Current, former and incoming Rice baseball players played in Summer Ball leagues around the country. Here’s what we learned this summer.
Summer seasons are finished. Rice baseball players across the country are headed back home after varied results over the past several months. Here are three takeaways from the summer with the final stats in the books.
1. The incoming hitters are going to fight for at bats soon
Rice baseball hit .260 in their truncated 2019 season, 10th best in Conference USA. With Trei Cruz off to the MLB, finding players ready and able to produce at the plate was an essential task this offseason. Head coach Matt Bragga did his part, bringing in some important transfers as well as promising young freshmen.
Nathan Becker and Guy Garibay, both members of the incoming 2020 Rice baseball recruiting class, led the way for the Owls at the plate this summer.
Becker finished with a final slash line of .404 / .448 / .635 and an OPS of 1.083. He had 21 hits in 19 games, seven of which went for extra bases. And he did all that while only striking out nine times in 58 plate appearances. He has power and good plate discipline.
Garibay’s numbers dipped a bit at the end of the season, but his impressive final line gives a pretty good indication of just how good he was. He ended the summer slashing .318 / .444 / .614 with a 1.058 OPS.
Of the other Owls we did get final numbers for, none posted an OPS above .650. A cursory look at the current abbreviated major league season reminds us not to overreact to 20 game samples. But it’s worth noting. If either Becker or Garibary can be anywhere near that consistent at the collegiate level, the Rice offense is going to tick upward during their tenure.
2. Quiet summers from fringe bats
Assuming Rice is able to bring back the majority of their upperclassmen-laden lineup and combine it with those young hitters, at bats could come at a premium in 2020. Veterans like Austin Bulman, Cade Edwards and Braden Comeaux don’t have much to worry about. Others like Dominic Cox, Aaron Beaulaurier and Justin Dunlap will have some added pressure this offseason.
Cox, along with infielder Brayden Combs and catchers Cullen Hanigan and Eric Benitez will be among the players competing for those at bats outside the top half of the order. A slow summer won’t doom them, but it’s worth noting that each played at least 10 games and none hit better than .200.
Fall camp and the offseason training program will play much larger roles in determining where all four of those guys fit in the fight for playing time, so it’s important not to read too much into a rather chaotic summer. But the missed opportunities are worth paying attention to, especially with others maximizing their chances.
3. Cautiously optimistic about returning arms
Rice is expected to lose Ben Content as a transfer this offseason. His dazzling 0.00 ERA was clear evidence he’s recovered and is ready to pitch at a high level.
Of the arms Rice will get back next season, several had promising outings this summer. Brand Deskins and AC Plum pitched particularly well. Deskin finished with a 1.08 ERA in 8.1 innings, averaging 21.1 strikeouts per nine innings. He was absolutely phenomenal.
Plum didn’t finish with a remarkable stat line, but pitched well prior to his final outing of the summer. Through his first eight appearances, Plum had a 2.31 ERA with 17 strikeouts and only six hits allowed in 11.2 innings. His 13 walks across that span is a bit concerning, and it caught up to him when he walked seven in two-thirds of an inning to end his summer on a low note. The total body of work, though, was largely positive.
Garrett Zaskoda and Mitchell Holcomb each posted ERAs of 2.70.
*All stats as of Aug 23 taken from league and team websites. Not all players listed have complete stats and some have no official stats listed at all.