BA breaks down the Mid-American Conference, including our projections for regional teams, player of the year, pitcher of the year and top prospects.
|TOP 10 PROSPECTS, 2014-15 DRAFTS|
|1. Jordan Foley, rhp, Central Michigan|
|2. Brian Clark, lhp, Kent State|
|3. Logan Regnier, of, Central Michigan (2015)|
|4. Matt Trowbridge, lhp, Central Michigan|
|5. Scott Baker, rhp, Ball State|
|6. Zarley Zalewski, 3b, Kent State (2015)|
|7. Andrew Sohn, ss, Western Michigan|
|8. Nick Regnier, of, Central Michigan|
|9. Alex Klonowski, rhp, Northern Illinois|
|10. Matt Honchel, of, Miami (Ohio)|
Baseball Members (First Year): Akron (1992), Ball State (1973), Bowling Green State (1952), Buffalo (2001), Central Michigan (1971), Eastern Michigan (1971), Kent State (1951), Miami (1947), Northern Illinois (1997), Ohio (1946), Toledo (1950), Western Michigan (1947).
Checking out: None.
Conference Tournament: Eight teams, double-elimination. May 21-24 at Avon, Ohio.
Team to Beat: Central Michigan.
The Chippewas expect their pitching staff to be their deepest and most talented in the last decade, bookended by ace Jordan Foley and closer Matt Trowbridge. Foley, the No. 25 prospect in the Cape Cod League last summer, pitches at 90-95 with good downward plane and flashes a plus slider at 84-87 and an improving changeup. Trowbridge reaches 94 from the left side and has a swing-and-miss power curve. The lineup is loaded with athleticism and speed, headlined by brothers Logan Regnier and Nick Regnier, who each bring plus-plus speed to the outfield. Freshman Alex Borglin is a major key; he’s a plus runner with good range, sure hands and a fringy arm at short, and good feel for hitting from the left side.
Player of the Year: Andrew Sohn, ss, Western Michigan.
Sohn has plus speed and a strong arm at short; he also drives the ball to all fields, helping him hit for average last spring (.337) and in the Northwoods League (.349).
Pitcher of the Year: Scott Baker, rhp, Ball State.
The reigning MAC pitcher of the year after going 12-2, 2.18 as a sophomore, the 6-foot-5 Baker works downhill and throws four pitches for strikes.
Freshman of the Year: Eric Lauer, lhp, Kent State.
An all-state football wide receiver in high school, the 6-foot-3 Lauer is a live-bodied athlete with a low-90s fastball that has bumped 94 and a promising curve.
Notable Storylines: Perenial MAC power Kent State has plenty of holes to fill—including head coach, where former Purdue assistant Jeff Duncan takes over for Scott Stricklin, who left for Georgia—but pitching coach Mike Birkbeck is still around to lead a pitching staff that should be among the league’s best, as usual. Jr. LHP Brian Clark can touch 94 and has a good slider and improving changeup, making him ready to take over the No. 1 starter slot. Most of Kent State’s 2012 Omaha stalwarts are gone, leaving Jr. CF Alex Miklos and Jr. SS Sawyer Polen as the focal points of the lineup . . . Bowling Green State rebounded from a sluggish start last year with a strong second half, then won the MAC tournament as the No. 6 seed to make its first regional since 1999. Fifth-year Sr. RHPs Cody Agthorpe and Mike Frank are back to lead an experienced pitching staff; both of them are proven big-game pitchers brimming with confidence and savvy, and both can throw any pitch in their repertoires for strikes at any time. The Falcons return 89 percent of their innings and 92 percent of their at-bats from a year ago, but they must play better defense to take some pressure off their quality pitching staff, because they fielded just .951 last year (278th in the nation) . . . When Dan Simonds left Miami (Ohio) for a job on Indiana’s staff (and then took another job in pro ball during the fall), the RedHawks replaced him with one of the nation’s youngest head coaches, Danny Hayden—who played for Miami as a freshman in 2004 before transferring to Xavier, where he also served three years as an assistant before returning to the RedHawks. He inherits a promising offense, led by sweet-swinging Jr. OF Matt Honchel, but an unproven pitching staff.