(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)
How do you celebrate a top five ranking for your 2016 recruiting class? Getting back to work. Tracy Smith’s ball club closes out its fall schedule this weekend with the culmination of the M&G World Series-now only two games of intrasquad matchups at Phoenix Muni.
“I’ve personally never been a part of a ranked class,” Smith said on Tuesday. “We’re proud of it. It’s all on paper. So until those guys get here and play in a system where it’s very competitive, then we truly don’t know how good this class is-or how bad it is.”
The pieces coming in and the ones that just arrived will help fill holes left vacant by graduation and the MLB Draft. The two biggest gaps are in the weekend rotation and the outfield. Skip and the coaching staff has admitted they are a bit thin in terms of depth but are ready to find the players to claim the spotlight.
“The pitching has kind of been inconsistent… Nobody has truly identified themself as the true ace,” Smith said.
The Sun Devils lose two-thirds of their weekend rotation (Ryan Kellogg and Brett Lilek to the draft) and the school’s best closer of all-time, Ryan Burr.
“We had a lot of guys that aren’t here now that pitched last year and took the important innings,” Smith said. “We’re looking for three or four guys to step up and say, ‘We’re the starting crew.'”
In the outfield, all three positions are available. Left fielder Jake Peevyhouse and right fielder Trever Allen have graduated, while center fielder Johnny Sewald was selected by the Houston Astros in the MLB Draft.
“We turn over our whole outfield, so that’s kind of rare at a place like this,” Smith said. “We’ve got some very capable players… Andrew Shaps has played really well this fall. Gage Canning, same thing-played really well.”
Smith continued praise of Canning and Sebastian Zawada, a transfer from South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, as newcomers that have acclimated well during the fall.
“Canning has really gotten it in terms of a practice standpoint and playing the game the right way and has really good results this fall,” Smith said. “Zawada has been swinging the bat well for us, which is what we brought him here to do.”
Health has been a slight issue this fall, but almost every team experiences the dilemma during the practices.
“You know we’re a little banged up, and we’ve got guys jumping out in the reps have been maybe at a greater intensity that we normally would,” Smith said.
RJ Ybarra has missed the entire fall due to a minor surgery on his hip at the start of the semester, but he will be cleared by January to resume baseball activities. Minor muscular issues have claimed some time from Ryan Lillard and David Greer among others.
“We don’t win any championships in the fall,” Smith said. “So we’re going to be very cautious with the injury piece.”
With camp closing on Smith’s second fall at Muni, the culture he has implemented on the maroon and gold is starting to show its mark. A year ago, Smith recalled he was still feeling out his players. Now, the comfort level is evident.
“Culture is something you try to create, model, and live every day,” Smith said. “I’m very happy in the way the meter is switching in the way of the culture that works for Tracy Smith and how he does things with his program,” Smith said, chuckling about referring to himself in the third-person. “I feel better about we’re a year down the road. The guys know what to expect from us, but each year that it goes by it gets better and better.”
- The infield is almost a lock of Jordan Aboites at third base, Colby Woodmansee at shortstop, Andrew Snow at second base, and David Greer moving across the diamond to first base.
- Brian Serven and Zach Cerbo remain one of the best catching duos in the Pac-12.
- Seth Martinez and Eder Erives have received the most work as starters. Hever Bueno has also started a few scrimmages this fall and could make a case for filling a weekend spot.
- The wide-open outfield mix includes Andrew Shaps, Ryan Lillard, Gage Canning, Daniel Williams, and Tyler Williams during fall ball. Coltin Gerhart will also join the competition when football season ends. Remember, Gerhart started the first game of the 2014 season in left field and batted third.
- Tracy Smith received a tricked-out ASU golf cart on Tuesday. He took the first ride with legendary superfan/team manager Dean “Deano” Short.
- ASU’s “scout day” drew 70 scouts to Muni to watch the Sun Devils. “It’s a good thing for your kids that they know when they come here they’re going to have every opportunity to be seen and exposed to people who make decisions on who plays at the next level,” Smith said.