2003 Stanford Baseball Season Outlook
Jan. 14, 2003
The 2003 Stanford Baseball team will be looking to do what no other Stanford Baseball squad has done ... get back to Omaha for a fifth straight year. Stanford will also look to extend its string of NCAA Super Regional and NCAA Regional crowns to five in 2003, post its ninth straight 40-win season and return to the top of the Pac-10 standings for the first time since 2000.
Last year's senior class ï¿½ -- Scott Dragicevich, Chris O'Riordan, Dan Rich, Andy Topham, Arik VanZandt and J.D. Willcox --ï¿½ became the first group of Cardinal players to make it to Omaha in all four of their seasons after completing their collegiate careers by reaching a College World Series bracket final and posting a 47-18 record in 2002. Those six players have graduated and three other juniors from last year's club ï¿½-- Jason Cooper, Jeremy Guthrie and Darin Naatjes ï¿½-- have moved on to professional baseball.
However, the cupboard is not bare in 2003. Stanford has four players ï¿½-- Tim Cunningham, Sam Fuld, Ryan Garko and Carlos Quentin ï¿½-- who have earned 2003 Preseason All-American honors from either Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball or the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. All told, Stanford returns six position players that started at least 25 games last season, two of its top three starting pitchers and 14 of its 23 letterwinners from a year ago.
'This year's team should be somewhat in between the last two years' clubs in terms of experience,' said Stanford head coach Mark Marquess in reference to the team's 2001 squad that did not have a senior and last year's team that returned all of its position starters from the 2001 CWS championship game. 'We're not as inexperienced as we were two years ago and not as experienced as we were last year.'
Stanford is ranked in the top 10 in the annual preseason polls released by Baseball America(No. 3), NCBWA (No. 5) and Collegiate Baseball(No. 9).
Preseason All-Americans Cunningham (NCBWA Third Team) and Garko (Collegiate Baseball Second Team) give the Cardinal a pair of experienced battery mates. Cunningham (10-3, 4.26 ERA, 112.0 IP, 67 SO) was drafted in the 23rd round by the Atlanta Braves during the 2002 MLB First-Year Player Draft but did not sign a professional baseball contract. Garko (.314, 14 HR, 55 RBI, 2 SB) went undrafted despite an impressive junior campaign.
McCally (4-3, 3.53 ERA, 7 SV, 51.0 IP, 39 SO) spent most of last season as the team's top reliever and is a candidate for the starting rotation this year. Swope (.405, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 3 SB) played well in limited action (27 games, six starts) and briefly cracked the starting lineup in early April before a broken finger forced him out of action for a couple of weeks and back to a reserve role when he returned.
'We are looking forward to the contributions that we expect these four seniors to make,' commented Marquess. 'They should all play critical roles in determining our fate in 2003.'
A strong junior class is led by Preseason All-American outfielders Sam Fuld (NCBWA First Team, Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball Third Team) and Carlos Quentin (Baseball America First Team, NCBWA Second Team). Fuld (.375, 8 HR, 47 RBI, 8 SB) is a National Player of the Year candidate after earning All-American and All-Pac-10 honors in each of his first two seasons, while Quentin (.303, 12 HR, 54 RBI, 11 SB) is also a two-time All-Pac-10 choice and was named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 2001. John Hudgins (10-1, 4.71 ERA, 105.0 IP, 62 SO) should challenge Cunningham for the team's top starter role after earning a spot in the rotation a month into the 2002 campaign. Jonny Ash (.250, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB) and Brian Hall (.267, 3 HR, 35 RBI, 14 SB) are the team's projected starters at second and third base after spending the last two seasons as part-time starters, while Drew Ehrlich (0-2, 5.45 ERA, 2 SV, 39.2 IP, 40 SO) and David O'Hagan (0-0, 5.11 ERA, 12.1 IP, 8 SO) are expected to expand their roles on the pitching staff.
'Our junior class could be the key to this year's team with four projected position player starters and a pitcher who could be our top starter,' said Marquess.
The sophomore class features a trio of position players ï¿½-- Chris Carter (.299, 8 HR, 20 RBI, 1 SB), Donny Lucy (.282, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 6 SB) and Danny Putnam (.211, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 2 SB) -- expected to make significant contributions in 2003 after spending time in the starting lineup last year. Hard-throwing right-hander Mark Jecmen (0-4, 8.26 ERA, 28.1 IP, 19 SO) should challenge for a spot in the team's starting rotation despite a difficult first year, while the role of Jonny Dyer (2-0, 4.38 ERA, 12.1 IP, 8 SO) in the bullpen should expand. Moses Kopmar, Billy Paganetti and Steve Papazian will look for their first action on the mound after injuries to all three in 2002 kept them off the field. Paganetti did see action in three games as a position player after recovering from a broken wrist suffered prior to the start of the season.
'Our sophomore class has some talented players who we will need to rely upon more this season,' added Marquess.
Several members of Stanford's large 12-player freshman class are also expected to make an early impact. Highly-touted newcomer John Mayberry, Jr. (Kansas City, MO/Rockhurst HS) decided to attend Stanford despite being drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the first round (28th pick overall) of the 2002 MLB First-Year Player Draft. Mayberry, the son of former Major League All-Star John Mayberry and the highest 2002 draft pick to attend a four-year school, has an inside track on the team's starting job at first base. Left-handed pitcher Mark Romanczuk (Newark, DE/St. Markï¿½s HS), a fifth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2002, is one of several pitchers battling for the team's third spot in the rotation. Chris Lewis (Irvine, CA/Northwood HS), Jed Lowrie (Salem, OR/North Salem HS) and Chris Minaker (Lynnwood, WA/Edmonds-Woodway HS) have established themselves interchangeably in the primary three backup roles at second base, shortstop and third base. Catcher John Hester (Roswell, GA/Marist School) and first baseman Ben Summerhays (Murray, UT/Murray HS) are talented position players. Right-handed pitchers Pete Duda (Bayonne, NJ/St. Peter's Preparatory), Jeff Gilmore (Huntington Beach, CA/Edison HS), Noah Hawthorne (San Luis Obispo, CA/San Luis Obispo HS), Matt Manship (San Antonio, TX/Ronald Reagan HS) and Kodiak Quick (Belton, MO/Belton HS) also join the Cardinal pitching staff.
'This is a very solid and big freshman class,' said an enthusiastic Marquess. 'Many of them may contribute immediately a little more than we had originally thought after what we saw in the fall.'
The team's difficult schedule hasn't changed much from recent years. The Cardinal has a total of 18 games scheduled against five teams ï¿½-- Florida State (4 BA/2 CB), Texas (5 BA/1 CB), USC (6 BA/3 CB), Arizona State (8 BA) and Cal State Fullerton (7 CB) that are ranked in the top 10 of at least one of either the 2003 Baseball America or Collegiate Baseball preseason polls. All told, Stanford has 29 games on tap versus teams ranked among the preseason's top 50 by Baseball America.
'The people that we recruit expect to play a tough schedule because they want to play against the very best,' explained Marquess. 'We made a conscious effort when we went away from the Six-Pac to play the best teams we can in order to prepare our players for the postseason. If we make the playoffs, we know that we can handle any situation ï¿½ there is no NCAA Regional or Super Regional site that we could go to that would be intimidating. This schedule allows us the best opportunity to do well if we can get to postseason. The only downside of this schedule is that it could keep us from getting to postseason, but that hasn't hurt us yet. Our goal isn't just to get to the postseason but to do well when we get there.'
Stanford will open its 2003 regular season at local rival Santa Clara on Saturday, January 25, before the Broncos return the favor for Stanford's home opener the following day on Super Bowl Sunday, January 26. The Cardinal continues its season with a non-conference series at Cal State Fullerton (January 31-February 2) before returning to Sunken Diamond for seven straight games, welcoming Florida State (February 7-9) and Fresno State (February 14-16) before a visit from Nevada (February 17) ends the homestand. A three-game series at defending national champion Texas (February 21-23) are the only road games during a 16-game stretch. Stanford concludes the stretch and its preseason slate by hosting Pac-10 rivals USC (February 28-March 2) and California (March 7-9) in a pair of non-conference series.
Stanford will return to action after a 12-day break with its first Pac-10 series of the season at Arizona State (March 22-24). The Cardinal will then host Washington (March 28-30) in its first home Pac-10 series before traveling to Washington State (April 4-6). After a weekend off from Pac-10 action, Stanford will host Oregon State (April 17-19) to conclude its first half of Pac-10 play. The second half of the Pac-10 schedule begins with a three-game home set against Arizona (April 25-27) before the Cardinal begins a critical string of six straight Pac-10 road games at USC (May 2-4) and California (May 9-11). Stanford finishes conference action by hosting UCLA (May 16-18).
Stanford will also mix in a pair of non-conference series in the final two months of the regular season versus Sacramento State (April 11-12) and Cal Poly (May 23-25), as well as single games versus USF (April 1), at Santa Clara (April 8), versus San Jose State (April 15), versus Santa Clara (April 29), at San Jose State (May 6) and versus Saint Maryï¿½s (May 13).
NCAA Regional action runs from May 30 ï¿½- June 1. The NCAA Super Regional (June 6-8) and College World Series (June 13-23) complete the 2003 postseason schedule.
Following is a position-by-position look at the 2003 Stanford Cardinal:
The good news is that Stanford returns two of its top three starting pitchers in senior LHP Tim Cunningham (10-3, 4.26 ERA, 112.0 IP, 67 SO) and junior RHP John Hudgins (10-1, 4.71 ERA, 105.0 IP, 62 SO), as well as one of the team's top relievers from a year ago in senior RHP Ryan McCally (4-3, 3.53, 7 SV, 51.0 IP, 39 SO). The bad news is that the Cardinal must replace one of the top pitchers in Stanford history in two-time All-American RHP Jeremy Guthrie (13-2, 2.51 ERA, 157.2 IP, 136 SO), who won 26 games over the last two years and became the first pitcher in Stanford history to record a pair of 13-win seasons.
Cunningham and Hudgins both earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors and provided excellent support to Guthrie last season by winning 10 games each. Both are candidates to replace Guthrie as the team's top starter.
Cunningham, a 2003 Third Team Preseason All-American (NCBWA), is Stanford's most experienced pitcher. Last year, he co-led the team with 20 starts after moving into a full-time spot in the rotation following two seasons of shuffling between a starting role and the bullpen. Cunningham has a 21-5 career record and a 3.97 ERA. He is the team's active career leader in victories (21), strikeouts (157), innings pitched (236.0) and games started (39). Cunningham was drafted for the second time in his career as a 23rd round selection by the Atlanta Braves in the 2002 MLB First-Year Player Draft but did not sign a professional baseball contract.
Hudgins moved into Stanford's rotation a month into the season last year and stayed there for the rest of the campaign. His 10-1 record gave him a .909 winning percentage, tied for the fourth-best single-season mark in Stanford history. Hudgins had three complete games and a shutout in 2002, the only current Stanford pitcher with either to his credit. He has an 11-6 career record with a 4.58 ERA. Hudgins is second among all active pitchers in career wins (11), strikeouts (112) and innings pitched (151.1).
There are several candidates for the third spot in the starting rotation with McCally, junior Drew Ehrlich (0-2, 5.45 ERA, 2 SV, 39.2 IP, 40 SO), sophomore Mark Jecmen (0-4, 8.26 ERA, 28.1 IP, 19 SO) and freshman Mark Romanczuk (Newark, DE/St. Markï¿½s HS) the leading candidates.
McCally, who led the Cardinal in saves last year and spent most of the season as the team's top reliever, could have the inside track at the spot if the Cardinal can afford to take him out of the bullpen. He has made only one start in his 69 career outings but has been effective the last three summers as a starter for the Anchorage Bucs of the Alaska Baseball League with a combined 12-7 record.
Ehrlich, a hard-throwing right-hander, showed flashes of brilliance in relief last season and struck out 9.08 batters per nine innings with more strikeouts to his credit than innings pitched.
Jecmen is a highly-touted power right-hander that began the season as the team's third starter as a freshman last year.
Romanczuk, a two-time prep First Team All-American, is a promising rookie and hard-throwing left-hander who was one of the top prep players in the nation last year and was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the fifth round of the 2002 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Other returnees on the Cardinal pitching staff are sophomore RHP Jonny Dyer (2-0, 4.38 ERA, 12.1 IP, 8 SO) and junior RHP David Oï¿½Hagan (0-0, 5.11 ERA, 12.1 IP, 8 SO). Sophomore right-handers Billy Paganetti (position player in 2002), Moses Kopmar (injured in 2002) and Steve Papazian (injured in 2002) will also join the Cardinal staff.
Stanford has several promising freshman arms in addition to Romanczuk. RHP Matt Manship (San Antonio, TX/Ronald Reagan HS) was a First Team All-American as a high school senior and should see plenty of action as a spot starter and middle reliever, while 2002 All-Kansas City Metro Player of the Year and RHP Kodiak Quick (Belton, MO/Belton HS) emerged in the fall as a possible closer if McCally is inserted into the starting rotation. Right-handers Pete Duda (Bayonne, NJ/St. Peterï¿½s Preparatory), Jeff Gilmore (Huntington Beach, CA/Edison HS) and Noah Hawthorne (San Luis Obispo, CA/San Luis Obispo HS) also begin their careers on The Farm in 2003.
In addition to Guthrie, Stanford will also need to replace three relievers in LHP Dan Rich (2-2, 2.45 ERA, 6 SV, 36.2 IP, 42 SO), RHP Darin Naatjes (4-0, 2.53 ERA, 2 SV, 21.1 IP, 25 SO) and RHP J.D. Willcox (2-1, 6.00 ERA, 15.0 IP, 6 SO). Rich and Naatjes were two of the team's top three relievers last year, combining to record eight of the team's 17 saves, including four in four postseason opportunities by Rich. Willcox was the team's primary closer as a junior in 2001 with a 5-0 record, 2.06 ERA and six saves.
'We do have some question marks on the mound and some quality pitchers who we will need to replace,' admitted Marquess. 'But, we have enough good arms on our staff. It's just a matter of who is going to step up and actually do it.'
Stanford looks extremely strong behind the plate with the return of the team's top two catchers in senior Ryan Garko (.314, 14 HR, 55 RBI, 2 SB) and sophomore Donny Lucy (.282, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 6 SB). Both players should see plenty of action with the power-hitting Garko moving to either first base or designated hitter when he is spelled behind the plate by Lucy. The Cardinal has also added highly-touted freshman John Hester, an outstanding defensive catcher that looked impressive in fall practice.
'The catching position may be our strongest area,' said Marquess. 'I'm very comfortable with all three of our catchers defensively, and they all hit well, so that gives me a lot of flexibility.'
Garko, a 2003 Second Team Preseason All-American (Collegiate Baseball), has proven to be one of the club's top hitters while catching the majority of the team's games over the last two seasons. He earned All-Pac-10 honors and was a national semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award last season after leading or co-leading the club in seven categories, including home runs (14), while starting all 65 games and 61 behind the plate. Garko also had another strong postseason and was named to the All-NCAA Regional squad. He is Stanford's active career leader or co-leader in five categories ï¿½games played (149), games started (131), doubles (36), sacrifice flies (13) and hit-by-pitches (33, co-leader with Carlos Quentin).
Lucy earned honorable mention Freshman All-American honors (Collegiate Baseball) as a rookie last season and is considered the team's top defensive catcher. He saw plenty of action early in his 2002 rookie season, primarily at first base with 17 starts at the position. Lucy also started four games behind the plate and four at designated hitter.
Stanford has multiple options at first base despite the loss of two-year starter Arik VanZandt. The most intriguing possibility is freshman John Mayberry, Jr. (Kansas City, MO/Rockhurst HS), a first round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners in the 2002 MLB First-Year Player Draft and a high school All-American. Mayberry is the highest selection (28th pick overall) from the 2002 draft to end up attending a four-year school. He is an experienced and talented hitter who is expected to hit for both power and average.
Another option for Stanford at first base is sophomore Chris Carter (.299, 8 HR, 20 RBI, 1 SB), who was named the team's Most Valuable Freshman last year. Carter led the team in 2002 postseason play with a .375 batting average and three homers after becoming a full-time starter in late-May. He also finished the season on a career-high 11-game hit streak, the longest carried over by any Cardinal player to start the 2003 campaign.
Mayberry and Carter are also both candidates to start in left field and at designated hitter, and both should find their way into the lineup somewhere if they are swinging a hot bat.
Garko and Lucy also may see some action at first base when the other is catching.
'We will have plenty of people with the ability to play first base,' emphasized Marquess. 'It will be very competitive and probably come down to who we need to get into the lineup offensively. First base is one of three positions (catcher, first base, left field) that are pretty much interchangeable with several players being able to play at least two of the three positions.'
Junior Jonny Ash (.250, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB) is the leading candidate to take over for graduated All-American Chris Oï¿½Riordan, the starter at the position for the last 176 games beginning early in the 2000 season. Ash, who has waited in O'Riordan's wings for the past two seasons, did break into the team's starting lineup as the designated hitter towards the end of his freshman year. Ash finished his rookie campaign with a .327 batting average and 24 RBI in 44 games played and 25 starts, while leading all regulars with a .410 batting average in the postseason. Ash played in 23 games last season as a reserve infielder and pinch-hitter.
'Jonny Ash is a very good offensive player and an excellent defensive infielder,' said Marquess. 'He has paid his dues and is ready to play. Although he hasn't had a chance to start every day in the infield for us yet, he is one of our more experienced infielders. I've been very impressed with his improved defense.'
Stanford has a trio of freshman that will back up Ash at second base and can also play either shortstop or third base in Chris Lewis (Irvine, CA/Northwood HS), Jed Lowrie (Salem, OR/North Salem HS) and Chris Minaker (Lynnwood, WA/Edmonds-Woodway HS).
'We are training all three of our freshmen infielders to be able to play second, third or shortstop,' explained Marquess. 'We usually have our infielders work out at all three spots, and with the lack of returnees in this year's infield it is vital that all three of these players can step in at any of the three infield positions if we need them to. If any of the freshmen hit well, they could find themselves in the lineup.'
'Essentially, what we would like to have is any of six players being capable of playing three spots,' continued Marquess. 'This gives us a lot of flexibility. We've done it in the past and it works well for us, because it usually allows us to get the best offensive players in the lineup.'
Senior Tobin Swope (.405, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 3 SB) figures to be the team's opening day shortstop after three years as a backup infielder. Swope briefly cracked the starting lineup last year when he made his first career start versus Texas (3/29). He then started two-of-three games in the team's next series at Arizona (4/5 ï¿½ 4/7), going 7-for-9 with five RBI in those two contests, before a broken finger limited him to three starts the remainder of the season. Swope is one of the team's fastest runners and best athletes, as well as a strong defensive player with excellent range and throwing ability. He also handles the bat well and makes defenses aware of him with his speed and bunting ability.
'Tobin Swope has been patient during the past three years and deserves a chance to be our starting shortstop,' commented Marquess. 'He has lots of talent, and we expect him to step right into the position and perform well.'
Lewis and junior Brian Hall, the team's projected starter at third base, are Swope's primary backups.
Junior Brian Hall (.267, 3 HR, 35 RBI, 14 SB) is expected to settle in as the starter at third base after making significant contributions as a part-time starter in the outfield and at first base during his first two seasons on The Farm. In 116 games played and 67 starts, he has posted a .275 career batting average to go with five homers, 56 RBI and 20 stolen bases. He led the club in stolen bases last year and was a perfect 14-for-14 on the base paths. Hall has also been one of the team's top defensive players, making just one error in 210 chances for a .995 career fielding percentage.
'Brian Hall has really helped our ballclub each of the last two seasons and this year he has an opportunity to emerge as one of our leaders,' emphasized Marquess. 'He is an excellent player with all of the tools ï¿½the ability to hit, hit for power, run and throw.'
Ash, Lewis, Lowrie, Minaker and Swope can all play third base as well.
Stanford should be extremely strong in the outfield with the return of a pair of two-time All-Pac-10 performers in juniors Sam Fuld (.375, 8 HR, 47 RBI, 8 SB) and Carlos Quentin (.303, 12 HR, 54 RBI, 11 SB) for their third year as starters in center field and right field, respectively. Both players are expected to be selected high in the 2003 MLB First-Year Player Draft with two summers of experience each on the Team USA roster. Fuld and Quentin have both earned 2003 Preseason All-American recognition.
'Sam Fuld and Carlos Quentin are definitely two of the top outfielders in collegiate baseball,' said Marquess. 'We are fortunate to have both of them on the same club for the third straight season. Their talent and experience are crucial to the success of our team in 2003.'
Fuld had an incredible campaign as a sophomore last year, earning First Team (ABCA, Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball) and Third Team (NCBWA) All-American honors in addition to his second straight All-Pac-10 selection. Fuld led the Pac-10 in hits (110) and ranked third with his .375 batting average. His .367 career batting average ranks on top of Stanford's career list heading into the 2003 campaign, and he is also Stanford's active career leader in hits (191), runs scored (123), at bats (520), triples (6), on-base percentage (.433), total bases (262, co-leader with Quentin) and multiple-hit games (61). He is also the only player in Stanford Baseball history to earn a spot on two All-College World Series teams and has a .441 lifetime batting average in eight CWS games.
Quentin also had a second straight productive year in 2002, ranking a close third on the club in home runs (12) and RBI (54), as well as second in stolen bases (11). He also tied the school's all-time single season record with 19 hit-by-pitches and broke an NCAA single-game record when he was plunked by five pitches at Florida State (2/9). He is Stanford's active career leader in home runs (23), RBI (106), slugging percentage (.535), hit-by-pitches (33, co-leader with Ryan Garko) and total bases (262, co-leader with Fuld). He was named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 2001 after hitting .345 with 11 homers, 52 RBI and five stolen bases.
There are several candidates for the teamï¿½s starting spot in left field after the two of the primary starters in 2002 ï¿½-- Brian Hall and Jason Cooper ï¿½-- moved on to the Cardinal infield and professional baseball, respectively. Sophomore Danny Putnam (.212, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 2 SB) is the leading choice after showing outstanding promise and starting 11 games in left field as a rookie. Putnam has the offensive and defensive tools to join Fuld and Quentin to make the Cardinal outfield one of the best in the nation. He showcased his talent during an incredible prep career, earning First Team All-American honors as a senior after hitting .500, while breaking CIF, county and team records with 19 homers and 64 runs scored. Putnam will also serve as the primary backup to Fuld in center field.
Others that could see action in left field include Carter, Hall, Lewis and Mayberry, Jr.
The designated hitter spot could be filled by any of several players and will be used primarily to get a hot bat in the lineup. Carter started 15 games at designated hitter last season, including 11 of the last 13, and could be the top candidate if he is not in the lineup at first base or in left field. Several other players competing for starting jobs at other positions (Ryan Garko, Chris Lewis, Donny Lucy, John Mayberry, Jr.) may also see action at designated hitter.
'It's great to have so many options at designated hitter,' said Marquess. 'This should ensure us that we will be able to get a player that is swinging a hot bat into the lineup.'
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