New Mexico Has Many Holes to Fill in 2014
The Lobos had a great year in 2013 and had great players. The lineup was loaded with draft choices and experience. Most of the experience is gone and the draft choices are most certainly gone. All-American, All-MWC, all this and all that; mostly gone. Then again, that's college sports. The pros call it free agency. Anyway, will the Lobos be able to fill those holes and fight for the championship again in 2014? I'll give it a shot at what I think the starting lineup will be but only the coach knows for sure. I do know they have a hell of a big class of recruits coming in that will probably fill some of those holes.
We'll start with this; the Lobos lost six of their top 7 hitters. Need I say more? Lost are catcher Garver (most important position) as well as backup Suarez, third baseman Peterson (first round pick), LF/DH Campbell, center fielder Melendez, and shortstop Allbritton. That's a lot of strength up the middle to replace. Catcher is always a tough spot to fill as he, more than any other position, has to gain the confidence of the pitchers. You know what I mean; "Can I throw an 0-2 slider in the dirt with men on?" If yes, the pitcher is better. If no, he will throw more hittable balls in all counts. Anyway, the catcher. He's the number one priority. Incoming freshman Lane Milligan gets my vote as the starter at catcher. That's a lot of responsibility for a freshman but you have to start somewhere. It appears to me that two freshmen from last year will fill the two middle infield positions. Both Hagerty and Holley had substantial ABs and innings at the positions I have them filling. Alex Real will continue at first but third is a big question. Harris looks pretty good in the outfield and may be joined by Pustay who can also play first. I'm assuming Padilla will start in the outfield but his .266 average says he will be pushed by an incoming player. Incoming freshman Jack Zoellner might get a shot at third as well as a look at first. Incoming freshman Andre Vigil will also field some grounders at third while looking at a starting job. Both of these guys can hit the long ball which is what you want at the corners. Aaron Siple (transfer) has the speed to be the heir apparent for center field and, as a junior, needs to show he can do it right now.
Top starting pitcher Wolff is gone and he takes 16 starts with him. I'm sure they will be found somewhere. Actually, I think the pitching might be the strong suit of the 2014 team. Last year's team ERA was nearly 5.00 but I think that could be lowered substantially even though it's hard to pitch in New Mexico (ask NMSU how their pitching has performed the last ten years or so). A run or so off that ERA could spell wonders for the team's success. Beside losing Wolff three relievers are gone in McCasland, McClain, and Mathis (dare I call them the three M's?). Oh, I'd better not forget Aguilar as he led the staff in ERA and did well with 3 saves. A.J. Carman returns as a starter with the most experience with 14 starts but his 1-1 and 6.05 record demands improvement and I think cutting down on walks will help. The rest of the starting positions remain open for one hell of a dog fight as coach has brought in a bunch of young arms to improve the pitching staff. I like the way he thinks. Drew Bridges performed well as a freshman last year and had 9 starts. He'll get more this year. I also think he has to improve on his strikeouts to walks ratio which was 1/1. That's not good. For the third starter in the rotation Josh Walker is a possibility as he was 11-1 and 3.66 with 7 saves. I think he'll get spot starts but I'm putting him in as the closer. That leaves two other starting positions and I'm thinking that two newbies might get the call but there is always a surprise or two from returning players who really improve (sometimes called growing up). I rather like transfer Jake Cole who has seen the world. Started at North Carolina and finished at a jc before coming to Albuquerque. There are two other juco transfers who will get looks as starters. Both Mike Gould and Colton Thomson bring a lot to the table but I really like Thomson as he was a horse (over 100 IP) and he's a lefty. So there you have it.
C - Lane Milligan (Freshman)
1B - Alex Real (.317 and 8)
2B - Sam Hagerty (.280 and 1)
SS - Jared Holley (.293 and 0)
3B - Jack Zoellner (Freshman)
OF - Ryan Padilla (.266 and 3)
OF - Chase Harris (.321 and 5)
OF - Aaron Siple (juco transfer)
DH - John Pustay (.372 and 0)
SP - A.J. Carman (1-1 6.05)
SP - Drew Bridges (3-1 4.46)
SP - Jake Cole (transfer)
SP - Colton Thomson (transfer)
RP - Josh Walker (11-1 3.66 and 7 saves)