It's a headscratcher really. This year Auburn was a piecemeal pitching rotation with some guys coming on strong late, some completely disappearing, and some who you would have to hold your breath and not know what to expect when they toed the rubber. Now it will become a strength. Yet, Projecting the 2011 Rotation is a complete crapshoot. Why? Well first let's go (just like last time) with 3 more assumptions:
- COLE NELSON IS GONE- 10th Round Money. A big improvement on his draft stock. I'm not really seeing any other reason while Cole might stay.
- GRANT DAYTON IS BACK- Again, this comes back to my original theory of Grant and his degree. Pro scouts only now started salivating over Grant. One more year and he has a huge fallback plan with his Industrial Systems Engineering degree.
- ANDREW MORRIS ENROLLS AT AUBURN- Outside of Zach Alvord, Morris is the biggest prize Auburn could get out of this past years recruiting class.
So why is it a crapshoot? Because going into the 2011 Season, Auburn will have 8 guys who can/could/or have started a baseball game for Auburn. Slade Smith, Jon Luke Jacobs, Corey Luckie, Dexter Price, Grant Dayton, Andrew Morris, Garrett Bush, and Bradley Hendrix. I'll go ahead and knock Hendrix off that list because his role will be out of the bullpen and barring a catastrophe will not have to start a game. Still, I went ahead and listed him because he can eat innings in long relief and has started for Auburn before. But even if you knock off Hendrix, you still have Ty Kelley who can do just as well.
So Auburn is looking at 8 guys with the potential to start. It's a front heavy rotation that won't shake out until the start of the season. At least Auburn fans can take comfort in the fact that if a starter fails, we have more than enough arms to compensate. Our pitching depth will be tremendous in 2011. How effective they are will remain to be seen.
SO WHO GOES ON THE WEEKEND? This is completely speculative at this point and really hinges on the hope that Andrew Morris enrolls. His first two years at Gulf Coast Community college were completely unreal:
He's a dominator plain and simple and he's a guy who could come in an immediately start on Friday Nights. That's where I'm going to slot him.
What about Saturday? Call me crazy, but I want to see Slade Smith start on the weekends. He proved time and time again that he has both the mental make up and physical tools to excel.
And for Sunday? Why mess with a good thing? Grant Dayton excelled on Sunday in the "Championship Sunday" role. Keep him there.
SO WHAT ABOUT THE REST? Again, completely spitballing here but I say more Luckie and Jacobs to the bullpen as the first arms out in long relief. Then push Price and Bush as your midweek guys and groom them for post season play. Just going by my gut in all of this.
READING THE TEA LEAVES. Honestly, we won't know anything until the fall. However we can get a good idea of how these guys might do in the 2011 Season by paying attention to their work over the summer. Garrett Bush is playing for the Bourne Braves (Cape Cod); Dexter Price pitches for the Newport Gulls (New England) and Ty Kelley and Jon Luke Jacobs pitch for the Amsterdam Mohawks (New York League). I think Slade Smith is somewhere this summer but I can't find him yet. Good showings in the Summer normally translate to good showing in the Spring. I'll keep a close eye on their progress.
THE WILDCARD- One guy who can shake everything up is going to be Garrett Bush. You didn't hear much from him this past year (4ip/2er/6k/2bb) but he's talented. Talented enough to get drafted by the Orioles in the 15th Round out of high school. Talented enough to be invited to the Cape Cod League (despite on pitching 4 innings). You can see video here and here. I recommend checking them out.
So there you go. My early pick for the weekend is Morris/Smith/Dayton. Let's see if I'm right come spring.