Alabama baseball opens its 2019 season on Friday with a three-game series against Presbyterian. This is the last in a series previewing the team before the season.
Depth was an issue for Alabama’s pitching all of 2018. Take Alabama’s top three starters last season (Sam Finnerty, Jake Walters, Garret Rukes) out of the equation and the rest of the staff allowed 160 total runs across 291 1/3 innings. It’ll take some time to get the staff to a level more comparable with other SEC programs, but there’s reason to look for this group to improve.
Junior college transfer Casey Cobb might have the inside track to be the staff’s closer. He’s more experienced and should respond better in some pressurized situations. ACA product Deacon Medders, now a junior, will have a significant role as well after making 20 appearances last season.
Three freshman righties are going to have a role somewhere on staff: Tyler Ras was Alabama’s top high school signee. He was named the Saturday starter this week, but things can always change based on how the season begins.. Other evaluators were higher on Connor Shamblin, and he could also be in the mix to start as well. Jacob McNairy has pitched well in practice and is going to have a role.
Freshman Dylan Smith should have a chance to play. Don’t count out redshirt freshman Chase Lee, a walk-on who could help as a righty-on-righty specialist.
Lefty Brock Guffey (1-2, 3.64 ERA) took a bigger role as a freshman than he might have been ready for, though that could pay off this season. He may be the top left hander in the bullpen. If Garret Rukes slides over from the starting rotation to the bullpen, he’d augment depth there.
There’s going to be competition among the returning players as well. Redshirt junior Davis Vainer has always had a big curveball but has struggled with consistency. Kyle Cameron appeared in 15 games last year. They both struggled as the season went on and will have to make progress to be counted on this year like they were in 2018.