#17 Cal State Fullerton Baseball 2016 Preview

Cal State Fullerton Titans
Overall Rank: #17
Conference Rank: #1 Big West
 Cal State Fullerton Logo
Cal State Fullerton showed tremendous resilience all season long, which ended up paying off in a trip to the College World Series. The Titans won an epic regional against an outstanding Louisville team on the road thanks to timely hitting, and a pitching staff that stepped up when everything was on the line to slow down a prolific Louisville offensive attack.
2015: 39-25, 19-5
2015 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Rick Vanderhook
Field Players:
The Titans are never going to totally overpower you with the long ball and they only return a handful of homeruns from last season’s everyday lineup. Outfielder Tyler Stieb will lead a balanced offensive attack that will rely a lot on the execution of the little things in order to win games. Stieb drove in 23 runs and collected 68 hits, while batting just barely under .300 last season. Outfielder Josh Vargas will bring the important element of speed to the Cal State Fullerton lineup. Vargas hit well over .300 last season and stole 13 bases.
Despite the loss of workhorse Thomas Eshelman, who came through in the clutch many times last season for the Titans, there is a one-two punch returning to the starting rotation with Jon Gavin and Connor Seabold. Gavin was rock solid last year as a freshman. He went 7-3 with a 3.66 earned run average while making 17 starts. Seabold saw action as both a starter and reliever last season and was 5-4 with a 3.26 earned run average. Both pitchers did a very nice job of going right after hitters as Gavin and Seabold combined to walk only 37 batters, while striking out 143.
Who to Watch:
Coach Vanderhook and his staff have the big task ahead of them of finding a new closer in 2016. Tyler Peitzmeier was one of the best closers in all of college baseball in 2015, saving 16 games with record of 5-4 and a 2.56 earned run average. Miles Chambers, who primarily worked out of the bullpen last season, should get the first opportunity to step in and take over that role after an effective season in relief in 2015. Chambers is very good at not walking hitters and pitching to contact as he only walked 13 batters in 62.1 innings of work last season.
Final Projection:
The Titans will play a typical challenging schedule in 2016 with a nice cross section of opponents from all over the nation. After an opening series at Stanford, the Titans will play the likes of Indiana, Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, USC and Maryland throughout the season, which should give them more than enough opportunities to build up its RPI. If Cal State Fullerton can pick up some of the slack offensively that they lost with Davi Olemdo-Barraera and his ten homeruns by being even more efficient and aggressive, then they should be fine. However, if this everyday lineup struggles early, it could lead to a slow start for the Titans with the challenging schedule that they have. Overall, Cal State Fullerton should win the Big West Conference and be a sleeper to get to the College World Series if things break right.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Tyler Stieb, OF, 229
Hits: Tyler Stieb, OF, 68
Home Runs: Taylor Bryant, IF, 2
RBIs: Timmy Richards, IF, 26
Runs: Josh Vargas, OF, 42
Stolen Bases: Josh Vargas, OF, 13
Wins: John Gavin, P, 8
Innings Pitched: John Gavin, P, 86.0
Strikeouts: Connor Seabold, P, 76
Saves: Two with 1
Madness 2016 Draft Rankings:
#73 Chad Hockin