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Boston College Baseball - Looking Ahead to 2018

The Eagles return a majority of the 2017 team that finished the season on a 16-6 tear

Image courtesy of BCEagles.com
BCEagles.com

Now that the season is a week behind us, and the underclassmen members of the BC baseball team are off playing summer ball, it’s time to take a look toward the future and discuss some key components of next year’s team. Before we talk about personnel however, we need to discuss the biggest news surrounding the program moving forward: the new stadium.

The 2018 season will mark the first year that the Eagles will play in their new home across Commonwealth Avenue on Brighton Campus. Even though I still think the amenities of the stadium complex on Brighton are lacking (I haven’t heard of any upgrades made to the plans we covered in the post back in March), I think the stadium itself will be a huge upgrade for the program. Yes, Shea Field embodied BC baseball and was beloved by all Eagles’ players, but it’s time for the program to join the rest of the country with upgraded facilities. The field turf will help with fall and early-spring practices, as even the slightest inclement weather has historically kept the Eagles on the sidelines. Not mention, the upgraded playing surface will mean fewer rain-outs during the season, which, if you look at the number of games missed this year (or played at Northeastern), could’ve propelled BC over the .500 mark for the year. Also, having lights and a designated media-area will be huge additions as they’ll allow BC to play traditional Friday night games during the ACC schedule that attract the most fans, and have games broadcast on television, something Shea Field never offered. All-in-all, while I still feel the athletic department and administration could have, and should have, gotten more bang for their buck with this stadium, it will still serve as a huge and needed upgrade for the program as a whole.

Now, as for next year’s team, the Eagles are, in my estimation, in really good shape. The majority of this season’s lineup and rotation are expected to be back on the Heights come September. I say “expected” because, aside from the seniors leaving the program, there are a few underclassmen that could hear their name called during the MLB draft next week. The chief among those is two-way star Donovan Casey. Casey flew up draft boards this spring as he showed a live arm on the mound, running his fastball up to 94 mph, while also showcasing decent off-speed pitches. One publication recently had Casey in their top-200 draft prospects, meaning that they think he’ll go somewhere in the first five or six rounds next week. Other outlets have him going a little bit later, but still within the top-10 rounds. If either of those scenarios play out, and he’s selected in the top-10 rounds, more than likely, we will have seen the last of Casey in a BC uniform, unfortunately. Another player to watch in the draft is Jacob Stevens. Though only a sophomore, Steven is draft eligible, as he did a postgraduate year after graduating high school. He will more than likely get taken at some point during the draft. The question is, where? I think if he goes anywhere after the top-20 rounds, he’ll come back to school. Anywhere within the top-20, and he’ll have a decision to make. Usually, after about the tenth round, the signing bonuses offered to players decrease dramatically. However, as a draft-eligible sophomore, Stevens holds a lot of leverage because he has two years of playing remaining at BC, meaning that he could, in theory, extract more money from the team that drafted him even if the round isn’t that high. Other names to keep an eye on as it pertains to the draft are juniors Brian Rapp and Jake Palomaki. Both had solid years and could very well hear their names called in the later rounds, though, I expect both to be back on campus for the senior season.

In a perfect world, everyone would come back from this year’s team (minus the graduating seniors, of course), but, even if they don’t, I think we’re looking at a very competitive team in 2018. If Stevens is back next year, I really like the Eagles’ rotation. Stevens endured a classic sophomore slump this year (though he did throw really well in a lot of his starts despite his stats), but I expect him to bounce back as a junior. Add into the mix Rapp and rising-junior Dan Metzdorf, who were both solid in their first season in the weekend rotation, and the makings are there for high caliber 1-2-3 punch on the weekends. If Stevens does not come back to school, I still feel pretty good, as BC found a fourth starter this year in Jack Nelson. Nelson was outstanding in his midweek role and I think, should he be pressed into service, would do very well in the Sunday spot to start 2018. I think Matt Gill, who had a rocky freshman campaign, learned a lot this year and will grow as a pitcher this summer and next fall and would be a great option to take over Nelson’s midweek spot, should Jack get “bumped up.” The bullpen is a little less certain as it’s almost a given that Casey, an outstanding reliever and closer this season, will not be back. However, John Witkowski, Carmen Giampetruzzi, Jack Cunningham, and Gill all got significant innings this season and will return to be the backbone of the pen. I’m also very excited about rising redshirt-freshmen Mikey Giordano, Michael Marzonie, and Joey Walsh, who all missed 2017 with injuries, being available in 2018. All three were highly touted coming out of high school, with Walsh being the Massachusetts’ Gatorade Player of the Year, and will provide a huge boost to the Eagles’ bullpen and may even push for starting roles.

The lineup in 2018, minus Johnny Adams, Michael Strem, and likely Casey, should look very similar to this past season, as players like leading-hitter Jake Alu, Gian Martellini, Mitch Bigras, Jake Palomaki, and Brian Dempsey return. Filling the holes left by Adams, Strem, and Casey will not be easy, but BC does have some options. In the outfield, the Eagles could turn to Dante Baldelli, who had a tough go of it this year but will likely improve during the summer, to fill the spot in centerfield. Scott Braren, BC’s opening-day cleanup hitter will hopefully be fully recovered from ACL surgery by the time next season rolls around and his bat available would be a huge boost to the lineup. Also, players like Dominic Hardaway, Connor Bacon, and Nick Latham could push for time in the outfield in 2018. The shortstop position will be an interesting one to watch in the fall to see who steps into that role. Palomaki will almost undoubtedly stay at second base, meaning that, should Dempsey stay at third, a player like Anthony Maselli, who has not played shortstop in his BC career, could get some reps early in fall ball.

While the Boston College baseball season ended only a week ago, I can’t wait for next year. I know there will be those who say that I’m looking at this team through rose-colored lenses, but I honestly feel really good about next year’s squad. Yes, the pitching staff must improve greatly in conference play and, yes, the offensive can’t wait until May to come alive, but a vast majority of everyday players are returning, including at least two thirds of the weekend rotation, and a lot of players who were out with injuries will be available, namely the trio of redshirt freshman pitchers and Scott Braren, which is awesome. Detractors will sarcastically say, “Great. A lot of players from a 25-28 team are coming back. Sweet,” but I firmly believe that the improvement this team showed during the second half of the season will carry over to next year. Not to mention the Eagles currently have a lot of players in summer ball right now, including an astounding eight in the Cape League. All that experience will do is make a player better. And that’s good news for BC. 2018 is going to be a fun one. See you at...Brighton?