Jun 24, 2013; Omaha, NE, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs players look out of their dugout during the seventh inning in game 1 of the College World Series finals against the UCLA Bruins at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Dave Weaver-USA TODAY Sports

A Look at the 2015 Diamond Dawgs


The 2014 season is over, MSU ends the season with a 39-24 record. With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at what may be in store for 2015.

Catcher

Gavin Collins solidified himself as the starting catcher. Cody Walker and Zach Randolph will be back as seniors to back him up. The question will be – does Chase Vallot come to MSU? He is committed but is also projected by some to be a first round draft pick. Chances are he will never make it to campus, but if he does he’ll be a starter from day one. So if that’s the case we’ll have to put Collins somewhere. It could be a DH/C platoon between him and Vallot with both of them in the lineup every day at one or the other, or we could move him to the outfield. Perhaps RF like we did with Renfroe?

First Base

It was assumed coming into the year this would be Wes Rea’s last. But…after hitting just .245 his draft stock has plummeted. He did redshirt the 2011 season so he’s been in school for four years, so he may want to embark on his professional career. I would lean towards him not coming back honestly. If he does come back he will be the starting first baseman.

If Rea doesn’t return we could be looking at either Brent Rooker or Dylan Ingram at 1B, or even Daniel Garner. Ideally you’d like to have Garner at DH almost every game but there might not be much room for that, so 1B would be an option.

Second Base

Replacing Brett Pirtle will be tough. I think he played every inning of every game this year, was our leading hitter and best player. The options here are Kyle Hann or move Seth Heck or Matthew Britton from the left side. I think Seth Heck moves to second base because of the man I’ll describe at SS next. Heck is better suited to 2B in my opinion, he doesn’t have a great arm, and his solid consistent defense will be appreciated there as well. He’s got a better bat than Hann as well so I expect him to be in there every day.

Short Stop

I think there’s a high percentage Seth Heck moves to second base so John Holland can take over. Holland is a juco transfer who hit .406 with 4 HR and 38 RBI with a .520 OB% at Chattahoochee Valley CC this year. He played his freshman year at Florida State.

If Holland isn’t able to perform at SS, then either Heck or Kyle Hann may play there.

Third Base

It appears as though Matthew Britton has locked down third base. His stellar defense and cannon for an arm were a sight on many plays this year. He only hit .233, but his bat came around towards the end of the year a lot more. He actually hit better than Cody Brown, Wes Rea and Demarcus Henderson in SEC play.

Outfield

I’m lumping them all together because there’s no for sure way to tell who will play where. We’re losing C.T. Bradford, Demarcus Henderson and Derrick Armstrong to graduation. Bradford was a dynamic centerfielder with a nice bat – a four year starter who will be sorely missed.

Cody Brown, Jake Vickerson and Jacob Robson will all be back. Robson barely played in 2014, but if he can rebound in the offseason he could be a prime candidate to replace Bradford in CF.

Vickerson should get better and play LF. He has the potential to be a really good leadoff man but we’ll have to see.

Cody Brown was just a redshirt freshman this year. Hopefully he takes a step forward as a sophomore.

Joey Swinarski redshirted this spring but I was very surprised by that. Most people believe he’ll be drafted after three years, he’s that good. He will push for time in the field, and I expect to see a lot of him either as a starter or in a platoon.

Could Reid Humphreys be a candidate to move to the outfield? If Britton is holding down 3B again you certainly want his bat in the lineup. And as I mentioned above, Gavin Collins could as well if Chase Vallot comes to MSU.

DH

There should be no excuse for not having a very talented power hitter at DH in 2015. Whether it’s Daniel Garner, Reid Humphreys, Gavin Collins, etc. Hopefully the days of putting a speedy singles guy here are over.

Starting Pitching

Trevor Fitts will be back – he was the only starter to begin the year in the rotation and finish it there.

Ross Mitchell may be in the starting rotation but I’d expect him to move back to the pen to start the year.

Dakota Hudson, Austin Sexton, Lucas Laster, Preston Brown and Vance Tatum will all vie for starting spots.

I expect Brandon Woodruff to be drafted and leave. Ben Bracewell graduates.

It will probably be another year like the last two without a real Chris Stratton-type ace….unless Hudson or Sexton steps into that role.

Bullpen

Will Johnathan Holder be back? A lot of people think he will be, maybe more so because he wants to complete his education than he wants to play professionally right now. If he is that is very good news for this team.

If having a dynamic lefty in the pen is going to be a trademark of this program (i.e. Chad Girodo, Jacob Lindgren), then Laster or Tatum could certainly fill that role.

Big question: how will John Marc Shelly, Paul Young and Will Cox recover from Tommy John’s surgery?

The ‘pen should be good, but it may take a slight step back from the last few years.

Overall

This looks like a really talented team. I’ve only mentioned a couple of names coming in, but there will be more that we hear about in fall ball. Keep an ear out for guys playing in summer leagues – that can be an indicator of future performance.

The new balls with lower seems are coming into play next year. With the looks of this team, they will be well suited for it. Hitting should be better, especially power hitting, and pitching may take a slight tick down.

Same expectations – try to win the SEC and host a Regional. The future is bright.

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