2002 Baseball Season Outlook
Jan. 14, 2002
Stanford, Calif. - The 2002 Stanford Baseball team starts official practice on Tuesday, January 15, 2002. The Cardinal, ranked No. 1 in preseason polls by both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball, will open its 2002 collegiate baseball season by hosting No. 15 Cal State Fullerton in a three-game series February 1-3. Stanford has finished second at the College World Series each of the last two seasons and returns all of its position starters from last year's CWS title game. The Cardinal has also earned a spot in the CWS field for each of the last three years and compiled three consecutive 50-win seasons, both for the first time in school history. Last season, Stanford finished 51-17 overall and 17-7 in the Pac-10 Conference.
'We're ready to get going, but we have a lot of work to do before we start playing games,' said an enthusiastic head coach Mark Marquess, who begins the 2002 campaign ranked 12th on the win list among active coaches with 1046 career wins.
Following is a 2002 Stanford Baseball Outlook.
2002 STANFORD BASEBALL OUTLOOKsize>STANFORD LOOKING FOR FOURTH STRAIGHT TRIP TO OMAHAThe 2002 Stanford Baseball team is looking to make history once again with a fourth straight trip to Omaha. The senior class is hoping to become the first group of players in Cardinal history to reach the College World Series in all four of its collegiate seasons. Last year, this group led a young seniorless Cardinal team to its second straight CWS title game and its third consecutive trip to Omaha, marking the first time in Stanford history that the Cardinal had been to three straight College World Series. The 2001 Cardinal finished the campaign with a 51-17 overall record and had an amazing post-season run, winning four elimination games on its way to NCAA Regional and Super Regional titles.
'It's a credit to this year's group of seniors that they've been to three straight College World Series,' said Stanford head coach Mark Marquess. 'We've never had a class that has gone to the CWS four years in a row and that's what they would like to do, but there's a lot of work and good fortune that goes into it. It's so difficult to get to Omaha.'
The senior class will lead an experienced 2002 club with every position player that started in last year's CWS championship game returning, as well as two of its top four starting pitchers and bullpen ace. All told, the Cardinal returns 16 of 20 letterwinners from a year ago. Eight players (Jason Cooper, Tim Cunningham, Sam Fuld, Ryan Garko, Jeremy Guthrie, Chris O'Riordan, Carlos Quentin, J.D. Willcox) have earned 2002 Preseason All-American honors from Baseball America and/or Collegiate Baseball.
The Cardinal, ranked No. 1 in the Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball preseason polls, will have a lot on the line in 2002. In addition to a hopeful return trip to Omaha, Stanford will be attempting to win 50 or more games for the fourth straight season and is looking for its fifth Pac-10 baseball title (includes Southern Division) in the last six years.
'There's no doubt the expectations on this year's team will be higher than they were last year with all the players we have returning,' commented Marquess. 'It's nice to have so many position players returning. But, the key is pitching, and we do have a few question marks on the mound.'
The senior class, which has compiled a 151-48 record for a .759 winning percentage in its first three years, features the entire starting infield from a year ago.
Second baseman Chris O'Riordan (.359, 12 HR, 68 RBI, 16 SB) is the leading senior returnee and a candidate to repeat his First Team All-American honors from a year ago. Also returning to complete the infield are first baseman Arik VanZandt (.262, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 9 SB), shortstop Scott Dragicevich (.320, 5 HR, 34 RBI, 6 SB) and third baseman Andy Topham (.272, 7 HR, 45 RBI, 11 SB).
A trio of sophomores that started last year's CWS championship game as freshmen in the outfield also returns.
Centerfielder Sam Fuld (.357, 37 RBI, 11 SB) and rightfielder Carlos Quentin (.345, 11 HR, 52 RBI, 5 SB) produced huge rookie seasons on The Farm. Both players were named Freshman All-Americans and All-Pac-10, while Fuld added a Third Team All-American selection (NCBWA) and Quentin earned Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors. Brian Hall (.287, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 6 SB) also returns after making 28 starts last year, including the CWS championship game in left field. Sophomore Jonny Ash (.327, 24 RBI) also started last year's CWS title game as the designated hitter and completes the 'Fab Four'.
'All of these players contributed greatly last year as freshmen and were instrumental in our success,' said Marquess. 'We think that they'll be even better this year with the experience they've gained.'
Junior catcher Ryan Garko (.368, 7 HR, 43 RBI) is the remaining position player that started last year's CWS title game and led the Cardinal in batting average a year ago. Junior outfielder Jason Cooper (.272, 9 HR, 37 RBI, 2 SB) also spent much of last season as a starter, either at DH, first base or in left field.
Junior RHP Jeremy Guthrie (13-4, 2.82 ERA, 134.0 IP, 128 SO) and junior LHP Tim Cunningham (6-0, 3.62 ERA, 74.2 IP, 54 SO) look to anchor the starting pitching rotation, while senior J.D. Willcox (5-0, 2.06 ERA, 6 SV, 35.0 IP, 29 SO) is the top returning reliever and expected closer.
The Cardinal will also feature a freshman class consisting of 10 members that will look to support a total of 16 returning letterwinners and help replace four players lost to the professional baseball draft last summer - Mike Gosling (LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks, 2nd round), Jeff Bruksch (RHP, Oakland Athletics, 5th round), Jason VanMeetren (OF, Seattle Mariners, 13th round) and Mike Wodnicki (RHP, St. Louis Cardinals, 16th round).
As many as four of the incoming position players are candidates for significant playing time early in their careers. Chris Carter (Walnut Creek, CA/De La Salle HS) and Billy Paganetti (Reno, NV/Galena HS) are potential starters in left field, first base or at designated hitter. Danny Putnam (San Diego, CA/Rancho Bernardo HS) is among the candidates to start in left field, while Donny Lucy (Fallbrook, CA/Fallbrook HS) is a catcher/utility player that figures to fit prominently into Stanford's plans.
On the hill, right-handed pitcher Mark Jecmen (Diamond Bar, CA/Diamond Bar HS) may make an immediate impact, while RHP Jonny Dyer (San Antonio, TX/Clark HS), RHP Moses Kopmar (Berkeley, CA/Berkeley HS) and RHP Steve Papazian (Long Beach, CA/Woodrow Wilson HS) also hope to contribute to the team's pitching staff.
'A lot of our freshmen players are really going to push the returning guys for playing time,' stated Marquess. 'That type of competition is healthy.'
'Overall, we should have a lot of versatility,' continued Marquess. 'There are a lot of different combinations I can play. It will come down to who's hot with the bat at several positions.'
The team's schedule will have a similar look as in recent years and again be among the best in the nation.
Stanford opens its season with a three-game home series February 1-3 versus fellow 2001 CWS participant Cal State Fullerton. The preseason slate continues with three-game sets at Florida State (February 8-10), at Fresno State (February 15-17), versus Santa Clara (February 22-24) and versus Cal Poly (March 1-3). Stanford will then travel to both California (March 8-10) and USC (March 23-24) for a pair of non-conference series before hosting Texas (March 28-30) in its final preseason series of the season.
'We've made an effort to schedule one of the nation's most difficult non-league schedules,' said Marquess. 'This non-league slate prepares us for an always tough Pac-10 schedule and gives us a good idea of what we need to do to be successful.'
The Cardinal opens conference play at Arizona (April 5-7) before hosting defending league champion USC in its first home Pac-10 series of the campaign (April 12-14). Stanford then travels to the Northwest on consecutive weekends for three-game series at Washington (April 19-21) and Oregon State (April 26-28), before returning to Sunken Diamond to host California (May 3-5) and Arizona State (May 10-12). Stanford finishes its Pac-10 road schedule at UCLA (May 17-19) before hosting Washington State (May 24-26) on Memorial Day weekend to conclude the regular season.
Tuesday home games are scheduled versus Brigham Young (February 12), USF (April 2), San Jose State (April 9), Saint Mary's (April 16) and Sacramento State (May 21). Tuesday road games include San Jose State (April 30), Santa Clara (May 7) and Nevada (May 14).
Stanford's 2002 schedule includes 28 games against teams ranked in a 2002 NCAA Division I Preseason Poll by Baseball America or Collegiate Baseball.
Following is a position-by-position look at the 2002 Stanford Cardinal:
PitcherThe Cardinal pitching staff looks solid for 2002 despite the loss of two of the team's top three starters from a year ago. Returning All-American junior RHP Jeremy Guthrie figures to take his role as the team's top starter again after an incredible season in his first year on The Farm in 2001. Junior LHP Tim Cunningham has the inside track to become the team's second starter. Among the several primary candidates competing for the third starter position are hard-throwing freshman RHP Mark Jecmen (Diamond Bar, CA/Diamond Bar HS), sophomore RHP John Hudgins, junior RHP Ryan McCally and sophomore RHP Drew Ehrlich. Senior RHP J.D. Willcox will look to anchor down the relief pitchers as the team's returning closer, while senior LHP Dan Rich should play a significant role in the bullpen after missing most of last season to injury. All told, Stanford returns seven of 12 pitchers from a staff that recorded a 3.50 ERA last year, Stanford's best mark since 1977.
'When you have two starters returning that's a positive,' said an optimistic head coach Mark Marquess. 'Last year, we didn't know what we had with no starters returning, but it worked out great. We're a little bit ahead of the game from where we were last year prior to the season. This year, we know what we have.'
Indeed, the Cardinal has one of the best collegiate pitchers in the nation in Guthrie (13-4, 2.82 ERA, 134.0 IP, 128 SO). Last year, Guthrie ranked tied for second in the conference in wins and fourth in ERA, as well as tied for 12th in the nation in victories. He was drafted in the third round by the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in the 2001 MLB First-Year Player Draft but did not sign a professional baseball contract with the organization.
Cunningham (6-0, 3.62 ERA, 74.2 IP, 54 SO) is expected to move into a prominent role on the staff as the team's second starter. He has put up excellent numbers the last two seasons as a part-time starter and primary middle relief pitcher. Cunningham ranks seventh on Stanford's all-time won-loss percentage list (11-2, .846) and has a career 3.70 ERA. The Cardinal will rely heavily upon the talented southpaw this year with the departure of 2001 starters Jeff Bruksch and Mike Gosling. Cunningham is expected to be drafted as high as the first round in the 2002 MLB First-Year Player draft.
Jecmen, a hard-throwing freshman right-hander with a fastball in the mid-90's, may be the most intriguing candidate for the third starting spot. A 42nd round choice of the Chicago Cubs in June of 2001, Jecmen has also shown the ability to throw three pitches for strikes in fall practice and is expected to anchor the rotation in the future. The Cardinal does have the luxury to bring him along slowly with two established starters in Guthrie and Cunningham already in the first two spots of the starting rotation.
Hudgins (1-5, 4.27 ERA, 4 SV, 46.1 IP, 50 SO) played a significant role on the Cardinal staff as a freshman a year ago, showing excellent improvement towards the end of the season. Hudgins led a powerful staff in strikeouts per nine innings (9.71) and saw action in 22 games with three starts, including a key post-season start in Stanford's 4-3 win over Texas in the second championship game of the NCAA Regional.
McCally (2-1, 2.62 ERA, 3 SV, 34.1 IP, 22 SO) has been one of the most consistent pitchers in the Cardinal bullpen the last two years and may be ready to take a spot in the starting rotation. He was second on the club in appearances last year and saved three games. He had a tremendous post-season, giving up just one earned run in a team-high-tying six appearances. McCally also had arguably the best summer of any Stanford pitcher, posting a 5-1 record and a 2.65 ERA for the Anchorage Bucs to earn a spot in the 2001 Alaska Baseball League All-Star Game.
Ehrlich (0-0, 2.57 ERA, 7.0 IP, 3 SO) is a strong right-hander that pitched well in limited action last year and has shown excellent improvement in fall practice.
'Any of these guys could start in the third spot,' admitted Marquess. 'Whoever doesn't end up in that position will probably be used as one of our primary relievers. Our pitching spots probably won't be that defined in the first third of the season. They should be more defined once we get to Pac-10 play.'
Willcox emerged as the team's leader in the bullpen last year and is expected to provide leadership as the club's closer this season. Willcox came through in several clutch situations last year, including the post-season when he was 2-0 with two saves and a 2.16 ERA. He is a versatile pitcher that is capable of coming in as early as the sixth or seventh inning and finishing off a game. Willcox can also normally pitch in at least two of the three games in a weekend series.
The Cardinal is also hoping for a successful season from Rich (0-0, 5.40 ERA, 1.2 IP, 0 SO) after he missed most of last year due to an injury. He is expected to be the team's primary left-hander out of the bullpen and has developed an excellent split-finger fastball.
Other returning members of the Stanford pitching staff include a pair of sophomores in RHP Mike O'Banion and RHP/UT David O'Hagan. Additional newcomers include three freshmen in RHP Jonny Dyer, RHP Moses Kopmar and RHP Steve Papazian. Two position players - sophomore Darin Naatjes and freshman Billy Paganetti (Reno, NV/Galena HS) - may also see action on the mound.
Stanford loses five members of its 2001 staff in starters Jeff Bruksch (9-3, 3.18 ERA, 3 SV, 124.1 IP, 107 SO) and Mike Gosling (7-3, 3.94 ERA, 82.1 IP, 77 SO), as well as relievers Mike Wodnicki (7-1, 5.13 ERA, 54.1 IP, 53 SO), Jason Luker (1-0, 8.03 ERA, 12.1 IP, 7 SO) and Ryan Gloger (0-0, 18.00 ERA, 1.0 IP). Gosling and Bruksch were honorable mention All-Pac-10 selections last year.
'The biggest question mark will be our pitching,' admitted Marquess. 'We lost some real quality pitchers that threw a lot of innings last season.'
CatcherStanford looks to be solid behind the plate with returning junior and All-American candidate Ryan Garko (.368, 7 HR, 43 RBI) giving the Cardinal a powerful offensive threat and solid defensive play. Freshman Donny Lucy (Fallbrook, CA/Fallbrook HS) was one of the team's top players in fall practice and will be counted on to spell Garko when necessary. Freshman Andrew Cleary (Weston, MA/Belmont Hill School) is the team's other catcher, moving primarily behind the dish after spending his prep career as a utility player.
'We're fortunate to have a situation where I can catch a couple of different guys without much of a drop-off,' said Marquess. 'This allows me a lot more flexibility with my lineup.'
Garko emerged as the starter about a third of the way through last season and firmly established himself as the team's top catcher by swinging a hot bat and showing greatly improved defensive skills. After a hot stretch late in the season that included a team-high 21-game hit streak, he ended the campaign as the club's leader in batting average. He also put together arguably the best post-season by a Cardinal player, earning All-CWS honors and being named the Co-Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Regional. In addition, he became known for his heroic post-season moments, including the game-winning hit in the second championship game of the NCAA Regional versus Texas and his home run versus Cal State Fullerton in the second game of the CWS to help send the contest into extra innings. Garko, an honorable mention All-Pac-10 selection, started the club's final 40 games behind the plate.
Lucy is expected to provide the primary support to Garko and be the heir apparent at the position. He was named the San Diego Male Athlete of the Year in 2001 after earning All-State honors in both baseball and football as a prep senior, hitting .385 with 10 home runs and 46 RBI on the diamond.
First BaseThe possibilities seem nearly endless for the Cardinal at first base with the most likely scenario being the return of senior Arik VanZandt (.262, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 9 SB) as the starter. VanZandt moved to first base last season and helped make the Cardinal into the nation's top defensive team with a school-record .977 fielding percentage as he committed just two errors in a Pac-10-high 648 chances. However, he began his collegiate career as a left-side infielder and may still be used there in 2002 after working out primarily at third base in fall practice.
Stanford will have other options at first base, most likely with power-hitting freshmen Chris Carter (Walnut Creek, CA/De La Salle HS) and Billy Paganetti (Reno, NV/Galena HS). Both players had outstanding prep careers and were among the nation's top recruits for the 2002 campaign. Junior Jason Cooper and Garko could also see action at first base. Carter, Paganetti and Cooper are all also candidates for the starting spot in left field. Junior Darin Naatjes (.077, RBI, 2 SB), a tight end on the football team, is also a possibility.
'I've got a lot of options at first base and there is going to be a lot of competition at that spot,' emphasized Marquess.
Second BaseThe Cardinal looks to be set at second base with senior Chris O'Riordan (.359, 12 HR, 68 RBI, 16 SB) locked into the starting role after starting all 68 games at the position last season. O'Riordan will enter his final collegiate campaign tied for the school's all-time batting average record with a .362 career mark. Last year, the former walk-on earned First Team All-American and All-Pac-10 honors after leading or co-leading the Cardinal with new career-highs in 16 categories, including home runs, RBI and stolen bases. He also ranked second on the club in batting average and had 101 hits to become only the sixth player in Stanford history to collect at least 100 hits in a season.
O'Riordan's big junior year followed a sophomore season in which he took over the starting job early in the campaign and ended up leading the team with a .366 batting average, while adding three homers, 34 RBI and seven stolen bases.
'Chris O'Riordan is one of the best stories in the history of Stanford Baseball,' exclaimed Marquess. 'To have had the type of success he has had here after beginning his career as a walk-on is almost unbelievable. He deserves an enormous amount of credit for turning himself into a ballplayer that can do it all - hit, hit for power, run and play defense. He is seriously underrated as far as his potential in professional baseball is concerned.'
O'Riordan has never been drafted by a professional baseball organization.
Sophomore Jonny Ash (.327, 24 RBI) is the primary backup for O'Riordan at second base. Ash established himself as the team's starting designated hitter late last season, finishing the campaign with a .327 batting average and 24 RBI. He led the regulars in the post-season with a .410 batting average, adding four doubles and nine RBI. Junior Tobin Swope (.250, 2 SB) is also a much-improved utility infielder that can play second base.
ShortstopThe Cardinal should be covered at shortstop, most likely with the return of senior Scott Dragicevich (.320, 5 HR, 34 RBI, 6 SB). Last year, Dragicevich held the job from beginning to end by starting all 68 games and made significant contributions both offensively and defensively to earn honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors. He quickly became known as one of the nation's top defensive shortstops with excellent range and an outstanding throwing arm. Dragicevich started last season by going errorless in 22 of the team's first 24 games.
Dragicevich has been slowed since late last season with a nagging back injury but is expected to be ready for the 2002 campaign. Andy Topham, the team's starter at third base last season, would be next in line at shortstop if needed.
'We're covered at shortstop,' reemphasized Marquess. 'We've taken it slow with Scott Dragicevich this fall, but he should be ready to go when the season arrives. One of the main reasons we set a school fielding record last year was because of the defense he played at shortstop.'
Third BaseAndy Topham (.272, 7 HR, 45 RBI, 11 SB) is expected to return as the team's starter at third base as long as he is not needed at shortstop. Topham is considered one of the finest defensive third basemen the Cardinal has ever seen with quick hands and excellent range. He has also shown streaks of serious offensive potential during his Cardinal career, including a hot stretch in the post-season last year when he hit a combined .414 with three homers and nine RBI in the NCAA Regional and Super Regional to earn All-Regional honors. In addition, Topham had the team's second longest hitting streak of the year when he hit safely in 15 straight contests.
'We're looking for a big year from Andy Topham,' stated Marquess. 'This could really be the season that he establishes himself as a primary and consistent threat in the middle of our order after showing some serious streaks of offensive ability the last two years.'
There are other candidates to start at third base if Topham is needed at shortstop. Sophomore Brian Hall could move in from left field, where he is one of the primary candidates for the starting position. Jonny Ash, Tobin Swope and Arik VanZandt can all play third base as well.
OutfieldThe outfield should be a major strength for the Cardinal in 2002. Sophomores Sam Fuld (.357, 37 RBI, 11 SB) and Carlos Quentin (.345, 11 HR, 52 RBI, 5 SB) are already established as two of the best young outfielders in the nation after earning Freshman All-American and All-Pac-10 honors last year. The duo should also anchor the Cardinal offense with Fuld hitting in one of the top two spots in the lineup and Quentin the likely cleanup hitter.
'To have a couple of players like Sam Fuld and Carlos Quentin anchoring our outfield puts us in excellent shape,' said Marquess. 'Both of those guys are serious all-around offensive and defensive talents that don't often come along together. You couldn't ask for two better collegiate outfielders than Sammy and Carlos.'
Fuld, also named a Third Team All-American by the NCBWA, is expected to return to his role as the starter in center field. He is considered one of the nation's top defensive centerfielders and capped his rookie year with a tremendous offensive post-season, hitting .396 and collecting a team-high 19 hits while earning spots on the All-CWS and All-Regional teams.
Quentin should return in right field with his high-powered offensive game and excellent throwing arm. Last year, he earned Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors.
The starting spot in left field looks to be wide open with strong candidates in returnees Brian Hall, Jason Cooper and Darin Naatjes, as well as freshmen Chris Carter, Billy Paganetti and Danny Putnam (San Diego, CA/Rancho Bernardo HS).
'We've got a lot of guys that can play left field,' said Marquess. 'It will probably get down to who's swinging a hot bat at the time.'
Hall (.287, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 6 SB) was the a part-time starter in left field last year and started the club's final two CWS games in the position. He brings to the table excellent defensive skills and speed. Cooper (.272, 9 HR, 37 RBI, 2 SB) has perhaps the best power on the club and will find a spot in the lineup if he is swinging the bat well. Naatjes (.077, RBI, 2 SB) briefly earned the start