FWIW, there were six pitchers who pitched multiple innings in the Friday and Saturday scrimmages last week: Carter Holton, Andrew Dutkanych, Sam Hliboki, Bryce Cunningham, Devin Futrell, Hunter Owen https://t.co/X0JWpqxDEa— Aria Gerson (@aria_gerson) February 14, 2023
...and now the strongest part of the team: The Starting Pitchers. In this post, I give my best guess at what the weekend rotation will look like come SEC play. It might not look like this in the College Baseball Showdown this weekend in Arlington, TX, but it’s my best attempt at prognosticating how it will all shake up.
I will also paste in from yesterday’s Relief Pitching preview to give you an idea of who our mid-week starter might be, and our other starting pitching options available to us.
The Weekend Rotation
#20 Fr. LHP Carter “Rev. Holton Heat” Holton
(8-4; 3.14 ERA; 15 appearances; 15 starts; 80 & 1/3 IP; 10.87 K/9; 2 CGs)
Aside from racking up pre-season accolades (he was one of two Diamond Dores to be named a Pre-Season All-American, the other being Enrique Shockwave), the good Reverend has had another off-season in the Scott Brown Pitching Laboratory (tm), and has all the makings of an Ace Friday Starter. He’s got the chip on his shoulder, the Sonny Grey/Carson Fulmer Death Stare, and he pounds the strike zone like Rocky training on a side of beef.
He’ll be our Friday guy all year. He’s earned it.
#95 So. LHP Devin “The Future” Futrell
(9-3; 3.41 ERA; 14 appearances; 13 starts; 63 & 1/3 IP; 9.09 K/9; 1 CG)
The Future put together a whale of a year as the Walker Buehler Memorial Mid-Week Starter in 2022. While his arsenal is not the eater of souls bat-misser that Rev. Holton Heat possesses, The Future is a starter more in the Mike Minor mold. He out-thinks batters, paints corners, and induces soft contact. As such, even if Corbs starts Futrell the day after Holton, it will be enough of a contrast to keep batters on their toes. Futrell and Holton are weekend rotation locks, and I doubt I’ll get much disagreement there. In ‘23, Futrell will be going against SEC offenses instead of, you know, the Indiana State Fightin’ Larry Bird’s Ridiculous Moustaches. I say right here he will be more than up for the challenge.
The kid led the team in wins as a freshman. Imagine how good he’ll be as a sophomore.
#80 Fr. RHP Andrew “The Duke” Dutkanych
First, a note on the nickname. Yes, I know the kids call him “Dutch,” but if I start doing that, it’s a quick slippery slope to me making continual Archer references and calling him “Codename Duchess.” Nah, I see him more as a no-nonsense gunslinger, though one who has a manlier walk than that of John Wayne (the other “The Duke” of note). See here for proof:
Okay, now back to a discussion of the most highly touted freshman in this class (and one of the most highly touted freshmen in all of college baseball to turn down the draft).
Not to go all numerology on your asses, but as you know, Corbs picks the numbers for all of his players, and often gives out a number to a freshman who reminds him of a former player. #5 for catchers has been written about ad nauseum (by me, mostly), for example. Remember the most recent #80? That was worn by perhaps the greatest ever Vanderbilt athlete: Kumar Rocker.
You know... in case you were wondering how highly Corbs thinks of The Duke.
As is often the case, Corbs and I are in accord here (or ac-Corbs, if you prefer), as I think The Duke breaks camp as a weekend starter in a deep and talented pack of starting pitchers. Could he be the Walker Buehler/Devin Futrell mid-week guy? Sure. It’s certainly possible.
However, The Duke coming to The Hawk was at least part of the reason Christian Little got scared and transferred to the Gumbo Bengals. I’ll say it here: The Duke is in the weekend rotation by the start of SEC play, if not sooner. He might even end up being the Saturday guy if Corbs wants to split the lefties Holton and Futrell.
Here was my pre-draft preview of The Duke:
See here and here for more Anchor of Gold coverage on the big righty.
Here’s what Kiley McDaniel of ESPN had to say about him:
Indiana prep RHP Andrew Dutkanych (Vanderbilt commit) has already taken his name out of the draft and will be going to school; he’d rank around 60th overall if still eligible.
Here’s the scouting report from MLB.com:
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50
Indiana’s best high school pitching prospect since Ashe Russell and Nolan Watson were both Royals first-rounders in 2015, Dutkanych had the potential to go in the same territory this July after looking spectacular at the start of his senior season. Besides having one of the most well-rounded repertoires in the prep class, he’s also one of its more polished arms and performed consistently well on the showcase circuit. But he also struggled at times down the stretch this spring and withdrew from the Draft, so he’ll attend Vanderbilt and be Draft-eligible again as a sophomore in 2024.
Dutkanych can show three plus pitches at times, with his tight mid-80s slider capable of reaching 90 mph and ranking as his best offering. His fastball sits at 93-94 mph and touches 97 with armside run, and he creates downhill plane with his high three-quarters arm slot. His upper-70s curve has less relative power than his slider but features good depth.
He hasn’t needed it much yet, but Dutkanych shows some feel for a low-80s changeup with some sink. His delivery features little effort and he repeats it well, which bodes well for his future health and control, though his stock took a hit with an eight-walk outing in front of a crowd of scouts in May. Athletic and physical, he still has more projection remaining in his 6-foot-3 frame.
Perfect Game ranked him the #15 overall player in his class (#3 RHP), and had this to say about him:
Andrew Dutkanych IV is a 2022 RHP/3B, OF with a 6-3 205 lb. frame from Indianapolis, IN who attends Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School. Well-proportioned frame with lots of strength and good twitch, athleticism. Primary right-handed pitcher who only pitched during the event. Energetic, athletic delivery with a high slot and generates a ton of ride on the fastball. Heater topped out at 95 mph and held velocity well. Fastball missed plenty of bats near the top of the strike zone. Curveball shows hammer 12/6 shape and bite while the slider is very firm in the upper-80s with late biting action. Excellent feel to spin and a high level competitor who pitches with confidence and swagger. Tremendous student. Verbal commitment to Vanderbilt. Selected for the Perfect Game All-American Classic.
Other Starting Pitching Options
Swing Men (Occasional Starters and/or High Leverage Relievers)
#88 Jr. RHP Patrick “Life Of” Reilly
(2-3; 4.99 ERA; 17 appearances; 3 starts; 52 & 1/3 IP; 11.89 K/9; 0 Saves)
Would it be phenomenal if Reilly put it all together this year and turned his elite stuff into something he could command through 6 IP on a regular basis? Of course. However, with Holton, Futrell, and Dutkanych likely to lock down the weekend rotation spots (maybe after a few weeks for the freshman future Ace “The Duke,” but still) Reilly will either be the mid-week guy or a high leverage reliever. He certainly has the stuff to start, but occasional bouts of wildness and potential for a “big inning” have made it apparent he’s likely a better reliever than starter right now. Of course, Corbs could also start the season out with Reilly and Owen piggybacking in one of the 4 rotation spots. Again, as always, we have enviable pitching depth. It would not shock me if Reilly started out the season in the rotation—especially given our late inning relief depth listed above—but his skillset would likely make him the most dominant closer in college baseball if Corbs decided to deploy him that way. Seriously, who’s hitting a max effort Reilly throwing gas and spike sliders in one inning of relief? No one. No one.
*Note: Reilly had 69 Ks in 2022. Nice.
#33 So. LHP Hunter “Mr. Manager” Owen
(2-1; 4.05 ERA; 8 appearances; 1 starts; 26 & 2/3 IP; 12.82 K/9; 0 Saves)
Owen’s my best guess at who will fill the Walker Buehler Mid-Week Ace role this season, but even there, he will have competition. Corbs may well decide he’d rather have two trusted LHP relief options. Either way, Owen’s likely a multi-inning swingman type in this pitching staff. With his swing and miss stuff, he could close, but... you know... see above for his competition in that role.
#97 So. RHP Bryce “Big Richie” Cunningham
(2-1; 4.59 ERA; 12 appearances; 6 starts; 33 & 1/3 IP; 7.29 K/9; 0 Saves)
Cunningham somewhat surprisingly got 6 starts as a freshman—4th most on the ‘22 squad. He was fine, but was more of an innings horse than someone whose stuff makes you stand up and take notice. Still, getting 6 starts as a freshman means he’s firmly in the mid-week starter competition as a sophomore. If he’s in the pen, instead, he will be perfectly cromulent there, as well.
#36 Jr. RHP Grayson “Gitmo” Moore
(1-1; 5.06 ERA; 16 appearances; 1 starts; 26 & 2/3 IP; 13.16 K/9; 0 Saves)
Gitmo can miss bats with the best of them, but, like Reilly, has to improve on consistency and control. Also, he improved his 9.00 ERA as a freshman by nearly 4 runs. By that logic, he will have around a 1.00 ERA in ‘23.
Seniors Returning from Injury
#40 Sr. RHP Sam “Hliboki Bartokomous” Hliboki
The Perfect Stranger had a promising freshman season (15 & 2⁄3 IP with an immaculate 0.00 ERA) in the Covid shortened 2020 season, then popped yet again during his sophomore campaign with 20 IP and a 2.75 ERA (including one start). He then got injured and has been out since. All reports say the arm is healthy and Hliboki will be back on the mound as a senior. I could see him in pretty much any role, to be honest, as he could either start or relieve. I’m just glad to have him back and healthy. He’s the top wildcard among the arms, as I saw him turning into a Drake Fellows type starter early on in his career.
#43 Sr. RHP Michael “Doolin Banjo” Doolin
On the other hand, it does not appear likely Doolin will return to the mound this week. If he’s able to return at any point this year, we would welcome him back, as he was a pinpoint control type starter before his injury. He was 1-0 with a 0.87 ERA in 10 & 1⁄3 IP as a freshman in ‘20. Like Hliboki, Doolin could start or come out of the pen.
He’s been out for the past two years after shaking hands with Tommy John, but this blurb by Corbs on his vucommodores.com player page gives me hope Doolin will get back to the Maddux type control starter we saw when he was a freshman:
“Everyone is rooting for Mikey. His journey in our program has come with tough and unique challenges. Over these last two years, he has chosen to create a team role and help our program tremendously. His time and energy with his teammates will pay dividends for him going forward. He will get back on the mound for the first time since the spring of 2020. Mikey’s abilities are undeniable. He has life to his pitches and commands the ball very well. We are looking forward to getting him back on the field.”