State of the U Hurricanes Baseball Roundtable

Ale Narciso/State of the U

Looking at the season as a whole and analyzing what went right and what went wrong in 2014 for the UM Baseball Team.

The Hurricanes ended up with a record of 44-19 but they failed to get out of the regional round for a fourth consecutive year.  Additionally, Miami hasn’t been to the CWS since 2008.

Along the way there was a 14 game winning streak and an ACC Best Regular Season conference record of 24-6.

So was the season a success??

We break it all down for you today with myself acting as moderator, and being joined by SOTU panelists and baseball gurus Cam Underwood, Scott Salomon, Ale Narciso, and Brian Goins.

Jerry: Let's get started on a good note, who do each of you feel is the team MVP?

Scott: Chris Diaz.

Cam: I know that Tyler Palmer won the award given by the coaches, but I have to go with Dale Carey. He set the tone at the top of the lineup all season long, and had some AMAZING catches out in Center Field. In pretty much every game during the winning streak, Carey was making a play with his glove, bat, or legs. Easily my team MVP this year.

Ale: I'd give my MVP award to the entire pitching staff. Brad Radziewski, Chris Diaz, Javi Salas and Andrew Suarez were the reason why this team went as far as it did. Throughout the year the Canes had an undefeated pitcher, a perfect game, the welcoming of arguably the best young closer in baseball (Bryan Garcia) and many more positives. They outdid themselves in the playoffs...unfortunately the hitters didn't help them.

Brian: While Tyler Palmer was voted the MVP of the team and he played exceptionally year-round, I believe the MVP honors has to go to the starting rotation -- more specifically, Chris Diaz. Sure he may pitch once every five days, but when he's out there, you knew the team had a chance to win. A 9-1 record and first-team All-America honors are nothing short of the brilliant season he put up. Even though Jim Morris won't recognize it, he was Miami's ace and did everything he could do give Miami the chance to win ballgames.

Jerry: For me it is a toss up between Diaz, who went 9-1 with a 2.45 ERA and Earned ACC Pitcher of the Year and freshman Zack Collins who hit 298 with 11 dingers.  Diaz was clearly the ace and the stopper, but the team took off when Collins broke out of an early slump and got red hot mid season.

Jerry: Sticking with the positive theme, what was the highlight of the season?

Cam: The play of the freshmen. Abreu. Collins. Garcia. Beauprez. Hammond. Ruiz. Heyward. Just a ton of talent and they were integral to the success we had this year. They are the embodiment of the infusion of talent we had been sorely lacking and pining for over the past few years. Their play, which matched their reported talent, was the highlight of the season to me.

Ale: Without a doubt it was Javi Salas' perfect game. It was one of the most phenomenal experiences I've ever been a part of. The fact that a kid born and raised in Miami, in his senior year, with his younger brother calling the game for the local radio station, threw a perfect game in front of the home crowd....you couldn't write a better script.

Brian: Without a doubt, it's the fact this team was able to re-surge from a tenth place ACC start though 25 games all the way into a first place finish this season, getting crowned ACC Regular Season Champions. The turnaround was simply astounding. They were 24-6 in ACC play, one win shy from setting the ACC record for most ACC wins. They ended up winning eight straight series -- seven versus ACC competition. And to be able to clinch the title in a series versus North Carolina, one that featured a 16-inning win, made this season special, regardless of how Miami fared in the postseason.

Jerry: Moving on to a less pleasant subject, what was the most disappointing aspect of this season & what does the team need to do overall to make it back to Omaha?

Cam:  Losing in Regionals. It would be one thing if we were barely above .500 as in years past. But, to be on the cusp of a top 8 National Seed, and lose in Regionals, in our own park, hurts. To make it back to Omaha, we have to get more consistent and timely hitting. The pitching staff was lights out (ERA just under 2 in the post season) but the bats were terrible (average under .200 for the postseason). Hopefully the pitching can remain a strength, but the hitting has to improve to be a factor.

Ale: Getting shutout TWICE IN ONE WEEKEND by Texas Tech was the low point of the year, and it came at the worst time. Everything was either a fly ball, ground out, or double play. All year long guys like Zach Collins and Dale Carey came through at the plate, until the end of the season when the bats went stagnant. CAPITALIZING on runners in scoring position will be the key to Omaha next year.

Brian: The team's inability to hit consistently this postseason. That's probably going to be everyone's take from this recent postseason trip and it should be for good reason. We wasted a couple of stellar pitching performances just because we merely put up anything greater than two runs outside of the 10-0 Bethune-Cookman elimination win. From the ACC Tournament into Regionals, Miami had so many chances to pull themselves within reach or take a lead when they had runners on base. And too often, our plate appearances with those runners in scoring position wounded up into double plays or popups, trying too hard to get the extra base-hit. We just couldn't do the little things: Moving runners over, laying down sacrifice/squeeze bunts, or even driving home a run with a sacrifice fly. Too many golden opportunities were lost, and while great pitching and defense may win ballgames in the grand scheme of things, the game is still about who scores the most runs. And Miami just faltered right when it needed its production.

In order for the Hurricanes to make it back into Omaha, they first and foremost have to stay healthy. But next year's squad should look even more promising in terms of hitting and defense. Pitching will be the biggest question mark unfortunately, and we'll might end up having to toss two freshmen into the starting rotation. Lookout for names like: outfielders Carl Chester and Justin Smith, and pitchers: Jesse Lepore and Kevin Pimentel.

Jerry: Please grade the coaching performance of Jim Morris (A-F scale) and explain your grade in detail?


Scott: Part of a coach's job is to motivate his players.  I did not see fire in the eyes of the players.  Dale Carey looked like he was going through the motions.  I will give Morris an F every season that he does not take the team to Omaha.  This team should settle for nothing less.  Our baseball program was never mediocre and that is what it is now.  With the pitching that we had this season and in the regional, we should be playing this weekend.

Cam: B+. Balancing all that young talent with the veterans is no easy task. And, players such as Carey, Palmer, Collins (who started the year hitting under .100 through 20 games), and Suarez showed great improvement. The end result isn't what we wanted, but the coaching job this season was very, very good.


Jerry: I am going to hedge here and give Morris a C.  I don't like how the team started or finished, but winning 14 straight overall at one point, and winning 15 straight on the road in the ACC at another, shows the man has the capability to prepare the kids.  However Morris needs to find the answer to their post season woes at some point. The team did look to be some kind of strange mix of unfocused and/or fatigued at season's end.


Jerry: Which players do you think will return and contribute the most to next season's team?


Cam: Abreu, Beauprez, Collins, Garcia, and Ruiz. All 5 freshmen will be integral to the team. Ruiz showed great development in the post-season, where he was our leading hitter. Abreu and Collins have future MLB talent, and both were fixtures in the middle of the lineup all season long. Beauprez started the season finale, and showed the talent to move up to weekend starter next year. Garcia, like Collins, was a Freshman All-American. That will be the core moving forward.

Ale: Andy Suarez and Brad Radziewski. These two will try to fight for one last shot at Omaha.

Brian: At least five starters will be selected within the first 10 rounds of the MLB Draft this week (June 5-7). The biggest loss(es) will be to the starting rotation. All three starters of Andrew Suarez, Bryan Radziewski and Chris Diaz will more than likely be in minor league camp by the time next spring comes around. All three of them have shown they are healthy now and will be in MLB rotations within the coming years. As for the graduating class, seniors Dale Carey, Tyler Palmer and Javi Salas will also find themselves in a major league ballclub's farm system after Saturday. The immediate future of this team looks promising regardless. We have several big power arms coming in: Kevin Pimentel and Jesse Lepore. And the minute outfielder Justin Smith walks on campus, he becomes the best player in the class. If Canes fans loved Dale Carey, he's him but with more power and less of a personality. Jacob Heyward -- younger brother of Atlanta Braves outfielder Jason Heyward -- will replace Tyler Palmer. Thompson will end up winding back at third base. Brandon Lopez showed he was solid at shortstop. Johnny Ruiz may end up at second base. However, first base will be a position that will garner a lot of competition. It's wide-open. Incoming freshmen, Brian Gonzalez from Archbishop McCarthy, Nick Bottari from Monteverde Academy, and Michael Mediavilla from Mater Academy all have the chance to win the starting job. While the main concern is going to be pitching, Morris and Gino have talented kids coming in, but it might take two years before the team replaces some of the pieces it'll inevitably lose.


Jerry: Miami finished the season with a sparkling 2.94 team ERA but hit just 257 as a team with only Dale Carey hitting over 300 (304).   Can they win in the postseason with this pitching/defense emphasis  or must they improve their hitting to make it further?


Cam:  Pitching and defense keep you in games, but you have to score runs to win. We tried the super small ball/win every game 2-1 approach this postseason, and you see what it got us. As a great SportsCenter commercial once said: "Chicks dig the long ball." I believe Canes fans would enjoy seeing a few more of them in the future as well.

Ale: Clearly they'll need to hit the ball better as it was shown in the last few games of the season. The name of the game is scoring more runs than the other team. If you can't do that, then being a great team in baseball is out of the question.

Jerry: I'm more a novice when it comes to College Baseball, but I didn't see a lot of teams with huge power numbers this season.  The best teams on any level have line drive hitters and are selective at the plate. Perhaps taking a more disciplined approach and trying for a higher OBP would be a formula/strategy for future success. They key is not to lose too much aggression while taking this approach.



Jerry: Do you like the current structure of College Baseball's Postseason?  (four tiers of competition, each contested on a double-elimination basis) If not how would you improve it?


Scott:  I would go back to the eight six team regionals, played over Memorial Day weekend, with each regional winner advancing to Omaha.  That was how they had it in the 80's and 90's.  I would eliminate the Super Regionals.

Ale: I like it. It's fun, and double elimination proves which is the better team in each tournament.


Jerry: I don't know that I have a better solution in mind, but I did find it slightly disturbing that student athletes were playing 2 games in one day/spending 12 + hours at the ball park on some days.



Jerry: Any additional closing thoughts?

Scott: I think that Miami is becoming irrelevant in college baseball and it saddens me to say that.  I grew up watching the great teams of the 80s and the 90s and watching The Wizard perform his magic.  Morris has no luster.  He has no magic in his bag.  I think it is time for a coaching change.

Cam: This was a very good season that ended far too soon and in horrible fashion. The good of the season and the positive achievements will be seen in time. But, for now, I can only look at this season and feel disappointed by the result.

Brian:  I got this information from a reader (I checked the source of the information and it is correct) and I'd like to give him credit (NJtoFlacane):

The MLB Draft begins tonight at 7pm, and here's a few pointers StateOfTheU would like for you to know before heading in:

  • If you aren't familiar with how the new MLB allocation rules work, if a team drafts a player and does not wind up signing them because they a) either go to college or b) return to college, that slot amount is taken out of their total draft allotment and cannot be used on another pick. It was set-up to stop MLB clubs from drafting kids they weren't going to sign, only to waste a draft pick yet still be able to reallocate that money to sign the rest of their picks to over slot bonuses. Now, not the case anymore.

    (More info here:
    http://www.baseballamerica.com/draft/2014-draft-assigned-pick-values-for-top-10-rounds)

  • While Jim Morris has told me in person that all of his recruits he hopes to bring in for the spring are eligible for the draft and may sign if they're swayed to. He stated it as a "lottery and unpredictable" for most university ball clubs. However, the process of retaining a recruit has become easier if they have already signed their Letters Of Intent (LOI) prior to the date of the draft. In all likelihood, those kids are going to college and as a result won't be drafted high since MLB clubs can't afford to waste picks and money on kids that aren't really able to be signed. Those are the players that end up falling out of their projected range.

  • Jim Morris has finally figured out a recruiting strategy that doesn't involve the need to spend time and money to recruit potential first rounders that won't make it onto campus, and has shifted his priority to recruiting HS players who will go later and are more inclined on going to college. Those players are candidates to fall where the slot bonus is low and MLB clubs won't have to risk much to draft a kid that won't sign. Thus, those recruits often stay until their junior seasons when they're re-eligible for draft. By then, those recruits will have shown scouts what they need in order to raise their draft status and get a higher signing bonus.

Jerry: Despite the extremely disappointing end, I enjoyed this season immensely.  I never followed College Baseball with quite the passion as I did this year. I think I am hooked. I hope that we at State of the U can continue to bring the fans outstanding stories and even expand our coverage of this great, tradition rich program.

Thanks to Brian, Ale, Scott, and Cam were joining me today in this discussion.  We hope everyone enjoyed reading, and we look forward to continued in depth 'Canes Baseball coverage in the future.

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