With 25 days until the 2016 season opener, more Michigan baseball previews were posted today to go along with the nice one recently posted here by Out of Left Field. First, the baseball program itself put out a preview.
So far this preseason, the Wolverines have earned recognition in multiple preseason polls, and numerous baseball organizations across the nation have predicted Michigan to finish atop the competitive Big Ten Conference. Individually, junior utility/pitcher Carmen Benedetti has also earned multiple preseason honors, including two Pre-Season All-America selections and a selection to Baseball America's Top 100 Draft Picks list.
Baseball America, which has the Wolverines ranked #15 in their preseason top 25, posted a Michigan preview today that includes a projected lineup. In addition to freshman outfielder Jonathan Engelmann, other newcomers to look out for include juco transfer shortshop Michael Brdar and fifth-year grad transfer Matt Ramsay, penciled in as the DH but also likely to see time in the outfield.
Benedetti will draw much of the attention from opposing pitchers, but the Wolverines’ offense will not be a one-man show. Jake Bivens was named Big Ten freshman of the year last season after hitting .319/.435/.352 and manning shortstop. He will move to second base this spring to accommodate junior-college transfer Michael Brdar, who stands out most for his defense. Catcher Harrison Wenson and outfielder Johnny Slater were both drafted coming out of high school and will now be counted on to take on larger roles as juniors.
Michigan also welcomes freshman Jonathan Engelmann, the highest ranked player on the BA 500 to make it to a Big Ten school this year, and senior Matt Ramsay, a graduate transfer from Wofford. Engelmann is an athletic, toolsy outfielder with plus raw power who fits the right field profile. Ramsay hit .359/.459/.483 and led the Southern Conference in on-base percentage and hits (84).
On a recent appearance on WTKA (podcast), Erik Bakich referred to Ramsay as the baseball team's version of Jake Rudock.
Michigan kicks off the season in Port St. Lucie, Florida, with a four-game series against Canisius, with the opener on Friday, February 19, 2pm ET. Full schedule.
A quick recruiting detour here from football to baseball. Michigan received four verbal commitments in November and December. I'm late in posting this, but here's a summary: three new commits for 2017 bring Michigan's total for that class to ten, and Bakich and company also picked up commit #3 for 2018. Details:
Dillon Nowicki (2018): 6-1, 180-lb. RHP/OF/1B, Stoughton HS (WI). Prep Baseball Report (PBR) ranking: #4 in WI, #104 overall in the 2018 class. PBR post-commit Q&A. D1Baseball ranking: #4 in WI, #247 overall. Perfect Game grade: 8.5. Here's PG's scouting report (Aug. 2015):
Medium frame, athletic build, room to fill as he continues to put on additional muscle. Primary right-handed pitcher, throws from a 3/4 arm slot, long arm action, high energy delivery, works quickly. Fastball is straight with occasional cut to it. Curveball has 12/6 shape, big depth. From the outfield, long lose actions, fields the ball in front, uses legs well to drive toward target, long over the top arm action, has raw arm strength with carry to bases. Arm projects as he continues to develop. Very good student.
Nowicki is a travel ball teammate of Michigan freshman Jack Bredeson.
Angelo Smith (2017): 5-10, 160-lb. LHP/OF, Richards HS (Oak Lawn, IL). PBR ranking: #21 in IL, #232 overall in the 2017 class. Scouting report (Sept. 2014):
. . . impresses with legitimate two-way ability. Worked at 79-81 mph off the mound from quick, loose, high ¾ arm slot. Flashes 67 mph slurvy breaking ball, and 70-73 mph change. Repeats delivery well, athleticism evident throughout. Hits from a tall, narrow setup, slightly open, pull tendencies, above average bat speed.
Cameron Tomaiko (2017): 5-11, 175-lb. OF, St. Anthony's HS (Long Island, NY). PBR and Perfect Game have little info on him. Video is available on this profile page. A Long Island–based scouting service offers this brief eval:
Smooth LH hitting prospect with all the tools. Has + bat speed with power. Runs well. Covers a lot of ground defensively. Well above average arm.
Danny Zimmerman (2017): 6-5, 245-lb. RHP/OF, Redondo Beach HS (Redondo Beach, CA). Perfect Game grade: 10. First Michigan recruit I've come across with a PG 10 (which means "potential very high draft pick and/or elite-level college prospect"). Scouting report (Aug. 2015):
Extra big and strong build. Works from the stretch, well paced deliberate delivery, gets downhill well from a 3/4's arm slot, maintains arm slot and arm speed well on all pitches. Upper 80's fastball, topped out at 89 mph, has been seen in the low 90's, heavy fastball with good sink and consistently down in the zone. Very good curveball, has power and some will call a slider, tight spin with late bite but gets over it out front, created bad swings by good hitters with his curveball. Very interesting raw stuff, especially his breaking ball, but cannot afford to get any bigger. Good student.
PG lists other colleges interested as Arizona, Arizona State, Baylor, Nebraska, and Oregon—a pretty solid list. The Daily Breeze ran an article on Zimmerman in June of last year.
CA to AA pipeline: Michigan's 2016 roster includes seven players from California. With Zimmerman's commit, there are four Californians in the 2017 class.
Per Cardinals GM Jon Mozeliak, there is an increasing (if not certain) sense that the DH could be coming to the National league as soon as 2017. Personally, I am for it. I would rather see professional hitters do the hitting and pitchers do the pitching.
I have never understood the argument that having a pitcher bat adds strategy; it would be like the NFL requiring QBs to also play linebacker or something. Makes zero sense to me. I would rather have uniform leagues, uniform rules, and have players do what they are the best at.
The Wolverines were a pretty good team last year finishing 39-25 overall and 4th in the Big Ten. The Wolverines won the Big Ten Tournament before falling to Louisville in the Regional Finals.
The Wolverines led the Big Ten in almost every batting stat. They hit .296 as a team, averaged over 6 runs per game and were in the Top-25 nationally in walks and OBP.
On the mound Michigan was a middle of the pack team. They finished 7th in the Big Ten with a 3.81 team ERA but ranked 31st nationally in strikouts.
Jacob Cronenworth played second and was the closer; Cronenworth hit .338, led the team with 91 hits and drove in 48 runs as the leadoff hitter. Cronenworth earned second team All-Big Ten honors and signed with Tampa Bay after being selected in the 7th round.
Jackson Glines played center field and was the team leader in OBP. He hit .349 as a 2-3 hitter, drove in 34 runs and his .984 fielding percentage was third best on the team. Glines was a first team All-Big Ten selection and was drafted by the White Sox in the 10th round.
Junior Travis Maezes played third and short. After lofty preseason expectations pegged him as the Big Ten Player of the Year, Maezes posted a .297 average and 27 RBI. Maezes was a third team All-Big Ten selection; he was drafted by Kansas City in the 13th round and signed this offseason.
Behind the plate the Wolverines lose Kendall Patrick. Patrick was a low average, high power hitter who led the team with 8 home runs, knocked in 33 and was pegged 15 times hitting cleanup. His .990 fielding percentage was the best on the team.
Eric Jacobson and Kevin White were regular starters; Jacobson the infield and White in in the outfield. Both players were solid in the field but didn't make too much of an impact at the plate.
Infielder Kyle Jusick graduated. Jusick started 17 games in the infield and hit .231.
Three arms have departed from a year ago.
Matt Ogden rotated in as the 3rd starter and threw as a bullpen arm going 5-1. His 2.47 ERA was the best on the team for a pitcher who threw more than 15 innings and he held hitters to a .234 batting average.
Donnie Eaton threw 21 innings in relief with a 5.14 ERA. The third arm, TJ Shook, pitched 5.1 innings of relief.
Ramsey Romano left the program a year ago after starting 24 games as a freshman. He entered spring practice for football as a quarterback and is now playing at Yavapai College. He will attend Long Beach State in 2016.
On the Infield
First baseman Carmen Benedetti took a monumental leap forward his sophomore year. As a middle of the order hitter he led the team in almost every hitting category; batting .352 with 71 RBI, 25 doubles and 28 walks, Benedetti was named 1st team All-American.
At first Benedetti had the highest fielding percentage out all position players besides Patrick.
Jake Bivens is your starter at short. Bivens was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and earned Freshman All-American honors from various outlets after hitting .319 from the top of the order and driving in 19 runs with a .435 OBP.
The third returning infielder is Hector Gutierrez, a junior from Detroit. Gutierrez played sparingly as a reserve appearing in 21 games, starting 4. He hit .250 with 6 driven in.
The Wolverines lost quite a bit from last year's infield and the incoming class is thin. Chicago native Ako Thomas will be in the hunt for playing time in the middle infield and George Hewitt, a highly regarded recruit and brother of former Phillies first rounder Anthony Hewitt will be in line for games at third.
The rest of platoon will be between upperclassmen Michael Brdar and sophomore Matt Ross, neither who have appeared in a game, freshman Joe Pace and Jimmy Kerr.
As a junior Cody Bruder started every game between DH and left field, pairing with Benedetti as middle of the order hitters. Bruder hit .308, knocking in 43 runs and slugged .423.
In right Johnny Slater returns after starting 36 games a year ago. Slater was able to drive in 25 runs last season from the back of the order despite hitting .229. He snagged 9 doubles, two triples and three homeruns while posting a .325 OBP.
Junior Jackson Lamb was a highly regarded recruit who hit .250 as a freshman and threw nine fantastic innings as a sophomore but missed most of last season with an injury. Lamb will be in the mix for starts between all three positions.
The prized recruit of the class, California native Jonathan Engelmann heads to Michigan after a distinguished high school career saw him drafted in the 28th round by the Twins. The 6'4 Engelmann looks to be a fit for the Wolverines vacant center field position and he also features a power bat who can switch hit.
Behind the Plate
With their every day catcher gone, backstopping duties should fall to sophomore Drew Lugbauer. Lugbauer played mostly as a DH last season and spelled Patrick behind the plate, hitting .211 and driving in eight.
Junior Harrison Wenson and senior Dominic Jamett both played sparingly a year ago. They'll battle for the backup position.
On the Mound
Pitching was a sore spot at times for this team a year ago but this season the group looks to take a big step forward.
Almost the entire pitching staff has returned, starting with #1 and #2 starters Brett Adcock and Ryan Nutof.
Adcock threw 90 innings last season and went 10-4, posting a 3.10 ERA and holding batters to a .213 average. He also posted an impressive K/9 of 9.50. Adcock was named Big Ten All-Third Team.
Nutof started 14 games as a freshman and was named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American. Nutof threw 80 innings posting a 3.71 ERA and a 5-3 record. He held batters to a .247 average.
Evan Hill missed the first two months of the season, but went on to start seven games and appear out of the pen. Hill posted a .450 ERA and a K/9 of 8.76.
Out of the bullpen Bryan Pall is the top returner. Pall threw 33.1 innings of relief a year ago with a 2.97 ERA and a K/9 of 8.42. Pall features a devastating slider as his swing-and-miss pitch.
Jackson Lamb and Carmen Benedetti both excelled in smaller roles, Benedetti allowed just three earned runs in 14 innings and held batters to a .085 average. Lamb threw nine innings and earned 1 run.
Mac Lozer, Jayce Vancena and Michael Hendrickson make up the rest of the group.
The freshman class is not short on arms. Eric Bakich has brought in five pitchers in this class; righty Ricky Karcher, lefties Benjamin Keizer and William Tribucher.
The two headliners of the pitching class are California native Troy Miller and Jack Bredeson. Miller was a Perfect Game All-American Honorable Mention and features a blazing fastball.
The 6'6, 235lb Bredeson, brother of football commit Ben Bredeson, has a raw power arm. His fastball reaches the mid-to-high 80's and he also features a power changeup, a curveball and a nice biting slider.
The Wolverines enter the season ranked 23rd in the country, the only Big Ten team to earn a preseason ranking.
In 2016 they'll take a step back at the plate. There's going to be a drop in production after losing upperclassmen bats in Glines, Cronenworth, Maezes and Patrick but they should see improvement on the mound.
With the Big Ten not having a clear favorite going into the year, this Michigan team should be contending for their first conference title since 2008. At the very least, the Wolverines should hold a spot in the top-4 of the conference standings.
I did not see this posted already, I checked back several days.
Here is the annual Infiniti Coaches Charity. Last year I believe Coach Beilein made it to round 4.
Let's get Michigan out in front this year
George "Meadowlark" Lemon, the basketball star who entertained millions of fans around the world with his antics as a longtime member of the Harlem Globetrotters, died Sunday in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 83.
Lemon played 24 seasons and by his own estimate more than 16,000 games with the Globetrotters, the touring exhibition basketball team known for its slick ball-handling, practical jokes, red-white-and-blue uniforms and multiyear winning streaks against overmatched opponents.