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San Jose State Baseball Needs Big Improvement in 2016

If the Spartans are to dig themselves out of the cellar, all segments must improve. The pitching was atrocious and the hitting was sub-par with little power. Two good recruits promise some help but the returning players must all get better. The numerous sophomores through the lineup now have a year under their belts so now have the valuable experience. I have my choice of who starts and then coach has his. Surprisingly, I got pretty close.

Coach Nakama has a very young team to work with in 2016
Coach Nakama has a very young team to work with in 2016
Terrell Lloyd

San Jose State Lineup Has More Questions Than Answers

A while back I posted a similar article on a San Jose State fan site so I'm stealing and editing from that. I also use the lineup (as it stands now) that Coach Nakama sent me as I requested. I request the same from all of the coaches and some respond while others play it too close to the chest to let me see their cards. I'll do what I can with the lineups and comments are welcome, as always. Oh, and thanks to all of the coaches who share with me so I can share with you.

Bozar's Lineup:

C - Joe Stefanki (JR) - .262
1B - David Campbell (SO) - .255 and 2
2B - Ozzy Braff (SR) - .298
SS - Michael Breen (JR) - .246
3B - Brendt Citta (FR)
OF - Dillan Smith (SR) - .250
OF - Brett Bautista (JR) - .297 and 1
OF - Corey Olivet (SO) -.161
DH - Shane Timmons (SO) - .252 and 4

SP - Logan Handzlik (JR) - injured
SP - Joe Balfour (JR) - juco transfer
SP - Jonathan Hernandez (SR) - 0-2 and 7.68
SP - Hilario Tovar (SO) - 1-5 and 9.32
RP - ?

Coach Nakama's Lineup:

C - Joe Stefanki/ Brendt Citta
1B - Josh Nashed/ Brendt Citta - Nashed .172
2B - Ozzy Braff
SS - Michael Breen
3B - David Campbell
OF - Dillan Smith
OF - Brett Bautista
OF - Cory Olivet/ Hunter Tidwell - Tidwell is a juco transfer
DH - Shane Timmons

SP - Joe Balfour
SP - Hilario Tovar
SP - Logan Handzlik
SP - Matt Brown (SO) - 2-6 and 4.44
RP - Josh Nashed (SO) - 3-5 and 7.04

Fans of the Spartans have complained about the lack of quality recruits that are coming into the program. There is some truth to that but I also would like to point out that the program has in the last two years two of the top talents that were in the San Francisco Bay Area in Josh Nashed (2015) and Brendt Citta (2016). Both of these guys are D1 talent but one has a ways to go and the other has yet to play a down, er, uh, a minute, an inning. I also want a Kris Bryant or a David Price but those guys are rare. So, rave on.

The Spartans endured one of the worst seasons ever by a San Jose State team. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if it was the worst ever. They had poor hitting and worse than that pitching. They played in a conference that was a one bid conference and the team that received the bid was two and out. The conference also had only one draft pick to brag about (Fresno State's Taylor Ward) and the rest that were drafted were either at an expected position or below if they got drafted at all. Overall, a down year for the conference and the Spartans.

Can the boys in blue rebound? I'll be noncommittal and say maybe. Some bad points. Don't expect much help from the recruits as those announced are few because of the youth of the team. No All-Americans let alone draft picks that would need to be courted. That says a bit about the talent coming in even though two should help. Most return from a poorly performing team. There is some good in that, believe it or not. A few players have decided, for one reason or another, to leave the program. I don't want to go into the politics or emotions involved, let's just say they are gone and there were no all-stars among them.

The team on the field was dominated mostly by the number of freshmen who started regularly. Trial by fire and there are plenty of third degree burns showing. Let's look at the possible lineup as coach see it for 2016.

C -
Joe Stefanki did most of the work in the squat (as Kruk would say) and hit .261 with no home runs. The average is acceptable at his position but I don't know how he does defensively. Do the pitchers work with him? Is he good at blocking balls in the dirt? Can he throw out runners? The stats show 57 steal attempts with 27 caught stealing. That's not too bad but could be better. He also had only two passed balls which is good. Overall, I'd say he has the job until a Buster Posey clone comes along. Leland High School's Brendt Citta was recruited as a catcher and was a standout. He will work out at a lot of positions. He's a good one and will push to start wherever he ends up.

1B -
One of the players that will not return next year is Chris Williams. He hit .242 as a freshman and had a little pop with two home runs. He had eight errors which was not good but first basemen get a lot of chances. Still, not good. Coach sees either Josh Nashed or Citta starting here. Both were outstanding recruits but only time will tell who will deliver. My money is on Citta with Nashed making waves elsewhere.

2B -
Second base looks pretty solid with Ozzy Braff. It took him awhile to figure it all out but he ended up as the Spartans best hitter at .310. Here's another good note; he committed no errors. Did you hear that? No errors. Very good indeed.

SS -
There are a number of possibilities and the Spartans are really hurting at this position as last year's starter (most of the time) deWatteville is gone from the program. I would have had trouble penciling him in as next year's starter as he had too many errors for his position and hit only .195. Can't have it both ways but I'll take a great fielder if he can't hit over others every time. Michael Breen (.246) is the Coach's choice but he's seen limited action in two years. The most intriguing of the returnees could be Kyle Morrison. Hope he's healthy by season's start.

3B -
I predict stardom for David Campbell. He had pop in high school and shows it at this level too. He's one of those rarities that coaches (and scouts) drool over; throws right and bats left. That means lots of holes he could fill. He played a lot at third but I'm wondering if he has any experience at first. If he does, he's in. If he doesn't, well, hell, I don't know. I looked over the lineup for past games and he did play at least one game at first and that's good enough for me. Besides, he's tall at 6'3" and growing. He needs to put on some weight as he's a bit slight. A little more height and about 20 pounds could equal national attention. Remember, you read it here first.

OF -
I always put no special emphasis on which of the OF positions when I do this kind of thing but you know that CF is most important followed closely by RF. Some ask why right? Well, any hits to right with a runner on first requires a real gun to keep the runner from going to third; it's a long throw. A savvy third base coach will know the weak arms and run on a weak arm in right every time. Center field is not quite the same. You need a wide receiver's ability to go get the ball which requires speed as well as tracking the ball in flight or right off the bat. Left field doesn't require any of that, really, but lefties are at a disadvantage (a bit) as they have to turn around to throw with hits down the line. Barry Bonds was the best at that as he had a weak arm but no one tried to stretch a single into a double against him. He got to the ball quickly and got rid of it in a hurry. So, what am I saying here? The OF positions all require a different kind of player and only watching them play will determine that. I don't have the luxury of watching the players but I saw one game so I'm an expert (insert smiley face here). I'm thinking Bautista gets the nod in left. He's been a DH for most of his two years but it's time for him to vacate that and become a player. We know he can hit. A little more power would be a plus but just hit, kid.

OF -
Right field was a question mark for me before the season started in 2015 but Dillan Smith emerged soon as the guy. He's stuck in right as he's shown he has the arm and can hit. He started strong at the plate but cooled off at the end and ended up at .256. He can also steal a bag but needs to get better at that as stolen bases can really help a struggling offense.

OF -
The third OF position is a tough one as there doesn't appear to be any returning players that can fill it. I looked at the recruits and not a lot there either. A possibility is Cory Olivet. He didn't show he could hit but who else is there? He hit an anemic .161. This could be a mad scramble. Coach's other choice is Hunter Tidwell who is transferring in as a late signing.

DH -
Shane Timmons looks likely here. Showed more than a little power in his freshman year. I have no idea why he didn't play more. For a team that was starved for hitting and hitting with power, it was a puzzle why he didn't get full time duty. He gets the nod from Nakama and there are hopes he continues with the pop.

SP -
The kid I've like the most since he showed up is Logan Handzlik and I'll go with him again as does Coach Nakama. He'll be a grizzled veteran on this staff. I thought he would get a medical redshirt but, he didn't so he's a junior. In any event, he needs to be healthy. If he is, great.

SP -
Matt Brown showed a lot of promise last year. If I remember correctly, he seems to throw a sinker (on purpose or natural movement) which is great when you need a double play. He's big (6'6") so he fits the mold but, as with most frosh, he needs to add weight. He was 2-6 and 4.44 with 36 strike outs in 48 IP. He needs to cut down on walks. Actually, that was a problem for the whole staff outside of Contrades.

SP -
From the Northwest comes Joe Balfour from Mount Hood CC. He had a spectacular sophomore season as he went 10-1 and 1.19 in 98 IP walking only 9, I might add. I need to be careful with praise of transfers as most of you know the history the team has had with sparkling transfers. Nuff said.

SP -
The mid week starter is important because if you have a winner on a Tuesday it means you have a deep and talented staff. It's been a while since we've seen that at SJS. Hilario Tovar (1-5 and 9.32) has shown he can pitch at times so he's a good choice. Josh Nashed (3-5 and 7.04) has a real chance to be a week-end starter so if he shows he can do it here, he will push the other three to get a shot on Sunday. A recruit of note should get a shot at starting also. Brendt Citta (there's that name again) did well in CCS competition which really bodes well.

A big and surprising loss for the team was Turtle Kuhaulua as he doesn't return. This will be a big hole to fill and coach feels sophomore Josh Nashed should fill in quite nicely here.

A lot of things have to go right for the Spartans to improve let alone move up in the standings. Three newbies have to perform well from the start and returning vets have to get better; a lot better. If all of that happens and a few good surprises happen, then it will be a decent year for the boys in blue. You know, I could use this paragraph in all my previews.