I don't know about y'all, but I'm pretty damn tired of NCAA allegations, NIT-bound basketball teams and cold weather (it's snowing in DC right now). Fortunately, baseball season is here to reroute our attention and provide an excuse to sit around drinking cheap beer four to five nights out of the week. We'll be rolling out baseball coverage between now and the season opener on Friday, but we're starting by catching everyone up on how this team has changed since last year.
The biggest loss in our hearts, of course, is Sikes Orvis. For the most part, however, last year's lineup is intact: seven starters are back from a team that saw 70 percent of its at-bats come from first- or second-year players in 2015. The bigger concern is on the mound, where Mike Bianco has to replace two of three weekend starters and two key relievers. The good news is that he called in plenty of reinforcements: 13 of the 16 newcomers are pitchers.
Let's briefly run through who's gone, who's new and who we expect to take the field this weekend.
We'll miss ya
Sikes Orvis: Whiskey and Meat graduated and is now playing low-level pro ball in the White Sox organization. That leaves Bianco trying to replace 34 career home runs, 1,298 gallons of beer showers and one sick 'stache.
Christian Trent: Trent didn't quite return to the form that made him the star of the 2014 CWS run, but he was still a quality arm in the Friday spot last season. He was picked up by the Brewers in the 24th round and spent the summer on their rookie affiliate team.
Scott Weathersby: One of the most reliable arms in the bullpen last season, Weathersby posted a 2.62 ERA and held opposing batters to a .216 average as a senior. He was drafted by the Astros in the 10th round.
Jacob Waguespack: Even though he didn't get drafted, Wags decided to forgo his senior season in Oxford and sign a contract as an undrafted free agent. That leaves another hole in the bullpen.
Austin Knight: He was never a consistent hitter, but had a knack for coming up with the big hit in the big moment. He was also an asset behind the plate, where he threw out 17 baserunners last season.
Damn glad to meet ya
Ryan Olenek: Rated a top-100 shortstop prospect by Perfect Game, the athletic infielder from Florida is likely an eventual replacement for Errol Robinson. In the meantime, his athleticism and versatility should get him on the field plenty this season. He's fluid on defense and his long arms allow him to extend at the plate and flash some power.
D.J. Miller: The No. 71 outfielder prospect is still a little raw on defense and the arm strength will come with maturity, but his speed on the base paths can be put to use immediately. Look for the Illinois native to get an opportunity early for a spot in the outfield rotation because of his pop at the plate
Chad Smith: Bianco said he expects the right-handed JUCO transfer to be a weekend starter. Smith's mid-90s fastball was enough to get the attention of the Cleveland Indians in the 23rd round of the 2015 MLB Draft, but he chose to come to Oxford instead.
Nick Fortes: Rated the 12th best catching prospect in the country, Fortes could push Henri Lartigue for playing time behind the plate. Another Sunshine State product who hit .512 his junior year, the 2015 Perfect Game Second Team All-American can really swing the stick.
David Parkinson: Already drawing comparisons to Christian Trent, the sophomore lefty from Virginia comes in with JUCO experience and a mid-80's fastball. He didn't get a lot of strikeouts at Florence-Darlington Technical College (62 Ks in 61.2 innings), so his command will have to improve before he competes for a starting role.
James McArthur: Named an honorable mention to the 2015 Perfect Game All-American team, the hard-throwing righty stands 6'7 and can run it up there in the 90's. He needs time to fill in his 217-pound frame, but could potentially compete for the third starter role this season.
- Connor Cloyd, RF
- Will Golsan, 1B
- Errol Robinson, SS
- Colby Bortles, 3B
- J.B. Woodman, CF
- Tate Blackman, 2B
- Henri Lartigue, C
- Holt Perdzock, DH
- Cameron Dishon, LF
- Fri - Brady Bramlett
- Sat - Chad Smith
- Sun - Sean Johnson
- Midweek - Will Stokes
- Closer - Wyatt Short