This is the second of a two-part series previewing the Diamond Hogs upcoming 2012 season.
In Part 1 of our preseason preview, we took a look at the Hogs infield and outfield. While the Hogs have more quality pitchers than they know what to do with, the catcher position is still up for grabs.
- C Jake Wise (.163, HR, 5 RBIs, 21 Games in 2011)
Newcomer to Watch: In a position battle with Wise, true freshman John Clay Reeves (6-0, 200, Monroe, La.) has impressed the coaches thus far. Reeves’ skills behind the plate are advanced for a freshman and he’s shown a strong and accurate arm in the scrimmages.
RBN Take: While Wise will likely get the first shot to start, look for the battle with Reeves to continue through the first month of the season. Whoever hits will most likely get the most starts. Both have handled the pitchers well in fall and spring practices.
Key Returning Players:
- RHP D.J. Baxendale (10-2, 1.58 ERA, 85.1 IP, 77 Ks in 2011)
- RHP Ryne Stanek (4-2, 3.94 ERA, 64 IP, 41Ks)
- RHP Barrett Astin (5-2, 2.72 ERA, 3 SV, 59.2 IP, 57 Ks)
- LHP Cade Lynch (4-4, 3.11 ERA, 63.2 IP, 63 Ks)
- RHP Brandon Moore (4-1, 3.45 ERA, 70.1 IP, 38 Ks)
- LHP Randall Fant (3-5, 3.89 ERA, 69.1 IP, 35 Ks)
- LHP Trent Daniel (2-0, 2.91 ERA, 4 SV)
- RHP Nolan Sanburn (2-4, 3.62 ERA, 8 SV)
Newcomers to Watch: Dave Van Horn and pitching coach Dave Jorn continue to mention four freshman that have impressed in the fall and preseason practices.
Right-handers Chris Oliver (6-4, 180, Shiloh Christain HS) and Greg Milhorn (6-2, 175, Texarkana, Ark.) are mentioned as possible mid-week starters and candidates for bullpen work on the weekends. Both have 90+ MPH fastballs, and can throw three pitches for strikes.
Left-handers Mark Reyes (6-1, 200, Jessieville HS) and Michael Gunn (6-0, 205, Christian Brothers HS) are two Arkansas products that have tremendous upside. Reyes, in particular, has nasty movement throwing a cut fastball that moves away from right-handed hitters. Both have added 4-5 MPH to their fastballs since the fall, and according to Van Horn are future weekend starters.
RBN Take: Is this the best staff in school history? It may very well be. Baxendale and Stanek are your Friday night and Saturday starters right now, with the third starter spot up for grabs. It looks like Van Horn and Jorn would like to bring Barrett Astin in from the bullpen so they can pitch him multiple times in a weekend series. At times last season, Astin was untouchable — see his 10 strikeout performance vs. Mississippi State last year for reference.
Moore, Lynch and Fant will likely vie for the third starter, with the other two being in the weekend bullpen. Nolan Sanburn and Trent Daniel look to get most of the closer work early on. Sanburn, who throws in the mid-90s, is looking to regain his form. After a sizzling hot start in 2011, Nolan tailed off at the end, and saw few meaningful innings after mid-April.
All in all, we are stoked about the 2012 season for the Diamond Hogs. With 13 games in the first 17 days, all the pitchers should get ample innings to start the season. We feel like going in that this team could struggle offensively. But that should be more than offset by solid defense and dominant pitching.
Will that be enough to get to Omaha? We can’t wait to see. See you at the Baum!