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September 24, 2007

Kendall's Mailbag: Already looking ahead

Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Rivals.com. He'll be working all summer to get you ready for the fall and answer your questions every week in his College Baseball Mailbag.
July 13: Are you ready for '08?
July 20: Oregon has Ducks in a row
July 27: Making the last push
August 14: Pro decisions ahead
August 28: Still more Oregon
September 17: The search continues

Like most teams, Vanderbilt has some questions to answer.

The Commodores put together a dominant regular season campaign last season, and enter fall workouts with one of the nation's top offensive lineups.

Only one thing is missing - experience on the mound.

Vandy sophomore left-hander Mike Minor is taking on a greater role, while veteran pitcher Brett Jacobson must rise to the occasion.

In addition to the Dores, we also answer questions pertaining to Arizona State, Memphis and Texas A&M.

The Sun Devils should contend for a national title in 2008, while Memphis is headed the right direction with a renovated ballpark on the way. Texas A&M utility player Blake Stouffer is also earning headlines, as he aims for more national honors.

KENDALL'S MAILBAG
EXPERIENCE NEEDED

Vanderbilt has several talented pitchers, but many of them lack experience. Can you give examples of teams that have made it to Omaha with questions on the mound?

Henry in Nashville, Tenn.
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With Vanderbilt's returning offensive talent, the pitching staff doesn't have to be great to get to the College World Series - it just needs to be serviceable.

That opinion is purely mine and will probably send chills up Tim Corbin's spine. But from where I'm sitting, it's the reality of their situation.

Vandy might not be in great shape on the mound, but they return several quality arms.

Sophomore left-hander Mike Minor blossomed as a freshman last season, while veteran Brett Jacobson has shown that he can be a consistent pitcher. More than anything else, Vandy's concerns are with the bullpen.

Nick Christiani might move to the weekend rotation. But if he doesn't, the right-hander is a good bet for closer.

In addition to Minor, Jacobson and Christiani, the Commodores have a freshman class littered with quality arms.

Looking ahead, Vandy would like to solidify the pitching staff. However, history has shown that you don't need an outstanding pitching staff to get to Omaha.

Just ask Georgia Tech and Arizona State.

The Jackets reached the 2006 CWS with two weekend starters carrying ERA's over 4.50. Tech's most consistent pitcher - Lee Hyde - had a 3.02 ERA in 86 1/3 innings of work.

The Sun Devils reached the 2005 CWS with few quality arms. Erik Averill and Jason Urquidez compiled impressive numbers, but there was a substantial drop off after that.

These are just two of many examples I could've used.

The Dores have some questions to answer, but their situation is far from bad.

DEVILISH WAYS

In the past, you've said Arizona State is the team to beat in the Pac-10. Just curious, why do you think that?

Rick in Los Angeles
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Barring a major surprise, the Sun Devils will be in Omaha to end the 2008 season.

The Devils must replace Eric Sogard, Matt Spencer and Andrew Romine, among others. However, they return one of the nation's most talented offensive lineups.

Junior first baseman Brett Wallace was runner-up for our National Player of the Year award last season, while Petey Paramore, Kiel Roling and Ike Davis are power threats.

Like last season, the Sun Devils should frustrate opposing pitchers.

While the offense is in great shape, the pitching staff might be a pleasant surprise.

Veteran left-hander Josh Satow is back for his senior season, while sophomore Mike Leake is coming off a great freshman campaign.

Then there's Winthrop transfer Jason Franzblau.

With the Eagles last season, Franzblau went 8-4 with a 3.13 ERA in 112 innings of work. He also struck out 90 and walked 28, while opponents hit him at a .263 clip.

The Devils also expect more innings from Jason Jarvis.

With a talented and experienced lineup and pitching staff, the Sun Devils are the cream of the crop on the West Coast.

PROGRAM BUILDER

With Memphis recently announcing it was renovating its ballpark, what does the future hold for the program?

Thomas in Memphis, Tenn.
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After finally reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2007, Memphis has even more to look forward to - a renovated stadium.

Considered to be one of the worst ballparks in Conference USA, Nat Buring Stadium will soon enjoy a complete overhaul.

In many ways, Memphis' new construction project shows just how far the program has come.

Just a few seasons ago, the Tigers compiled one of the nation's worst overall records. Now they expect to reach the postseason.

Credit coach Daron Schoenrock for changing the program's direction and attitude.

Fresh off a fourth-place finish in the C-USA and a postseason berth, the Tigers hope to soon take the next step.

That may or may not happen in 2008, but one thing is for sure, the Tigers are committed to building a consistent baseball program.

FedEx's $3 million gift will only help speed up the process and make Memphis a more likely destination for potential recruits.

With more talent and enhanced facilities, what Schoenrock has accomplished is only the tip of the iceberg.

AIMING HIGHER

Does Texas A&M utility player Blake Stouffer have a legitimate shot to earn National Player of the Year honors?

Trent in San Antonio
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Since the season hasn't started, Stouffer has about as good of a chance to earn National Player of the Year honors as anyone else in the country.

Okay, so you knew that.

In all seriousness, I don't see any reason why Stouffer shouldn't compete for Player of the Year honors.

Looking back at last season, Stouffer finished the year hitting a team-leading .398 with 12 homers and 85 RBIs. He also slugged .668 and had a .487 on-base percentage.

In addition to impressive offensive numbers, Stouffer must also put together a good year in the field.

After getting drafted in June and returning to school, scouts would like to see the veteran play a full-time position - preferably second base. If he has a good year in the field and equals last season's offensive production, Stouffer could be in great shape.

Looking at potential candidates, Vanderbilt's Pedro Alvarez and Arizona State's Brett Wallace immediately come to mind. Texas outfielder Kyle Russell is also in the running, while someone else might come out of the shadows.

The race for Rivals.com National Player of the Year should be interesting as always.

Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Rivals.com. To send him a question or comment for his Mailbag, click here.



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