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Boston College Baseball: Constructing the Birdball Roster - Outfielders

Losing Chris Shaw hurts, but is it possible the Eagles are about to get better as an overall unit?

Courtesy BC Athletics

Chris Shaw is the type of slugger that comes around once in a generation. A first round pick in his first collegiate draft-eligible season, the pure power hitter from the left side was the type of player scouts drooled over. Losing a year of his potential in the middle of the Boston College lineup is where the story of the outfield position in 2016 begins.

For the Eagles' sake, let's hope it's not where it ends. In three years, Shaw went from being a guy capable of striking out as much as he went yard to one of the most complete hitters in the Eagles lineup. Heading into the MLB Draft, everyone knew he was getting picked high enough where he wasn't going to be back in '16.

There were certain things Chris Shaw did in the Boston College lineup to gloss over the remainder of the holes. As a true cleanup hitter, he allowed the coaching staff to fill in a batting order around him to achieve maximum effectiveness. In the event the lineup wasn't producing, he could pick them up by himself. In the event they produced, he was the X factor to drive in runs by the truckload.

The numbers told exactly how good he really was: the team leader in batting average (.319), homers (11), RBI (43), total bases (88), and slugging percentage (.611). He did all of this despite missing about a month's worth of time with a broken bone in his hand.

Shaw's impact went well beyond the lineup. With a crowded infield depth chart at each position, Shaw, a natural first baseman out of high school, shifted his skills to learning the outfield. During his freshman season, he started mostly as a designated hitter before the decision was made to shift him to the outfield. Over the next two seasons, Shaw made 99 starts in the outfield, 93 of which came in right. That type of consistency allowed the coaching staff to build around him, something they planned on with subsequent recruiting classes.

With Shaw gone, the entire mentality changes, but it's not necessarily for the worse. Logan Hoggarth and Donovan Casey, the other two outfielders who saw the majority of time for the Eagles, hit second and third on the team in terms of batting average, with Hoggarth the only other .300 hitter besides Shaw and Casey close behind at .298, followed by Michael Strem at .296.

Of those other three, Strem's numbers seem to be lost behind Shaw's power. But it's important to remember that Strem led the team in at-bats (206, the only Eagle to break the 200 mark), hits (61, 10 more than the next best), and doubles (21, more than double everyone else's numbers).

Then there's the advanced statistics to pay attention to. Shaw had elite power, something the other players couldn't touch. If we take that stat away, meaning we remove the 11 homers from the equation, the other three players (Hoggarth, Casey, and Strem) actually become better than Shaw. On balls solely hit in play, including sacrifice flies but subtracting homers, Hoggarth hit .369 and Casey hit .352. Strem was slightly behind at .331. Shaw, in this case, was fourth at .324.

What does it prove? First, it proves just how elite Shaw's home run power really was. In fewer games played, Shaw created just as many runs as Strem (35.4 to 34.5) while dwarfing Hoggarth (20.7) and Casey (21.3). Had he played the whole season, the amount of runs he would've created almost assuredly would've been the difference in the Eagles getting into the ACC Tournament or not. It was one of those seasons for one of those players, and it absolutely justifies the San Francisco Giants' decision to use a first round pick on him.

But it doesn't prove that BC can't move on. One thing I've learned from watching the Oakland Athletics is that the Eagles don't necessarily have to replace Shaw as an individual player. Instead, they have to replace his production. That's something I believe they have the in-house talent to do. Coupled with an extremely deep infield, BC already has three solid outfielders, along with a fourth utility player in Gabriel Hernandez.

In terms of the future, the Eagles have an incredibly deep recruiting class on the horizon. Of their nine commits in the Class of 2016 (who would be freshmen in 2017), BC has four outfielders. Two are Top 500 recruits, including Dante Baldelli, the younger brother of former Tampa Bay Devil Rays standout Rocco Baldelli. With Strem and Casey embedded through '17, expect this position to develop and excel through the better part of the early 2020s, even as it works to replace arguably its biggest asset in '16.

Futures Depth Chart:

2016 2017 2018
Loggan Hoggarth (Sr.) Michael Strem (Sr.) Scott Braren (Sr.)
Michael Strem (Jr.) Scott Braren (Jr.) Donovan Casey (Sr.)
Scott Braren (So.) Donovan Casey (Jr.) Connor Bacon (Jr.)
Donovan Casey (So.) Connor Bacon (So.) Blake Gould (Jr.)
Connor Bacon (Fr.) Blake Gould (So.) Dante Baldelli (So.)
Blake Gould (Fr.) Dante Baldelli (Fr.) Jack Cunningham (So.)
Gabriel Hernandez (Sr.) - Utility Jack Cunningham (Fr.) Nick Latham (So.)
Nick Latham (Fr.) Jacob Yish (So.)
Jacob Yish (Fr.)