2013 Season Outlook: Starting Pitchers
Feb. 4, 2013
|Wes Benjamin (So./LHP)||5-7, 3.54 ERA|
|Frank Duncan (Jr./RHP)||6-8, 3.23 ERA|
|Drew Morovick (So./RHP)||3-1, 4.98 ERA|
|Tanner Poppe (Sr./RHP)||0-5, 6.52 ERA|
|Thomas Taylor (Sr./RHP)||5-7, 4.76 ERA|
|Hayden Edwards (Fr./RHP)||Top prospect in KS|
LAWRENCE, Kan. – With the start of the 2013 baseball season less than two weeks away, KUAthletics.com is previewing the Jayhawks position-by-position. The first edition analyzes one of KU’s strengths going into the season – its starting pitching.
Kansas returns one of its strongest groups of starting pitchers in recent years, which is a big reason why head coach Ritch Price is optimistic about the 2013 season. For the first time in his tenure, all three weekend starting pitchers from the previous season return to the team, which should give the Jayhawks an edge on the mound.
The KU trio of senior Thomas Taylor, junior Frank Duncan and sophomore Wes Benjamin started 45 of KU’s 58 games last season. The group combined for a 3.81 ERA and 16 wins last season as well as 222 strikeouts in 295 innings.
Duncan is the ace of the staff after earning All-Big 12 Second Team honors a year ago. In his first season as a starting pitcher, he became just the fifth Jayhawk to record 100-plus strikeouts in a season. He also led the team with six victories, which included a complete game shutout of Missouri in his final start of the regular season.
Benjamin was the team’s Saturday starter last year and posted a 3.54 ERA to earn a spot on the Freshman All-Big 12 squad. He is the lone southpaw in the starting rotation and is one of the best in the conference at fielding his position. Like many of KU’s freshmen from a year ago, he ended the season on the rise, going 3-1 with a 1.61 ERA in four starts during the month of May.
Taylor will likely hold down the back end of the weekend rotation, which was his role last year. The senior righty had an up-and-down season, but ended it with a bang by tossing a complete game in a victory over then-No. 6 Texas A&M at the Big 12 Baseball Championship, which eliminated the Aggies.
Senior Tanner Poppe moves back into a starting role after a year in the bullpen. Price is hoping that Poppe can return to his 2011 form, when he posted a 3.66 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 71 1/3 innings as a starting pitcher.
Sophomore Drew Morovick went 3-1 as a midweek starter last season and will likely serve in the same capacity. He will look to be more consistent from start-to-start after the typical highs and lows of a freshman campaign.
Freshman Hayden Edwards will also likely receive spot starts and also pitch out of the bullpen as a long reliever as he looks to gain experience at the collegiate level. Edwards was ranked as the No. 1 high school prospect in the state of Kansas by Perfect Game USA last year and was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 31st round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft.
Head Coach Ritch Price
On returning so many experienced starting pitchers:
“In my 10 years at Kansas, we’ve never had this much experience returning on the mound. Going into the season, it’s the strength of our club. With the bat change that has taken place the last few years, which has revolutionized college baseball, it’s made your starting pitching that much more important, because if you can’t pitch, you’re not going to be very good. We’re going to have to pitch up to our ability if we want to compete in the Big 12 Conference and beyond.”
On junior Frank Duncan:
“Frank Duncan was our No. 1 pitcher a year ago and is one of the top returning pitchers in the Big 12 Conference. He was shut down for the fall as he rehabbed his shoulder, but he pitched in our last weekend of fall ball and pitched in the Dominican Republic without a problem. In my opinion, he is the key to the whole staff. If he’s healthy and pitching on Friday night, then we have a chance to walk in and win against the best pitchers in the country.”
On sophomore Wes Benjamin:
“Wes Benjamin was the Saturday starter a year ago and he ended the season fabulously. He beats Texas at the Big 12 Tournament; he shuts out Kansas State and he beats Missouri in his final three starts. You can’t finish a freshman campaign any better than he did. He’s got a great work ethic, great makeup and he’s continued development process. I expect him to be one of the best weekend pitchers in our conference.”
On senior Thomas Taylor:
“Thomas Taylor returns after being our Sunday starter a year ago. He had a solid year. Obviously, he finished last year with his best start, against Texas A&M at the Big 12 Tournament, but we need him to go out and have his best season as a Kansas Jayhawk. If he can pitch well, then our weekend rotation has the chance to be really special.”
On Tanner Poppe returning to his role as a starting pitcher:
“We’re going to take Tanner Poppe, who we put in the closer’s role a year ago and he struggled, and move him back into a starting role like he had his freshman and sophomore years. He had a very good fall and he was fabulous in the Dominican Republic. He’s going to be competing for one of our starting pitcher spots on our roster.”
On sophomore Drew Morovick:
“Drew, who was our midweek starter a year ago, is going to compete for starting spot. He will also pitch out of the bullpen for us, which is going to make our bullpen even stronger, being that he can pitch in both roles.”
On freshman Hayden Edwards:
“Hayden is the drafted high school kid, who has tremendous upside. His role is going to be determined by how quickly he can develop. He’ll probably pitch more out of the bullpen this year, but that could change down the road.”
Kansas will open the 2013 season in Mesa, Ariz., with four games against Nevada at Hohokam Park. The Jayhawks and Wolf Pack will open their four-game set on Friday, Feb. 15 at 2 p.m.
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