The Big 2015 Miami Hurricanes Baseball Preview


While football and basketball dominate the headlines and the national attention, for my money there’s no better University of Miami sports experience than spending a night at Mark Light Field. The beautiful facility on the corner of Ponce de Leon and San Amaro opens its gates for the first time in 2015 tonight as a season with high expectations begins.

Last year, the ‘Canes fought through an uneven start before ripping off the longest winning streak in program history and winning the ACC Regular Season Championship. Unfortunately, Miami didn’t bring their bats to the regional that they hosted and lost in the Regional Final to Texas Tech. The quest to get back to Omaha for the first time since 2008 renews tonight.

We’re happy to announce that Canes Warning is officially credentialed for baseball this season and we’ll aim to bring you in-depth, informative coverage from the first pitch tonight through the end of the season. Juan or I (and sometimes both of us!) will be in the press box for every home game. Our coverage begins with this preview, where I’ll run down the roster, the schedule and my expectations for the upcoming season.

The Battting Order

One thing to look for in all of college baseball this year is an increase of power. With home runs in College Baseball nearing all-time low levels in the past two years, the NCAA changed the seams on the baseballs to make the balls fly up to 20-30 feet further off the bats. Look for a lot more fly balls to leave the yard this season. Here’s the likely order for Miami, with primary positions listed first for the guys who can play more than one:

1. Carl Chester/Jacob Heyward (LF)

This is an interesting spot to watch early in the season. Carl Chester is a true freshman and already one of the fastest players in college baseball. If he can get on base consistently, he’ll get the majority of the starts in left. Jacob Heyward, a sophomore and the younger brother of MLB star Jason Heyward, is much improved from last season and ready to show his powerful potential this year.

2. Ricky Eusebio (CF)

The junior will have a tough time replacing Dale Carey’s production at the plate, but Jim Morris calls Eusebio perhaps the best defensive outfielder that he has ever coached. Knowing Morris’s affinity for the sacrifice bunt (Tyler Palmer led the ACC in sac bunts last year while hitting in the 2-spot), expect Eusebio to lay them down frequently this year.

3. Zack Collins (DH/C)

Collins is simply one of the best players in College Baseball today. The sophomore was named the ACC Rookie of the Year last year after rebounding from a 1-for-22 start to the season to finish with a .298 average and 11 home runs. The sky is the limit for Collins this year. With another year of improvement under his belt (that’s scary to think about) and the new baseballs, 20+ home runs is in play.

4. David Thompson (1B/3B)

Thompson is finally healthy and ready to shine in the cleanup roll. After a few untimely injuries led to him missing most of last season, a full year of Thompson in the order will do wonders for UM’s offensive production.

5. Willie Abreu (RF)

Abreu was steady at the plate as a true freshman in 2014 in terms of getting on base, but only hit one home run. Expect that to change this year, as he does have pretty solid power. Willie should be a force. As you can see, the meat of this order is going to be a murderer’s row for opposing pitching staffs.

6. George Iskenderian (3B/SS)

Iskenderian is a junior who started his college career at South Carolina, transferred to Indian River Community College and now finds himself at UM. He’ll be a key contributor and likely the team’s everyday third baseman. While he doesn’t have much power, he should get on base consistently and pick up a lot of RBIs with Collins, Thompson and Abreu hitting in front of him.

7. Johnny Ruiz (2B)

An injury to Brandon Lopez forced Ruiz into action as a freshman a little earlier than Coach Morris would have hoped last season, but Ruiz filled in admirably. With Hernandez graduated, it’s now Ruiz’s time to be the full time starter. Ruiz should hit in the .260-270 range and is a threat to steal once on base.

8. Garrett Kennedy (C)

The senior catcher has struggled at the plate in the past and if those issues creep up again this year, expect Collins to take over the catching duties and someone else to DH. However, Kennedy does have sneaky power that comes out every once in a while and he’s incredibly solid defensively. With such a young pitching staff (which I’ll get to in a minute), it will be important to have the veteran presence of Kennedy calling games.

9. Chris Barr (1B)/Brandon Lopez (SS)

This one is a toss-up and I imagine we’ll see a lot of both these guys. Lopez started at shortstop for all of last season aside from a few weeks at the beginning when he was injured. He’s excellent defensively and the Hurricanes have a slick double play tandem with him and Ruiz up the middle of the infield. However, Lopez has a pretty weak bat, which will open up the door for redshirt sophomore Chris Barr, who played in 55 games as a freshman in 2013 but had to redshirt last year with an injury. Barr only hit .217 as a freshman, but word out of the Light is that he’s much improved and ready to break out this year.

Other Important Names

Edgar Michaelangeli can play all of the infield positions and will provide solid depth. Justin Smith is just a freshman, but the outfielder has tempting potential at the plate. Malik Rosier has plenty of talent, but football spring practices will limit him early in the season. Sebastian Diaz has a surprising amount of power for his size and should see time as a pinch hitter.

The Starting Rotation

Andy Suarez 

This is the big name and he’ll be the Friday starter this year. Suarez was far and away the best pitcher on the staff in 2014 and that’s a rotation that included a filthy amount of talent. The Nationals were unable to sign him after nabbing him in the second round and their blunder is Miami’s benefit. Suarez will have to at least duplicate his numbers from last year because the rest of the rotation could be up and down.

Thomas Woodrey

The sophomore was the steadiest pitcher in the bullpen last year outside of Bryan Garcia and he received a well-earned promotion to the rotation in 2015. Woodrey has electric stuff and confounded hitters last year in the set-up man role, but we’ll see how he adjusts to a starting role this year. While there may be some ups and downs early, there’s too much talent here for Woodrey to not be an excellent starter by midseason.

Enrique Sosa

Sosa posted an ugly 7.04 ERA last year, but markedly improved over the offseason, with some reports out of the Light saying his fastball can hit 95. While it’s concerning that Miami is throwing a guy who has such a lopsided ERA last year into the weekend rotation, I’m going to hold off concern until I see him in action. Based on the buzz coming out of camp, there may not be too much to worry about here.

Danny Garcia

Garcia picked up a few midweek starts last year and looks to be the go-to guy for midweek games in 2015. The sophomore posted a 6.30 ERA in just over 20 innings last season, so there is certainly room for improvement. Midweek games tend to be against lesser opponents (no disrespect to FAU, FGCU and Stetson, but they’re not Virginia), so even marginal improvement should produce an acceptable year for Garcia.

The Bullpen

Derik Beauprez

The huge sophomore has an MLB-ready body and great velocity, but has yet to crack the rotation when many expected him to by this point. Derik will certainly receive a few midweek starts and get a chance to work his way into the rotation by the end of the season. Here’s to hoping that he does, because aside from Suarez, he has the highest ceiling of any pitcher on this team in my book.

Bryan Garcia

Garcia was a shutdown closer as a freshman last year, posting a 1.75 ERA and locking down 15 saves. This year should be no different, as Garcia will remain the closer. Jim Morris has said that this is one of the best bullpens he has ever coached and Garcia is the biggest reason why.

Cooper Hammond

The submariner will likely move to the set-up role this season after being the first up in the Hammond-Woodrey-Garcia slam the door combo last year. The sophomore was great last year and between him and Garcia, the ‘Canes can really make it a 7-inning contest for their opponents if Miami gets out to a lead.

Jesse Lepore

The true freshman was a key pickup in Jim Morris’s latest recruiting class and he’ll see a good number of innings in 2015. Perfect Game ranked Lepore as the 210th best prospect in the country in his class.

Michael Mediavilla

Aside from having the best last name on the team, Mediavilla has good stuff too. The freshman was picked by the Reds in the 40th round and Perfect Game ranked him as the 250th best prospect in his class.

Devin Meyer

Meyer is another freshman who will see some time. He’s not as highly-touted of a recruit as Lepore and Mediavilla, but he has decent stuff and was named to the first team All-County by the Miami Herald his junior High School season.

The Schedule

Fessenden did a good job laying out the schedule (and breaking down key players Miami lost and key players that are returning) in this post earlier in the week.

Season Outlook

Based on talent, Miami is deserving of its lofty preseason rankings, which range as high as No. 9 in the country. There’s no doubt it’s going to be an exciting season at the Light. However, don’t be surprised if the team struggled a bit out of the gates. With a young rotation outside of Suarez adjusting to starting roles, there will be growing pains. The early schedule is not forgiving either, with a trip up the road to Gainesville next week and a road series at Louisville in the first full weekend of March. The order will mash and hopefully enough to make up for some early season pitching bumps. However, by midseason at the latest, this team should be rolling on all cylinders with the pitching rounding into form and the lineup still producing. I think Miami will easily finish in the Top 3 of the ACC and host a regional. Beyond that, who knows?

The quest for Omaha starts tonight.