Friday, June 7, 2013

Five lukewarm questions for the Dirtbags this summer

The Dirtbags failed to make the regionals once again, yet it's been a busy June for Long Beach State baseball. Shane Carle was just drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates on Day Two of the MLB Draft (an LBSU pitcher going to the Pirates? Can't help but wonder if ex-Pirate Troy Buckley had some input on that); many Dirtbags have started their summer league seasons; and damn-near a fifth of the 2013 squad just up and left. So before I fully transition into my DC Grays summer league coverage (and find out just when exactly I can go to a game), I wanted to address a few of the questions facing Dirtbag baseball as we look ahead to the 2014 season.

1. How will Johnny Bekakis rebound?
After spending the spring on the couch for academic reasons, Bekakis is back(is) on the playing field, teaming with fellow-Dirtbags Zack Rivera and Josh Frye with the LaCrosse Loggers in the Northwoods League.

Though it’s still early in the summer (so early it’s still spring) Bekakis has gotten off to a decent start in the NWL, tallying seven hits and four steals through the Loggers’ first nine games while manning centerfield for LaCrosse (Bekakis spent his first two seasons for the Dirtbags primarily in left field). Assuming he picks up where he left off in 2012, Bekakis should be back in left for LBSU next season, likely hitting at the top of the lineup.

What will Richard Prigatano prove in the Cape?
Playing in the Cape Cod league usually means more for a player’s draft status than his collegiate production. Nevertheless, Prigatano seems to be gearing up for big 2014 after showing a small but noticeable step forward in 2013. The would-be junior right fielder improved both his slugging and on-base percentages last season, but he still needs to find a way to better utilize his natural power in spacious Blair Field, and his poor strikeout-to-walk ratio (33:13 last season) remains a concern.  How he performs against the nation’s best prospects this summer should give us an idea of what we can expect next spring.

Will Jason Martin, Matt Ball, or Garrett Hampson end up at Blair Field next year?
If you’d asked me yesterday I would’ve said: maybe, yes, no. Now, after two days complete in the MLB draft, I’ll adjust that to: no, probably, and hopefully.

Jason Martin was the first LBSU recruit to go this year, plucked by the Astros in the 8th round. That high of a selection likely means he’s going to skip school and play semi-pro (because, c’mon, it’s the Astros).

Matt Ball seemed likely to go to Long Beach State from the start, but a little bird told me he’s likely to be drafted in Day Three, so the odds of his going pro just went a little higher. Still, he’s not likely to get a huge signing bonus so I’d say the odds are still in our favor.

Garrett Hampson is the name we’ll be keeping an eye on until the signing deadline in August. Pre-draft reports had Hampson going in the round 2-4 range, but he’s somehow managed to slip outside the top ten rounds. Teams will be a little more bold with their selections early in Day Three, but if Hampson manages to fall outside round 15 that could be an indication that teams have some signability concerns.

If Ball makes it to campus he may fill the void left by the recently departed David Hill, as being the underclassmen with the best chance to start on weekends in 2014. Both Martin and Hampson could provide some much needed speed and athleticism to a Dirtbag lineup that hasn’t been able to produce much in several years. Hampson also fills a void in the Dirtbags’ infield. We’ll try not to get our hopes up, but Martin, Ball, and Hampson could all be key pieces of the 2014 Dirtbags… if they go to school.

4. Will anyone go Matt Anderson on us?
As a reminder, Anderson was the Dirtbag would-be senior righty that went undrafted last year, only to have an insane season in summer ball and sign a pro contract anyway. Bekakis, Frye, and Nick Rosetta are the only would-be seniors playing summer ball this year, and none of them were major parts of the 2013 Dirtbags, so seeing them go pro would be a bit of a stretch. Don’t expect any surprise departures this summer (I mean, besides David Hill going one-and-done).

5. What will be the big question marks entering Fall Ball?
The biggest one will be what is the overall health of the team with Ryan Strufing, Kyle Friedrichs, and Prigatano (and possibly Michael Hill) all coming off injuries? Among the position battles at hand, the Sunday starter gig (Nick Sabo being the early frontrunner) and the left side of the infield (too many candidates to name) will be biggest competitions entering 2014.

Stay tuned for updates on all of these questions in the coming days and weeks...