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Birdball Season Preview - The Freshmen

BC Walkoff

Two weeks. Two weeks is all that separates us from opening day in Daytona Beach, Florida. Two weeks until Birdball attempts to pick up where it left off in June of last summer, one game shy of the College World Series. Get your sunscreen ready.

We return this week to wrap up our three-part series previewing the 2017 Boston College baseball team. So far, we’ve covered the lineup and pitching staff and, given the fact that National Signing Day for football was yesterday and we’re all excited about the new “dudes” committed to the Heights, we feel it’s necessary to dive into the new guys on the BC team, the recruiting class of 2016.

As has been mentioned throughout this series, head coach Mike Gambino and his staff rely heavily on developing the players they bring in over the course of their careers to move the program forward. This class, the class of 2020, will be no different. The twelve players brought in by Gambino and recruiting coordinator Greg Sullivan hail from seven different states, play five different positions, and include one sophomore transfer. The role each will play throughout this season and throughout their careers will be different, but, each will have an impact on the progression of the program, as a whole. Let’s meet them:

Dante Baldelli, OF, Cumberland, R.I. – Baldelli may be the most heralded recruit in the class of 2020. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because his older brother, Rocco, is a former major-leaguer who spent time with the Rays and Red Sox. While his family tree is impressive, Baldelli is quite the player in his own right. He was drafted in the 39th round this past June by the Philadelphia Phillies out of Bishop Hendricken, and was rated as the top prospect in Rhode Island by MaxPreps.com. Because of his polished approach at the plate, Baldelli may be the first freshmen to see time in the lineup. I would not be surprised to see him in the DH spot on opening day, much like current sophomore, and fellow Bishop Hendricken alum, Gian Martellini was a season ago.

Jack Cunningham, UT, South Riding, Va. – For the second year in a row, Gambino has signed a player from the talent-rich state of Virginia (Sean Hughes last year). Cunningham comes to the Heights after a stellar career at Paul IV, a private-school powerhouse in Fairfax, Virginia. After his senior season, Cunningham was named First Team All-State and was his conference’s Player of the Year. Although he is listed as a utility player, Cunningham mentioned in his sit-down interview with Chris Balogh on BCEagles.com that he spent most of fall practice working in the infield. If the plan for Cunningham is to become a full-time infielder, look for him to provide depth this season, and get his at-bats during midweek games, as the Eagles return almost their entire infield from a season ago. However, if Cunningham is truly going to be a two-way player, look for him to log some necessary innings out of the bullpen throughout the season. One thing is certain, Gambino will find the best way to utilize Cunningham’s talent to help the team this year.

Brain Dempsey, INF, Potomac, Md. – A graduate of Georgetown Prep, Dempsey comes to BC after spending the summer playing for the Saugerties Stallions of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. Having incoming freshmen join college summer teams has been a growing trend under Gambino, and one that stands to pay dividends. It gives incoming freshmen experience against older and better competition and helps them adjust to the college game before they even step on campus. Dempsey was a standout for the Hoyas and led his team to the conference semifinals. He will likely see time during the midweek schedule or be an option to pinch run on the weekends as he sharpens his skills behind three-year starter Johnny Adams at shortstop.

Matt Gill, RHP, Simsbury, Conn. – If Baldelli is the most likely freshman to earn a significant role in the lineup, then Gill is the most likely pitcher from this class to earn a top spot on the mound. As mentioned in our preview of the Eagles’ pitching staff, Gill, a 6’5 right-hander, was impressive in fall practice, and is in contention to fill one of the spots in the weekend rotation. Like Dempsey, and other in his class, Gill played in a collegiate summer league after graduating in June. He recorded a 3.00 ERA for the Seacoast Mavericks in the Futures League, and carried over that production to the fall. If Gill earns his way into a weekend spot, it will mark the second year in a row that BC opens the season with a true freshman in the rotation. Should Gill not wind up in the rotation, it’s likely he’ll be a midweek starter and bullpen arm on the weekends. Either way, expect him to log a good number of innings in 2017.

Mikey Giordano, RHP, Orlando, Fla. – Making the long trip up the east coast to Chestnut Hill is right-handed pitcher Mikey Giordano. The Bishop Moore Catholic High School grad arrives on campus after a strong senior season that saw him lead his team to the state semifinals. The 6’3 200 pounder will likely see innings out of the bullpen in 2017, but, could earn his way to some spot starts later in the season should he have a good showing early in the spring. Do not be surprised if next year, Giordano is challenging for a starting role, either for midweek games or on the backend of the weekend rotation, as Gambino has shown an inclination to start a young pitcher’s career in the bullpen and slowly pile on innings pitched in order to prepare him for a starting role.

Jake Goodreau, C, Southwick, Mass. – Goodreau comes to the Heights from western Massachusetts, where he was the leader of his Southwick Regional High School team. The classic left-handed hitting catcher, Goodreau will look to push for playing time behind the plate throughout the year with fellow freshmen Aaron Soucy and Jacob Yish, and sophomore Gian Martellini. Goodreau, along with the others mentioned, will look to replace (as much as is actually possible) Nick Sciortino as the Eagles’ everyday backstop. While Martellini may have the inside track based of off experience, expect Goodreau’s bat to earn him some time in the lineup this year, either as a DH or a regular pinch-hitter.

Nick Latham, OF, Salem, Mass. – Latham finished up a postgraduate year at Phillips Andover Academy in June, after a stellar career at St. Johns Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts that saw him captain the Eagles and lead them to back-to-back Catholic Conference championships. Latham joins the Boston College outfield with the opportunity to make an impact in his first season. As it happens many times with young outfielders, the opportunities to get onto the field early come in the form of pinch-running or defensive replacement assignments. The latter of those two could be particularly relevant in Latham’s case as defensive replacements will be needed for Donovan Casey, the projected starter in right field, when he comes in to pitch. Look for Latham to be one of the guys to fill this role.

Michael Marzonie, RHP, Greenwich, Conn. – Marzonie arrives at BC after graduating from Brunswick School in June where he helped lead his team to back-to-back league titles while also garnering All FAA First Team honors for himself as a senior. Unfortunately, he will miss the entire 2017 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. While it is never ideal for a player to miss time because of injury, Marzonie’s medical redshirt will allow him to retain a year of eligibility and will help bolster the BC pitching staff for the next four seasons.

Aaron Soucy, C, Thompson, Conn. – As mentioned before, Soucy will open the 2017 season with the opportunity to vie for playing time behind the plate. Named by Perfect Game as the top catcher, and second overall player, in Connecticut, Soucy was a standout at the Pomfret School, earning a spot on 2015 WNEPL First Team. Much like Goodreau, he enters the spring behind probable starter Gian Martellini, but, the position of catcher is a tough and painful job. Whoever the everyday starter is will need days off and it’s on those days that guys like Goodreau and Soucy could be called into the lineup. Aside from possible spot-starts, expect Soucy to gain at bats as a pinch hitter that Gambino can play the matchup game with, late in games.

Brendan Spaguolo, RHP, Massapequa, N.Y. – The lone sophomore in the 2016 recruiting class comes to Boston College after transferring from national power Vanderbilt. The 6’2, 190 pound Spaguolo made his collegiate debut in 2015 for the Commodores, throwing two innings versus Tennessee-Martin and followed it up with a strong showing for the Newport Gulls of the NECBL where, last summer, he was named an All-Star. Prior to his time in Nashville, Spaguolo was a standout at Chaminade High School where he garnered multiple All American accolades. However, due to NCAA Regulations, he must sit out the 2017 season after transferring from a Division I school. Although it is more than a year away, look for Spaguolo to make an immediate impact on the BC rotation in 2018 as he will be cleared to play.

Joe Walsh, LHP, Plymouth, Mass. – The only left-handed pitcher in the 2016 recruiting class, Walsh was named Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year in 2015, the only player in Plymouth North history to receive that honor. Walsh enjoyed a stellar junior season in high school that included a 0.74 ERA and a no hitter, and was on his way to an equally impressive senior campaign until he suffered a torn UCL and underwent Tommy John surgery. He will miss the 2017 season with BC while rehabbing the injury. While he would have made an excellent addition to the 2017 squad, the prospect of having Walsh, Marzonie, and Spaguolo all healthy and ready to go in 2018 is very exciting.

Jacob Yish, OF/C, Byfield, Mass. – Another product of St. Johns Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts, Yish is a versatile, right handed hitting catcher and outfielder. The versatility he possesses may help him see the field early in his career. Unlike Soucy and Goodreau, Yish can play multiple positions. If he is not getting much time behind the plate, look for Yish to get opportunities as a pinch-hitter, pinch-runner or as a defensive replacement in the outfield. They say the best ability is availability, and Yish is available to play four positions on the field. Having that kind of player on your roster is something coaches value because it allows them to have options for every situation that may present itself throughout the course of a game.

Of this twelve-member recruiting class, nine are available to play in 2017. Don’t be surprised if all nine do see game action this spring, as Coach Gambino has shown he likes to get young players experience early in their careers. So far, that approach has worked in helping the program reach new heights, as evidenced by last year’s Super Regional run. What’s in store for the Eagles in 2017 is not yet known, but, the recruiting class of 2016 will figure to be a large part of any success the team enjoys this season.