College : : Story
Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Atlantic Sun has potential

Allan Simpson        
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Stetson is a heavy favorite to win the Atlantic Sun Conference title as it returns practically its entire team from the one that exacted a significant turnaround a year ago, ran away with the regular-season crown and fell one step short of its first appearance in the College World Series.

 

In the previous three seasons, the Hatters were mired in a collective 75-94 slump, but rallied to go 43-20 in 2011 and set the stage for possibly the best season in Stetson baseball history. The 2000 Hatters set the school-record with 48 wins.

 

That mark could be in jeopardy as every pitcher is back, and the Hatters should have the season-long services of both their two top starters, junior right-hander Kurt Schluter and senior right-hander Lyndsey Caughel. Schluter (8-0, 1.40) was named the A-Sun pitcher of the year, despite missing the final four weeks of the season with an oblique muscle strain. Caughel (6-2, 4.88) missed several early season starts with an ankle injury. They occupy the Friday-Saturday spots in the Stetson rotation to begin the 2012 season. Additionally, Jake Boyd (9-1, 2.93, 6 SV) and Robbie Powell (5-3, 3.42, 8 SV), both seniors, return to anchor the bullpen.

 

Stetson also welcomes back seven of nine starting position players. Catcher Nick Rickles (.347-12-62), the team’s top hitter, was lost to the draft, but his spot behind the plate will be taken by Sam Kimmel, one of the nation’s top junior college transfers. He joins a lineup that returns all-conference players like second baseman Robert Crews (.332-4-39) and shortstop Mark Jones (.333-5-37), both seniors. Another returning senior, third baseman Ben Carhart (.323-7-63), topped the team in RBIs a year ago.

 

In Stetson, Jacksonville and surprising tournament champion Belmont, the A-Sun sent three teams to the NCAA tournament a year ago. Like the Hatters, Jacksonville should be better than a year ago as it returns most of its key players, notably first baseman Adam Brett Walker (.409-13-75) and outfielder Dan Gulbransen (.370-6-52), the team’s top two hitters and all-conference performers as sophomores.




HOW THEY STACK UP
Overall/conference won-loss records from 2011 indicated; expectation level denoted -- College World Series= CWS, NCAA Super Regional= SR, NCAA Regional= R

No Team W L W L
1 Stetson - R
43 20 23 7
2 Jacksonville - R
37
24 19 11
3 Kennesaw State
32 25 18 13
4 Florida Gulf Coast
27 28 16 14
5 Mercer
39 20 17 12
6 Belmont
38 26 17 13
7 East Tennessee St.
36 21 16 14
8 North Florida
27 27 13 17
9 Lipscomb
19 36 10 20
10 South Carolina-Upstate
19 37 10 18



PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM

Pos Name Class School Stats
C Ronnie Freeman    
Jr.
Kennesaw State
.392-10-51
1B Adam Brett Walker
Jr.
Jacksonville
.409-13-75, 14 SB
2B Robert Crews Sr. Stetson
.332-4-39
3B Ben Carhart
Sr.
Stetson
.323-7-63
SS Mark Jones
Sr. Stetson .335-5-37, 17 SB
OF Ryan Gebhart
Sr. Florida Gulf Coast
(transfer/Missouri)
OF Dan Gulbransen
Jr.
Jacksonville   
.370-6-52, 12 SB
OF Derrick Workman
So. Mercer
.332-9-47
DH Andy Chriscaden
Sr.
Kennesaw State
.314-15-74
UT D.J. Johnson
So.
Mercer
.263-0-21; 1-2, 1.91
SP Chris Anderson
So. Jacksonville  4-2, 3.91, 11 SVs
SP Brandon Love
Sr. Mercer
8-1, 3.26
SP Kurt Schluter
Jr.
Stetson
8-0, 1.40
RP Jake Boyd
Sr. Stetson
9-1, 2.93

Player of the Year: Adam Brett Walker, 1b/of, Jacksonville.

Pitcher of the Year: Kurt Schluter, rhp, Stetson.

Top Freshman: Max Pentecost, c, Kennesaw State.

Top Transfer: Sam Kimmel, c, Stetson.




THE REST OF THE STORY

*Kennesaw State should feature one of the best catching tandems in the country with the return of junior Ronnie Freeman (.392-10-51) and addition of freshman Max Pentecost, an unsigned seventh-round pick of the Texas Rangers in the 2011 draft. Freeman, an offensive-oriented catcher projected to go in the top 3-4 rounds in June, will handle a bulk of the workload behind the plate, while Pentecost is expected to see most of his action in a DH role.

*Jacksonville has uncannily tapped into Wisconsin as one of its prime recruiting grounds in recent years, with both its top prospects for the upcoming draft, first baseman Adam Brett Walker and outfielder Dan Gulbransen, coming from that state. Additionally, the Dolphins top two incoming freshmen, projected No. 3 starter Alex McRae and projected closer Nolan Peterson, are both Wisconsin prep products.

*Coming off a disappointing 27-28 season in 2011 and forced to replace six regulars, Florida Gulf Coast scored an unlikely coup, of sorts, when it landed former Missouri switch-hitting outfielder Ryan Gebhart to play center field. Gebhart’s career at Missouri was ravaged by injuries, but he is a tools-oriented player who has been clocked in the 60 in 6.65 seconds and is considered an excellent defender with an above-average arm. Moreover, Gebhart is coming off a summer where he led the Jayhawk League with a .382 average. Because he graduated from Missouri in three years, Gebhart will be eligible immediately as a senior at Florida Gulf Coast.




BREAKING DOWN THE TOP PROSPECTS
Draft Class of 2012 unless otherwise noted

1.   ADAM BRETT WALKER, 1b, Jacksonville   -- Projected Round: 1

Imposing specimen at 6-5/225; big SO season (.409-13-75), has enormous raw power, but vulnerable against superior pitching

2.   MAX PENTECOST, c, Kennesaw State (Class of 2014)  --    Projected Round: 2-4

Athletic 6-2 C with 6.8 speed, raw power; solid arm/hands behind plate but will mostly DH as FR after coming off TJ surgery

3.   RONNIE FREEMAN, c, Kennesaw State  --    Projected Round: 2-4

Well-rounded talent with solid catch/throw skills; bat is best tool; gap approach, had 42-G hit streak on way to .392-10-51 SO yr

4.   CHRIS ANDERSON, rhp, Jacksonville (Class of 2013)  --    Projected Round: 2-4

Topped Dolphins with 11 SV as FR, moves to rotation as SO; specimen at 6-4/225 with 88-92 FB, above-average breaking ball

5.   DAN GULBRANSEN, of, Jacksonville   --  Projected Round: 3-5

Productive 3-hole hitter (.370-6-52) with superior plate disciple (50 BB/22 SO); excels defensively in CF, average arm/speed

6.   STEVE JANAS, rhp, Kennesaw State (2013)   --         Projected Round: 4-6

Young arm in 6-5/235 frame; struggled in relief as FR (2-0, 5.54), but came on during summer with 90-92 FB, also solid SL/CH

7.   KURT SCHLUTER, rhp, Stetson      --          Projected Round: 4-8

A-Sun pitcher of year as SO (8-0, 1.40), despite oblique injury ; FB at 90-94, above-average CU, solid feel for CH and cutter

8.   SEAN DWYER, of, Florida Gulf Coast (2013)       --       Projected Round: 6-10

Struggled as FR for Eagles (.234-3-29), despite good LH stroke, gap power; 6-1/180 frame, strong RF arm appeal to scouts

9.   SAM KIMMEL, c, Stetson     --   Projected Round: 8-12

Versatile, athletic LH-hitting C; Reds 35th-rounder in 2011; ex-JC shortstop, has evolved into top-notch receiver with plus arm

10.   CHRIS NUNN, lhp, Lipscomb  --  Projected Round: 8-12

With a lean 6-5/205 frame and 92-93 FB, has a pro future, but was 3-5, 5.16 (52 IP, 37 BB/43 SO) as SO, has control issues

11.   RICKY KNAPP, rhp, Florida Gulf Coast (2013) --     Projected Round: 8-12

Son of ex-Detroit Tigers pitching coach Rick Knapp; commands three pitches (FB in upper 80s), slots in as Eagles No. 1 starter

12.   CAT KENDRICK, rhp, Kennesaw State   --  Projected Round: 10-15

Hard-throwing 6-5/200 JR RHP with developing off-speed stuff; went 3-0, 4.13 as SO, but competitive, primed for breakthrough

13.   RYAN GEBHART, of, Florida Gulf Coast      --     Projected Round: 10-15

Switch-hitting CF has intriguing speed, defensive skills, arm strength; undrafted JR after rarely playing last 2 years at Missouri

14.   TAYLOR RATLIFF, of, Jacksonville (2013) --    Projected Round: 10-15

Fills leadoff role (.330-1-24, 25 SB) with slashing style, 6.4 speed; struggled at SS as FR (19 E); plus arm, moves to RF as SO

15.   JAKE BOYD, rhp, Stetson  --     Projected Round: 10-15

Went 9-1, 2.93 with 6 SV as Stetson co-closer; dominant with 93-94 mph FB, command of three pitches; excelled in summer

16.   JASON FORJET, rhp, Florida Gulf Coast --  Projected Round: 10-15

Modest success as SO (3-5, 4.28), but athletic 6-2/195 RHP with easy arm, pounds zone with 88-92 FB, commands 3 pitches

17.   TUCKER DONAHUE, rhp, Stetson      --      Projected Round: 12-20

Best FB on staff at 96, Rangers 2011 draft, went 3-3, 3.76 in 79 IP as swingman; no guaranteed role on 2012 Hatters staff

18.   TRAVIS DEAN, rhp, Kennesaw State    --       Projected Round: 12-20

Very projectable 6-6/195 RHP, Yankees 14th-rounder in 2009, slow to develop (0-0, 2.20 in 16 IP) but primed to fulfill potential

19.   MIKE REEVES, c, Florida Gulf Coast  --              Projected Round: 12-20

LH-hitting C from Canada, top returning everyday player, starting to show power (.314-2-29); continues to improve defensively

20.   ALEX DIAZ, ss, Florida Gulf Coast (2013)  --     Projected Round: 12-20

Returns to Eagles as red-shirt FR after getting 9 ABs in 2011; bat a question, but 6-2/190 SS is solid in the field, has a big arm

21.   NATHAN HARSH, rhp, Kennesaw State (2014)      --          Projected Round: 12-20

Rangers 19th-rounder in 2011 draft just growing into athletic 6-4/230 frame; effortless delivery, FB at 88-90, will throw harder

22.   ANDY CHRISCADEN, 1b, Kennesaw State   --        Projected Round: 15-25

Legit power bat (.314-15-74, 20 2B), can drive balls the other way, but free swinger with all-or-nothing approach; holes in swing

23.   DAVID PALLADINO, rhp, USC Upstate (2014)       --    Projected Round: 15-25

Dodgers saw upside in massive 6-9/250 New Jersey prep product by utilizing 13th-round pick in 2011; FB at 92, more in there

24.   DERRICK WORKMAN, of, Mercer (2013)          --  Projected Round: 15-25

Intriguing LH bat (.332-9-47 as FR), but serious lack of pitch recognition/holes in swing (15 BB/78 SO); RF arm, runs bases

25.   LYNDSEY CAUGHEL, rhp, Stetson  --     Projected Round: 15-25

Average stuff across the board, but ace of Hatters staff on strength of superior command (6-2, 4.88, 63 IP, 20 BB/52 SO)



--Players ranked, capsules written by Allan Simpson
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