#29 Arizona State Baseball 2015 Preview

Arizona State Sun Devils

Overall Rank: #29
Conference Rank: #5 Pac-12
#29 Arizona State Baseball 2015 Preview
Arizona State Team Page


It was another decent season for the Arizona State baseball team, which compiled over 30 victories and came within one win of 20 victories in Pac-12 conference play. Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, their NCAA tournament trip was a short one as two losses knocked them out of the event. Three of Arizona State’s top RBI hitters are back and, combined with the return of some quality pitching, should give the Sun Devils a decent chance to battle for the Pac-12 title. The question is can Arizona State improve on its win total of a year ago? There is also a new coach, Tracy Smith (more on that under who to watch), that will be a wild card for the newcomers and veterans alike to deal with this season.

2014: 33-24, 19-11
2014 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Tracy Smith

Field Players:
Two outfielders and an infielder are among the top players returning to Tempe. Senior Trever Allen (.284, 17 RBI) and juniors Johnny Sewald (.305, 19 RBI, 44 runs and 62 hits) and Chris Beall (.305, 11 RBI, 15 runs and 36 hits) are the big players to watch in the lineup. The loss of 2014 MLB Draft selections Nate Causey and Drew Stankiewicz left a hole in the lineup that won’t easily be plugged. The two combined for 57 RBI, 67 runs and 124 hits, so there will be a large gap. Dalton DiNatale (.294-3-36) is also back, and catcher RJ Ybarra (.273-4-47) also provides some pop in the lineup. Nobody on this roster excels at home runs – the team hit only 26 in 2014 – but Arizona State has two .300 hitters returning and a team average of .284 so things are looking decent.  

Pitchers Josh McAlister and Nick Diamond are gone, but neither really contributed much to the lineup. This means Arizona State has three juniors returning in Ryan Kellogg (8-3, 3.76, 66 strikeouts), Ryan Burr (3.27, 56 strikeouts, 12 saves) and Brett Lilek (4-5, 2.64, 79 strikeouts) which should give the Sun Devils some decent production where they need it most. While the hitting lineup gets restocked, two starters and a reliever should help the Sun Devils improve. Waiting in the wings as well are freshmen pitchers Tucker Baca, Eli Lingos and Ryan Hingst. Baca was selected in the 2014 MLB Draft but decided to attend Arizona State.

Who to Watch:
Smith was a coach hot in demand following his meteoric rise at Indiana. Under Smith’s tutelage, the Hoosiers earned three NCAA tournament bids, the Big Ten’s first national seed in the NCAA tournament and the program’s first appearance in the College World Series. Leaving Bloomington was tough for Smith, but the chance to go to a Pac-12 powerhouse proved too good to pass up in the end. Tim Esmay, the former coach at Arizona State, stepped down with a year to go on his contract, and there is no question this is a huge hire for the Sun Devils. According to an article in The Indianapolis Star from last year, Smith has had success recruiting players from the West, so look for that tradition to continue.

Final Projection:
It may take Arizona State a while for Smith’s magic to show up. It’s not easy turning a program back in the right direction immediately, but the Sun Devils should be good for about 35-40 victories in Smith’s first year at the helm. The team opens up with big games against Oklahoma State, TCU and Long Beach State in the first month of the schedule, and then Pac 12 play begins. Arizona State plays California, UCLA, Washington State and USC in the final month of the Pac-12 season, so that should position the team nicely for a tournament run if all goes well.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Johnny Sewald, OF, 203
Hits: Johnny Sewald, OF, 62
Home Runs: Trever Allen, OF, 5
RBIs: RJ Ybarra, IF, 47
Runs: Johnny Sewald, OF, 44
Stolen Bases: Johnny Sewald, OF, 16

Wins: Ryan Kellogg, P, 8
Innings Pitched: Ryan Kellogg, P, 103
Strikeouts: Brett Lilek, P, 79
Complete Games: Ryan Kellogg, P, 1; Darin Gillies, P, 1

Madness 2015 MLB Draft Rankings:
#41 Brett Lilek
#68 Ryan Burr


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