With the bowl game past us, it's time to start shifting gears to ASU baseball.
Baseball has always been one of the more prestigious sports at Arizona State and the Sun Devils are tournament eligible this season after serving a one-year postseason ban in 2011.
This year's team is very young considering there are 15 freshmen and only two seniors on the roster. ASU lost offensive starters Deven Marrero, Abe Ruiz, Joey DeMichele and Andrew Aplin to graduation and the MLB First-Year Players Draft last summer. The four players accounted for over half of the team's total runs and they helped lead ASU to a fourth place finish in the Pac-12, which was a good place to be considering that team had no chance for a postseason birth.
The Sun Devils are still working on finalizing their starting lineup given that very few players are guaranteed a starting roll this season. Michael Benjamin, James McDonald, and Drew Stankiewicz appear to be the front runners to play infield with Nathaniel Causey and Max Rossiter splitting time behind the dish. The outfield is an entirely different animal because Kasey Coffman and Trevor Allen each played in over 40 games, but there are five freshmen who are trying to steal a starting spot this spring.
Some freshman will have a chance to make an immediate impact because very few jobs are set in stone and head coach Tim Esmay may have to accept gambling with freshmen early in the season. But the real question is will the Sun Devils have a consistent three-man rotation?
Pitching is going to be crucial for the Sun Devils to dominate in Pac-12 play and become a regional host in the NCAA National Tournament. With ace Brady Rodgers and closer Jake Barrett in the minor leagues, the Sun Devils are left with one dominant lefty. Trevor Williams is already a pre-season All-American after posting a 12-2 record with a 2.05 ERA. Darin Gillies was the only other current Sun Devil to start ten games, but his 5.03 ERA does not leave him in a good position this spring. This is where having the 16th best recruiting class comes into play. Esmay will have some time to play around with the rotation in the beginning of the season and we will keep you posted throughout January about how the staff if shaping up.
Do you want to know what's scary? The Sun Devils are pre-ranked No. 16 according to Collegiate Baseball, but fifth in the Pac-12. The Pac-12 as a whole has six teams inside the top 25 polls. The SEC leads all conferences with eight teams in the top-25.