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Stanford Baseball: Pre-season Depth Chart Analysis

What does Coach Marquess Have in Mind for his 40th Season?

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

We're almost there! Baseball season on The Farm is so close we can almost taste it. And while we are literally counting down the hours before a renovated Sunken Diamond hosts the nation's pastime once again, we still have some time left to prognosticate before the first pitch is thrown on Friday.

If you haven't read our 2016 baseball preview read it now or risk significant spoilers! In all seriousness, Coach Mark Marquess released his pre-season depth chart on Tuesday. This warrants both an update of our own preview, as well as an analysis of the plans Stanford's legendary head coach seems to have in mind.

The Rotation

With both Cal Quantrill and John Hochstatter still recovering from Tommy John surgery, our earlier prediction for the Cardinal rotation was Brett Hanewich, Chris Castellanos, and Andrew Summerville, with Tristan Beck serving as midweek starter.

Marquess has done a bit of a switcheroo, taking Summerville out of the rotation, which he served in as midweek starter in 2015. Instead, incoming freshman Tristan Beck will be the Cardinal's Sunday starter, with fellow freshman Kris Bubic starting midweek games.

Stanford giving Beck a shot at the rotation is not in any way surprising. As we discussed in our preview earlier this week, Beck is a much-heralded pitching prospect brimming with potential. Had he chosen not to attend Stanford, he likely would have been a first-round back in the 2015 MLB draft. It makes total sense for Marquess to see what Beck brings to the table, and provide him with an opportunity to be that breakout pitcher that Stanford needs in Cal Quantrill's absence.

That said, Marquess's choice of Bubic over Summerville for midweek starter is intriguing. It is not as though Summerville was a disappointment last season. Indeed, his 2015 statistics showed a lot of promise:

Andrew Summerville - 2015

IP

GS

ERA

WHIP

K/9

BB/9

32.0

6

3.38

1.38

9.28

5.34

As you can see, he had a pretty impressive campaign, especially for a freshman. Summerville is a burgeoning strikeout artist, with only injured ace Cal Quantrill having a higher strikeout rate. But as is the case with many young starters, especially southpaws, Summerville's walk rate is a little high. But nothing in this statistical profile necessarily warrants a demotion from the rotation.

The question then is, what about lefty Kris Bubic makes him a reasonable choice over Summerville? While he does not have quite the pedigree or potential as rotation-mate Tristan Beck, Bubic is a talented pitcher in his own right. Bubic is a local product out of Archbishop Mitty High School, just down the freeway from The Farm in San Jose. His fastball velocity ranges from 86 to 89 MPH. He also employs a changeup and a big 1-to-7 (think hours on a clock) curveball.

Kris Bubic – 2014-15 (HS)

IP

GS

ERA

WHIP

K/9

BB/9

70.0

12

1.20

1.38

10.5

3.1

While it's notoriously difficult to project a pitcher's success based on high school statistics, it's easy to see why Stanford is excited about Bubic. He has enormous strikeout potential and a manageable walk rate. Choosing Bubic over Summerville is essentially Coach Marquess shooting for the moon. Stanford can see whether Bubic can translate his skills to the college game. Rest assured, if Bubic at all falters, Andrew Summerville can be summoned from the bullpen and replace him as midweek starter.

A quick side note on the bullpen: aside from the surprising addition of Summerville, Marquess's depth chart is pretty close to our earlier projection.

The Lineup

Our projected Opening Day lineup was fairly close to the depth chart that the Marquess released:

We successfully called star infielder Tommy Edman sliding over from second to shortstop after Drew Jackson's departure. The outfield was almost what we projected, with the exception of switching Quinn Brodey and Jonny Locher in the corner outfield positions.

Marquess has sophomore Matt Winaker, senior Austin Barr, and freshman Nick Oar competing for playing time at first base. Winaker (268/383/380) and Barr have (241/356/348) similar offensive profiles, but Winaker's status as last season's starter at the position makes him the favorite. His youth will also likely help give him the edge, as sufficient playing time will be so key to his future development. Ironically, Barr's flexibility (he has also played at both designated hitter and catcher) may actually hurt his case to be the starting first baseman for the Cardinal. Incoming freshman Nick Oar figures to only serve as depth for now, given the fact that he primarily played in the outfield in high school.

The rest of the infield is supposedly up for grabs. Marquess purports to be holding a competition for having between sophomore Mikey Diekroeger, and freshmen Nico Hoerner and Duke Kinamon.

Diekroeger's experience at third base (both in high school and college) and status as the Cardinal's biggest bat (315/419/426) make him the easy favorite for that position. This "competition" really boils down to Hoerner versus Kinamon for second base. Hoerner is the likely pick in this battle due to his superior pedigree (Perfect Game score of 10 for Hoerner, versus 7.5 for Kinamon).

As for catcher, well, the position seems to be something of a muddle. Juniors Alex Dunlap (209/262/279) and Matt Decker (143/250/143), as well as sophomore Bryce Carter (156/236/229) are competing for the position. Given the fact that none of these catching options presents even a league-average bat, Marquess is wisely considering a platoon. This makes southpaw Carter a lock to serve as the lefty portion of the platoon, leaving Dunlap and Decker to compete for the right-handed half. Dunlap seems to be the wise pick here, given the extreme advantage in past playing time (172 ABs versus 14 for Decker) despite both he and Decker being juniors.

As we wrote earlier in the week, the outfield could be the offensive Achilles' heel for the Cardinal. All three positions seem locked in for Marquess, and none of them brings that big bat Stanford badly needs. We guessed that incoming freshman Brandon Wulff could get an opportunity to be that slugger, and it appears that Marquess agrees:

"Marquess also singled out freshman power bat Brandon Wulff as a new face that could see action in the outfield as well." (per Do-Hyoung Park)

Revised projected Opening Day lineup:

SS Tommy Edman
1B Matt Winaker
3B Mikey Diekroeger
DH Austin Barr
LF Quinn Brodey
2B Nico Hoerner
RF Jonny Locher
C Bryce Carter/Alex Dunlap (platoon)
CF Jack Klein

The Cardinal figure to have their hands full on Opening Weekend. The visiting Cal State Fullerton Titans will be, as they often are, a force to be reckoned with. The Titans are currently ranked #16 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Poll. This series, even so early in the year, will provide a key test of whether Stanford can bounce back from a disappointing 2015 season.