems to have the confident mentality needed for the closer role. Besides, why else did we bring him in if not to close out games?
|1||Andrew Abbott||Andrew Abbott|
|2||Evan Sperling||Chesdin Harrington|
|3||Zach Messinger||Devin Ortiz|
|4||Matthew Wyatt||Matthew Wyatt|
|5||Paul Kosanovich||Paul Kosanovich|
|6||Kyle Whitten||Kyle Whitten|
|7||Jayson Hoopes||Kyle Petri|
|8||Blake Bales||Blake Bales|
|9||Kyle Petri||Cristian Sanchez|
Did you think we forgot about Andrew Abbott?
This section / rankings group is pretty much a stew of expected usage and our ranking of the arms available strictly for bullpen usage.
And both Kendall and I expect Andrew Abbott to helm the bullpen. He's shown that he's best as a high usage, long reliever. He can shut down an opponent at least one trip through their lineup. And nothing makes a head coach and pitching coach happier than that.
I fully expect Harrington and Ortiz to be bullpen mainstays as well. Coach Dickinson has a chance to make the pen a real strength of this team. As you read about in our Dickinson piece, he believes in just that. So, I'm anticipating that he'll drop a couple of his top arms into the pen along with Andrew Abbott. Kendall is opting to go with Sperling and Messinger who still need work as essentially backup starting pitchers.
We're largely in agreement from there with Matthew Wyatt as the most likely surprise pitcher of the season. We have inning eaters in Kosanovich, Whitten, and Bales. Petri is our big, situational lefty that can also eat innings. And then we each rolled the dice on one other high potential arm. Kendall went with first year Jayson Hoopes who saw a good deal of action in the fall. I'm turning to fireballer Cristian Sanchez who was a highly rated recruit in the 2018 class that missed the 2019 season with an injury.
Past this top nine are still more usable arms. Sophomore lefty Billy Price is one I could see forcing his way into the conversation.