Part IV - Predictions and prognostications
In the final part of our Hoosier Baseball preview, we take a crack at predicting individual awards, the Big Ten standings, and some of the CQ staff offers their best guess for how Indiana will fare this season.
The Big Ten is a top-heavy league, and these predictions will reflect that. The truth of the matter is that there are four or five teams have created a wide talent gap between them and the rest of the conference for the 2017 season.
Big Ten Player of the Year
Jake Meyers, Nebraska, P/OF
Last season, Meyers was a breakout player in the Big Ten and was named to the third-team All-Big Ten. He led Nebraska in both batting average and ERA. In nine starts, he went 6-1 and posted a 1.42 ERA in 50.2 IP. In conference play, he was 4-0 with a 1.39 ERA. He also hit .326, with 20 extra base hits (2 HRs), 29 RBIs, 39 Runs, and 10 Stolen Bases. If he repeats that kind of performance this season, already having some recognition to his name, he’ll be a threat to win this award. But I think he’s even better in 2017 and steals this award that everyone seems to think could already be sitting on Kevin Smith’s mantle.
Honorable Mentions: Kevin Smith, Maryland, SS and Craig Dedelow, Indiana, OF
Smith is the odds on favorite to win this award. The sophomore was named to the Freshmen All-American team last season, and has been included on numerous First-team Preseason All-American lists this season. After breaking out in 2016 as a freshman, he shined in the Cape Cod League over the summer and seems poised to lead Maryland to a lot of wins.
Dedelow is a darkhorse, for sure. But you think you know these things about him: He’s going to hit over .300, he’s going to hit at least 10 HRs, he’s going to be a defensive stalwart, and he’s going to score and drive in a ton of runs. There’s only one way for Dedelow to win the award. If Indiana wins the Big Ten, and clears the rest of the league by a few games, it might be hard for the award to not go to the best team’s most consistent player.
Big Ten Pitcher of the Year
Brian Shaffer, Maryland, RHP
At 6-5, Shaffer will be an imposing figure on the mound, and when you couple that with his mid-90s fastball and a solid sinker and a nasty changeup, a lot of teams will struggle to get the bat on the ball. Last season as Maryland’s Saturday starter, Shaffer went 8-3 with a 2.60 ERA in 103.2 IP, second in the Big Ten in wins and innings pitched. With the league’s leader in win (Kyle Hart) gone, Shaffer has a clear path to leading the conference in that category. If his ERA stays under 3.00 and he logs more than 100 IP again, it’s hard to see anyone else winning.
Honorable Mentions: Oliver Jaskie, Michigan, LHP and Jake Meyers, Nebraska, LHP
Last season, Jaskie went 79.1 IP and registered a 7-3 record with a 3.19 ERA. If Michigan beats Maryland in the Big Ten race, and if Jaskie out-duels Shaffer in College Park, he might edge Shaffer out for the hardware. Someone like Jaskie, who eats up a ton of Friday night innings and wins a lot of games, will be formidable.
As for Meyers, if he records a lot more innings than last season and has the same kind of ERA and record numbers, he could challenge for this award as well.
Big Ten Freshman of the Year
Jeremy Houston, Indiana, SS
Houston will probably start all 55 games for Indiana this season, barring injury. He is widely considered to be an elite defensive shortstop. His bat is not on the same level as his glove, but with a ton of offensive talent around him, Chris Lemonis can put Houston in a spot in the lineup that will give him ample opportunity to see good pitches. If the bat is just slightly better than average, Houston runs away with this award.
Big Ten Coach of the Year
Mark Wasikowski, Purdue
Last season, Purdue went 2-22 in Big Ten play. They were the worst team Indiana played, save Butler. But Mark Wasikowski, who was an assistant and recruiting coordinator at Oregon, Arizona, and Florida, may be the perfect guy to pull the Boilermakers out of the basement. It should take longer, and it very well might, but in the Big Ten, there’s plenty of chance to make real strides immediately. Last season, the final qualifier for the Big Ten Tournament went 12-12 in conference play. A 10-game improvement might be too big of a jump for one season, but if the top of the conference is better and the middle is worse, as we expect it might be, 8 or 9 wins might be enough to get in, like it was in 2015 (Nebraska had just 9 wins). If Purdue gets anywhere close to the Big Ten Tournament, which I think they will, Wasikowski should win the award. If they get in, Purdue should build him a Neil Armstrong-like statute that they could hose off on national television.
Honorable Mention: Whoever wins the Big Ten
For obvious reasons, whoever manages his team to a Big Ten title will get serious consideration, and will probably win the award. But if Wasikowski does what I expect, he’ll be deserving.
Big Ten Standings
- Michigan State
- Ohio State
- Penn State
The truth is, any of the top four teams are probably interchangeable. Maryland’s pitching staff has enough experience that I should give them the nod over Indiana. But if the Hoosiers’ offense thumps like we all think it will and the pitching staff surprises even in the slightest, Indiana will have a perfect opportunity to win the regular season title as they host both Nebraska and Maryland in Bloomington.
Crimson Quarry Staff Predictions
Indiana’s Record: 37-18
“If this were a major league baseball team, Indiana might go the entire season without winning a game. In the majors, pitching is vital. In college, hitting can carry any team.
With that said, you’re probably going to need at least someone to throw that sphere-shaped thing 90 mph. Replacing Kyle Hart, Jake Kelzer and Thomas Belcher is not going to be easy, but it’s something this team can get over thanks to its remarkable offense. If young pitchers like Jonathan Stiever, Tim Herrin and Andrew Saalfrank can find a way to go five to six innings a night without imploding, the Hoosiers have serious potential to win the Big Ten.
Give me 15 home runs from Logan Sowers, 25 stolen bases from Jeremy Houston, ZERO errors from Tony Butler, and one sweet mustache all season for Alex Krupa.”
Indiana’s Record: 32-23
"As a Real Boston Guy, I have been busy trying to find Brad Stevens after games at the TD Garden and persuade him to come home and coach the Hoosiers to win the next 10 national titles. So alas, I have not been too focused on the baseball team as of yet. But the fact that we lost all our pitching doesn't help, especially since Chris Lemonis was a hitting coach at Louisville before coming to IU. Hopefully the experienced lineup gets us to 3rd or 4th in the conference standings. And with the B1G tournament being held at the Bart, the Hoosiers have as good of a chance as anyone to get that NCAA autobid."
Indiana’s Record: 39-16
“The Hoosiers have an opportunity to get off to a fast, quality start. If they can take just four of their first seven (Gonzaga X2, Duke, Oregon State, Florida Atlantic X3), they’ll already have had a better non-conference slate than last season. The rest of the non-conference gives them a real chance to win about a dozen more games. And then the Big Ten schedule gives them nine games against three of the league’s four worst teams. Indiana can finish about 20 games above .500 just by playing .500 ball against the quality teams on their schedule. I think they’ll be better than that. They’ll win the Big Ten because they get Nebraska and Maryland at home. That’s the same reason they’ll win the Big Ten Tournament. And if all of that happens, the Bart should get a regional. Either way, the Hoosiers are going to a tough out in the NCAA Tournament.”
Indiana’s Record: 35-20
“The Hoosiers are, as has been pointed out I’m sure by many, are a team that is going to have to rely on its offense more often than not this season, at least early in the year. The good news is that they should have one of the best offenses in the conference, if not the country, with a gluttony of options available for Chris Lemonis. The bad news is that pitching can make or break a team and program. Replacing guys like Kyle Hart, Jake Kelzer and Thomas Belcher is a next-to-impossible task.
What the Hoosiers can’t afford is another embarrassingly slow start to the season in non-conference. A couple of wins in Arizona to start the year could be big, especially for the young pitching staff.
It’s hard to pinpoint just how good this team will be this year without having seen what the staff is capable of in their new roles. Consider me an optimist, though. The Hoosiers have built up a strong program at this point and there’s reason to believe that the team can withstand the turnover it experienced from last year to this season.
The team has the offensive firepower to hang with just about anyone and will probably need the offense a lot this season. I’ll jot them down for a 35-21 record, a modest improvement over last year which should be enough for another NCAA Tournament appearance.”
Indiana’s Record: 38-17
“Honestly if you can only have one ‘sure thing’ among your batters, your pitchers, and your fielders: give me the batters. College baseball is just far more explosive, with regard to scoring, than its professional counterpart. A good group of batters will give Indiana a chance night in and night out to compensate for any growing pains the pitching staff might have. It could be a rough start, but conference play will give the Hoosiers plenty of time to rack up wins and confidence, and be poised to return to the NCAA Tournament. Probably not going to host a regional, but I see 38ish wins and once you're in the dance, anything can happen.”