Baseball America’s top 500 database for the June draft doesn’t list one Shocker. None of its recruits are listed. When the MVC selected its all-conference team, coaches voted two Shockers among the top 30 players.
That tells you two things: 1) WSU didn’t overwhelm anybody with its talent, and 2) the roster didn’t possess many juniors and seniors.
The only good news from that scenario is that the Shockers should be able to keep their recruiting class largely intact for a third straight season. The small junior and senior classes that hurt the 2011 and 2012 seasons should not be a problem in the immediate future.
The two All-MVC players are eligible for the draft - DH Johnny Coy and closer Cale Elam. If Baseball America is an accurate guide, neither will be picked on the first two days. WSU coaches believe there is a good chance both will return for 2013. We will assume that is the case for today, and take a look at the biggest needs for next season.
- A hitter who scares pitchers. This is like asking the basketball team to add a 6-9 power forward (perhaps ambidextrous) who can score and rebound. Everybody wants one, so they are in high demand and short supply. There is no obvious candidate in the recruiting class, no Scott Schebler or Casey Gillaspie who figures to help big immediately. It’s possible one emerges. It is also possible WSU adds somebody over the summer. Most likely, WSU’s offense will need to improve from within, with current players getting better.
- A healthy Garrett Bayliff. Injuries cost Bayliff most of the past two seasons. He will sit out this summer and try to get right for the fall. WSU coach Gene Stephenson calls him his best hitter. Over three seasons, Bayliff hit .324 in 111 at-bats, roughly half a season’s worth. The best sign is that he has 22 strikeouts and 20 walks, which indicates a good understanding of the strike zone. It’s tough to count on Bayliff until he plays a full fall without setbacks.
- A dominant Friday night pitcher. WSU’s rotation relied on smarts and location and No. 1 starter Josh Smith more than did his part, matched up against an impressive bunch of MVC aces. Smith needs to be replaced, and by somebody who can dial up an eight-inning, 12-strikeout lockdown when needed. WSU pitchers didn’t record a complete game, and Smith’s 77 strikeouts are the fewest by a season leader since 1985. Junior-college recruit Blake Logan, who had a strong season at Eastern Oklahoma State College, might fill that role. Albert Minnis might grow into that role. With A.J. Ladwig and Kris Gardner returning, WSU has a solid amount of weekend experience. To get back to the top of the MVC, WSU needs a pitcher who can win a 1-0 game on Friday.
- A catcher to platoon with Tyler Baker, who won the catching job in May with his defensive skills and work with the pitchers. If Ryan Hege isn’t judged capable of splitting time, incoming freshman Parker Zimmerman needs to be. They could be a platoon at catcher, with Baker available to play third base or take a day off when he is not catching. At 170 pounds, he is probably not suited to pull a Chris O’Brien at this point in his career.
- A third baseman who can stop the revolving door since Conor Gillaspie departed after the 2008 season. O’Brien played there, out of position, in 2009. In 2010, Erik Harbutz and Nate Goro shared the spot as freshmen. In 2011, Dayne Parker and Tyler Coughenour took over with Harbutz injured. This season, Harbutz moved to shortstop and Parker to second, where they played fabulously on defense. Baker is the best defensive option on the current roster, but hit .205 as a freshman. Neither Aaron Rea nor Josh Halbert have a lock on the position for next season after sharing the job through May.