Sixteen Sun Devil baseball student-athletes took their talents to various summer baseball leagues across the country, including the Cape Cod League, Northwoods League and the New England Collegiate Baseball League.
The biggest accolade for Arizona State this summer is that rising sophomore Ryan Burr and head coach Tim Esmay are donning red, white and blue for the Collegiate National Team. Esmay is the assistant coach and hitting coach for Team USA this summer.
Summer baseball is nearly three months of continuous games for college athletes to improve on their skills. The young players compete in wood bat leagues so they can get a taste of what it’s like to play at the next level, and professional scouts are constantly recruiting during the summer month.
Since the midway point of the summer season recently passed, let’s hand out some grades and analysis on how the 2013-14 Sun Devils are doing.
RHP RYAN BURR: A+
Burr has been nothing short of sensational this summer for Team USA during their first full month traveling. The 6-foot-4, 215 pound relief pitcher picked up right where he left off at ASU and he leads the staff with four saves. He broke the Sun Devil freshman save record with 12 saves.
Not only has the Highlands Ranch, Colorado native not surrendered any runs in his five appearances, but he has not given up a hit. In Burr’s five innings of work, he has 11 strikeouts and four walks.
Burr has been the best reliever on Team USA’s roster and Coach Esmay said last season that he sees Burr as a future starter for the maroon and gold. Ladies and gentleman, this future may very well be in 2013 due to the departure of Arizona State starting pitcher Trevor Williams in the second round of the MLB Draft.
HEAD COACH TIM ESMAY: A-
The Sun Devils’ skipper has done a fantastic job thus far working with the Team USA’s hitters. In the eight games USA played against Coastal Plain League opponents, the team averaged over six runs per game en route to a perfect 8-0 start.
The team is batting .307 through 16 games and they have nearly three times as many RBIs as their opponents (83-to-31). The team has eye-popping stats, which include 29 doubles, four triples, four home runs, and a team on-base percentage just below .400. Esmay loves to play small ball in Tempe and the red, white and blue already have 12 sacrifice hits and are 37-for-45 in stolen base attempts.
The only reason there is a minus next to his grade is because five players on the roster already have double-digit strikeout totals, and the team averages nearly eight punch-outs per game at the plate. Also, his team dropped three of the five games in the series against Team Japan.
Regardless, Esmay can add this to his accomplished coaching resume.
CAPE COD BASEBALL LEAGUE
LHP RYAN KELLOGG – Bourne Braves: A-
The 6-foot-5, 225 pound lefty has made three starts in the Cape Cod League and he boasts a 1-0 record and an impressive 1.05 ERA, which is second best amongst Braves’ starting pitchers.
Kellogg will be a sophomore for the Sun Devils next spring and he is proving why the Toronto Blue Jays used their 12th round pick in the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft to try to lock him up.
He has a 12-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio and he has given up just three extra base hits (all doubles) in his 17 innings of work. Kellogg should be the front-runner next season to take over the Friday night starts, especially if he continues lighting up possibly the best summer baseball league in the country.
SHORTSTOP DREW STANKIEWICZ – Hyannis Harbor: C
Stankiewicz is having a rough first half at the plate, batting just .119 in 15 games. The Sun Devils’ middle infielder did not get a hit in nine of his 13 starts and he has yet to drive in a run or steal a base for the Hawks,
The Gilbert, Arizona native has an abysmal 12 strikeouts to just two walks this summer. The one thing that is saving Stankiewicz’s grade is that he has a fielding percentage above .950 in over 60 chances. Stankiewicz had an above-average season as an every day starter for Arizona State last year and he will need to be an upperclassman leader this coming season.
NEW ENGLAND COLLEGIATE BASEBALL LEAGUE
OUTFIELDER/INFIELDER DAVID GRAYBILL – Newport Gulls: B
Graybill had himself a quality first half of summer baseball. He batted .260 with three doubles, a home run and four RBIs. The rising sophomore has not committed an error in the field and he crossed plate ten times for the Gulls.
The 6-foot-5, 220 pound athlete was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2012 draft. Being a local product out of Phoenix, Arizona, Graybill is in line to make a bigger impact next year for the Sun Devils.
RHP DARIN GILLIES – Newport Gulls: B-
Gillies showed signs of struggling this summer, but his statistics are not as bad as they look. Despite allowing 11 runs (six earned) this summer, he has struck out 12 batters and only allowed two walks.
Yes the 4.15 ERA is a bit too high for appearing in five games, but the 6-foot-4, 200-pound righty has found more control in his 13 innings of work. He has only one wild pitch after hitting nine batters and throwing four pitches to the backstop this past spring.
Maybe he fixed his pitching mechanic to be more accurate, but he has allowed three doubles and leads the team with two home runs allowed this summer.
Gillies should continue to be a middle relief pitcher for the Sun Devils during his junior campaign.
LHP BRETT LILEK – Newport Gulls: A
After missing nearly three quarters of his first season with ASU, Lilek is off to an impressive start this summer. He leads starters with a 0.60 ERA in 15 innings of work. Lilek boasts a 3-0 record, one save, and nine strikeouts on the bump.
The South Holland, Illinois native has only given up one extra base hit this summer and he has held batters to a .204 average.
Coach Esmay wanted to use Lilek as a mid-day or possibly the team’s Sunday starter as a true freshman after the start he had against then-No.2 Arkansas in the Coca-Cola Classic in Surprise, Arizona. In his start against the Razorbacks, the 6-foot-4, 190 pound reliever threw five innings of one-run baseball and struck out six.
Lilek is a power pitcher who had 17 strikeouts in 20 innings and should compete for a starting spot in the spring.
CORNER INFIELDER DALTON DINATALE – Ocean State Waves: C
DiNatale was a key role player during his freshman season in Tempe, but this summer has not been as generous. DiNatale has a team-worst .114 batting average and no walks in the 14 games he has appeared in.
The Parkland, Florida native batted over .300 as a true freshman in 44 games, but the wooden bat has not helped him at the plate. Though his stats for the Waves are not what he would have hoped, it’s still too early to press the panic button.
OUTFIELDER JAKE PEEVYHOUSE – Laconia Muskrats: B
Peevyhouse is having a good transitional period between his sophomore and junior season. The hometown Phoenix boy is hitting .263 with four doubles in 19 games. He knocked in four runs thus far and he has six walks compared to just nine strikeouts.
The Sun Devils’ outfielder is not doing anything to flashy for the Muskrats, but he is playing consistent and that’s what the maroon and gold will need from him at the plate next season.
WEST COAST BASEBALL LEAGUE
OUTFIELDER CULLEN O’DWYER – Bend Elks: B
O’Dwyer saw very limited playing time for the Sun Devils during his freshman season, but that does not mean he won’t develop into more of a threat. O’Dwyer has appeared in 26 games and is batting .241 through mid-July. He is tied for the team lead with two home runs and he is one of only three players on his team to have at least one double, triple and home run.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound outfielder has 11 RBIs and is fourth on the team with 12 walks. O’Dwyer is at the stage where he needs to get more reps before being a regular corner outfielder in the Pac-12.
SHORTSTOP JORDAN ABOITES – Bend Elks: C+
Aboites is having a similar problem to the one he had at Arizona State – he is buried in the depth chart. Aboites only has 17 plate appearance but he has not capitalized and only has one hit, one RBI and one walk.
It’s tough to judge him on minimal at-bats, but he received the low midterm grade because of his four defensive errors. Aboites will not see much playing time as long as Stankiewicz is still representing the maroon and gold in the middle infield. Don’t be surprised if you see the speedster get some reps at second base so he can make an impact on the Sun Devils’ roster.
The surprising part is that he threw three and one-third innings of relief and surrendered just two hits and no runs with two strikeouts.
RHP ERIC MELBOSTAD – Bend Elks: B
Melbostad was used as both a middle reliever and an occasional mid-week starter during his freshman campaign and he is getting more experience this summer in both of those situations.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound righty made two starts and five bullpen appearances. He sports a 2-0 record with 17 strikeouts in 17.2 innings on the hill. He has kept his walk total relatively low with five, but his 5.60 ERA is nothing fans want to look at for more than a second.
The Scottsdale, Arizona native has shown signs of improvement this off-season and if Lilek stays healthy, Melbostad should primarily pitch out of the bullpen.
OUTFIELDER CHRIS BEALL – Bellingham Bells: A-
My oh my, Mr. Beall. Out of all the Sun Devils playing summer baseball, he has been the most surprising player because he is shining out west. He ranks second on the team with a .309 batting average and he has been a very consistent contact hitter.
The rising sophomore has six RBIs and four runs scored, but the impressive stat is how well his vision has been at the plate. He has nine walks compared to just six strikeouts so his on-base percentage is better than .400. Beall is also perfect in the field with 26 putouts and an assist.
Beall only had four total at-bats last season for ASU so this summer could potentially put him back on the radar for playing time in the spring.
OUTFIELDER JOHNNY SEWALD – Bellingham Bells: A-
It looks like Sewald is continuing the trend of ASU outfielders succeeding in the West Coast League. He is currently batting .275 through 23 games and he has two doubles. The 5-foot-11, 155-pound outfielder from Las Vegas leads all Bells with 20 walks, is second with nine stolen bases and third on the team with 14 runs scored.
Much like Beall, Sewald has remarkable vision at the plate. He has 21 free passes compared to just 13 strikeouts. In the month of July, he is batting .317 with four of his six RBIs. He has also stolen at least one base in his last four games.
The best fans on the west coast knew Sewald has the speed and potential, but he is reaching that slightly earlier than many expected. Keep in mind, he had three doubles in 46 at-bats last season and led the Devils with six sacrifice bunts.
CATCHER RJ YBARRA – Bellingham Bells: B+
One of the best Sun Devil freshman hitter is having a fairly good first half in summer baseball. Though his batting average is a bit low at .241, he leads the team with two home runs and 14 RBIs and he is second with four doubles.
Defensively, Ybarra posted a .980 fielding percentage midway through July. There is no hiding the fact that Ybarra will be a key asset for Arizona State during his sophomore year. In his first year, he batted .313 with seven doubles, five home runs and 22 RBIs.
WESTERN MAJOR BASEBALL LEAGUE
FIRST BASEMAN TONY DIMARTINO – Okotoks Dawgs: C
DiMartino is not having the best summer season compared to other Sun Devils. He has just one hit, though that one hit was a home run. He finished the first half with three RBIs and three runs, but keep in mind he only played in five games.
The Danville, California native is no longer on the active roster so he didn’t have the opportunities to make up for his statistics.
NORTHWOODS BASEBALL LEAGUE
FIRST BASEMAN ROURIC BRIDGEWATER – Battle Creek Bombers: B+
The rising junior is making a case for a starting spot in the infield after an impressive first half of the summer season. Bridgewater is top five on the team in multiple categories, including games (31), batting average (.280), hits (33), doubles (9), triples (2), and RBIs (12).
The Ponoma, California native battled against DiNatale and Graybill for time at first base last season. He would be more in the Northwoods spotlight if it weren’t for his team being eight games below .500.