Throughout the next week, we will take you through the 2016 Arizona State baseball roster as the team prepares for its February 19 opener. First up is a look at the pitching staff, which combines some new arms with old faces.
Projected starting rotation/closer (2015 statistics in parentheses)
Friday - Hever Bueno (7.88 ERA, 16 strikeouts): After struggling with consistency out of the bullpen as a sophomore, Bueno has wowed the coaching staff throughout the offseason with his hard work and wide array of pitches. It appears that he will get the ball on opening night against Xavier, and the job will as the staff's ace will be his to lose from then on.
Saturday - Seth Martinez (2-2, 4.03 ERA): Martinez was a jack of all trades in 2015, starting 10 times on Friday, once on Saturday, twice on Sunday, and even a pair of times in midweek games.
This year, we are projecting the junior right-hander into the Saturday slot. Martinez is the only returner from last year's trio of weekend starters.
"He (Martinez) does a really good job now of locating the ball," said head coach Tracy Smith at the team's media day last week. "His velocity is back up in that 88-90 (MPH) range and he understands the little intricacies to pitching. He gives us a great chance to win."
Sunday - Eder Erives (3.26 ERA, 28 strikeouts): Out of the three available weekend spots, this one is most up in the air. Erives figures to be as good a pick as any, but sophomores Grant Schneider and Reagan Todd will compete for the job as well.
Weekday - Fitz Stadler (8-3, 1.22 ERA in 2015 at Glenbrook South HS): Stadler is one of a few young arms who could get the nod for the main weekday role (in addition to the fourth start in this weekend's long series against the Musketeers).
He's probably the first option to enter the weekend rotation if any of the above options suffers an injury, and he was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 32nd round of last June's draft.
"Fitz has shown the most in terms of dominant stuff," Smith said. "If he figures out the consistency part of it, I think he's got a chance to be as good as anybody (in the rotation)."
Closer - Andrew Shaps (3.86 ERA, 11 strikeouts): The closer spot is still open, but Smith has hinted Shaps will start the season as Ryan Burr's replacement.
He only appeared in seven games on the mound last season but did record 11 strikeouts. Other potential successors for Burr include sophomores Ryan Hingst and Eli Lingos.
Notable bullpen options
Jordan Aboites (5.81 ERA, 27 strikeouts): Aboites appeared in 37 games a season ago but only appeared on the mound 18 times for the Sun Devils. He ended up being the pitcher of record in a third of those games, posting a 3-3 record with a 5.81 ERA.
While it is possible Aboites makes a midweek start or two, most of his action outside of playing third base will come in relief stints.
"I started a little bit when I was younger," said Aboites at media day. "It is definitely different in college though. There is a different pace to the game."
Tucker Baca (1-0, 3.38 ERA): Baca did not see much work as a freshman last year but did show enough growth in the offseason to put him in the running for major innings in 2016.
Eli Lingos (5.03 ERA, 18 strikeouts): The sophomore southpaw appeared in 15 games last year and gained plenty of useful experience in his time on the hill. His numbers weren't anything to write home about, but some major strides made in recent scrimmages has him not only in contention to close some games, but perhaps be the team's fifth starter when the occasion arises.
Ryan Hingst (3-3, 5.79 ERA): Hingst made four starts in 2015 but figures to stick in the bullpen for his sophomore campaign. The right-hander has not thrown since spring ball began due to a shoulder injury but should be ready for Friday's opener against Xavier.
Eric Melbostad (0-1, 4.00 ERA, 3 saves): Melbostad will be the bullpen's de facto leader this year as he is just one of two seniors on the pitching staff.