San Jose State has Holes to Fill in 2014
I was finally able to sit down and have a talk with San Jose State baseball coach Dave Nakama. Besides talking baseball we talked about Hawaii and some of our favorite spots in the islands. His favorite is the island of Kauai while my wife and I prefer the Big Island especially the Kapoho area not too far from Pahoa town. But, as I seemingly do far too much, I digress.
The last two years have not been happy ones for the San Jose State Spartans. The past season in particular pointed out some serious shortcomings that needed to be addressed. Coach and I talked about most of the positions and how recruits should be able to help.
Don - I'm thinking that the starting pitchers will be a lot different than what we saw in 2013. Russo is gone. Slaton is now a pro so that takes care of two starters. I don't think Melero is a Friday starter but he deserves a chance at the Sunday or Tuesday guy. Chavez had a bad year and didn't live up to expectations. I saw flashes of promise late in the season. Do you see him as a starter this year? The other starters will probably come from the recruits.
I'm thinking Jace Puckett will get a serious look at a starting position. Incoming junior from San Mateo CC is Andrew Herrera and I see him as a starter. So, I see the starters as Herrera, Puckett, Chavez, and Melero. Michael Wright also looks good as a starter as he was undefeated as a senior and comes from a good program. It'll be a dogfight. Relievers also are open. In fact, very open as the relief was not good last season. Do you have any invited walkons that look to fill these roles? I see the closer role going to Kalei Contrades.
Coach Nakama - Don, I don't think folks should get caught up in the Friday guy kind of thinking. If a program has a drop dead stud as a starter well then, yeah, he's your Friday guy. What we ARE looking for is a guy who can go deep into a game so as to keep our bullpen rested for the weekend games. If we have to use the bullpen a lot on Friday, that puts those pitchers at a disadvantage. The starters this year could be just about anyone as I'm leaving that open. Johnny Melero should get a spot as he has the experience . Three others that I like are Puckett, Wright, and Ragsdale. We have brought in a bunch of new pitching so we'll be looking at a lot of new faces. Johnson, Herrera, and Swiech also are in the hunt for innings. Nothing is written in stone at this point.
Don - The shortstop question is a good one. I projected the kid from Hawaii as the starter but he went pro. No surprise as he was drafted in the fourth round. That's still a tough loss. I see no one on the current roster that looks like a natural for short. What can you tell me about Alec de Watteville? He comes from a pretty good program in the Sacramento area so I think he has possibilities. Then there is Kalei Contrades.
Coach Nakama - You're right. Shortstop is a concern and losing Kiner-Falefa hurt. He was very good defensively and he had a good chance to be a starter as a freshman. As it is, we may have more than one freshman starting on the infield. Hermanson, Breen along with de Watteville will get looks from every position from second to third. Valdez could move over to third as we have some kids that can play second well enough to step in. The best that show up will probably get shortstop.
Don - Outfield? Mercurio is set in center but the corner positions are open; way open. Brett Bautista from Granite Bay I think will get a serious look. One of the OF positions might go to Matt Lopez when he doesn't spell Matt Carroll at first. I see no one on the current roster that will make a serious press for a position.
Coach Nakama - Right now it looks like Lopez in left, Mercurio in center, and Olivet or Bautista in right.
Don - Second base is all Jacob Valdez.
No comment here as this was covered above.
Don - First is Matt Carroll.
No comment, period.
Don - Third base will also be a question. I didn't like Daquuioag at that position. He needs to learn the position. In fact, he needs to learn the position where ever he is put. I like his bat, but he can hurt defensively. I see him at third. He really has to improve. Then there is Kalei Contrades.
Coach Nakama - Yes, Sheldon can hit and we'll need his bat in the lineup somewhere. His glove needs work so we'll see how he looks when he comes back. We like him a lot.
Don - Catcher? Dane Lund caught my eye. He's small but he reminds me of a lot of small players who have a huge chip on their shoulder. He has one year to prove himself. I've heard that Kyle Gallegos may return. I liked what he did behind the dish. Comments?
Coach Nakama - Dane is no longer in the program but Kyle Gallegos is coming back and will be our starter.
Don - Do you have any walk-ons coming in that I can tell the readers about? I realize you can't show your hand but there must be something you can tell me. I also think we agree that this team needs a lot of work and will take at least a year or two to make some improvement.
Coach Nakama - I've told you about a few new ones and some of these are signed players to scholarships. We have some walk-ons but we have a lot of new scholarship players that will be difficult to move aside if you're trying out as a walk-on.
Don - Who has left the program? I do not need to know the reason why just who.
Coach Nakama - No comment, other than Lund.