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2018 Stanford baseball season preview: Pitching staff

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Part two of The Daily’s season preview of Stanford Baseball. This part focuses on the pitching staff.

 

In a nutshell

Stanford baseball had a magical season in head coach Mark Marquess’ final year on the Farm. After starting a rather pedestrian 19-12, the Cardinal won 21 of their next 23 games. Much of this terrific run was spurred on by great pitching. A starting rotation of Chris Castellanos, Andrew Summerville and Kris Bubic — with Erik Miller as the Tuesday starter — made the job of the offense a lot easier. The pitching staff as a whole ranked second in the Pac-12 with a 3.35 ERA.

Not only was the starting pitching solid, but the bullpen might have been even better. Colton Hock, Tyler Thorne and Will Matthiessen combined for 137.4 innings pitched and each had an ERA under 2.43.

The pitching staff was solid from ace to closer, but many pitchers were lost to the MLB Draft. Castellanos, Summerville, Hock and Thorne are all in the minor leagues. This leaves a significant gap in both the starting rotation and the bullpen.

However, there are returning and new players that can come in and replace the departing production.

New Stanford head coach David Esquer has great options to replace Castellanos and Summerville.

“Our pitching staff is going to be anchored by Kris Bubic and Tristan Beck,” Coach Esquer said. “That’s two Friday starters going back-to-back.”

Junior Tristan Beck missed all of last season due to a back injury. He had an elite freshman season, and he could have elevated last year’s squad to an even higher level. Now back with the team, Stanford has its Friday starter. Bubic, also a junior, is no slouch either. He was the best pitcher on the team last season, and he serves as a one-two punch with Beck.

Miller will be thrown in as a Sunday starter after a solid freshman season.

The biggest mystery is the bullpen. Matthiessen returns but the rest of the bullpen is still up in the air.

“To say that you are not going to miss Colton Hock and Tyler Thorne at the back end of game would be pretty ignorant,” Coach Esquer said on the bullpen after losing Hock and Thorne. “They are able to shrink the game to six and seven innings. I don’t know if we have that yet.”

Coach Esquer will have to find out quickly with the season starting on Feb. 16, but at least he can rely on the starting rotation to perform.

 

Who’s returning?

Tristan Beck (RHP): The junior out of Corona, CA was absolutely incredible during his freshman season two years ago. Beck was the third freshman to start for Stanford on Opening Day since 1988, which foreshadowed the season he would have. Beck led the Cardinal in ERA (2.48) and strikeouts (76), and he was named to many freshman All-America teams and was named to the All-Pac-12 First Team.

His freshman season generated incredible hype for his sophomore season. He was named to the Preseason First-Team All-America Perfect Game and was on the Golden Spikes Award preseason watch list. But he would never step on the mound that season as a stress fracture in his back sidelined Beck for the entire year.

Now, almost 20 months later, the right-hander is back and expected to shine again as the Friday starter in the Cardinal rotation.

Kris Bubic (LHP): After a solid freshman season, Bubic really broke out as the Cardinal’s best pitcher in 2017. As the Opening Day Starter against Cal State Fullerton, Bubic pitched six innings, struck out 10 batters, allowed only one run to score and carried a no-hitter into the 5th inning. Even though he took the loss, Bubic’s performance was hard to ignore and would set him up for a successful season. He led all Stanford starters in ERA (2.79) and strikeouts (96), and he did not allow an earned run in his 16 innings pitched.

Bubic would be an ace for any ball club, and luckily for the Cardinal, they have two in Beck and Bubic.

Erik Miller (LHP): As a freshman last season, Miller served as the midweek starter (or fourth starter) in the rotation. He ended the year with a solid 3.65 ERA and pitched 61.2 innings. In his last seven Tuesday appearances, Miller had a 2.07 ERA and Stanford finished 7-0 in those games.

Miller was also used as a relief pitcher in four appearances, which included a one-out save against USC. Miller has plenty of potential to become a top-tier starter in the Pac-12. If he can use Bubic’s sophomore season as a facsimile for his own sophomore season, then Stanford’s pitching becomes a three-headed monster.

Coach Esquer has been impressed with Miller stating, “[Miller], quite frankly, may have the most raw talent of all three of [the starting pitchers].” High praise for a rotation that includes pitching stalwarts in Beck and Bubic.

Jack Little (RHP):  Little didn’t see much action in 2017 but made four appearances in relief. He made his debut in the second game of opening weekend against Cal State Fullerton. He walked one batter but struck out three in one inning’s worth of work. He would only pitch in 2.1 innings the entire year, but he might be looking at a starting job in 2018.

“Little has emerged to be one of our top four pitchers,” Coach Esquer said. This means Little could get the Tuesday starts that Miller had last year.

Will Matthiessen (RP): Matthiessen, like Miller, was impressive as a freshman last season. In his collegiate debut against Cal State Fullerton, the right-hander retired all six batters he faced. On top of that, he didn’t allow a single run in his first five appearances. He finished the year with a 3-0 record, a 2.33 ERA and three saves.

This season he will have to fill the huge holes left by Hock and Thorne, but Matthiessen has shown already that he can produce.

 

Newcomers to watch for:

Jacob Palisch (RP): Palisch is a freshman who could see his number being called in the later innings as relief. In 2016, he was named a MaxPreps All-American and was named 2016 first-team all-district and state tournament MVP. His performance helped lead his team to a state championship in 2016. The 6-foot-5 freshman from Richardson, TX was the 66th ranked left-handed pitcher in the nation for his class. Given the question marks in the bullpen, Palisch will be given a few opportunities to stabilize the sixth through ninth innings.

Brendan Beck (RP): Beck, the younger brother of Tristan Beck, is another freshman looking at a crack at a substantial bullpen role. Beck can play in the infield (he played shortstop in high school) and can pitch. He set a school-record eight saves with a 0.35 ERA as a senior. Although Beck may ultimately play the middle infield for the Cardinal, Coach Esquer will gave Beck chances to relieve the starters.

 

Key Departures:

Chris Castellanos (LHP): Castellanos was a dependable workhorse for the Cardinal in his time on the Farm. His 98.1 innings pitched last season ranked seventh in the Pac-12. You always knew what you were going to get when Castellanos took the mound: six to seven innings of solid pitching. He finished his final season with a career-best 3.28 ERA, 56 strikeouts and two complete games.

Castellanos is now in the minor league system of the Seattle Mariners after being drafted in the 33rd round of the 2017 MLB Draft. He was surprisingly called to AAA straight from Class-A Short.

Andrew Summerville (LHP): Summerville, most recognizable as the pitcher with glasses, has tremendous talent as a left hander. In his freshman and sophomore seasons, he combined for a 3.07 ERA. His junior season started just as promising, with a Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week after his performance against Kansas. However, he started to give up too many hits towards the end of the year which shot his ERA to 4.10.

Although he didn’t have the season many expected, the lefty is still talented and was drafted in the 12th round by the St. Louis Cardinals. In 60.1 innings in Class-A Short, Summerville had a 1.64 ERA and 52 strikeouts. Maybe a sign of things to come for Summerville?

Colton Hock (RP): Hock was a sensational closer for the Cardinal last season. His school-record 16 saves led the nation and his 2.08 ERA led the team. He only blew two save opportunities, so the Cardinal only needed to get the ball to Hock in the 7th with a lead, and Hock could get the win.

Given his performance and accolades, Hock was drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 MLB Draft to the Miami Marlins.

Tyler Thorne (RP): Hock’s bullpen mate, Thorne was also exceptional in the later innings for Stanford. His 2.42 ERA was third on the team only to Hock and Matthiessen. However, Thorne pitched more innings (52.0) than Hock (47.2) and Matthiessen (38.2). He served sometimes as the long reliever when Miller pitched during the week.

He went undrafted but signed on as a free agent to the Milwaukee Brewers.

 

Contact Jose Saldana at jsaldana ‘at’ stanford.edu.