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Baseball Preseason Guide: Part 5 - Opening Weekend

Part 5 in a 5 part series. Santa Clara series preview and a look at our catchers.

Fulmer's on the mound today.  Nice.
Fulmer's on the mound today. Nice.
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Today.  4pm Central.  SECN+.  Streaming Live at The Hawk.  Defending National Champion Vanderbilt Commodores.

It begins.

We open the season with a 3 game series against the Santa Clara Broncos out of the West Coast Conference.  The WCC has some potentially good teams in LMU, Pepperdine, and USD, but Santa Clara is not one of them.  Coming off a disappointing 26-30 season, Los Broncos are projected to finish 7th in the WCC, behind Pacific and BYU.  That is not to say we should take them lightly, as baseball is... well... baseball, and anyone can beat anyone at any time.  However, with Fulmer, K-Chow, and Turd Ferguson on the bump this weekend, Corbin should feel plenty safe to mess around with the line-up and get at bats for some of our less experienced hitters.

That said, here's who we should keep an eye out for:

Most Dangerous Hitter

SS Jose Vizcaino, Jr.

The Good: .323/.360/.423, 8 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 28 RBI.

The Bad: .936 fld% and 14 errors.

The junior SS was recently named preseason All WCC, and it's pretty easy to see why.  He led his team in BA, H, 3B, RBI, and SB.  He also led the team in errors, and his defensive fielding percentage is laughably low for a shortstop, so... yeah.  His father, Jose Vizcaino, was a utility player in the majors for a while.  Of course, he might be the son of a different Jose Vizcaino, and I am not going to research this any further.  Well, maybe I'll do a quick Google images search...

...and yes, he is apparently that Jose Vizcaino's son.  Or they met at a convention of Jose Vizcainos.  I'm not searching for that.

Well maybe...

...and no.  Such a thing does not exist.

Most Dangerous Pitcher

RHP Reece Karalus - Closer

^Young Master Karalus, clearly embarrassed that his mom wants to take his picture.

The Stats: 6-2, 2.25 ERA, 11 Saves, 48 IP, 46 K, .206 opponents batting avg.

I'm pretty confident we won't be seeing their closer this weekend, so... yeah.  Well, in his closer's role, I mean.  We will all but certainly see him out of the pen, especially on Sunday, when he might start, as he certainly won't be used as a closer on the first two days.  Again, we should sweep this team.  I can't emphasize this enough.

Pitching Match-Ups

Friday: Junior RHP Carson Fulmer (7-1, 1.98) v. Junior RHP Jacob Steffens (2-5, 3.90)

Saturday: Sophomore LHP John Kilichowsli (0-0, 1.57) v. RS Sophomore RHP Steven Wilson (1-3, 4.37)

Sunday: Junior RHP Tyler Ferguson (8-4, 2.69) v. Junior RHP Peter Hendron (6-4, 4.34)

*Stats from last season.

Position Preview: Catchers

I know this is a cop-out, but I'm not even sure if Corbs knows quite yet who will emerge from the two-man race for catcher between sophomores Karl Ellison and Jason Delay when it's all said and done.  Whomever gets the start today will likely split time with the other throughout the season.  Neither set the world on fire with the bat last year.  Karl handles pitches in the dirt better; Jason frames the plate better.  Both are solid catchers, but will need to improve on their freshman campaigns to become impact players.

The Dirt Devil

#25 C Karl "I don't remember giving him a nickname last year" Ellison
6'0" 200lb R/R Sophomore

Karl likely gets the starting nod today, as he gives the best hugs.  Aside from that, Fulmer's slider is a dirt-pounder, and Ellison was the better of the two at handling balls in the dirt (*phrasing) last year.  He's a solid defensive catcher, but will need to improve on pitch framing, transitioning from catching position to throwing position more quickly, and becoming more consistent with the bat.  Last year, he hit .192/.352/.219 with only one XBH (a 3B).  While that's a fine OBP, the avg and power stats were hot garbage, and need to improve.  Back to the defensive side of things, Karl's opponents stolen base success rate of .917 (11 stolen bases allowed, 1 caught stealing) is simply not going to cut it.  Teams will take one look at that and run like hell.  Karl is the faster runner of the two, but that's a bit like being the prettiest Waffle House waitress.

Captain Frame Job

#5 C Jason "The Rain" Delay
6'0" 200lb R/R Sophomore

Coming into last season, The Rain was the more heralded of the two catching prospects, and wrestled the starting job from Man-Mountain Chris Harvey pretty much right away.  Delay was sold as a catching savant - a wizard with the glove and a hose for an arm.  Delay's .994 fld% speaks to this ability.  However, Ellison sports a .995 fld %.  No clear winner there.  Delay was better with the bat, hitting .246/.374/.325 with 9 XBH (all 2Bs).  He's got a strong arm, but needs to speed up the transition between catching and throwing, as was evident by opponents' .711 stolen base success rate against him.  Sure his "stolen bases allowed to caught stealing" numbers were worlds better than Hot Karl's (11-27 as opposed to 1-11), but he's going to want that to dip below the .600 threshold before it's billed as an asset.  I still think Delay's the better prospect going forward, but he lost the trust of his pitchers and coaching staff a bit with a few passed balls in the tournament.  He'll have to fight that perception and regain the trust of his pitching staff to lock down this job.

In short, I expect this to be about as close to a 50-50 split w/r/t playing time between the two sophomore catchers, and fully expect Corbs to ride the hot hand.  I'd like the hand that gets hot to be Delay's, as he has more raw ability, but I wouldn't force it.  It should be an open competition all season long.  However, if Delay is given the nod today, that might represent that he's done enough in preseason practice to regain the trust of Fulmer and Corbs, as Hot Karl caught Fulmer exclusively down the stretch last year.

The Rookie

#33 C Tristan Chari
6'2' 200lb S/R Freshman

Chari's a local kid out of Montgomery Bell Academy.  Beyond that, I don't know much about him.  I suppose I could call my friend who teaches there and ask his opinion, but he's British and would probably disparage him for not joining the cricket team he coaches.  If he sees any game action this year, I'll provide a write-up.

That's it.  Start thinking up an excuse to leave work early, as there is never an excuse to miss seeing Carson Fulmer pitch.  I'll be streaming it live, having a few beers, and doing my best to ignore the lady friend's attempt to make this weekend about Valentine's Day.

See you in the game thread.