Miami restored order last season with a trip to the NCAA tournament. Now, the Hurricanes look to take another step with a trip to Omaha and with the No. 3 ranking in D1Baseball.com's preseason top 25.
Below are a few facts to consider when breaking down the 2020 Miami (Fla.) club:
2019 record: 41-20
Coach (record at school): Gino DiMare (41-20 in one season)
Ballpark: Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field (5,000)
Postseason history: 46 regionals (active streak: 2), 25 CWS trips (last in 2016), 4 national titles (2001)
MIAMI FALL REPORT: How the Hurricanes are preparing for the 2020 season
In this preview of Miami's 2020 season, we've graded the Hurricanes in each characteristic of the game: Hitting, power, speed, defense, starting pitching, bullpen and experience/intangibles. But before we begin, let's present our projected lineup for Miami in 2020.
Miami's projected lineup
|C||Adrian Del Castillo, So.||.331/.418/.576||12||72||3|
|1B||Alex Toral, Jr.||.293/.400/.656||24||67||1|
|2B||Anthony Vilar, So.||.291/.416/.414||5||39||0|
|3B||Raymond Gil, Jr.||.318/.396/.565||13||44||1|
|SS||Freddy Zamora, Jr.||.296/.393/.447||6||46||13|
|LF||Jordan Lala, So.||.276/.446/.386||4||18||28|
|CF||Tony Jenkins, Jr.||.268/.392/.330||0||12||9|
|RF||Gabe Rivera, Jr.||.290/.374/.590||7||31||6|
|DH||JP Gates, So.||.340/.371/.510||4||31||0|
Miami's projected weekend rotation/closer
|SP #1||Brian Van Belle, R-Sr.||10-2||3.30||95.1||84||24||0|
|SP #2||Chris McMahon, Jr.||3-2||3.73||60.1||67||23||0|
|SP #3||Slade Cecconi, So.||5-4||4.16||80||89||18||0|
|Closer||Daniel Federman, Jr.||3-5||3.51||48.2||60||19||7|
Grading the Hurricanes: Just as scouts grade prospects using the 20-80 scouting scale, we use a 20-80 scale to evaluate teams in our top 25. A score of 50 in each category is average, relative to a typical NCAA tournament team; 55 is slightly above-average; 60 is above-average (plus); 70 is well above-average (plus-plus); 80 is top of the scale, historically strong. Accordingly, 45 is fringe-average or slightly below-average; 40 is below-average; 30 is well below-average; and 20 is the extreme in that direction.
One of the big keys for any college baseball team is having production and experience throughout the offensive lineup. And it’s safe to say Miami has all the above. The Hurricanes put together an impressive offensive showing last season, and every key cog outside of one player is back for more this spring.
The Hurricanes will have a nice balance of athleticism and power with leadoff hitter Jordan Lala having strong contact skills and speed, while Tony Jenkins is another athletic guy who can make things happen with hard contact, or by simply drag bunting. Anthony Vilar (.291/5/39) grinds out at bats, while from a power standpoint the Hurricanes have a host of interesting players, including hard-nosed Adrian Del Castillo, imposing first baseman Alex Toral, shortstop Freddy Zamora and designated hitter JP Gates, who’s expected to take yet another step forward from a power standpoint this season. Miami also welcomes back Raymond Gil, who had a strong 2019 campaign, hitting .318 with 13 home runs and 44 RBIs.
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There are no concerns about this team from an offensive standpoint. Assuming guys like Lala and Jenkins take steps forward and others emulate last season’s success, the Hurricanes should have yet another fruitful campaign with the bats.
The Hurricanes won’t be lacking from a power standpoint in 2020. Miami had one of the nation’s more powerful lineups last season, finishing the year ranked 11th nationally in homers per game with 1.39 per contest.
Many of those same sluggers are back in the mix this spring. For example, leading home run hitter Alex Toral is back after hitting 24 home runs and knocking in 67 runs last season, while Del Castillo returns after hitting 12 home runs and knocking in 72 runs. Gil finished last season with double digit home runs, while Rivera, Zamora, Lala, Gates and Vilar have power, too. Gates in particular is a guy to watch this spring. He finished last season with just four home runs, but it seems like the Miami staff expects him to hit with more thump over the next few months.
Outside of Arizona State, perhaps no team in college baseball will be as potentially scary from a power standpoint as the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes have balance throughout their lineup, and they also have plenty of speed and athleticism to utilize.
Lala is the most dynamic player to watch from a speed standpoint. He finished last season with 28 stolen bases, while Zamora is another base-stealing threat — finishing last season with 13 stolen bases.
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The Canes have other options in this area, too. Rivera has some athleticism; Jenkins has good speed and should improve on last season’s nine stolen bases and Del Castillo has some athleticism to go with his strong frame.
If there’s one area where the Hurricanes need vast improvement to reach their goals this season, it’s from a defensive standpoint.
Miami left something to be desired defensively at times last season. UM finished the year ranked in the 240s nationally in fielding percentage. On the left side of the infield, Gil and Zamora each hit fielding percentages under .900 last season. But Zamora is a talented defender and certainly is expected to improve on that mark this spring. Vilar is a consistent defender up the middle, while behind the plate, Del Castillo continues to make strides and is primed to have a solid season behind the plate.
The Hurricanes have a talented and athletic outfield. Jenkins and Lala are both guys with athleticism and speed and Rivera is no slouch, either.
Miami will show marked improvement defensively this season.
Starting Pitching: 65
This is one unit with this team that should excite fans walking through the turnstiles at the Light. Miami’s rotation looks to be electric.
Miami will begin its weekend rotation with an extremely experience arm in redshirt senior right-hander Brian Van Belle. Van Belle improved as the season progressed last year and tallied a 10-2 record with a 3.30 ERA in 95.1 innings, along with 84 strikeouts and 24 walks. He has a fastball anywhere from 89-92 mph and up to 93, while the secondary stuff is quality as well. However, the changeup is his best pitch. Van Belle is a talented pitcher, but it’s his experience that also makes him such a valuable asset for this year’s Hurricanes club.
Junior right-hander Chris McMahon is definitely the one to watch in this rotation. McMahon showed flashes of brilliance last season, particularly early in the season on the road against Florida. However, he did have some ups and downs at times. McMahon has a big-time arm, ranging anywhere from 90-98 mph with his fastball, while also showing feel for a hard slider at 81-84. McMahon also showed good feel for the changeup during fall workouts. He’s a premier prospect and is expected to have a dominant season for the ‘Canes.
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Sophomore right-hander Slade Cecconi will round out the weekend rotation. Cecconi is a strike thrower who did some good things last season, tallying 89 strikeouts and walking just 18 in 80 innings of work. Cecconi showed good command of the zone during the fall, sitting anywhere from the low-to-upper 90s with his fastball, while also showing a power curveball and feel for a changeup.
In terms of the midweek starter, look for freshman Alex McFarlane to get the call more often than not. McFarlane will sit in the low-to-mid 90s with his fastball, while also showcasing a slurve at 80-83 mph. The changeup is a developing pitch for the talented freshman righty. Tyler Keysor is another starting option this spring. Keysor typically threw a fastball and splitter last season but has added more pitches to his arsenal in an effort to increase his starting chances.
If Keysor doesn’t nail down the midweek starting job, look for him to anchor the backend of the bullpen with fellow veteran hurler Daniel Federman.
Keysor has a lively arm, sitting 90-94 and up to 95 mph with his fastball, along with a quality slider that he developed in the offseason. He also will continue to attack hitters with a quality splitter. Federman is another experienced arm in this bullpen, and his bread and butter is a cutter that sits 86-89 and up to 90 mph. He’ll pitch 90-93 and up to 94 mph with a fastball and has a hard-nosed mentality that makes him perfect for that always-important closer role.
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The Hurricanes have plenty of other solid bullpen options, too. JP Gates is a two-way talent who will certainly factor into the equation on the mound, Alex Ruiz made noticeable strides during fall workouts, Albert Maury is back to form after elbow surgery following his freshman season and Carson Palmquist could see a sizable role in his first season — especially as a potential lefty specialist out of the pen.
After a two-year hiatus from the NCAA tournament, Miami returned to normal last season with a trip to the postseason. The Hurricanes fell short of their ultimate goal, which was to reach the College World Series. But they did head to the Starkville Regional, where they lost to Mississippi State in the title game.
With that experience under their belt, Miami enters the 2020 campaign a year older and wiser. They’ve got a lot of experience, from a balanced and potent offensive lineup to a weekend rotation with two experienced and proven commodities, along with a big-time younger arm in Cecconi. The backend of the bullpen is also experienced with Federman and Keysor leading the way.
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All the pieces are there for Miami to do big things in 2020. Now, it’s time to see if they can put all the puzzle pieces together in time to make another run at Omaha.
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