The Miami Hurricanes Baseball team enters 2018 looking to avoid the disappointment of last season. In 2017 the Hurricanes went 31-27 (16-13 ACC) and lost the longest continuous streak of NCAA tournament appearances. However, the Canes finished last season extremely strong, and an argument could be very easily made that the ‘Canes should have been a part of the NCAA Tournament field, however last season is last season, and Miami fans should have much to look forward to in 2018.
So far, Miami has been ranked in the Top 20 of two major Collegiate Baseball Polls. The Hurricanes came in at No.20 in Collegiate Baseball Newspaper’s 2018 preseason poll, and just yesterday, the ‘Canes came in at No.9 in Perfect Game’s preseason poll.
The ‘Canes also signed one of America’s top recruiting classes. While in many years previously Miami signed a top recruiting class only to have it get shredded by the draft, much of Miami’s class made it to campus. Alex Toral, the No.1 First Baseman prospect in the country and No.20 prospect overall according to Perfect Game, made it all the way to Coral Gables, and will almost certainly lock up the first base position for the next three to four years. In addition, Toral’s teammate from Archbishop Mccarthy, Daniel Federman, comes to campus as a solid pitching prospect. However, Federman was not the only impressive pitcher Miami would get on campus this cycle, Christopher McMahon, the nation’s No.52 overall player, also has his talents on campus in Coral Gables. McMahon has a 95mph fastball, but needs to improve his offspeed game. In addition to adding those aforementioned pitchers and Alex Toral, the Hurricanes also solidified the opposite corner of the diamond, signing the nation’s No.121 player and 6th best third baseman Ray Gil. Gil was a standout in high school, and he has been touted as one of the best freshman third basemen to make it to a college campus anywhere in the nation. We’ll have more on all the rest of the newcomers in pieces coming up, but Miami signed one of the best recruiting classes that made it to campus in years.
In addition to the new faces on the roster, Miami returns a plethora of talent from the 2017 team. Sophomore standout Greg Veliz will look to make a permanent move to the weekend rotation after a freshman season that saw him emerge as a potentially dominant pitcher in the years to come. Veliz can also swing the bat very well, but in the second half of last season he was only a pitcher, so expect that to continue this season, especially if Veliz is a member of the weekend rotation. However, one cannot bring up the Miami Hurricanes pitching staff without mentioning Jeb Bargfeldt. Last season Jeb was a very, very bright spot in a disappointing season, he earned All-ACC Second Team Honors, and pitched his way to a 7-3 record and 2.28 ERA. Bargfeldt will almost certainly begin the season as the Hurricanes ace, and we should all be looking forward to every time he takes the mound in his senior season. While Bargfeldt and Veliz appear to have their spots in the rotation effectively secured, there is considerable opportunity elsewhere. With the departure of Jesse Lepore to the MLB after last season, there as at least one hole in the rotation, and if senior Michael Mediavilla cannot pitch well enough to secure his spot as either the Sunday starter or the mid-week starter, there may be two new starting pitchers for the University of Miami. Besides Mediavilla, there are a few strong contenders for the rotation spots. Sophomore Evan McKendry had a strong freshman season, and finished the year with 7 starts and a 4.10 ERA. In addition to McKendry as a known collegiate commodity, several of the freshman pitchers could make pushes for starting jobs, however I expect Mediavilla and McKendry to fill out the rotation and mid-week slots at the start of the season.
In addition to the rotation, Miami should have one of the strongest bullpens in the nation. The duo of Andrew Cabezas and Frankie Bartow should be one of the most dominant set-up and closer combinations in the entire country, and sophomore Albert Maury Jr. made strides last season and will look to be an important part of the bullpen in the coming year. In addition, Cooper Hammond, a reliever who put together spectacular freshman and sophomore campaigns in 2014 and 2015, will now be two years removed from a season ending injury that he suffered in 2016. Hammond pitched very few innings in 2017, with most believing it was a result of the injury, but in 2018 he will look to make a dominant comeback.
As strong as the pitching staff for the Hurricanes is, they will need more solidified run support in 2018 if Miami wants any chance at a College World Series appearance. This is where many of the freshman position players come in. Alex Toral was dominant at the plate in high school, and will look to find a power stroke in college similar to the one that led him to so much success in high school. The aforementioned Ray Gil will look to solidify the other side of the diamond in his freshman season, as he brings immense batting talent along with Toral. Veteran player Romy Gonzalez will look to find the same success he had in his spectacular campaign last season, as he was a prolific bat and reliable fielder who started every game for Miami in 2017. Miami will also look to improve in the outfield, as the addition of Florida transfer Danny Reyes, who had a spectacular 2016 SEC Tournament, will shore up the outfield’s offensive production in the wake of the departure of Carl Chester. Catcher Michael Amditis returns for the Hurricanes this season after suffering a gruesome injury at the start of last season. Amditis should provide an immediate offensive and defensive improvement behind the plate, and he has even been favorably compared to Miami standout Zack Collins defensively.
Miami will face one of the toughest schedules in the nation, as they face off against the defending national champions, the Florida Gators. Miami also competes in one of the top conferences in America in the ACC, and will find little rest in the mid-week series as they face several exciting and young up and coming programs throughout the season, such as FIU, FAU, UCF, and FGCU.
Miami will need its’ talent and skill to be on display all season to be successful against the schedule they face, and while the ‘Canes have the talent to make a deep run in the postseason this year, they must learn from last year’s mistakes and ensure that they put effort and dedication into every play on the diamond all season.
This season also has the potential to be very special as it is the last season that we will see Jim Morris as the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes. I have every confidence that this will only serve to motivate the team more throughout the season, and I think its’ safe to have an immensely optimistic outlook on the Hurricanes season this year.
State of the U will have more preseason baseball coverage throughout the coming weeks, including specifics on almost everything mentioned in this preview, so come right back here for any and all coverage of Miami baseball, and...