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Post-draft, way too early, 2016 Hoosier Baseball preview

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Six Hoosiers and two signees were selected on the 3rd day of the Major League Baseball draft. Since we have no idea which selected players will choose to be in Bloomington next season, it's the perfect time to take a gander at what the 2016 club will look like.

Kyle Hart, Alex Krupa, Craig Dedelow
Kyle Hart, Alex Krupa, Craig Dedelow

DRAFTEES

RHP Jake Kelzer* (Cubs, Rd. 14, Pick 413)

RHP Scott Effross** (Cubs, Rd. 15, Pick 443)

RHP Ryan Halstead (Giants, Rd. 21, Pick 636)

C Brad Hartong (Twins, Rd. 29, Pick 860)

RHP Christian Morris** (Yankees, Rd. 33, Pick 993)

RHP Luke Harrison (Cardinals, Rd. 35, Pick 1061)

Travis Herrin*** (Wabash Valley College) (Angels, Rd. 18, Pick 555)

Alex Krupa*** (Iowa Western C.C.) (Reds, Rd. 35, Pick 1045)

*Would be a Junior upon return to Indiana

**Would be a Senior upon return to Indiana

***Signee

OTHER DEPARTURES

OF Ricky Alfonso

DH/1B/OF Scott Donley

OF Will Nolden

2B Casey Rodrigue

OF Chris Sujka

KEY ARRIVALS

Luke Miller is a 6-3, 185 lb. utility man out of Cowan High School (Muncie) who is widely believed to have one of the best bats in the Midwest. He has spent some time at 3rd, in the outfield, and on the mound, all places where his strong arm can be utilized.

Ryan Fineman, a 6-1, 190 lb. catcher from Agoura High School in Westlake Village, CA, is described by Perfect Game USA as an "outstanding defensive catcher," with a "very good bat." He made their Honorable Mention list for All-American and was on their all-California team.

Alex Krupa, who was originally part of the same recruiting class as Demetrius Webb, Austin Cangelosi, and Austin Foote, will presumably forgo professional baseball for a little while longer and join the Hoosiers. (He was drafted in the 15th round by the Reds out of high school, but enrolled at Iowa Western C.C. He was drafted again by Cincinnati in the 35th round this year.) And he will be an outstanding addition for Chris Lemonis. The Greenwood native was recently named MVP of the JUCO World Series, and in 60 games for IWCC, Krupa hit a whopping .428 and registered an OBP of .492, which are the kind of numbers that suggest he's tailor-made to leadoff. He also led JUCO baseball with 10 triples.

Travis Herrin is another Indiana-bred player who went the JUCO route, however, Herrin won't come to Bloomington as highly touted as Krupa. Herrin, a pitcher, made 11 appearances this past season with WVC and logged 66.0 IP while only starting once. But a 3.68 ERA and 4-6 record suggest that Herrin will have work to do before stepping on the rubber for a Big Ten team. He'll also need to cut down on the number of unearned runs he gives up. He allowed 15 in 2015.

Indiana has also signed five others: RHP/INF Paul Milto (Roncalli), RHP Chandler Sedat, UTL Scotty Bradley, INF Tony Butler, and LHP Timmy Herrin (Terre Haute South).

WHAT'S NEXT?

Wilhite Dedes

THE LINEUP

It would be crazy to imagine anything other than a regular lineup in 2016 that includes Nick Ramos, Austin Cangelosi, Brian Wilhite, Isaiah Pasteur, Craig Dedelow, and Logan Sowers. Four of the six were everyday players when healthy during the 2015 campaign while Pasteur and Wilhite split time at 3rd base and were both in the lineup daily when Ramos was injured. The biggest question to be answered is whether any of the guys off the bench will be able to step into any of the roles left open by Hartong, Nolden, Donley, and Rodrigue.

Presumably, you would have the following position battles:

Catcher -- Demetrius Webb vs. Ryan Fineman

"Big Meech" Webb saw a limited amount of action behind the plate in 2015, only catching when games were out of reach so that Hartong's legs could get a rest. In those opportunities, he was 0-for-2 when runners were stealing and allowed two passed balls. And at the plate, he really seemed to struggle to catch up to the ball, going 2-for-14 and earning three walks.

Fineman, as mentioned above, seems to be the opposite of what Brad Hartong was. Hartong had a great bat and was better than serviceable behind the dish. Based on descriptions from Perfect Game, it seems that Fineman is an exceptional catcher and good hitter. Meech will have a leg up in this battle, already having a relationship with the pitching staff, but I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Fineman behind the plate as often, if not more often, than Webb.

Outfield -- Alex Krupa vs. Luke Miller vs. Laren Eustace vs. Chris Lowe

With only one spot available in the outfield (Sowers and Dedelow are locks, although, given his canon, I wouldn't be surprised to see Sowers moved to RF rather than LF, where he played every game in 2015), a couple freshmen and a couple sophomores will most likely duke it out.

Chris Lowe saw a handful of pinch-hit ABs early in the season, but was absent for most of the latter part of the season. And he only had 31 defensive chances all season. Lowe is probably a better candidate for the DH spot, but I suppose he could sneak in here if things go wrong for everyone else.

Eustace would bring something to the lineup that it desperately needs: speed. This is a team of thumpers. They don't run well. Eustace, however, is lightning. Defensively, the sample size was too small to know anything, but there was a flash of potential at the plate. Though he only hit .207 in 29 ABs, a couple extra base hits and a few RBIs suggested that Eustace could be the perfect leadoff man if he can hit more consistently. He also had three walks which made his OBP .324. Three more walks/hits would make the OBP .375, which is higher than the OBP Casey Rodrigue had in 2015 in the leadoff spot. That's all to say that Eustace isn't that far away from being ready for that spot.

Luke Miller will also get consideration for the outfield position. His arm is definitely strong enough to fit right in with Sowers and Dedelow, but he might fit another need better. But if he were to play here, the arm and bat would be at least consistent with Will Nolden's.

Alex Krupa should be the favorite, though. If he was in Bloomington last year, Cangelosi probably would have bene out of a job. I suspect you would have seen Krupa in the outfield and Dedelow at first. The JUCO transfer has been drafted by Cincinnati twice and for good reason. Wherever he fits in the lineup, he'll be one of the best hitters in the Big Ten from day one.

Infield -- Luke Miller vs. Colby Stratten vs. Austin Cangelosi vs. Chris Lowe vs. Isaiah Pasteur

Remember how I said you'd be crazy to imagine a lineup without Cangelosi and Pasteur? Call me crazy.

Why? Because Luke Miller is going to play. And Alex Krupa may beat him out in the outfield. Does that mean he'll replace Scatman or Pasteur in the infield? Only if you want Krupa, Miller, and Eustace in the lineup at the same time.

If all three of those guys are going to play on the same day, you have three guys who can play in the outfield and one who can play the infield. That means Miller, by default, is in the infield. Then Krupa and Eustace would go OF/DH or DH/OF.

Imagine, then, if you would, that you want all three of those guys to start. That probably immediately eliminates Colby Stratten. The freshman hit .333 in 2015 but in just 24 ABs. And he only had 21 defensive chances. While the youngster has plenty of potential, he's probably a year (and Brian Wilhite and Nick Ramos graduating) away from starting.

You're left with Cangelosi, Lowe, and Pasteur for three spots. Personally, I like what Lowe brings to the table, and he can fit at first, but you're probably not looking for a first baseman. Ramos will be at SS. Wilhite and Krupa will be at the corners. Krupa's arm suggests he fits better at 3rd, but Brian Wilhite was absolutely fantastic at the hot corner.

Neither Pasteur nor Cangelosi are natural second basemen (only Stratten is out of the players on this list, and now I'm confusing and doubting myself). But Pasteur's play at SS suggests he's better suited for the middle of the infield. Add in Cangelosi's struggles at the plate over the last month or so of the 2015 campaign and it stands to reason that it would be Pasteur's spot to lose.

Given all that, here are three potential lineups that depend on Eustace's offensive development, the catcher's battle, and how Krupa and Miller compare defensively:

Lineup 1

1. Laren Eustace OF

2. Nick Ramos SS

3. Alex Krupa DH

4. Logan Sowers OF

5. Craig Dedelow OF

6. Brian Wilhite 3B

7. Luke Miller 1B

8. Ryan Fineman/Demetrius Webb C

9. Isaiah Pasteur 2B

Lineup 2

1. Nick Ramos SS

2. Brian Wilhite 3B

3. Alex Krupa OF/DH

4. Logan Sowers OF

5. Craig Dedelow OF

6. Luke Miller DH/OF

7. Isaiah Pasteur 2B

8. Austin Cangelosi 1B

9. Ryan Fineman/Demetrius Webb C

Lineup 3

1. Laren Eustace DH

2. Nick Ramos SS

3. Alex Krupa OF

4. Logan Sowers OF

5. Craig Dedelow OF

6. Brian Wilhite 3B

7. Luke Miller 1B

8. Austin Cangelosi 2B

9. Ryan Fineman/Demetrius Webb C

Belcher

PITCHING STAFF

Things get trickier when looking at the arms. Three pitchers who would be three of the six most important pitchers on the roster in 2016 have been drafted and have not yet announced their intentions.

I'm of the opinion that Effross and Morris can both make big jumps in the draft if they have a good season in Bloomington in 2016. Kelzer, on the other hand, may have peaked in Round 14. For those reasons, I expect Effross and Morris to be back, and have no idea what to think about Kelzer.

So, this way-too-early preview will take two looks at the staff--one with Kelzer and one without him.

With Kelzer

Friday night's starter is set in stone. It's Kyle Hart. The lefty was tremendous down the stretch in 2015 and in 2016 he could be a Joey DeNato-like ace who the Hoosiers can ride every weekend.

The other starters will probably be Christian Morris and Caleb Baragar, both of whom had up and down seasons in 2015, but are stellar when they're on. Weekday starts would probably belong to Brian Hobbie, Will Coursen-Carr, and freshmen.

The bullpen is where it gets interesting. If Kelzer stays, Effross probably becomes the closer. Austin Foote isn't ready for that role, and Kelzer and Bell can handle long relief situations, as can Coursen-Carr. Thomas Belcher and Foote would be very complementary setup men with nasty breaking balls that torment right- and left-handed batters, respectively. Throw in the Herrin kid and the Hoosiers pitching staff would be in a sound position to make up for the losses of Harrison and Halstead.

Without Kelzer

The starter story stays the same. What could change is the role for Effross. He's stellar out of the bullpen, whether in short or long relief. Bell, Coursen-Carr, and Hobbie can provide relief early in games when necessary in order to keep Effross in the closer role, but losing Kelzer means that your two best long relief options from 2015 are no longer in that role. That's uncomfortable turnover in a very volatile roster position. Belcher and Foote stay in the setup role no matter what.

What if...

Morris and/or Effross leave? If Morris is gone, Will Coursen-Carr would be perfect to step into the starter role that he would leave open. (In fact, given the way he finished the season with a few strong outings, I wouldn't be surprised if Coursen-Carr competes for a starting spot anyway.) That would give the Hoosiers three left-handed starters, but two wildly experienced and successful lefties, plus Baragar who has shown flashes of brilliance. The bullpen shouldn't suffer in that situation.

Effross leaving would be the worst thing that could happen to the Hoosiers short of him, Kelzer, and Morris all leaving. Here's the biggest question: If Efforss is gone, who's the closer? Foote isn't ready for that role. Belcher? Coursen-Carr? Kelzer?

When one of those guys moves to the closer role, who fills in as a long reliever or a setup man?

An Effross departure would be nothing short of a nightmare for Chris Lemonis.