Virginia's 2015 Baseball season kicks off today in a road tilt at ECU. In order to get a better feel on some of the incoming first years and the overall outlook for the Hoos, we reached out to Kendall Rogers of D1Baseball.com, who have the Cavaliers at No.3 in their preseason rankings.
D1Baseball, recently relaunched in January 2015, features analysis and contributions from Rogers and other NCAA Baseball experts such as Aaron Fitt, Mark Etheridge, Shotgun Spratling, Dustin McComas, Michael Baumann, and Kyle Peterson. Make sure to check out their work, as well as Kendall's answers below.
STL: We expect big things from Adam Haseley (1st year, Windemere, FL), but what other 1st years (Freshmen) do you think could have a significant impact on this team?
KR: In terms of immediate impact guys, I would keep a close eye on a few others, including fellow OF Pavin Smith and versatile Ernie Clement. Clement might start the year at DH because of John LaPrise at second, but he’s got a lot of upside. Pavin is a really versatile guy who can help UVA in a variety of ways as well.
STL: What do you like about this first year class for Virginia? How do they fit into Coach O'Connor's needs for this season?
KR: Obviously, with some of the offensive departures from last year, some of these guys are expected to grow up quick going into the 2015 campaign. I think this crop will take their lumps, as any group of freshmen do, but overall, these are advanced guys with really good skill sets.
STL: Some think the offense underperformed a bit at times last year, and with the loss of so much talent and Joe McCarthy for 12 weeks, can the offense produce enough to keep UVa at the top of the ACC, or will strong pitching from the likes of Nate Kirby be enough?
KR: I think UVA could send up a bunch of .245 hitters the first weeks of the season and still have a terrific record. I think the pitching staff is that good with Kirby, Waddell, who’s vastly underrated, Sborz, Jones, and several others. As with top-ranked Vanderbilt (we have UVa. No. 2), the Cavaliers just have a wealth of premium arms. With that said, this lineup is going to have to get into a groove going into conference play, and a lot of that rests on La Prise and the duo of Robbie Coman and Danny Pinero, who Coach O’Connor feels could be ready to take a step forward from an offensive perspective this season.
STL: Connor Jones was a major recruit coming into last season, and put up some big numbers, what do you think his ceiling is for this season as a part of the weekend rotation?
KR: I think Connor got a little bit of a rude awakening last year when he didn’t have his # called in big situations down the stretch. I have zero doubt that played to his favor in the offseason and gave him some serious motivation. Jones has some big-time stuff. I saw him at FSU at 93-94-95 with his FB with electric stuff, but there also were times when he kind of struggled with his command. If he gets his command fixed, which I have no doubt he will under Karl Kuhn, he will be a beast.
STL: UVa prides itself on pitching and defense, do you think the new ball will have a significant impact on the Cavaliers' style of play?
KR: Not at all. The new ball will have more drag (length) on fly balls to the warning track, but the exit velocity change will be minimal if any, so the infield will be as is. I expect Pinero to be another very very good middle infielder.
STL: What do you expect from Virginia's season? Do you see them back in the College World Series this year?
KR: Absolutely see them back in the College World Series, and could easily see them competing.
Thanks for the time and the answers, Kendall!