(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)
Regardless of the fact that nine members of last year’s team heard their name called in June’s MLB Draft, Sun Devil baseball is still in some reliable hands.
Juniors Colby Woodmansee, Hever Bueno and Brian Serven were all ranked within the top 100 of D1Baseball.com’s annual top-300 prospects list.
Woodmansee earned the nod at No. 46, Bueno came in at No. 91 and Serven followed just two spots behind at No. 93.
Last season, Woodmansee batted .308 while leading the team in both doubles (18) and RBI (44). He also boasted a .968 fielding percentage, committing just eight errors all season.
However, Woodmansee is still focused on growing as a fielder – in particular, improving his ability to attack the ball. In fact, what makes him appealing as a prospect is the fact that many project him to stick at shortstop at the next level.
“At shortstop I think just first step’s the key,” Woodmansee said. “For me, I always want to work on my up-the-middle play, because I feel like that’s my weakest point.”
The plate approach won’t change much, however don’t be surprised if Woodmansee’s power continues to blossom this season.
“I’ll keep the same approach,” Woodmansee said. “Add a little leg kick maybe, a little bit more power, but we’ll see.”
Additionally, Woodmansee’s intangibles will be placed on full display this season, as he’ll be relied upon to lead a team riddled with youth and inexperience.
“He works hard,” head coach Tracy Smith said. “He’s not the most vocal guy, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t lead.”
In Bueno’s case, it took an offseason of progression combined with flat-out potential to earn a nod on the list.
Last season, Bueno struggled mightily, posting a 7.88 ERA in 14 appearances. The command was also an issue – Bueno issued 12 walks in 16 innings.
Over the summer though, Bueno pitched for the Madison Mallards of the Northwoods league and showed signs of improvement – he went 3-1 in eight games, boasting a 2.95 ERA and 25 strikeouts. The walks were also down, issuing just six in his eight appearances.
The improvements continued throughout fall ball, leading Smith to start taking notice.
“Hever Bueno has really, to me, separated himself from the pack,” Smith said. “Albeit, it’s practices, it’s intrasquad, it’s controlled, but if he keeps doing what he’s doing at this level then I think, yes, we’ve got a Friday night guy.”
With the departure of Brett Lilek and Ryan Kellogg, the lack of capable weekend starters left the door wide open for Bueno.
“He’s [Bueno] really turned it around,” Serven said. “I mean last year he had the stuff obviously, but now he’s putting it altogether and he looks really good.”
For Serven, the plan all offseason was to get healthy.
“I mean it’s really nice. Last year I kind of got a little bit of an injury at the end of the year,” Serven said. “But being full-health, full-go is really nice especially going right into the season.”
Serven started 50 games last season, batting .294 and hitting a team-best six home runs.
Before suffering a herniated disc in his lower back, Serven ripped through April, posting a .623 slugging percentage, a .337 batting average, as well as four home runs and 19 RBI from Mar. 29 to Apr. 26.
“We’re a different team if he’s not producing at the level that he’s capable of,” Smith said.
With all the turnover on the Arizona State roster, Woodmansee, Bueno and Serven will yield an immense amount of responsibility–both producing at a high clip, as well as leading the team and playing the role of mentor.
For the younger guys, it won’t be difficult to follow three of the top-100 prospects in the nation.