(Photo Credit: Northwoods League website, northwoodsleague.com)
As the 2017 summer league season comes to an end, it is time to roll out CBBSN’s collegiate summer league updates from around the country. Over the next two weeks, our scouts will be sharing how their school’s players have fared over the season, and how they look to project going into fall practice.
The Longhorns got off on the right foot in new head coach David Pierce’s inaugural season, starting a return to the elite status the Texas baseball program expects to compete at. Over this past summer, many of the players continued to improve by playing in summer leagues across the country.
The following is a brief recap of some of the Texas players’ summer league performances in the various leagues:
Zach Zubia: Rochester Honkers, Northwoods League
Zubia is a name that Texas fans need to know sooner rather than later. A late addition to the 2016 recruiting class, after de-committing from Tulane, Zubia redshirted this past season.
All he did this summer was win the league’s Home Run Derby, play in the All-Star Game, and later be named Northwoods League MVP. Zubia played first base and hit a ridiculous .311 with 61 runs, 62 RBIs, and a league record 22 home runs in his 67 games played.
As a redshirt freshman, Zubia figures to slide into the role left vacant by Kacy Clemens’ graduation as the Longhorn’s everyday first baseman and middle of the order bat.
Beau O’Hara: Rochester Honkers, Northwoods League
Coming from Blinn College to UT, following Pierce by changing his commitment from Tulane, O’Hara pitched sparingly for the Longhorns in 2017, only appearing in six games in relief.
O’Hara started four out of the five games he pitched in for the Honkers, resulting in a 2-2 record with a 5.01 ERA across 23 1/3 innings. My guess is that he will slide back into a relief role for the ‘Horns in 2018.
Trace Bucey: Gaithersburg Giants, Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League
Bucey was unable to see the field much in his freshman season with a talented upper-class outfield around him. He was highly regarded coming out of high school, so look for him to make a bigger impact this year with the high attrition to the draft the Texas outfield experienced following last season.
Bucey did not light it up for the Giants, hitting .239 in his 26 games, but a third of his hits were for extra bases and he worked 15 walks and six steals. If he can cut down the strikeouts and make more consistent contact, he could have a breakout season ahead of him.
Beau Ridgeway: Kalamazoo Growlers, Northwoods League
Ridgeway built on his very good freshman campaign with a dominant sophomore season, establishing himself as the closer and rock of the Texas bullpen. He dominated opposing hitters to the tune of a 1.89 ERA across 52 1/3 innings and racked up 12 saves in the process.
Perhaps the heavy workload out of the bullpen from this past season caught up to him with the Growlers, as he only appeared in seven games allowing 15 hits and eight runs in 5 1/3 innings. There is a bright side, however, as Ridgewastruck out five and did not walk a batter this summer.
Tate Shaw: Orange County Riptide, California Collegiate League
Shaw took advantage of a litany of outfield injuries to the Longhorns in 2017, with a blistering month of March where he showcased his speed and defense along with a hot bat.
Shaw’s production at the plate teetered off as the season progressed, but he rebounded with a strong performance with the Riptide, hitting .291 with nice pop, as nine of his 25 hits went for extra bases. Shaw also showcased his speed, successfully stealing 10 bases on 11 attempts.
Parker Joe Robinson: Orange County Riptide, California Collegiate League
Playing alongside Shaw, Robinson impressed with the Riptide in relief. He pitched well in his limited opportunities in relief for the Longhorns this past season as a redshirt sophomore, so look for him to try to break out this upcoming season.
Robinson did not allow a run over 17 innings pitched in relief this summer, striking out 17 in that time and going 2-for-2 in save opportunities.
Blair Henley: Santa Barbara Foresters, California Collegiate League
Henley pitched up and down as expected for a freshman campaign, although his final stats are very solid for how much he was used during the season, both starting and in relief. Henley served mostly as a weekday and Sunday starter and will most likely be the No. 2 starter behind Nolan Kingham this coming season.
Henley led the Foresters in innings pitched with 43 and impressed with a 1.47 ERA to go along with 41 strikeouts to only four walks. Five of his seven runs allowed came in one start where he still managed to pitch seven innings. He attacked hitters early, starting 63 1/3 percent of at-bats with a strike.
It was an impressive summer for Henley, look for it to carry over to the season as he has had a year to adjust to the college competition.
David Hamilton: Santa Barbara Foresters, California Collegiate League
Hamilton is the second of four Longhorns on the Foresters and had a nice summer to follow up his true freshman campaign. Hamilton was the starting shortstop for the Longhorns and displayed great fielding and speed in his first season at Texas.
Hamilton’s potential will be determined by how far his bat takes him. After a rough start at the plate to begin the season, Hamilton hit fairly well for a freshman starting around the end of March.
He kept up his improvements this summer hitting a pleasant .274 with nine stolen bases in 10 tries over 25 games played.
Austin Todd: Santa Barbara Foresters, California Collegiate League
Todd had a fantastic freshman season with the Longhorns, finishing second on the team in batting average and showing off good tools in the field and great speed. If he can increase his OBP from a very respectable .359, he could become the table-setter for Texas over the next two seasons.
Todd carried over his great spring into the summer, hitting .298 for the Foresters with a .393 OBP. He also showed off his speed and added some pop, hitting 15 of his 31 hits for extra bases (11 2B, 4 3B) and went 7-for-9 on the base paths. Keep an eye on Todd, I see good things in the future.
Ryan Reynolds: Santa Barbara Foresters, California Collegiate League
Reynolds experienced a tough freshman season, but optimistically, he gained loads of experience, starting most of the Longhorns’ games at third and showing nice power with five home runs and a nice glove.
The hefty playing time in the spring helped show good results in the summer as Reynolds hit .289, albeit in a small sample, with no extra base hits. He did, however, work 10 walks to oppose his 12 strikeouts for the Foresters.
Chase Shugart: Cotuit Kettleers, Cape Cod Baseball League
Shugart had a rough start to his sophomore season with Texas but finished strong in conference play to have a nice season out of the bullpen to complement Beau Ridgeway.
He had a nice summer in the CCBL, but his ERA was inflated by two starts that didn’t go great. However, in relief, Shugart was very solid for Cotuit. In 19 innings of relief, Shugart sported a 3.32 ERA with 20 strikeouts and three saves. If Shugart can start limiting hits more effectively, watch out. He only had one appearance in 11 games that he didn’t allow a hit.
Kody Clemens and Nolan Kingham were slated to be members of the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod League but did not make appearances. Clemens was released before the season began. It is unknown why Kingham did not record any appearances, as he was not listed on the team’s transactions but was announced on the roster.
The Longhorn’s fared well across the different summer leagues, with some performances more impressive than others. With a lot of older guys graduating and/or going pro, this crop of players will be the backbone of the team this season, so the mostly positive performances are seemingly a good sign of things to come.
Summer leagues don’t always provide the most accurate evaluations for players, but it is always nice to see guys improving their game. Seeing the younger guys take big steps in the right direction provides excitement for Pierce’s new era.