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2017 Creighton Baseball: Position Preview

2017 Creighton Baseball: Position Preview

The Creighton baseball team begins their season on Friday against UAB.  There are a lot of new faces to go along with some veterans still on the team.  We’ll break down the team position by position.

Starting Pitchers

Keith Rogalla is a big part of the projected starting rotation

Projected Weekend Rotation:

  • Rollie Lacy (Jr., RHP, 2016: 9-2, 3.15 ERA, 58 SO, 24 BB)
  • Keith Rogalla (Jr., RHP, 2016: 5-3, 3.21 ERA, 59 SO, 35 BB)
  • Jeff Albrecht (Sr., LHP, 2016: 7-1, 2.39 ERA, 48 SO, 28 BB)

Ed Servais on Lacy:

“He’s trying to develop his secondary stuff. He had to use his fastball predominantly last year, whether it be his four-seamer or his two-seam, and we wanted to get him a little more comfortable with his slider. He had a very good slider two years, but last year it wasn’t quite as good. I’ve seen that improved in the workouts here this spring, and then changeups — I don’t want people sitting on his fastball, so he’s worked hard on developing a changeup. He’s more of a three or four-pitch guy now where last year he was more of a two-pitch guy.

“I still like his two-seamer, he’s going to get a lot of ground balls with that, but I think he’s capable of a few more strikeouts with that slider that he had two years ago. Then we have to get that changeup working so he has a better arsenal against left-handed hitting.”

Ed Servais on Rogalla:

“He threw predominantly fastballs last year, so he needs to work on his secondary stuff as well. He needs to throw more strikes. Everybody knows he’s got a plus-fastball, but I feel like he’s really improved his breaking ball. It’s really a tight breaking ball, he’s just got to throw it for more strikes. He’s trying to develop a changeup as well to be his third pitch, but I’m impressed with the progress I’ve seen in his breaking ball. Now we just have to get [the fastball and the breaking ball], if not the changeup, in the strike zone. He sometimes has trouble finding strikes.”

Ed Servais on Albrecht:

“Jeff had a great year last year. If you really look at his numbers they are the most unique numbers I’ve seen in a long time. I think last year he pitched 71 innings and gave up 39 hits. That’s unheard of. Jeff is unique in that he pitches up in the zone, and [TD Ameritrade Park] is the perfect place for Jeff, because he creates a lot of weak fly balls and he gets a lot of swing-and-misses.

“We’ve tried to get him a little more comfortable with his secondary stuff. I think his changeup is close, and his breaking ball is still a little bit up and down. When he throws a good one it’s good, but he spikes it a little bit too often.

“Jeff is unique because he doesn’t throw overly hard, he’s 86-88, which is good, but not overpowering for a college pitcher, but he pitches up and the hitters don’t see the ball very often and they get a lot of weak swings.”

Potential Mid-Week Starters:

  • Chris Burica (Fr., LHP, 2016 w/Orange Lutheran High School: 10 wins, 1.08 ERA, 85 SO)
  • Austin Stroschein (Sr., RHP, 2016: 0-2, 6.75 ERA, 6 SO, 5 BB)
  • Ryan Tapani (Jr., RHP, 2015 w/St. Olaf College: 2-1, 1.12 ERA, 19 SO, 2 BB)

Ed Servais on the three guys he expects to compete for spot starts during the week:

“Austin Stroschein, who had a great game against Nebraska last year, is back. He’s a senior and he’s a year older. We have Ryan Tapani, who has been in our program for a year, but wasn’t eligible last year because he transferred. He’s used to starting, throws 88-90 with a breaking ball and a changeup, and a pretty good feel for pitching.

“The really interesting pitcher that we have in that potential mid-week situation is Chris Burica. Chris is a draft choice out of high school. He’s a 6’5″ left-hander who has three pitches right now as a freshman, which is kind of nice to see — he’s a fastball, slider, change guy, and I think he’s going to get better with every outing as we go through the rest of the spring. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s nudging those guys for a rotational spot before it’s all over with.”

Bullpen

Right-Handed Middle Relief:

  • Jackson Vescelus (Fr., RHP from Melbourne Beach, Fla.)
  • Houston Glad (Jr. RHP from Tahlequah, Okla.)
  • Conner Davis (R-Fr., RHP from Lee’s Summit, Mo.)

Ed Servais on his right-handed middle relief options:

“A freshman that we like a lot is Jackson Vescelus. He’s a freshman, so he’s got to prove himself, but he looks good early. He’s from Florida and he’s got a plus-fastball, probably 88-90 with a little sink to it. He’s got a pretty good slider too, so he’s a guy that will get many opportunities early.

“We have another right-hander in Houston Glad. He’s out of a junior college down in Oklahoma. He throws about 88-90, more over the top, small stature, but he’s got a quick arm and a slider. Houston could be a swing guy for us, but I think he’s more of a fifth or sixth inning kind of an option.

“Conner Davis was on our team last year. He’s more of a submarine guy, he’s probably even a little bit lower than David [Gerber]. Conner is a redshirt freshman that we have high hopes for out of the Kansas City area.”

Left-Handed Middle Relief:

  • Grant Spranger (Jr., LHP, 2016 w/Southeastern Community College: 10-2, 3.67 ERA, 75 SO, 18 BB)
  • Brennan Hammer (Sr., LHP from Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

Ed Servais on the southpaws he can call on to help bridge the gap to DeCaster and Gerber:

“For our left-handed options we have Grant Spranger, another junior college pitcher that we like a little bit. I think he’s going to be our situational left-handed pitcher. And then Brennan Hammer, who was just a position player for us last year, we’re turning into a two-way player. He looked very good in the four or five outings he’s had [this spring]. He pitched in high school and he did a little bit at junior college. We had heard that we should look at him as a pitcher, but last year we really didn’t need it. This year we wanted another left-handed option, so he’ll be involved at least once during every weekend series.”

Setup Man:

  • Ethan DeCaster (Jr., RHP, 2016: 1-1, 2 SV, 3.06 ERA, 21 SO, 8 BB)

Ed Servais on DeCaster:

“It’s been fun to watch him grow and evolve. He’s throwing a little bit harder than he did from that slot. But just his presence on the mound is a guy who knows he can do it. Early in his days he would be fidgety on the mound, shaking his shoulders, and he told me it was because he was trying to slow himself down, trying to breathe and relax. I don’t see that quite as much now. He’s a little bit more sure of himself, and I think he’s going to have an even better year than he did the first two.”

Closer:

  • David Gerber (Sr., RHP, 2016: 4-3, 11 SV, 1.50 ERA, 31 SO, 14 BB)

Ed Servais on Gerber:

“Dave is a little stronger, he gets stronger every year. His fastball is even getting a little bit better. We had trouble with those guys against left-handed hitters in the past, and David was on a mission to solve that problem. He can elevate his fastball a little bit now. Anybody that knows anything about left-handed hitters it’s that they are low-ball hitters, so we told David that from that arm slot he’s got to be able to get that ball above the waist.”

Bryce Only returns to the Infield for the Bluejays

Infielders

Projected Starting Catcher:

  • Michael Emodi (R-So., RHB, 2016: .305 OBP, 4 2B, 2 HR, 13 RBI)

Ed Servais on Emodi:

“Mike is going to be a much better offensive player this year. He started coming on late last year, hit a couple home runs, one against BYU and one against St. John’s. You could start to see the evolution in him as a hitter. … He’s going to end up having to hit in the middle of our lineup. Last year we hit him eight or nine most of the time, but now he’s ready to make that jump and be a guy that we count on to drive in some runs.”

Reserves:

  • Blake Whitecotton (Jr., RHB, 2016 w/North Iowa Community College: .408 OBP, 10 2B, 3B, 9 HR, 34 RBI)

Ed Servais on Whitecotton:

“Blake Whitecotton is a junior college kid that has shown some good signs. He came in like so many new players having to adjust to the system that’s built on pitching and defense. He’s been very open-minded to the changes we’ve asked him to make, and we’re happy. I think he’s going to be a good compliment to Mike back there. He’s a great teammate, he understands his role. His job is to be ready when Mike can’t go.”

Projected Starting First Baseman:

  • Jason Allbery (Fr., RHB from Omaha, Neb.)

Ed Servais on Allbery:

“Jason was a part of our team last year, but he was injured. Jason was a third baseman/shortstop for most of his career in high school, but we liked his athleticism. He really had a good fall for us. We didn’t move him to first base until this semester. He’s been working hard the last couple weeks to get comfortable with it. He’s a 6’3″ athlete, good wingspan, he just needs to get comfortable with his footwork around the bag. He’s not like a lot of first basemen — he has foot speed and he can run. It should be fun watching him evolve.”

Reserves:

  • Shane Coker (R-Fr., RHB, 2015 w/Athens High School: .694 AVG, 28 RBI)

Projected Starting Second Baseman:

  • Ben Reznicek (Sr., RHB, 2016 w/North Dakota: .376 OBP, 7 2B, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 15 SB)
  • Isaac Collins (Fr., SHB from Maple Grove, Minn.)

Ed Servais on the battle for playing time between the senior transfer and the incoming freshman:

“Isaac is a switch-hitter, Ben’s a right-handed hitter. Ben has played a lot of Division 1 baseball, transferring from North Dakota; Isaac hasn’t. But right now it’s very close between those two guys. I think think they compliment each other. I think Isaac is going to be a very very good player for us, it’s just a matter of when. … He’s got good instincts and he uses his speed well.

“Ben has a knack for getting on base — hit by pitch, walks, he’s got a very good eye. He kind of knows who he is. Isaac probably has a little more juice in his bat, and I think we’ll see some of that. I anticipate both of those guys playing as we go through the season at second.”

Projected Starting Shortstop:

  • Thomas Luevano (So., RHB, 2016 w/Moorpark Community College: .313 AVG, 11 2B, 2 3B, HR, 25 RBI, 8 SB)

Ed Servais on the guy he has pegged to replace Nicky Lopez and anchor his defense:

“Thomas Luevano is a very hard worker, very conscientious junior college player out of California. He’s really got a chance to be a very good offensive player. He’s got a nice swing, a good, flat swing through the zone — I think he’s going to hit a lot of doubles for us.

“He’s got pretty good hands, carries them the way he should. He’s got arm strength. Accuracy is something that Thomas has probably not spent as much time on prior to getting here, so we need to get him accurate with his throwing. If that develops I think he’s got a chance to be pretty good.”

Projected Starting Third Baseman:

  • Bryce Only (Sr., RHB, 2016: .255 OBP, 2 2B, 5 RBI)

Ed Servais on his only returning infielder:

“Bryce is a special guy — very mature, very conscientious, very much a team guy. He’s improved his defense, he continues to work as hard as anybody can on that. I think he’ll have a solid year for us. Offensively, he had some good games for us. He didn’t get a ton of at-bats, but he knows we need a lot more offense out of him this year to make up for some of the guys we lost. He certainly has the ability. … I hope he has a big year. Not only for the team, but because he deserves it. He’s a hard-working guy.”

Reserves:

  • Ben Rodenburg (Fr., RHB from Scottsdale, Ariz.)

Projected Starting Designated Hitter:

  • Kyle Lopez (Jr., LHB, 2016 w/Garden City Community College: .568 OBP, 22 2B, 3B, 9 HR, 71 RBI, 4 SB)

Ed Servais on Lopez:

“Kyle had great numbers in junior college last year. He’s a left-handed hitter who has a really good feel for the barrel. He has the ability to square a lot of balls up. I think he’ll get most of the opportunities against right-handed pitching.”

Reserves:

  • Isaac Collins
  • Brennan Hammer

The Bluejays have some options in the outfield.

Outfielders

Projected Starting Left Fielder:

  • Riley Landuyt (Sr., RHB, 2016: .182 OBP, 2B, 2 RBI)

Ed Servais on Landuyt:

“Riley Landuyt had a great fall and a great offseason, but he hurt himself on the first day of practice — he dislocated his shoulder on the first day, and he’s just now starting to come back. He hasn’t started to swing yet, but he’s taking fly balls. It’s our hope that he starts hitting next week and that he gets back maybe as early as next weekend.

“He’s the clear-cut favorite in left field. I think he’s showed some glimpses last year of what he can do, he’s just didn’t get a lot of opportunities.”

Reserves:

  • Brennan Hammer
  • Drew Smith (Fr., RHB from Elkhorn, Neb.)

Projected Starting Center Fielder:

  • Clark Brinkman (So., RHB, 2016 w/McHenry County College: .435 OBP, 14 2B, 6 3B, 8 HR, 72 RBI, 18 SB)

Ed Servais on Brinkman:

“Clark is a fast player, junior college guy out of McHenry Junior College in the Chicago area. Clark can go get ’em, I like his defense. We need him to understand how to use his speed a little bit more with the bunt game offensively. His hitting has improved, but it’s not to the level that it needs to be. He’s a very athletic player. This guy has an upside. We’re going to be patient with him and see it through, but I think he’s got a chance. You’re going to see a lot of growth in him from the first week to the middle of the season, because he’s an athlete.”

Projected Starting Left Fielder:

  • Will Robertson (Fr., LHB from Fatima, Mo.)

Ed Servais on Robertson’s upside and the former Bluejay he reminds him of:

“I really like him a lot. I like his swing, he’s aggressive, he doesn’t get cheated. He’s a conscientious guy with great work ethic. He wants to be a great player. He’s not interested in just being a role player as a freshman. He came from day one and just grabbed that right field spot, and no one has been able to stay with him for even a day or two. He hits more balls harder than anyone I’ve seen since we had Zach Daeges years and years ago.

“Now that being said, it’s batting practice, so we’ll find out if he can make the adjustment to the pitching that he’s going to see, but he’s going to be a heck of an offensive player for us. He’s also got a tremendous arm. We’re working with him a little bit on controlling it, but it’s one of the best arms we’ve ever had in the outfield, and he can run. I could see him starting out hitting sixth or seventh, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him hitting fourth as we get to the middle part of the year, and rarely do we put freshmen in those kind of positions.”

Reserves:

  • Parker Upton (Fr., SHB from Grand Island, Neb.)

Ed Servais on a potential late-bloomer in the outfield rotation:

“Parker Upton was one of the best players we had this fall. Another switch-hitter, he hit a home run over at TD in one of our scrimmages. He’s very athletic, very fast, maybe our fastest player. He’s another freshman who has a chance.”

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