#44 Florida Atlantic Baseball 2016 Preview

Florida Atlantic Owls
Overall Rank: #44
Conference Rank: #2 Conference USA
 FAU Logo
After a year off, Florida Atlantic made it back to the NCAA Tournament in 2015. But once again their potent offense was thwarted in the regionals. This time it was Florida who knocked off FAU in the Gainesville Regional final. Despite that disappointment, it was a great year for the Owls. They won 42 games and finished tied for second place in Conference USA with a 19-10 mark. This group has the talent and experience to make a serious run for a conference title and perhaps a Super Regional.
2015: 42-19, 19-10
2015 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: John McCormack
Field Players:
FAU will look a little different without Brendon Sanger, Ricky Santiago and Roman Collins. Sanger batted .370 with seven home runs and 48 RBIs. Sanger had an on-base percentage of .492 and there are not many players in the country who can replicate those numbers. Santiago and Collins were often the beneficiaries of Sanger being on base. Those two combined for 111 RBIs. They also combined for 15 homeruns. So there is a lot lost, but this will still be one of the most patient and potent offenses in the country. CJ Chatham will lead the way this year after batting .335 with three homeruns and 44 RBIs. The power will come from Christian Dicks, who hit eight home runs as a junior last year, and Esteban Puerta.
Losing Drew Jackson and Kyle Miller is a big blow to the pitching staff. While the offense was explosive, the pitching was solid with Jackson and Miller leading the way. Brandon Rhodes figures to be the new ace of the staff after going 4-1 with a 3.78 ERA in 14 starts as a junior. The lefty has great control and will use his defense behind him. Sean Labsan made 11 starts as a sophomore and the lefty has potential. He does need to work on his control though, but other than that he should be ready to step into a weekend starting spot. David McKay could make that jump too. As a redshirt freshman he earned a couple starts, but was used effectively out of the bullpen. Senior Robbie Coursel has some starting experience too. He can strike some people out, but he will also give up some homeruns. Despite pitching just 27.0 innings last year, Coursel allowed four homeruns, tied for a team high.
Who to Watch:
Esteban Puerta could be in for a huge year. He was often overshadowed, and for good reason, but the junior is ready to take on a bigger role. He started 55 games and is exactly the type of player FAU wants. He is patient and smart at the plate (.432 on-base percentage) and can back it up with his power. He hit seven home runs and 11 doubles. It is easy to look at the loss of Sanger and think this team will drop off significantly when it comes to getting walks and hitting doubles, two things the team as a whole and Sanger especially were great at last season. However, with players like Puerta ready to pick up the slack, do not be surprised if the drop off is not nearly as significant as it seems like it should be.
Final Projection:
FAU is going to scoreā€¦and score a lot. The questions will be on the mound. Not only does Coach John McCormack lose his best two starters, but a few key pieces from the bullpen are gone too. There are some youngsters who earned valuable experience last season and a few newcomers who could make an immediate impact, but it is hard to see the pitching staff improving compared to last season with Jackson and Miller gone. But that may not hurt FAU too much. Those pitchers just need to do enough to let the offense win the game. There may be more high scoring affairs in 2016 than there was in 2015, but Florida Atlantic can win those types of games.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Stephen Kerr, IF, 257
Hits: Stephen Kerr, IF, 79
Home Runs: Christian Dicks, OF, 8
RBIs: C.J. Chatham, IF, 44
Runs: Stephen Kerr, IF, 57
Stolen Bases: Stephen Kerr, IF, 15
Wins: Brandon Rhodes, P, 4; David McKay, P, 4
Innings Pitched: Brandon Rhodes, P, 78.2
Strikeouts: Brandon Rhodes, P, 41
Saves: Devon Carr, P, 1

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