The Canes look to rebound from the worst season in recent school history, which resulted in Miami missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the early 70s, after they were the first team left out of the the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
The Canes big early season test is against Florida. Winning that series would go a long way towards building a resume. The ACC schedule is tough in the middle, but if the Canes can stay above water, the last 2 series are definitely ones they will be favored in and can bolster their resume with.
The Canes were picked to finish in the middle of the ACC Coastal, which is not surprising given last year’s struggles. In terms of cross-over opponents, Miami will not play Louisville, Wake Forest, and NC State. It’s absolutely imperative that the Canes win the series with Virginia Tech, Pitt, Notre Dame and BC, because the rest of that schedule is brutal. If the can win those 4 series, though, they have every opportunity to finish with a strong ACC record. Last year, the midweek absolutely killed Miami, so they can’t just focus on ACC play.
Miami is ranked in a scattering of polls, but that honestly feels more like reputation ranking. There is no reason for the Canes to be overly optimistic this year, but we’ll see if they surprise us. From a preseason standpoint, it’s hard to justify ranking the team.
5 Questions to Preview the 2017 Canes
Miami returns most of last year’s pitching staff returns. Jeb Bargfeldt will be ace, but behind him are question marks where we might see Michael Mediavilla, Even McKendry, and Greg Veliz get the nod. The bullpen should be strong, particularly if Cooper Hammond comes back strong. How do you see this rotation shaking out, and after an off year, do you think this unit can return to one of the ACC’s best?
Bargfeldt, Veliz, and McKendry should be the weekend starters. Bargfeldt was extremely consistent last season, and that’s something Miami will definitely need to continue into this year. If not for an injury to freshman Chris McMahon, I don’t think Mediavilla would even get the midweek role, that’s how shaken he looked last year. However, his experience could prove valuable there, and he should have the ability to overpower the teams with weaker lineups. It remains to be seen if they can prove themselves to be among the ACC elite. To me, even at their top potential, they would be a notch below, simply because I don’t see an elite, overpowering arm in the starting rotation.
I agree with Adam’s rotation here. I think it is Bargfeldt, McKendry, and Veliz as the weekend rotation. Mediavilla’s complete meltdown last year was out of nowhere. 2 years ago, he was the ace of a team that went to Omaha. But there is no reason to trust him on the weekend. He can hopefully work in the midweek, and could also become a weekend weapon out of the bullpen, which is a role he served as a freshman, especially given that the Canes lack left arm quality bullpen arms. But I think Veliz might be the key to whether this staff performs at an elite level or not. The Canes have some good pitchers, but Veliz is the one with the big arm. If he can add another pitch to his repertoire, he is the perfect pitcher to break up the rotation and give the opponents a different look.
Miami’s infield is changing over. It looks like Romy Gonzalez will move to the outfield and that several freshman might be around the infield. The Canes did bring in a Top 10 recruiting class. Are you concerned with playing so many newcomers?
I’m not concerned about the talent that will be out there, but I do worry about how quickly they will adapt to this level of competition. A lot of the time, it takes a little while until a freshman can really settle into the college game and find his legs at the plate. Alex Toral is someone I am very excited about. Most thought he would never make it to campus, so there is potential for him to have a Zack Collins-type effect on this lineup. Another new face worth mentioning is Danny Reyes. The Canes went heavy on transfer players last year, and it failed spectacularly. Reyes, a former Gator, seems poised to start in the outfield and hit in the middle of the order.
I’m more concerned with the defensive side. I think there is enough here offensively, even with a lot of freshmen, where there will be bats. A lot of these are top level prospects, so while some might take time to adjust, I think enough will hit. Now, the infield is going to be a challenge defensively. It takes time to develop that chemistry, especially up the middle, and my main concern is that a lot of errors will hurt this team. I also think getting Amditis back healthy will be a huge boost.
Frankie Bartow was up and down last year, particularly fading later in the year. Between Cabezas, Hammond (hopefully) and Bartow, the Canes could be very hard to rally on, provided Bartow remains consistent. How confident are you in his ability to close on the back-end of the bullpen?
Part of the problem last year was that Miami did not have enough reliable pitching to bridge the starters to Bartow, the closer. Cabezas was one of the few players that could be reliably called upon, and when the Canes starters were knocked out of the game early, it really strained the pen. Bartow was often called out in the 8th inning to try and get a 6-out save or keep the game close, and it didn’t seem to suit him well. Getting Hammond back would be huge, provided that he has fully recovered. He really excelled in that setup role two years ago, with a submarine delivery that hitters really struggled against. With Hammond, Cabezas, Albert Maury, and perhaps another new face or two, I think Bartow will face a bit less pressure and be able to excel.
I think we absolutely have to limit him to one inning saves. He is not a guy you can extend out. With Hammond back, and hopefully more consistent starting pitching, and obviously Cabezas being one of the ACC’s best pitcher, hopefully Bartow just has to go one inning. But the key to that might be to get one or more other contributing bullpen arms. That will take the pressure of Bartow.
Last year was a complete disaster. The Canes blew it in the midweek, blew several weekend games, and then collapsed against North Carolina in the ACC Tournament with a chance to play their way into the NCAA Tournament. Obviously, we expect to make the NCAA Tournament, but what do you think this team’s ceiling is?
All bets are off, after last season. I’m not sure you can reasonably set the ceiling much higher than hosting a regional. I don’t think this is one the best 16 teams in the nation by years end, but if things fall their way it could happen. More likely is that this team finds its way into a regional as the 2 or 3 seed that every host hopes to avoid. At that point, it just becomes a matter of matchups, and how much the team fights to give Morris a good season to end his career. To put a prediction on paper, I see this team going something like 35-19 and losing in the UF regional.
I don’t think this is a regional host team. But I think it is a team that can win a regional and maybe even a super regional. Why? There is pitching depth, and if things go right, this team will be hard to hit, which works well in the postseason. With so many young players, it will take a while to get going which will damage a chance at hosting a regional. The Canes should be rounding into form at the end of the year. With that said, I think floor is missing the NCAA Tournament (that is now a thing we must consider) and ceiling is making it to Omaha. That’s the nature of playing so many young players.
This season marks the end of an era. We’ve spent years complaining about small ball, and everything else, from Jim Morris. But he is without a doubt one of the most successful managers in college baseball history. He will retire after this season. What kind of legacy does he leave at Miami and how will you remember him?
As a fan of the Canes for only the past 10 years, my memories of Coach Morris are not going to be as rosy as those who were around for the championships. But I still acknowledge that he is a legend not only at the University of Miami, but in all of college baseball. His legacy will be 2 national championships and 13 College World Series appearances (including 11 in his first 15 years at UM). He, as much as Ron Fraser, is responsible for creating the extremely high expectations of Miami Baseball fans. And that’s why his legacy will also include the 7 years without a CWS appearance, and the end of the vaunted post-season streak.
I think as we get farther away from this era, we will appreciate it more. The streak ending will just be an asterisk. But other than the consecutive trips to Omaha, the last 10 years, starting with the meltdown in 2008 with the best team in the country, has been ugly. With that said, for 15 years prior to that, this was the finest program in college baseball. All you can ask of a manager is you put the team in Omaha, and Morris did that at an absurd level for a long time. His legacy is set in stone, and hopefully he gets a fitting send off this year, a statue next to Ron Fraser’s in front of the stadium, and a permanent “3” painted on the grass.