(Photo credit to the Miami baseball Twitter page, @CanesBaseball)
Heading into the 2018 season, the Miami Hurricanes will have one thing on their mind: returning to the NCAA postseason tournament. Last season, the Canes saw their 44-year streak of reaching postseason play come to an end.
For Miami to reach where they want to go, they will have to do it without outfielder Carl Chester and right-handed pitcher Jesse Lepore. Both were selected in the 2017 MLB draft; Chester was picked up by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 12th round and Lepore went in the 24th round to the Colorado Rockies.
Head Coach Jim Morris always finds a way to recruit more talent to Coral Gables, as he once again picked up one of the top recruiting classes in the country. Baseball America ranked the Hurricanes eighth in recruiting, one spot behind Florida State, good for second in the ACC.
Some notable returning players will be back to lead the ’18 Canes. Infielder Romy Gonzalez, who led the team last season with 11 home runs and 38 RBI, will headline the group. As we noted in our CBBSN summer league recap, Gonzalez was a Cape Cod League All Star, hitting .318 with four home runs and 17 RBI.
The back end of the bullpen, right-handed pitchers Andrew Cabezas and Frankie Bartow, are heading into their junior years. Cabezas will look to continue to dominate with his fastball-slider combination which kept hitters guessing for a .221 batting average against and a 2.15 ERA. In 62 2/3 innings last year, Cabezas struck out 80 batters.
Entering the game after Cabezas is Bartow and last season, he was placed in the closer’s role – a spot he comfortably adjusted to. Bartow picked up 12 of Miami’s 15 saves last season, with Cabezas collecting the other three. Bartow possess a 95 mph fastball to go along with a slider and changeup. Look for the Miami closer to continue to develop the slider as a put-away pitch, as Bartow only had 19 strikeouts in 30 innings of work a year ago.
This season, the Hurricanes will welcome Danny Reyes to the ballclub. Out of high school, the outfielder was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 39th round, but declined the opportunity to turn pro and joined the Florida Gators. After a year in Gainesville, Reyes transferred to Broward College where he hit .335 with seven home runs and a 1.008 OPS. The Junior will provide the Canes with veteran outfield experience they lost after Carl Chester went pro.
Heading the 2017 freshmen class is right-handed pitcher Chris McMahon,who was drafted in the 33rd round by the Milwaukee Brewers, but instead will re-join the Miami rotation. McMahon features a mid-90s fastball, as well as a curveball and changeup.
Infielder Ray Gil was also selected in this year’s draft by the Oakland Athletics in the 37th round, but like McMahon, decided to develop more at the college level than turn pro out of high school.
Other notable players include Alex Toral, a first baseman from Archbishop McCarthy. In his high school career, Toral belted 10 home runs and had a .357 batting average. Outfielder Gabe Rivera will also join the Canes after hitting .424 with four home runs and 14 stolen bases in his senior year at Miami Killian.
The Canes are looking to turn the page after a rebuilding year. To do so, these players will have to make a big contribution on the road to postseason play. For some, it will mean making an immediate impact for their new team.
The Hurricanes website can be found at HurricaneSports.com.