Erik Bakich made the first of his weekly appearances on WTKA for the 2014 season this morning (podcast), providing a good preview of the upcoming Michigan baseball campaign, which begins Friday down in Texas.
The focus here is on who's playing which position. In addition to what Bakich said, this overview is also based on the current game notes.
Starting pitchers: Every starter returns from last year—fifth-year seniors Logan McAnallen and Ben Ballantine, juniors James Bourque and Trent Szkutnik, and sophomore Evan Hill. They'll get the bulk of the innings. The game notes have probable starters for this weekend as Bourque and Szkutnik for games 1 and 2 on Friday, Ballantine on Saturday, and Hill on Sunday. Bakich talked about the importance of his hurlers being able to consistently throw multiple types of pitches for strikes. McAnallen and Ballantine had shown this ability in the past; the other three have made tremendous improvement in this area since last season.
Bullpen: Bakich didn't discuss the bullpen extensively, but sophomore Jacob Cronenworth will be the closer. In his freshman year, when he earned second-team All-Big Ten honors, he had a 1.93 ERA and seven saves in 15 appearances; yesterday, he was named to the Stopper of the Year watch list. Michigan returns two other players who had extensive bullpen duties last season, senior Alex Lakatos and junior Matt Ogden. Bakich mentioned that freshman Jackson Lamb will be a two-way player, seeing time in the outfield and pitching in relief. He'll be brought along slowly, with his role likely increasing as the season progresses. The game notes mention two other freshman who are expected to have roles as relievers—Brett Adcock and Keith Lehmann.
Outfield: The biggest losses on the team from last year are starting outfielders Patrick Biondi and Michael O'Neill, both now playing professional ball. Zach Zott returns and will continue to be the starting left fielder. Bakich talked about how much more depth his team has this year than last year, and this is evident in the outfield, where he expects at least three players to see action in center and right—juco transfer Jackson Glines and two freshmen, Lamb and Johnny Slater. The game notes show the probable starters as Zott in left, Glines in center, and Slater in right. Bakich also mentioned that juniors Kyle Jusick and Kevin White might see some action in the outfield.
Infield: Coming off his stellar freshman season, sophomore Travis Maezes will continue to be the starting shortstop. Also anchoring the infield will be Cronenworth. But while he split time last season at second and third, this season Cronenworth will be the starter at either third or first, depending on whether the opposing team is starting a right-handed pitcher or a southpaw. Also playing some first will be juco transfer Kendall Patrick. Three freshmen will see action at second and third—Hector Gutierrez, Ramsey Romano, and Trey Miller. The game notes show the probable starters as Cronenworth at first, Gutierrez at second, Maezes at short, and Romano at third.
Catcher: Senior Cole Martin returns as the starter; he was named third-team All-Big Ten last year. He'll be helped out by Patrick and freshman Harrison Wenson.
Offense in general: Strategy will remain the same as last season, with the aim to play fast, be very aggressive both at the plate and on the bases, and put pressure on the opposing team. Many of the newcomers have speed and athleticism.
With all the starting pitchers back from last season, along with some key position players, as well as a raft of talented newcomers, Michigan is expected to improve on their 5th place finish in the Big Ten last season when their record was 14-10 in the conference and 29-27 overall. So far, the conference previews have picked them to finish third or fourth.
Erik Bakich and his staff have picked up their 7th commitment in the 2015 class as Ben Keizer has announced his commitment to Michigan. Keizer is a 6-2, 175-lb. left-handed pitcher out of Portage Northern H.S. in Portage, Michigan. He plays travel ball for Midwest Athletics, the same team as 2016 Michigan commit Jack Weisenburger (see Hello post). Prep Baseball Report reported in November that Keizer was being recruited by Louisville, Ball State, Michigan State, Western Michigan, and Central Michigan.
PBR ran this scouting report on Keizer in a rundown of an August 2013 event at which they considered him the top pitching prospect:
6-foot-2, 175-pound lanky pitcher. On the mound he has a tall and fall style delivery with rhythm and an athletic finish. Throws with a loose, quick arm, from a high ¾ slot, with easy effort. Throws his fastball on a downhill plane, with occasional cut, sitting 83-85 mph, touching 86 mph one time. Has solid feel for his curveball that he throws with arm speed similar to the fastball. It has an 11/5 shape, occasionally flashing a true 12/6 shape, and comes in at 61-64 mph. His changeup has occasional sinking action and is 71-73 mph. His loose arm and easy effort, combined with his lanky frame give him solid projectability. Keizer is one of the top Class of 2015 graduates in the state of Michigan and is a high follow in the Midwest.
Rankings-wise, PBR has Keizer #12 in the state of Michigan for the 2015 class and #97 overall in their ten-state coverage area.
photo of Keizer from PBR profile page
Below are the PBR overall rankings for Michigan's seven 2015 commits. Plummer and Goslin are PBR's #2 and #3 players from the state of Michigan in the 2015 class, so Michigan now has commitments from 3 of the top 12 in-state prospects for that class.
- 14. Charlie Donovan 5-10 SS (Hello post)
- 20. Nick Plummer 5-10 OF (Hello post)
- 43. Collin Goslin 6-3 LHP (Hello post)
- 67. Ako Thomas 5-8 2B (Hello post)
- 97. Ben Keizer 6-2 LHP
- 228. Andrew David 5-10 SS (Hello post*)
- 235. Nick Azar 6-3 SS (Hello post)
*Hello post is Ace's from the front page. David will be on a football scholarship, but he evidently also plans to play baseball at Michigan.
The five top 100 PBR commitments for Michigan is the most of any Big Ten school. Ohio State is second with four commits, but their highest ranked is #25, with the other three at #54, #73, and #92. Purdue is the only other Big Ten school with a commit in the top 25—they have the #11 recruit, but they have only one other top 100 recruit (#27).
You are looking live at a post by some guy that used to be here all the time, but since has disappeared into the wilderness and thus returned only to probably disappear again!
Anyway, UM's baseball season is nigh upon us! In just one week, Coach Bakich continues his crusade "to catch that softball program" and return Michigan to the NCAA tournament. This year's edition of the team is very similar to that of last year's, but now with more experience!
Eric Sorenson, my former idol and still current holder of my most coveted job I will never try to get, has posted his "Top 302 Teams of 2014" post for this year, and yes, he does rank and blurb each of the 302 teams in Division 1, and he has Michigan at #71:
71- MICHIGAN (29-27, 14-10)
2013 ISR: 138
Starters Returning: 7
Weekend Starters: 3
Mid-Week Starters: 1
Key Relievers (15+inns.): 4
Coach Erik Bakich was right, “a bunch of pissed-off Wolverines” turned the program around last year. Could be even more this year as 55 of the 56 starts on the mound come back, as does two-way talent Jacob Cronenworth (.320, 12SBs & 0-3, 1.93, 7svs). Plus, the future is sparkling for the Maize & Blue as the 20th-ranked recruiting class comes to campus.
For those interested, his B1G teams are ranked as such:
48. Nebraska (*fixed after comment)
75. Michigan State
105. Ohio State
226. Penn State
Indiana is the clear favorite after making it all the way to the College World Series Last year. They return plenty and their coach is fantastic. After that, it gets all B1G Baseball-y with any team from Illinois to probably Ohio State having a decent shot at being pretty good, but no one is really sure because this is 1) college baseball and 2) mid-major college baseball.
As for this year's schedule, it looks to have quite a few solid names on the docket. The team starts with a Texas tour starting with a tournament in San Marcos with games against 2 of Sorenson's top 100 in Texas State and Washington. Then it's a 3 game set at my current graduate school, the University of Houston. Needless to say I will be attending at least one game in my Michigan jersey. Not that I'll be in UH jerseys for the other three, but my mother and wife have the audacity to both have birthdays that weekend, so I won't have much time to enjoy the old ball field.
From there is't a tournament hosted by Notre Dame in Cary, N.C. Which... yeah, sure. But top 5 North Carolina State and top 20 UCLA will both be there, along with a double header with Appalachian State and Notre Dame sandwiched between the big two. After that its a swing through Florida for our nearly annual FGCU match up, a game at UCF, and a 4 game set against a probably hapless Princeton.
We finish the southern tour in Charleston to take on Appalachain State again, followed by two against College of Charleston ad Kent State.
That's a pretty solid opening stanza. Of those teams, only Air Force and Princeton are terrible. The rest are at least top 120-ish teams.
As for the B1G season, we start it in the hardest way possible, a 3 game set at Indiana. Then its home against Iowa and Minnestoa, away to Illinois and Purdue, home against Nebraska, away to Northwestern, and then finish the season home against Ohio State. Lastly, we have a bye week with a pair of games against Kansas, who projects to be a meh Big12 team.
B1G tournament is in Omaha this year, probably as a favor to Indiana. Give them an extra couple practice games on their CWS warm up tour.
I have no particular idea myself on how the season will go down. I somewhat gave up following the team 3-4 years ago with school and work and wife and globe-trotting recently, so that's probably all I'll have on the team for a while. I may post a summary of the game from Houston if I do make it out there. Maybe I'll even catch you out there.
In a pretty good game, Nebraska beat (upset?) Minnesota 82-78. Nebraska remains unbeaten at home except for its loss to Michigan. In the only other Big Ten game today, Indiana beat Illinois 56-46 in a not-so-pretty game. Arizona also leads Utah 31-26 at the half.
The commits-occurring-in-pairs tradition migrates to the diamond as Erik Bakich & Co. pick up another verbal pledge today, two days after that of Dominic Clementi. Committing today was Jack Weisenburger, who I mentioned in Clementi's Hello thread as a Michigan target. Weisenburger is a 6-2, 190-pound right-handed pitcher/outfielder out of Rockford H.S. in Rockford, Michigan. The Wolverines third commitment for 2016, Weisenburger is ranked #6 in Michigan and #40 overall by Prep Baseball Report.
PBR ran this eval on him in the fall of 2013:
Weisenberger proved why he is one of the most talented players in the Class of 2016. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound RHP/OF has more room to grow and is by no means filled out. Ran 7.29 and was 88mph from the outfield. Ball has good carry and life. Advanced plus arm for his age. At the plate has simple no load approach but lighting quick hands. Had consistent contact. Had a impressive 92mph exit velocity. On the mound he has big potential as well. 84-86mph. Fastballs were consistently down at the knees. Slider was 70-72mph and short in nature. Well above average feel for the change at his age. Smooth arm action and quick arm. Will be one of the most highly sought after recruits in Michigan.
To repeat what I said in the Clementi thread, I've been told Weiserburger has a family tie to Michigan, although I haven't been able to confirm exactly what. The obvious guess is that he's related to—perhaps a grandson of—LongLiveBo confirms that Weisenburger is indeed a grandson of the legendary Jack Weisenburger who played both baseball and football at Michigan in the 1940s and was the starting fullback for the 1947 Mad Magicians team. He was the MVP of the 1948 Rose Bowl. He was also the captain of the 1948 baseball team. Seth published a terrific profile of/interview with Weisenburger last August.
Weisenburger played baseball at U-M under long-time head coach Ray Fisher. So the younger Jack Weisenburger will play in the stadium named for his grandfather's coach at Michigan.
One other note, according to the U-M baseball record book, it appears that the younger Jack's father was a member of Michigan's baseball team in 1976.
Michigan now has commits from the #6 (Karl Kauffmann—Hello post), #40 (Weisenburger), and #49 (Clementi) prospects in PBR's 2016 rankings for their ten-state coverage area.
photo from PBR
In for a unofficial visit today on Michigan baseball's first day of practice for the 2014 season, Dominic Clementi has given a verbal commitment to the Maize and Blue, becoming the second player to pledge to the 2016 class. He's a 6-1, 170-lb. outfielder out of Arrowhead H.S. in Hartland, Wisconsin (in the western suburbs of Milwaukee). He reportedly had also considered Illinois and Iowa.
Prep Baseball Report, which has Clementi ranked #6 in the state of Wisconsin for the 2016 class and #49 overall in their 10-state coverage area, posted this scouting report following the Class of 2016 Top Prospect Games in July 2013:
Athletic build, lanky frame, 6-foot-1, 170-pounds, projectable frame. Offensively hits from a slightly open stance, short stride. Active lower half, solid balance. Advanced bat speed, creates bat lag, whip through the zone. Short path, slightly uphill, occasional gap to gap approach. High level defender in the outfield, plays through the ball aggressively, clean exchange. Plus arm from the outfield, loose arm action, over the top slot, carries well, 88 mph from the outfield. Clementi is one of the top outfield defenders in his class, showed excellent range. High level bat speed, showed the ability to hit at a consistent rate.
Clementi joins Michigan's first 2016 commit, right-handed pitcher Karl Kauffmann (Hello post), who's ranked #1 in Michigan and #6 overall by PBR.
I'm not sure when Michigan last had a player from Wisconsin on its roster (there are none currently), but seeing the coaching staff successfully delve into that territory is interesting given that the University of Wisconsin no longer fields a D-I baseball team (they do have a club team).
Dominic Clementi (source)