2008 ACC Atlantic Division Preview

The College Baseball Blog continues our series of previews this week checking in on the Atlantic Division of the ACC. The CBB attends about 10-15 ACC games a season including seeing some of the players in the Cape Cod League. FSU won the division last season with an outstanding record of 49-13. The Seminoles were joined in the NCAA Tournament by Clemson, NC State, and Wake Forest.

FLORIDA STATE

The Florida State Seminoles are coming off a 49-13 season with an appearance in the NCAA Tournament which ended in the Regionals with 2 losses to Mississippi State.

Pitching

The Seminoles will be led by Ryan Strauss on the mound. He finished tied for second on the team in victories with a 10-3 mark. They will miss Bryan Henry who had been the Seminoles ace over the last three seasons where he was named to All-ACC first team and Pitcher of the Year in each season. Michael Hyde graduated with his respectable 10-2 record and a 3.35 ERA. The Seminoles will replace Henry on the mound with Strauss and junior Bo O’Dell who made five starts last year mostly in the mid-week starter spot. He will be looked to for leadership on the mound. The other spot in the rotation is wide open right now with Elih Villanueva the leading candidate to take the spot.

Offense

The Seminoles received some bad news on the first day of practice as Jack Rye broke his thumb during a fielding drill putting him out of action until Mid-March. Buster Posey who made the transition before the 2007 season to the catcher’s role will come back for his junior season looking to improve on his 2007 campaign which saw him finish second on the team with a .382 average and 65 RBI. Posey struggled with power numbers as he only had 3 homers but accumulated 21 doubles. The biggest loss for the Seminoles will be Tony Thomas Jr. who had a break out season in 2007 including being nominated for many national and conference awards. Transfer Tony Delmonico who comes over from Tennessee is expected to take over the everyday spot at shortstop replacing Mark Hallberg. The second base position is still up for grabs as noone has put a stranglehold on the position.

Academic Scandal

The Florida State Baseball team is in the midst of a major scandal as some players are facing suspensions. The FSU Athletic Department has not released a list of players who have been suspended for portions of the upcoming season so we will not know for sometime who was involved.

Outlook

The Florida State Seminoles are the overwhelming favorite in the Atlantic Division. They need to fill some spots in the rotation with some shutdown pitchers and need to be able to replace Tony Thomas Jr. They should be able to do this as FSU does not rebuild but reloads.

CLEMSON

The Clemson Tigers are coming off a 41-23 campaign which saw them finish 18-12 in the ACC which was good enough for a second place finish in the Atlantic Division.

Pitching

The Tigers lost number one starter Daniel Moskos who was the number 4 overall selection in the 2007 MLB draft. He struggled with the move from the closer’s role to the starting rotation in midseason but was able to accumulate a 3-6 record with a 3.29 ERA including six saves. They also lost David Kopp who was selected with the 71st overall pick by the St. Louis Cardinals. The Tigers return two starting pitchers in D.J. Mitchell and lefty Ryan Hinson. The Tigers will look to fill the other open spot in the rotation with an inexperienced upper classman or a freshman.

Offense

The Tigers lost four position starters from the 2007 season including Andy D’Alessio and Taylor Harbin who received All-American honors. They also lost Marquez Smith and Brad Chalk who picked up All-ACC accolades. The Clemson offense will have to be led by catcher Doug Hogan who in his first full season behind the plate was able to accumulate a .350 batting average. A combination of D.J. Mitchell and Addison Johnson will need to step up their game for Clemson to have a potent offense.

Outlook

The Clemson Tigers will face some early season struggles until they find the right mix of players. They should be able to make a return appearance in an NCAA Regional with a possible spot in the Super Regionals within their grasp.

NC STATE

The NC State Wolfpack went 38-23 which was good enough to qualify them for the NCAA Tournament. They were put into the Columbia SC regional where they went 1-2 with both losses coming to Charlotte and the victory came over Wofford.

Pitching

The NC State Wolfpack returns ace pitcher Eric Surkamp who went 4-5 with a 3.47 ERA as he was facing each team’s top pitchers throughout the season. He had a strong summer with Team USA where he went 1-0 with a 1.15 ERA in four games including three starts. The other starter for the Wolfpack is expected to be Jimmy Gillheeney who made nine starts with 19 appearances accumulating a 4-3 mark with a 6.36 ERA. Closer Eryk McConnell returns after being a tenth round pick by the Orioles after picking up eleven saves. Andrew Brackman left after being a first round pick of the New York Yankees and the Pack will look to getting some innings out of Jeff Stallings or Clayton Shunick.

Offense

NC State returns their top four hitters in Dallas Poulk, Ryan Pond, Marcus Jones, and Pat Ferguson. Dallas Poulk returns after leading the Pack in hitting with a .394 batting average with a .441 On-base percentage. He will be joined by Ryan Pond who hit seven homers over 58 games. Marcus Jones became a regular starter for the Wolfpack as he finished with a respectable .321 average. Ferguson is entering his fourth season (junior year in eligibility) and will look to continue his strong campaign in 2007 where he .319. The biggest lose for the Wolfpack is Mike Roskopf who transferred to USC after leading the Wolfpack with 13 homers.

Outlook

The Wolfpack could be a surprise in the ACC Atlantic Division as they have some solid bats coming back and have a very respectable rotation. The CBB predicts that NC State will finish in third place but could knock off FSU to win the Division title.

WAKE FOREST

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons went 34-29 (14-16 ACC) while making a late season charge to get into the NCAA Tournament by making it to the ACC Final. They were put into the Austin TX regional where they went 1-2 with losses to UC-Irvine and Texas. They were able to knock off Ivy League Champion Brown to get their only win.

Pitching

The Demon Deacons return their top three starting pitchers in Brad Kledzik, Ben Hunter, and Garrett Bullock. Kledzik struggled throughout the season ending the season with a 4-4 record with a 5.01 ERA in 20 games including 15 starts. Hunter made 28 appearances for the Demon Deacons including 8 starts with an 8-6 record with a 4.07 ERA. Bullock made 15 starts which tied him for the team lead while getting a 4-3 record with a 5.12 ERA. The Deacons lost closer Josh Ellis and he is expected to be replaced by Phil Negus who made 25 appearances with only a 1-1 record.

Offense

The Deacons are going to be led by Allan Dykstra who is on a bunch of preseason All-American lists. Dykstra is a big strong first baseman who had a .310 average with 18 homers on the year. Willy Fox led the Deacons in hitting in 2007 with a .332 BA but was hampered from a bizarre leg injury which was suffered when he confronted an intruder in his apartment. Brett Linnenkohl returns back to the top of the Deacons rotation as he hit .292 average.

Outlook

The CBB predicts that Wake Forest will finish in fourth place in the ACC but it is not out of the possibility with some more consistent pitching every game that they could win the Atlantic Division.

BOSTON COLLEGE

The Boston College Eagles slightly missed making the ACC Conference tournament with an overall record of 24-27-1 with an ACC record of 12-17.

Pitching

The Eagles return 2006 CCBL pitcher of the year Terry Doyle who struggled during the 2007 campaign with injury issues. He only accumulated a 4-5 record with a 5.87 ERA before coming on strong at the end of the season including a nine inning start against Wake Forest in which he did not allow an earned run. He also had a strong start against Va Tech where he pitched a nine innings complete game to pick up a 3-2 victory over the Hokies. He will be joined by Ted Ratliff who went 6-3 with a 3.96 ERA. The opposing hitters only batted .258 against him. Dan Houston is expected to compete for the third spot in the rotation as he struggled with getting his role set in 2007 as he struggled out of the bullpen and in the starting rotation. He ended up the season with a 3-4 record with a 5.24 ERA including four starts. Freshmen pitchers Pat Dean, John Leonard, Nate Bayuk, and sophomore pitcher Geoff Oxley all bring depth to the rotation.

Offense

The Eagles lost their entire outfield plus two starters for the infield so they will look to a strong incoming freshman class to step into some big shoes. Sophomore starting catcher Tony Sanchez had a strong freshman campaign which saw him hit .318 while being a rock behind the plate. Eric Campbell is the top returning position player as he hit .350 with 41 RBI in 2007 while playing solid defense at the hot corner. Michael Belfiore will enter his second season at first base after a successful freshman campaign which saw him struggle early but come on at the end of the year with a season average of .297. The rest of the Eagles infield is expected to be filled by a combination of Garrett Smith, Mickey Wiswall and Matt Hamlet who are entering their first collegiate seasons. The outfield will be filled by sophomore Mike Sudol, freshman Marc Pedrios, and many other players who do not have much time on the field yet.

Outlook

The Eagles are a very inexperienced team on offense but return a very formidable rotation which can compete with any team in the ACC. The CBB still predicts that BC will finish in 5th place in the Atlantic Division and miss out on the ACC Tournament for the third straight season.

MARYLAND

Maryland had a great start to the season which saw them jump out to a 18-5 start but struggled once the ACC conference series started up ending the season with a 26-30 record while going 7-23 in a tough ACC.

Pitching

The Terrapins had three pitchers drafted in the 2007 draft led by All-American closer candidate Brett Cecil who was the 38th overall pick. The Terrapins number 1 starter this season will be George Washington sophomore transfer Scott Swinson who started 13 games for the Colonels last season with a 3.97 ERA. Jensen Pupa will be the number 2 starter for the Terps while being one of the top hitters on the team. He comes over from Montgomery College where he was named NJCAA All-American in 2007. The other spot in the rotation is still up for grabs with a ton of players competing for that final spot in the weekend.

Offense

The Maryland offense returns their entire infield minus shortstop Doug Melvin. Steve Braun who is the younger brother of Brewers third baseman Ryan Braun is expected to start at second base but can easily fill in at shortstop or third base. Mike Murphy is expected to hold down the third base spot after finishing second on the team with a .309 average. The shortstop role will be filled in with another JUCO transfer Justin Mayse. Dan Benick is the leading candidate to take over the first base role.

The outfield is led by sophomore sensation AJ Casario has been named to several player of the year lists. He led the Terrapins in average (.331), triples (3), and slugging percentage (.482). Nick Jowers returns to center field for his fourth straight year patrolling the outfield. Joe Palumbo and Gerry Spessard are expected to platoon in left field with the other one getting put at DH.

Outlook

The Maryland Terrapins need some major impact from JUCO transfers to become competitive in the ACC and grab a spot in the ACC Tournament and a possible NCAA berth. The CBB expects Maryland to finish in the bottom of the Atlantic Division.

Predicted Order of Finish
1. FSU
2. NC State
3. Clemson
4. Wake Forest
5. Boston College
6. Maryland

We will be providing the other division next weekend before the start of the season. Feel free to leave comments on my predictions.