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Previewing the 2019 Miami Hurricanes Baseball Pitching Staff

A talented group of arms will hope to lead Miami to success in 2019.

Tony Capobianco/State of The U

Pitching Coach and Associate Head Coach J.D. Arteaga will have a talented group of arms to work with in the 2019 season. Over the last several years the Hurricanes pitchers have become the lone bright spots in some grim seasons. With a balance of proven experience and young talent Miami should be poised to have a fantastic 2019 on the mound.

The Hurricanes will be forced to replace two-year ace Jeb Bargfeldt, closer Frankie Bartow, starter/set-up man Andrew Cabezas, talented starter Michael Mediavilla, and set-up man Cooper Hammond after all of them departed or graduated after the 2018 season. It will involve both more experienced players moving into more prominent roles, and will require new talent and inexperienced players seeing a significant amount of innings for the first time in their careers.

The Starting Rotation

The Hurricanes return three pitchers who were members of last years starting rotation at some point, along with Daniel Federman, who started a few times in 2018 but should see bullpen work in the upcoming season. The 2019 starting rotation is not officially released, but here’s how it’s projected to line-up against Rutgers in the first series of the year based off of last year’s roles.

Friday Starter: Evan McKendry

2018 Statistics: 7-6, 3.52 ERA, 87.0 IP, 114 K, 33 BB, .239 BAA

2018 Third Team All-ACC

Evan McKendry has the makeup of a great ace for the Miami Hurricanes pitching staff. In 2018 the junior struck out 114 batters, the first 100 strikeout season for a Hurricanes pitcher since 2014. Over the 2018 season McKendry earned three ACC Pitcher of the Week awards, along with gaining recognition as one of the ACC’s finest young arms. He’s proven against the toughest of competition, pitching six shutout innings against Florida in 2018, and is a highly talented rock of this Hurricanes pitching staff.

Expect McKendry to anchor down the weekend rotation in 2019. With a strong season McKendry can pitch himself into the second day of the 2019 draft, and with an All-ACC Third Team honor already under his belt, he’ll look to grow in the upcoming season.

Saturday Starter: Greg Veliz

2018 Statistics: 0-1, 3.12 ERA, 17.1 IP, 26 K, 14 BB, .188 BAA

Greg Veliz has had an outstanding career so far at Miami. In 2017 he was an important contributor as a mid-week starter initially, eventually making a few strong starts in ACC play as well. In 2018 Veliz seemed poised for a breakout year; he made a strong start, that was let down by defense, against Florida, but was injured for almost the entire second half of the season. However, Veliz has returned to health, and made a strong appearance in Miami’s exhibition game against FAU. With an elite fastball, he should be an exciting member of Miami’s starting rotation.

Greg Veliz can be a breakout star for the Hurricanes in 2019. Possessing a strong fastball and good physical makeup, if he can live up to the potential that he has had for several years he could be yet another draft departure next summer.

Sunday Starter: Chris McMahon

2018 Statistics: 1-1, 4.44 ERA, 26.1 IP, 18 K, 9 BB, .248 BAA

There’s a few options Miami can look to for a Sunday starter, but with his prior experience as the mid-week starter once healthy last season, it seems logical for McMahon to get the call as the final member of the Hurricanes starting rotation in the 2019 season. McMahon saw limited action last year, as he was constantly restrained in his pitch count after recovering from an injury that saw him miss nearly the entire first half off the season. McMahon showed flashes of dominance in 2018, specifically in one game against a talented FGCU team in which the righty delivered eight frames of one-run baseball to earn his first collegiate win. Becoming a permanent member of the weekend rotation would be a big step for McMahon, but he has the talent to make that stride in 2019.

Chris McMahon could be a strong Sunday starter for the Hurricanes in 2019. However, the biggest indictment against him is his lack of experience. He has never seen talent like that which he will face off against in the ACC and in the non-conference slate; it could be a trial by fire for the sophomore right-hander.

Mid-Week Starter: JP Gates

2018 Statistics: N/A

The mid-week starter position could go to either JP Gates or fellow freshman Slade Cecconi, but for now Gates seems to be the more polished of the two. One of the most highly rated players in the 2018 baseball recruiting class; Gates is a talented left-handed pitcher who uses his command to get outs. He can not, and will not, overpower anyone at the plate, but he uses his breaking pitches to dominate. Gates put together a strong performance in the Hurricanes’ fall game against FAU, and will look to build on that in the competitive season in 2019. Another reason for starting Gates in the mid-week slot comes stems from his talent as a hitter. If he pitches in the mid-week game he would be available on the weekends as either a pinch-hitter or position player.

JP Gates would be an extremely talented mid-week starter for the Hurricanes. He has great off-speed pitches and, if used on Wednesdays, would be a talented bat to have in the weekend series. Miami’s mid-week starter has been a freshman for several years in a row, look for that to continue in 2019.

The Bullpen

The Hurricanes have a lot to replace in their bullpen. Losing longtime closer Frankie Bartow and talented set-up man Cooper Hammond will not be easy in 2019. The ‘Canes will need to find their replacements quick; a task that is easier said than done.

Right-Handed Reliever: Joe Sparber

2018 Statistics: Played catcher.

Joe Sparber will look to make a transition from catching to pitching in 2019, and I wouldn’t expect to see him play a significant role this season for the Hurricanes. He will probably redshirt and make his first appearances on the mound next season.

Long Relief/If-necessary Starter: Slade Cecconi

2018 Statistics: N/A

Much like Gates, Cecconi was a highly touted member of the Hurricanes recruiting class. Cecconi has an extremely strong fastball, accompanied by a promising arsenal of off-speed pitches. In all reality Cecconi is a just as viable of an option as the mid-week starter as Gates, and we should expect to see him make at least a few starts in 2019. I watched Cecconi pitch against FAU this fall, and he’s extremely talented. At one point he struck out three FAU batters in a row on about 15 pitches.

Slade Cecconi is very talented, if unpolished. He should be a strong member of the Hurricanes’ bullpen or starting rotation. Expect to see him on the mound a lot for the Hurricanes in 2019.

Right-Handed Reliever: Tyler Keysor

2018 Statistics (Eastern Florida State College): 5-5, 2.32 ERA, 73.2 IP, 80 K, 10 BB

Tyler Keysor is another newcomer to the Hurricanes pitching staff, after playing two seasons with the Eastern Florida State College Titans. Keysor could also be a member of the starting rotation, but with the talent on the roster returning it seems likely that he’ll slot in as a reliever for J.D. Arteaga’s pitching staff. Keysor is an extremely talented arm who could make a big impact for the ‘Canes in 2019. He’s notable for his strikeout to walk ratio, which is elite, but obviously he’ll face higher level talent as a member of the Hurricanes in 2019.

Keysor could make an immediate impact for Miami as a transfer, much like Jeb Bargfeldt did when he transferred into the Miami program ahead of the 2017 season. He’s an extremely talented arm that has made several starts and represents great depth in case one of the starting rotation members is injured.

Right-Handed Reliever: Mark Mixon

2018 Statistics (South Georgia State College): 6-1, 3.09 ERA, 75.2 IP, 92 K, 30 BB

Mark Mixon comes to Miami after two years at South Georgia State College which saw him make a lot of growth. Mixon is extremely talented, but much the same as Keysor, he’s never faced talent on the level that he’ll see at Miami. He profiles much more as a reliever than Keysor as well, and could see himself as an important member of Miami’s somewhat depleted bullpen in 2019. He relies on striking batters out, and he’ll need to be able to transfer that to NCAA and ACC play in order to have success Miami.

Mark Mixon will be given every opportunity to make an impact as a member of the bullpen in 2019. The Hurricanes have several roles that need to be filled after several members of the pitching staff left last season, and Mixon could also have an immediate impact for the ‘Canes.

Right-Handed Reliever: Brian Van Belle

2018 Statistics (Broward College): 5-1, 4.15 ERA, 65.0 IP, 48 K, 11 BB, .308 BAA

Brian Van Belle is another talented junior college transfer, and yet another one who has potential to make starts for the 2019 Miami Hurricanes. However, Van Belle is the least experienced and least polished pitcher of the three pitching transfers; this is due to him missing his first two seasons at Broward College due to injuries. While comparatively inexperienced, Van Belle still has talent, and could be an important pitcher who can fill in for an injured starter, along with being an important member of the bullpen.

Brian Van Belle has the most to prove when compared to the other transfer pitchers, but he has talent and can be an important member of the pitching staff. He’ll need to learn quick in the ACC, but he can grow into an important role for the Hurricanes in 2019.

Right-Handed Reliever: Alex Ruiz

2018 Statistics: Redshirted

Alex Ruiz should see his first appearances on the mound for the Miami Hurricanes in 2019 after sitting out the 2018 season. Ruiz was an extremely talented prospect coming out of Westminster Christian before he arrived on campus in Miami, pitching to a 0.74 ERA in a notable junior season. Ruiz will need to grow into a role on the pitching staff after its’ loss of talent; especially since a lack of depth hampered the Hurricanes towards the end of the season in 2018.

Alex Ruiz is a bit of an unknown heading into the 2019 season, he hasn’t yet made an appearance for the Hurricanes, and so, much like the pitchers mentioned ahead of him, will need to adjust quickly to the NCAA and the ACC.

Right-Handed Reliever: Daniel Rivero

2018 Statistics (1 appearance): 0-0, 27.00 ERA, 0.1 IP, 1 K, 2 BB, .000 BAA

Daniel Rivero has only made 8 appearances at the University of Miami due to an injury plagued career. In his freshman season in 2017 Rivero showed flashes of talent, but was very inconsistent, and after missing essentially the entire season in 2018, he’ll need to build experience in 2019. Another question mark regarding Rivero is his ability to hold up for an entire season, which Miami will hope he can do in 2019.

Rivero will hope to dodge the injury bug and have a breakout season in 2019. He has next to no experience, but he has the talent to be an important member of the Hurricanes season in 2019.

Left-Handed Reliever: Jeremy Cook

2018 Statistics: 0-0, 4.58 ERA, 19.2 IP, 18 K, 20 BB, .280 BAA

Jeremy Cook will need to grow into a bigger role for the Hurricanes in 2019, because he is the lone experienced left-handed pitcher returning to the Hurricanes. Miami has needed to balance the pitching staff for years, and the next recruiting class has gone a long way towards addressing that, but in 2019 Cook will be the lone proven lefty available to the Hurricanes. Cook is another pitcher that has shown flashes in his time at Miami, but he needs to get his walk rate under control; it was an issue that plagued him all season last year.

Jeremy Cook may have one of the biggest steps to take of anyone on the roster. He’ll need to step into an important role for the Hurricanes pitching staff and perform. The ‘Canes need the flexibility of having a strong left-handed pitcher out of the bullpen, and if Cook can’t provide it there will be very few other places to look.

Left-Handed Reliever: Bailey Mantilla

2018 Statistics: N/A

Bailey Mantilla is another newcomer to the Hurricanes roster; a recruit out of American Heritage (Plantation, FL). Mantilla had a 2.05 ERA over his career at American Heritage, and if he can come in and make an impact for the Hurricanes in 2019 it would be a huge benefit for a pitching staff in need of left-handed arms. Mantilla has a strong fastball, and a good selection of off-speed pitches, but he still needs some development in order to reach his potential.

Mantilla is one of only three full-time left-handed pitchers on the roster (Dylan Cloonan is a pitcher but seems to be on a path to playing the field) so he has an opportunity to come in and make an impact in his freshman season at UM. It would be a big boost for the pitching staff if Mantilla could play a significant role in 2019.

Set-Up Man: Albert Maury, Jr.

2018 Statistics: Did not pitch due to injury.

Albert Maury should make an impact returning from injury in 2019. He was one of the most trusted relievers for Jim Morris in his freshman season, and he showed the poise to be able to move into one of the most important spots on the pitching staff in 2019. The only issue with putting Maury in the set-up spot is if the Hurricanes’ coaching staff feels he isn’t ready to step into that big of a role after not pitching for a season. However, Maury is one of the most talented and experienced pitchers on the roster.

The Hurricanes will need the more experienced talent on their roster, like Maury, to pitch more often and more consistently in 2019. After a strong freshman season in 2017, it seems likely that Maury would be prepared to step into a significantly larger role on the pitching staff in 2019.

Closer: Daniel Federman

2018 Statistics: 2-4, 2.25 ERA, 60.0 IP, 54 K, 22 BB, .203 BAA

Daniel Federman was one of the best pitchers on Miami’s 2018 team in his freshman season. He consistently dominated his competition and was strong both as a starter and a reliever in the first year of his Hurricane career. He moved into the starting rotation after Greg Veliz’s injury last season, but to me he seems to be the logical replacement for Frankie Bartow as a dominant closer. He’ll have big shoes to fill, but with the makeup and talent that Federman possess, he should be able to comfortably slide into the most important role in the bullpen.

Daniel Federman is one of the most talented pitchers in Coral Gables, he should be able to become a dominant closer in 2019, should the staff choose to use him in that fashion. He’s been a consistent performer, and the Hurricanes will need him to anchor an inexperienced bullpen.

The Hurricanes should have a talented, if inexperienced, pitching staff in 2019. A lot of players will be making their debuts or moving into larger roles in 2018, but J.D. Arteaga has consistently put talented staffs together at Miami and 2019 should be no different. Miami will be in need of consistent performances from the mound as the offense continues to work to improve from two disappointing seasons in 2017 and 2018. The success of the pitching staff will come down to how quickly a young group learns and adapts as the season goes on.