First, the title to this series - "Hot or Cold?" - comes from a late 90s SNL Celebrity Jeopardy comedy sketch starring French Stewart, Sean Connery, and our own Turd Ferguson. For some reason, the internet is failing me, and I can't link the sketch, so in its stead, I bring you Barry and Levon:
How did they get all that pudding? Never you mind.
Regardless, now that we're two mid-week games against Quinnipiac (school motto: "We've never heard of us, either") from being a month into this season, what better time that this to check in on our baseball team and see who is hot hot hot or cold?
Group 1: Hot Tea
Rhett Wiseman - Jr. RF
The Natural is off to the best month of his college career, batting .419/.500/.661 with 5 2B, 2 3B, and 2 HR. As Commodore Tom reminds us about basketball players who break out late, "Some times, you have to trust the scouts." When The Natural arrived on campus, his skill set was clearly visible from day one, but it took him a bit to catch up to college pitching. Well, he's here now, and has been our hottest hitter of the season thus far. He's also swiped 4 bags and is our best OF arm.
I didn't give him that nickname 2 years ago for nothing. Kid is engineered for baseball.
Carson Fulmer - Jr. RHP
No surprise here. The Florida Flamethrower should have been our Friday starter last year, but I digress. He's 3-0 with a 0.81 ERA, and do you honestly expect that to rise all that much during SEC play? Dude's a beast and he knows it. The one knock on Fulmer thus far is he hasn't been able to go deep into games... but look at his k/9 rate - 13.3!!! Beyond that, it's a common occurrence for our ace to K about 5 of the first 6 batters faced. As the weather gets warmer, and he's able to stretch out his arm a bit, his arm will get stronger. Think about that for a bit.
Zander Wiel - RS Jr. 1B
See you in hell, Barnaby Jones... Awesome X is back! Or did you miss his two grand slams in the past week or so? On the year, he's hitting .365/.493/.519 with a team leading 18 RBI. His two home runs were much needed moon shots, but more than that, he's looking more confident at the plate than he has since '13. Last year, he was pulling off the ball, and pile-driving balls into the dirt. This year, he's looking for his pitch to drive. As the weather warms up, expect his HR totals (and slugging numbers, as he only has 4 XBH thus far) to rise.
Dansby Swanson - Jr. SS
Swanson is who we know he is. He's not streaky, so don't expect him to ever show up on a cold list. All he's done is go .354/.419/.538 with 5 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, and 2nd place on the team with 16 RBI - all while batting third and playing impeccable defense at short. Oh, and he's 7-8 on the base paths. I almost didn't list him here, though, as these numbers are par for the course, and should be about what he finishes the year with.
Philip Pfeifer - RS Jr. LHP
Pfeif has had a rebound season if I've ever seen one. Kicked off the team that turns out to win a CWS title does that to a man, apparently. Until he let up 3 runs in 5 IP in relief of Walker Buehler on his second appearance in 3 days this weekend, Pfeif had only let up 2 runs in 15 and 2/3 innings of relief for a beyond impressive 1.15 ERA. Even after letting up those three, his ERA's still a 1.31. He's 1-1 on the year with 2 long saves in relief of Fulmer. At this point, Corbs' plan has been to use Fulmer for about 6 innings and Pfiefer for the remaining 3 every Friday, but keep him available in the pen for other games. In short, it's been working, and he's pitching with the sort of determination you want. His K/9 rate is north of 10 and his walk rate of about 3.5 per 9 is respectable considering those whiff stats. Further, let's do a side by side comparison of his numbers during his last full year of pitching compared to this year:
'13: 4-0, 3.68 ERA, 6.64 K/9, 4.24 BB/9
'15: 1-1, 1.31 ERA, 10 K/9, 3.5 BB/9
He was good in '13. He's great now.
Jason Delay (At the Plate) - So. C
While splitting time with fellow sophomore Karl Ellison, Jason Delay has made his presence known at the plate. Behind the plate is another story (see below). In 8 games (6 starts), Delay has been an on base machine, hitting .421/.542/.474 with 7 RBI. Sure, all but one of those hits has been a single, and he's a bit of a plodder on the base-paths, but that .542 OBP is nothing to fuck with, and just makes you wish the man knew how to block a damned ball in the dirt. We need your bat in the lineup, Delay! Figure your shit out!
Penn Murfee - RS Fr. IN
The local boy has been the pleasant surprise of the season thus far. I just love his stroke, as he keeps the bat in the zone longer than most, and his natural slight pull/uppercut will cause him to just wear out the LF wall at the Hawk throughout his career. In 12 games (8 starts) Murfee has played an adequate 3B and 2B, batted .333./.395/.538, and has 3 2B, 1 3B, and 1 HR in his first 39 ABs. Whether at 2B, 3B, or DH I expect the MBA kid to see a lot more playing time as the year progresses.
...and I promise I'll finally get around to giving him a nickname one of these days.
Group 2: Iced Tea
Tyler Ferguson - Jr. RHP
The less said about the Turd's first few outings, the better. I'll just leave this here: 24.3 ERA in 3 and 1/3 innings of erratic nonsense thus far on the year.
Hayden Stone - So. RHP
He's hurt. He'll get better and be back to the guy we saw in the CWS. I'm sure of it. However, his 1-2 record with a 9.64 ERA in 4 and 2/3 innings is crap and he knows it. For the time being, he wears The Stone of Shame. Mark my words, he will wear The Stone of Triumph by season's end!
Jason Delay (Behind the Plate) - So. C
Oh God, where do I start? The stats man has only credited him with 2 passed balls, but that's a damned lie. Though many will go in the books as wild pitches, Delay has just been terrible at blocking balls in the dirt this season. In this case, the stats do lie, empirically so, as anyone who has watched the two catchers knows that Ellison is a dirt devil, while Delay has just not gotten his chest protector where it needs to be. It's why Ellison is Carson Fulmer's personal catcher. Fulmer needs to be able to spike balls in the dirt on occasion, and he trusts Hot Karl to block them. He doesn't trust Delay, and with good reason. I'm hoping Corbs is taking one of his student managers and tasking him with the job of beating the ball into the dirt in front of Delay for hours each day. How do you keep a guy who gets on base at an over .500 clip on the bench? This is your answer.
Nolan Rogers - So. OF/2B
I hesitate to put Rogers in the "cold" category, as even though he's hitting .222/.417/.259 in his first 27 ABs, his line freshman year was slightly worse: .203/.310/.243 in 148 ABs. At this point, it's pretty safe to say Rogers is who he is - a light-hitting super-utility player who has strong defense and base running abilities. Those types of player are useful, but only in the right situation. He's quickly losing PT to players like Penn Murfee and Jeren Kendall.
That's it. All players not mentioned are warm to tepid tea.
...and now the embed code is working.