NCAA: Arizona State Sun Devils Baseball Preview
The Arizona State Sun Devils baseball team will begin their 2014 season with a three-game home series against Baylor starting on Arizona Statehood Day, February 14th. This will be the final home opener at Packard Stadium as the Sun Devils will be moving to Phoenix Municipal Stadium in 2015. The Sun Devils have called Packard Stadium their home since 1974. They have hosted 18 NCAA regional tournaments and accumulated over 1,100 victories at Packard Stadium. The Sun Devils have led the West Coast in attendance for eight straight years and they are sure to extend that streak to nine as the team has many giveaways and former players returning for the final season at Packard. All of that explains this season’s slogan of “Tip Your Cap to Packard.” Every era of Sun Devil baseball will be honored, long-time season ticket holders will be recognized, and great moments in Sun Devil baseball will be remembered.
The 2013 baseball program had a solid season, winning 37 games and making another regional appearance. This year’s team hopes to have a strong and competitive season as they look to host a regional and to advance to the College World Series.
It will be a challenge for the Sun Devils as they have one of the more grueling schedules in college baseball. The Sun Devils will face New Mexico, Oklahoma State, Long Beach State, Wichita State and Pac-12 opponents Oregon State, who are the preseason favorites to win the division, and Oregon, who is picked as runner-up. And do not forget UCLA, who won the College World Series last year.
On offense the Sun Devils will return five starting position players, including All-Conference outfielder Trever Allen. Also returning is shortstop Drew Stankiewicz and outfielder Jake Peevyhouse. Allen had the best offensive output of the group, hitting .297 and led the team in home runs with nine and 49 RBI. Stankiewicz hit .295 with two home runs and 25 RBI. Peevyhouse rounds out the group and hit .255 with two home runs and 26 RBI’s. Peevyhouse also had a .358 on base percentage after drawing 23 walks. RJ Ybarra and Dalton DiNatale will also return. Each hit over .300 last season. Ybarra hit .313 in 112 at bats with five home runs and 22 RBI. He saw the majority of his playing time at DH but will see time at catcher this season. DiNatale hit .302 with two home runs and 25 RBI, while starting 31 games at first base. Nate Causey is also back after seeing time at catcher and will see some time at DH. Causey hit .274 with five homers and 26 RBI with a .407 on base percentage. And, let’s not forget David Graybill who figures to see more playing time after starting 17 games last year in the Outfield. He hit .268 in 56 at bats last year.
The Sun Devils will look to add more stolen bases to get runners in scoring position this season. They stole 44 bases last year, but were caught 23 times. There will need to be improvement in base stealing to get needed runs across.
The pitching staff will have All-Conference starting pitcher Ryan Kellogg back. Brett Lilek, as well Ryan Burr, who was the closer last year, will both get an opportunity to see what they can do as starters.
Kellogg completed a fantastic freshman campaign with a 3.15 ERA and a no-hitter last year at Oregon State as the Sun Devil’s No. 2 pitcher. Kellogg is expected to be ASU’s Friday night starter this year. He is the only Sun Devil freshman in school history to begin his career 11-0 and is just the fourth Sun Devil to collect at least 11 wins in his freshman season. Kellogg’s 103 innings pitched were the fifth most by a freshman in school history and his 3.15 ERA ranked as the fourth lowest on the team and was the 9th lowest by a freshman in school history. He had a 16 consecutive scoreless-inning streak from the 2nd inning against Washington State on March 16, 2013 to the 2nd inning against UCLA on March 29 of last year. Kellogg will be counted on to have the same kind of year in 2014.
One of the reasons for Burr moving from closer to starter is because the Sun Devils have an inexperienced starting rotation after Kellogg and Burr should be able to help solidify the rotation. Zak Miller will be back in the starting rotation after going 4-0 with a 4.85 ERA in 11 starts last year. The Sun Devils will look to find a pitcher to complete the starting rotation. Brett Lilek who had an injury-plagued season last year and only made one start, but will be counted on as a starter. We will wait to see how Head Coach Tim Esmay puts his pitchers in a rotation, but look for him to have at least three starters on a regular basis for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday games and another to pitch during weeknight games.
In the bullpen, with Burr out as closer, Darin Gillies might be looked to fill the position. He pitched 28 games last year. He was 2-2 with a 4.67 ERA and one save. He will need to lower his ERA this year to be considered the long term closer. Josh McAlister, who had a 0.89 ERA in just over 20 innings last season, is another possibility. Batters hit only .211 off of McAlister last year. We might see Esmay use a closer by committee early to see who will step up.
For every season of their 54-year history the Sun Devils have a time honored tradition of a top-25 ranking and this year is no different. The Sun Devils come in to the season at No. 19 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. They have 51 consecutive 30-win seasons, which is the longest current streak in Division 1 baseball.
Look for the Sun Devils to make it to a regional again this year. 35 victories should be easy to accomplish, but if the offense takes shape and the young pitching staff comes together, it might be a 45+ win season, with the possibility of hosting a regional in Tempe before the closing of Bobby Winkles Field Packard Stadium at Brock Ballpark.
I hope to see you at Sun Devils baseball and let’s look forward to a trip to the College World Series in 2014.
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