#34 Kentucky Baseball 2015 Preview

Kentucky Wildcats

Overall Rank: #34
Conference Rank: #9 SEC
#34 Kentucky Baseball 2015 Preview
Kentucky Team Page


Kentucky battled through a bit of an up and down season in 2014 with several signature wins over teams like Virginia and a series win over South Carolina. But it was also a season that saw series losses to teams like Tennessee. The pitching is going to a key to the Wildcats becoming more consistent. In order for them to take the next step and make a run to Omaha in 2015, they are going to have to be more dominant on the mound while the offense reloads.

2014: 40-23, 15-14
2014 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Gary Henderson

Field Players:
The offense will have some significant reloading to do in order to compensate for the losses of the likes of A.J. Reed and Austin Cousino in the Kentucky lineup. Outfielder Ka’ai Tom is going to have to carry the load for the Wildcats in the early going of the season until the rest of the lineup comes together. Tom hit .328 last season and has some power as he hit three homeruns and drove in 41 runs. Thomas Bernal and Storm Wilson are also going to have to bolster their very solid numbers form a year ago in order for the Kentucky offense to take the pressure off the pitching staff. Also, look for second baseman Javon Shelby to take another step forward in his sophomore season. Shelby made the SEC all-freshman team in 2014 and some intriguing potential, hitting four homeruns and driving in 21.

The loss of A.J. Reed may be the felt the most on the mound as Reed was 12-2 with a 2.09 earned run average. However, there is some nice talent with upside returning for Coach Henderson this season on the mound. Kyle Cody, who was the teams closer in 2014, should move up into the starting rotation and will be looking to build off of a 4-0 record last season with a 2.84 earned run average. Andrew Nelson also returns and should be part of the weekend rotation and will be to looking to improve upon his 2-5 record in 2014.

Who to Watch:
Dylan Dwyer’s ability to become a more effective starting pitcher will be a fascinating storyline to watch for the Wildcats in 2015. Dwyer went 5-3, but his earned run average ended up at 5.46 last season with opponents hitting .265 against him. If Dwyer can get that batting average against down to into the .235 range, that should probably lower his earned run average to less than four, which will help Kentucky a lot especially in conference play.

Final Projection:
The schedule sets up well for the Wildcats to take their time to address their issues offensively and on the mound. A trip out west to play USC and UC Santa Barbara will be good solid test in the middle part of February. There will be a home and home set of midweek matchups with in-state rival Louisville, which will be huge tournament resume boosters if Kentucky can get one or both of those games. The conference schedule is definitely going to challenge this Wildcat team on the road. A trip to Columbia to play South Carolina in the opening weekend will be a great litmus test to truly see how far the pitching has or has not progressed. In addition, trips to Florida, and Arkansas are on the slate as well. And reigning national champion Vanderbilt does have to come to Lexington from May 1-3. If Kentucky can be around .500 in conference play after that series with the Commodores, then they should be in a great position for an NCAA Tournament berth.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Ka’ai Tom, OF, 204
Hits: Ka’ai Tom, OF, 67
Home Runs: JaVon Shelby, IF/OF, 4; Storm Wilson, OF, 4
RBIs: Ka’ai Tom, OF, 41
Runs: Ka’ai Tom, OF, 40
Stolen Bases: Ka’ai Tom, OF, 14

Wins: Dylan Dwyer, P, 5
Innings Pitched: Andrew Nelson, P, 75.1
Strikeouts: Dylan Dwyer, P, 47
Saves: Kyle Cody, P, 5

Madness 2015 Draft Rankings:
#20 Kyle Cody


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