Miami Hurricanes Baseball: 2016 Miami Hurricanes Baseball Season Preview

Jun 15, 2015; Omaha, NE, USA; The Miami Hurricanes team cheer a military family in pregame activities before the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the 2015 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 15, 2015; Omaha, NE, USA; The Miami Hurricanes team cheer a military family in pregame activities before the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the 2015 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports /

A season ago, the Miami Hurricanes got their first taste of Omaha since 2008, and while the experience was one that will last with each player and coach forever, it didn’t end how they envisioned it. With an experienced core returning and that College World Series experience now under their belt, this year’s Canes are hoping to finish the job.

Coming into the year, Jim Morris’s squad is a consensus Top 10 team and has been ranked as high as No. 6 in some national polls. If the Hurricanes hope to stay in that top tier of teams though, they’ll certainly have to earn it as they’ll take on the top-ranked Florida Gators in the non-conference and then face brutal matchups weekend after weekend in the ACC. Besides the fact the conference has six teams ranked in’s Preseason Top 25 (Louisville, Miami, NC State, Virginia, UNC and Florida St.), teams like Notre Dame and Georgia Tech are also projected as teams that can make the field of 64.

Even with the Canes avoiding another preseason Top 10 team in NC State, Miami will play a total of 15 games against teams ranked in’s Preseason Top 25. While that schedule will certainly provide the Hurricanes with no time to take a breath during the season, their RPI should once again be near the top in the country which will help them tremendously when it comes time to select the Top 8 seeds.

Losing the likes of Andy Suarez, David Thompson and George Iskendarian will definitely hurt, but with the experience this team brings back and the sprinkling of fresh talent around the diamond, this Miami team has every chance to get one of those Top 8 seeds and make it back to Omaha for the second consecutive season.

With Opening Day against Rutgers upcoming on Friday, we take an in-depth look at the Miami offense, their starting rotation and their bullpen.


As we discussed above, the Hurricanes lost a big portion of their explosive offense from last season, but the losses don’t just include Thompson and Iskenderian. While they didn’t get much credit, Ricky Eusebio and Garrett Kennedy had career years in their final season in Coral Gables as they both became integral parts of the lineup. Now, Miami has to find guys to step into those holes.

At the top of the lineup is ultra-promising sophomore Carl Chester who struggled to establish himself in his first year with the Canes. Last year’s leadoff guy, Ricky Eusebio, was so vital because of the way he set the table for the big boppers with an on-base percentage of .454 that was second on the team. If Chester can focus on putting the ball in play more often to utilize his blazing speed like Eusebio did, the sophomore could turn into one of the top outfielders in the ACC.

“We’ve got a guy with a world of potential in Carl Chester,” Head Coach Jim Morris said. “He can really run, he’s a strong guy and this year he’s just got to make more contact and hit line drives. His role is going to be like Ricky [Eusebio’s] was. Take pitches for the team, get on base any way he can.”

Behind Chester, we’ll likely see first baseman Chris Barr occupying the two-hole as he did very effectively a season ago. His role is perhaps one of the most important for this Miami team as he not only acts as the man to move the leadoff guy in scoring position, but also as the man to get on-base and start a rally before the likes of Collins and Abreu step to the plate.

Speaking of Collins, Miami’s best returning hitter has garnered preseason awards from every national publication and will look to build off his fantastic season from a year ago. The junior who had split time as the designated hitter and catcher while Garrett Kennedy resided in Coral Gables will now be behind the plate full-time. While catching more will take a heavier toll on his legs, I fully expect Collins to be just as good if not better than last season. The key for the junior from Pembroke Pines, Fla. will be to avoid a slow start early-on which has plagued him in both years in Coral Gables.

Protecting Collins in the lineup will be two junior outfielders in Jacob Heyward and Willie Abreu. Heyward was the hero for the Canes in Omaha last year as he hit .455, smacked a walk-off single against Arkansas and was named to the 2015 College World Series All-Tournament team.

Abreu was overshadowed last year by the performances of others including Heyward, but the “Hialeah Hero” had a solid season in his own right. While he hasn’t hit over .300 yet in his time in Coral Gables, I think his experience will be crucial this season and we’ll find him hitting above .300 come May.

The top five of the order seems set for this team, but from the six to nine spot, Coach Morris and his staff will hope they can get consistent production from guys who have a few questions to answer coming into this year.

One of those players is shortstop Brandon Lopez who for the second straight year will begin the season suspended. As of now, the suspension sits at just six games, but if the senior has further issues, that’ll be just another hole Morris will have to fill. While he’s out, Johnny Ruiz who is slotted to start at second base will move over to shortstop and junior college transfer Randy Batista could slide in at second. The junior Batista comes from Indian River State College, the same junior college George Iskenderian attended before coming to Coral Gables.

Romy Gonzalez, who has received high praise from Coach Jim Morris will be the only freshman starting as he’ll begin the year at third base. Behind Gonzalez or with him towards the bottom of the order will likely be Edgar Michelangeli as the designated hitter and Johnny Ruiz at second base.

It’s a strong lineup that will have to prove it can recover from the losses of some of the nation’s best hitters last season. I would be surprised to see this offense produce the same ridiculous numbers they finished with a season ago, but the Canes will certainly be a formidable lineup to face each and every game.

Projected Starting Lineup

1. CF – Carl Chester, So. (.267 avg/5 HR/25 RBI)

2. 1B – Chris Barr, Jr. (.306 avg/1 HR/32 RBI)

3. C- Zack Collins, Jr. (.302 avg/15 HR/70 RBI)

4. LF – Jacob Heyward, Jr. (.327 avg/4 HR/24 RBI)

5. RF – Willie Abreu, Jr. (.288 avg/6 HR/47 RBI)

6. SS – Brandon Lopez, Sr. (.303 avg/0 HR/ 23 RBI)

7. 3B – Romy Gonzalez, Fr. (Miami, Fla. / American Senior HS)

8. DH – Edgar Michelangeli, Jr. (.231 avg/0 HR/6 RBI)

9, 2B – Johnny Ruiz, Jr. (.315 avg/0 HR/19 RBI)

Starting Pitching

The offense garnered all of the attention and plaudits for the Miami Hurricanes last season, but this year that may transition to the starting pitching.

While the rotation did lose its ace Andy Suarez to the San Francisco Giants, the whole weekend rotation are returning pitchers from last year’s squad and look like a solid group heading into the season.

Friday night starter Thomas Woodrey was in the weekend rotation a season ago and will look to complete his journey from a setup man in the bullpen to the No. 1 starter. It’s a well-deserved honor for the left-hander who had the lowest ERA and lowest average against of any starter last season. Woodrey won’t pile up the strikeouts, but the southpaw has the ability to keep hitters off-balance and draw weak contact from hitters that allows him to pitch deep into games.

Following in the the same path as Woodrey is the Saturday starter for this season, Michael Mediavilla. The 2015 freshman All-American was dominant in his role setting up Bryan Garcia last season as he allowed just nine earned runs in 41.2 innings pitched. In contrast to Woodrey, Mediavilla is a power pitcher that overwhelms hitters and relies heavily on strikeouts. It’ll be interesting to see if the sophomore can translate that into the extended starting role, but if he can, he might become their most dominant starter.

“He’s made it impossible for us to leave him in the bullpen,” Morris said of Mediavilla. “We’d love to have him in the bullpen, he was a freshman All-American out there, but he’s been so good that we just have to him in the rotation.”

Behind Mediavilla will be another left-hander in junior Danny Garcia who moves up from his role as the midweek starter a season ago. In that role, Garcia had solid numbers with a 7-1 record and 3.69 ERA, but the junior did have the highest average against of any starter at .275.

Enrique Sosa, who was slated to at least compete for a starting slot in the rotation, was ruled out indefinitely Tuesday due to a tear in his pitching shoulder. Sosa might not have made the weekend rotation anyways, but his potential as a midweek starter or an experienced arm out of the bullpen will be missed.

With Sosa out, the door was opened for freshman Andrew Cabezas to grab the midweek spot and he did just that. It hasn’t been confirmed, but the praise from Coach Morris has been quite flattering and he looks to have the job.

“We felt [Cabezas] was the best pitcher in Dade and Broward County last year,” Morris said of the freshman from Coral Gables Senior High. “He didn’t give up a run all fall and we expect him to win a lot of games for us.”

With the addition of Cabezas and Mediavilla into the rotation, this group has a chance to be the unit this team really relies upon. Of course it hurt to lose last year’s ace in Suarez, but with the workhorse in Woodrey leading the way and some promising arms behind him, the pitching rotation has a chance to be even better than last year.

Projected Starting Rotation

Friday Starter – LHP Thomas Woodrey, Sr. (7-2, 2.88 ERA, 103 IP)

Saturday Starter – LHP Michael Mediavilla, So. (3-2, 1.94 ERA, 41.2 IP)

Sunday Starter – LHP Danny Garcia, Jr. (7-1, 3.69 ERA, 83 IP)

Midweek Starter – RHP Andrew Cabezas, Fr. (Miami Gardens, Fla. / Coral Gables Senior HS)


When you play the Miami Hurricanes this season you better be ahead after seven innings because if not, you’re going to have a hard time coming back. The reason for that you ask? Bryan Garcia and Cooper Hammond.

Garcia, the team’s closer over the last two years has a combined 25 saves in his time at Miami and has been not just one of the most dominant relievers in the ACC, but also in the country. His fastball overwhelms hitters late in the game and when you see No. 19 coming into the game, that’s usually not a good sign.

Before No. 19 though, you’ve also got to deal with the crafty submariner, Cooper Hammond. The right-handed junior has been one of Miami’s most reliable relievers in his time in Coral Gables with two seasons of five wins as well as ERA’s below 2.30. Even without a lefty in the bullpen that will get many innings, Hammond’s pitching style provides a matchup problem for hitters. When you combine him with Garcia, it’s a deadly combination.

Behind those two we’ll likely see Jesse Lepore or Andrew Cabezas depending on who gets the midweek starting spot. Lepore has electric stuff and after last season when he finished with a 1.94 ERA, the sophomore is poised for big things.

After Lepore, the Miami bullpen is filled with unknowns. Almost the entire bullpen from last year besides the three just mentioned are gone and Morris will have to rely on newcomers to get the job done. The likes of Frankie Bartow, Isiah Musa and Ryan Guerra have a chance at making an impact out of the bullpen this year, but we’ll see who takes advantage of their opportunity and steps into a major role.

The back end for this team is set, there’s no doubt about that, but if the Canes can fill in those gaps before those two, this bullpen is going to shorten a lot of games.

Projected Bullpen

Closer – RHP Bryan Garcia, Jr. (6-2, 2.50 ERA, 10 saves)

Setup – RHP Cooper Hammond, Jr. (5-1, 2.25 ERA, 40 IP)

Middle Relievers – RHP, Jesse Lepore, So., RHP Frankie Bartow, Fr., Isiah Musa, Fr.


This team certainly expects to get to Omaha, but as their drought showed before last year, that can be pretty tough. At the least I would expect somewhere in between 45-50 wins this season and a Super Regional appearance. This team certainly has the potential to make it to the College World Series, but Mediavilla and Danny Garcia have to prove they can be reliable weekend starters.

The offense won’t be as great as last year, but it’ll be solid and the bullpen needs some of the newcomers to fill the gaps by the losses of some key contributors last season. If all of that comes together, this team can make it to Omaha, but there are certainly a lot of questions that need to be answered early on.

The Hurricanes finally got a taste of Omaha a season ago and with that lure of getting back to TD Ameritrade Park swinging in front of them, this Miami team will certainly be hungry for another taste.