The Big East was able to put two teams in the NCAA Tournament last year with Xavier winning the tournament and St. John’s having a big year. I think St. John’s could be an at-large team again, but if they win the tournament this is a one-bid league.
Butler (2017 Record: 31-20, 7-10)
Despite going 8-4 to end the season and winning five of their last eight conference games, Butler missed out on the Big East Baseball Tournament.
Center fielder Tyler Houston is back after hitting .287 last year with 42 runs scored, 12 home runs, 38 RBI and 18 stolen bases. Michael Hartnagel returns at shortstop after leading the team with a .328 average last year to go along with 39 runs scored, 2 home runs and 28 RBI. Outfielder Gehrigh Parker hit .292 last year with 32 runs scored, 13 doubles, 5 home runs, and 33 RBI. Garrett Christman is a two-way player that hit .268 last year. Freshman Jake Margroff is a solid contact hitter who could get some immediate playing time.
Christman will most likely be the team’s Friday night starting this season after posting a 2.60 ERA in 55.1 innings pitched with 54 strikeouts. Connor Mitchell had a 3.36 ERA in 59 innings pitched with 46 strikeouts. Ryan Pepiot had a 4.39 ERA in 65.2 innings pitched with 79 strikeouts last year. John McCauley is a right-handed pitcher who is a hard thrower with a good slider. Head Coach Dave Schrage said he has a chance to be the team’s closer in 2018 as a freshman.
“We need to replace the majority of our bullpen from last year. We have solid starting pitching, but our bullpen is very inexperienced. We also need to replace a middle of the order bat in Jordan Lucio who graduated.” said Head Coach Dave Schrage
Creighton (2017 Record: 24-25, 11-4)
Creighton was terrible out-of-conference last year but dominated Big East play finishing with the best record percentage-wise. They won their first game in the Big East Tournament but lost to the second and third seeds in their next two games.
Catcher Michael Emodi should be back in the middle of the order after hitting .270 a year ago with 26 runs scored, 13 doubles, 9 home runs and 39 RBI. Second baseman Isaac Collins hit .282 last year with 23 runs scored and 11 stolen bases. Outfielder Will Robertson hit .272 with 19 runs scored, 3 home runs and 21 RBI. Outfielder and DH Parker Upton led the team with a .312 average last year in just 93 at-bats. Shortstop Thomas Luevano and outfielder Clark Brinkman both return after solid 2017 seasons.
There is liltterally almost nothing coming back in this department. Creighton will have to hope that young, inexperienced pitchers step up in a huge way, or that some newcomers will have an immediate impact.
I think the offense will be fine in 2018, and maybe even a little better with a lot of key contributors coming back. If they’d hadn’t lost so much in the pitching staff I’d really like this team. But they’ll have to replace a lot of big innings from last year’s team to compete in 2018.
Georgetown (2017 Record: 27-28, 4-14)
Last year was a difficult season for the Hoyas as they won just four conference games, but were pretty good out-of-conference. They missed the Big East Tournament and will try to rebound in 2018.
The lineup loses its top two hitters from last year, but return outfielder Michael DeRenzi who hit .330 a year ago with 45 runs scored, 7 doubles, 5 home runs, 44 RBI and 12 stolen bases. Shortstop Jake Bernstein hit .290 last year with 39 runs scored. Catcher Sammy Stevens hit .283 with 4 home runs and 36 RBI. Third baseman Ryan Weisenberg come on strong late last year and finished hitting .265 with 23 runs scored, 6 home runs and 25 RBI.
Kevin Superko started 13 games last year and had a 4.15 ERA in 78 innings pitched with 43 strikeouts. Jack Cushing started 14 games a year ago and posted a 4.80 ERA in 84.1 innings pitched with 79 strikeouts. They should fill in two of the three weekend rotation spots. Jimmy Swad was great out of the bullpen last year with a team-best 2.51 ERA in 32.1 innings pitched with 42 strikeouts and 6 saves.
Even though the lineup loses its best two hitters from last year, I think it could be just as good. I also think the pitching staff will be much improved, making this team a candidate to be much improved.
St. John’s (2017 Record: 42-13, 13-5)
It was a banner year for St. John’s in 2017 with a couple of wins over ranked teams, including one over North Carolina. After sweeping Xavier in the regular season, they lost to them twice in the Big East Tournament. They still qualified for the NCAA Tournament, but went two-and-out in the Clemson Regional.
First baseman John Valente was second on the team last year with a .375 average to go along with 54 runs scored, 10 doubles, 2 home runs, 35 RBI and 9 stolen bases. Catcher Jamie Galazin hit .319 last year with 43 runs scored, 10 doubles, 2 home runs, 34 RBI and 13 stolen bases. Outfielder Anthony Brocato is also back after hitting .317 with 30 runs scored, 16 doubles, 8 home runs and 47 RBI last year. This lineup loses three of its top four hitters, but will still have plenty of solid hitters throughout the lineup.
Sean Mooney should lead the rotation and could be the best pitcher in the conference. He posted a 1.71 ERA last year in 100 innings pitched with 88 strikeouts. Kevin Magee missed time last year with an injury, but posted a 2.45 ERA in 40.1 innings pitched with 40 strikeouts. Michael LoPresti started 12 games last year and had a 4.66 ERA in 56 innings pitched with 44 strikeouts. Gavin Hollowell led the team with a 1.65 ERA last year in 32.2 innings pitched with 37 strikeouts and 3 saves.
St. John’s could take a step back offensively with some key departures, but the pitching staff should be just as good – if not better – than last year when it had a team ERA of 3.11. They have the ingredients to be an at-large team again.
Seton Hall (2017 Record: 29-24, 10-8)
Seton Hall picked up some quality wins in 2017 over Michigan and Florida early on, but didn’t really build on that in conference play with just a 10-8 record. And then they went two-and-out in the Big East Tournament.
First baseman Matt Toke should be back in the middle of the lineup after hitting .321 as a freshman last year in 156 at-bats with 20 runs scored and 25 RBI. Mike Alescio will also be back after hitting .298 last year. Outfielder Ryan Ramiz hit .277 with 37 runs scored and a team-high 17 stolen bases. Shortstop Al Molina also returns to the lineup after playing in 50-of-53 games a year ago.
Dana Cullen should lead the starting rotation after posting a 3.40 ERA in 79.1 innings pitched with 81 strikeouts. Shane McCarthy started 12 games last year and had a 5.13 ERA in 59.2 innings pitched with 46 strikeouts. Matt Leon was good out of the bullpen last year with a 3.13 ERA in 31.2 innings pitched with 36 strikeouts.
The lineup returns its top three hitters from last year, while the rotation brings back two solid pitchers and some good arms in the bullpen. I think this team will be at least as good as it was in 2017.
Villanova (2017 Record: 14-33, 5-13)
It was a not a great year for Villanova as far as baseball goes with just five conference wins. We’ll see if things will get any better in 2018.
First baseman Ryan Toohers is back after hitting .262 as a freshman in 2017. Outfielder David Gulati also returns after hitting .240 with 23 runs scored and 8 stolen bases. This lineup loses two of its best three hitters from last year, and could be in for another long year.
They lose their best starter from last year in Hunter Schryver who had a 2.44 ERA in 73.2 innings pitched with 91 strikeouts. Ryan Doty started 10 games last year and had a 3.82 ERA in 61.1 innings pitched with 39 strikeouts. Jonathan Rosero started 13 games last year, but had a 6.21 ERA in 66.2 innings pitched with 41 strikeouts.
Things don’t look good for a team that is losing its best hitter and pitcher from a team that won just 14 games a year ago. Hopefully some newcomers will step in and have an impact.
Xavier (2017 Record: 34-27, 10-6)
Xavier had an up-and-down 2017 as they looked like a tournament team at times, but not others. But then they put it all together to end the season breezing through the Big East Tournament on their way to a championship. They advanced to the Louisville regional where they went 2-2.
Conor Grammes led the team as a freshman last year with a .341 average to go along with 34 runs scored, 14 doubles, 7 home runs and 41 RBI. Shortstop Chris Givin hit .302 in just 43 games last year with 35 runs scored and 11 doubles. Outfielder Will Larue hit .285 with 40 runs scored, 3 home runs, 27 RBI and 26 stolen bases. Outfielder Joe Gellenbeck led the team with 56 RBI last year and was second with 11 home runs. He also hit .271, scored 43 runs and stole 12 bases. Second baseman Mitch Gallagher hit .263 a year ago with 37 runs scored, 12 doubles, 4 home runs, 32 RBI and 11 stolen bases. That’s five of their top six hitters that are back.
The pitching staff loses all but one start from a year ago, so that will be difficult to replace. Trey Schramm brings back the lone start from 2017. He posted a 4.54 ERA in 39.2 innings pitched with 39 strikeouts and 4 saves. Matt Kent led the team with a 1.74 ERA last year in 46.2 innings pitched with 34 strikeouts and 2 saves.
This team could quite easily have one of the best offenses in the Big East. But if they can’t find some arms to replace all the inning their losing, then they’ll have another inconsistent season. I’m hoping this team finds the pitching it needs because it could be an at-large team if that happens.
2018 All-Big East Preseason Team
C: Michael Emodi (Creighton)
1B: John Valente (St. John’s)
2B: Mitch Gallagher (Xavier)
SS: Michael Hartnagel (Butler)
3B: Ryan Weisenberg (Georgetown)
OF: Joe Gellenbeck (Xavier)
OF: Michael DeRenzi (Georgetown)
OF: Anthony Brocato (St. John’s)
DH: Conor Grammes (Xavier)
SP: Jack Cushing (Georgetown)
SP: Sean Mooney (St. John’s)
SP: Dana Cullen (Seton Hall)
SP: Garrett Christman (Butler)
SP: Kevin Magee (St. John’s)
RP: Jimmy Swad (Georgetown)
RP: Gavin Hollowell (St. John’s)
RP: Matt Kent (Xavier)
C: Jamie Galazin (St. John’s)
1B: Matt Toke (Seton Hall)
OF: Tyler Houston (Butler)
Predicted Order to Finish:
- St. John’s
- Seton Hall