The first week in August is always a precarious time for college baseball players. For some teams, a trip to the playoffs is on the horizon, a chance to win a championship and get a ring to display alongside their hopeful college, minor league, and professional titles. For others, it's the end of an arduous campaign that began during the autumn prior with fall ball.
By the time August rolls around, scouts are all but disappearing from their trips to see talents. They're replaced by hopeful "advisors," would-be agents trying to score some young ballplayer who might make them the next Scott Boras. These are players hoping to hand out a business card so some player can remember them when they're draft eligible.
As for the players themselves, some grow tired and weary of actually showing up at the ballpark. There's nothing left to prove by this point, especially if the scouts are gone, and a day left playing baseball is one day less they won't be able to rest at home. Some guys going deep into the playoffs won't even be visiting family for three days before they have to report to school for training camp and fall ball. It's a mixed conundrum, one that is usually lost on fans and team staffers.
For the Birdballers, though, the end of the season has been an opportunity to get caught up on lost time, a chance to right some of the wrongs from the opening of the season. It's a last chance to make those final improvements before coming back to the Heights, a chance to tinker here and there before they put down wood bats and unknown uniforms for the familiar ping of aluminum and maroon and gold:
Andrew Chin (Chatham Anglers, Cape Cod Baseball League)
Chin's hot start to the 2013 Cape League season ended in a way he'd probably like to forget. After making some waves down the Cape, he finished with nine appearances and seven starts. He picked up losses in his final two appearances of the regular season, including a one inning nightmare against Wareham. Giving up four runs on six hits, his ERA jumped an entire point to over 6.00. He surrendered four earned runs in his final start of the regular season but at least lasted five innings, losing there as well. Those final two losses meant his record at the end of the year finished 2-2, a far cry from the start of the year when he won his first two decisions without giving up a run.
This leaves Chin as a major question mark entering the season. BC had major pitching woes this year, and while he was great to start the season, he struggled when the big players arrived on Cape in July. After the temporary players cycled out and the permanent players from bigger programs cycled in, he got racked around. And the end of summer casts a pall over his body of work. An ERA over 6.00 is not something anyone wants to see, and it steadily climbed over his last five appearances from 2.82 to 4.44 to 5.11 to 6.31 to 6.46. He has not pitched in the playoffs, where Chatham was down one game to none to Orleans in the best-of-three Eastern Division championships after sweeping Yarmouth-Dennis in the divisional semifinals.
Blake Butera (Chatham Anglers, Cape Cod Baseball League)
Butera has turned in a performance for the ages in the postseason. Hitting .455 in the first three games, he's displayed the type of improvement that raised eyebrows in the late goings. He went 4-for-7 in the sweep of Y-D, scoring two runs in the series. That's a huge jump after he dipped below the Mendoza Line at the close of the regular season, finishing the year hitting .196. He went 0-for-7 against Orleans on the final two days of the regular season to drop below that .200 mark.
Butera's regular season is one that went the opposite way from Chin. He started out extremely slow, then never really recovered. But his performance in the playoffs has been a revelation, even if his 1-for-4 performance in Game 1 against Orleans in the divisional final included three strikeouts. His one hit was a double he later scored on. Hopefully he's getting hot and putting it together in a situation of "better late than never." After all, BC fans need to be concerned with how he's finishing since the team is less than a month away from reporting to campus for fall practice.
Chris Shaw (New Bedford Bay Sox, New England Collegiate League)
Shaw's been the one player everyone's kind of been watching since he represents the natural progression BC wants out of their players. He is going to come back to the Heights with a chance to really have a great season after going .335 in the NECBL. Down the stretch of the regular season, 5-for-12, including a 3-for-4 night to destroy Ocean State on the last day of the regular season. Against Laconia, he went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and a three-run homer. He finished the year with five knocks, 39 RBI, 24 runs scored and 28 strikeouts with 22 walks for a 1.27:1 strikeouts to walk ratio. In that last game, he also pitched an inning, striking out two and giving up a hit while facing four batters. New Bedford, however, did not make the playoffs.
Shaw is officially the cornerstone for the Eagles as a sophomore. A lot of the talk surrounding him is about that "natural progression," since he played in the FCBL last year, the NECBL this year (even though some argue the FCBL has caught or passed the NECBL), and should be assumed to be heading to the Cape League next year in his final year before he becomes draft eligible. He was drafted out of high school in the 26th round, which should bump him up into a 10th-15th round pick by the time he's eligible, barring a major drop off. He's slotted to play everyday for BC in the middle of the order, and Mike Gambino needs to build around him. He will return to BC this fall as The Man, something he needs to live up to if BC is going to improve on last year's bad season.
As a sidenote, Shaw finished his season in the NECBL and reported almost immediately to the Lexington Blue Sox back home in Lexington, MA. Apparently he didn't want to stop playing baseball, and in two games, he hit .667 with four hits, a double, a triple, and multiple RBI. His slugging percentage was 1.667.
Gabriel Hernandez (Nashua Silver Knights, Futures Collegiate Baseball League)
Hernandez started slow, and by slow, we mean horrible. In the middle of July, he was hitting consistently below .200 and was on our list of guys who really failed to live up to expectations. But it's about how he's finishing, not how he began, that has us buzzing.
Hernandez's average in July was as low as .148. But he finished the season at .218, with a high of .224 on the second to last day of the season. He had a stretch where he went 6-for-7 to up his average almost a full 70 points to a season-high of .250. That came at the tail end of a six game hitting streak. He did have a four game hitless streak after that (actually, there were two), but the flash to raise his average salvaged what could've been a nightmare of a summer. He finished the year with 24 runs scored and 12 RBI. He had eight stolen bases. And his strikeouts-to-walk ratio was nearly 1:1 at the dish. It's not a great stat line, but remember that he was wayyyyyy down in there for a bit.
Hernandez is a guy BC fans have to watch in the fall. He's due for a break, and I'd like to think this is what'll serve as his sophomore slump. If he gets a break and returns to the Heights in form, well rested, he'll be a factor in next year's team. But the summer season in the FCBL is something we have to keep an eye on. The struggles he had came in a league where players from the ACC should be dominating. And that's a negative to keep in the back of the mind.
Johnny Adams (Nashua Silver Knights, FCBL)
Where Hernandez was struggling, Adams, one of the highlights of the incoming freshman class, ended his summer season at .300. Hitting .293, he went 3-for-5, 2-for-5, and 1-for-5 to finish the season at exactly the coveted mark. In the process, he drove in four runs, scored once, and hit a couple of doubles. He finished the year with 61 hits, 11 of which were doubles, and 39 RBI. He scored 28 runs. He went yard twice and tripled twice. Of course he did strike out a ton with 27 K's to 13 walks, but remember that he's an incoming freshman.
The thought process behind Adams is that he should join with Shaw to form the middle of the lineup. Adams has proven he can get on base; Shaw can crush the ball. He's one of those guys everyone was high on anyways, especially since he's a local product, and BC can look to him for a number of different tools to improve upon the 40-loss brigade they put together last year.
Tom Bourdon (Lexington Blue Sox, Intercity League)
The best explanation for Bourdon playing for Chico's Bail Bonds came from Brian Foley of College Baseball Daily: "It was probably planned that Bourdon was going to be drafted thi syear since he was a 38th round selection out of high school and had a middle of the road summer last year in the Cape. He was terrible this year and no summer league team probably wanted him."
Well okay then.
Bourdon did end up hitting .314 for the Blue Sox with five doubles and 13 RBI, but he struck out nine times and only walked once. He scored 13 runs and had a .698 OPS. He stole two bases. But like we said before, there's no reason why a current member of the Boston College team should've played in this league unless he lived in the area and wanted to pick up a bat and crush some balls (see above: Shaw, Chris). It's good that Bourdon put together a fine summer, and it's good that he stayed fresh by hitting some balls. But it's very unnerving to see a senior leader, one who was captain this past year, playing at this level. Hopefully Stella just needed to get that groove back, and he returns hungry to prove people wrong.