Breaking Down the All-Sun Belt Team – From the Bird’s Nest
The All-Sun Belt team was released tonight and it’s always interesting to see how the coaches perceive the players in this league.
And, of course, I always have something to say about the choices.
Overall, I think the coaches did an outstanding job this year in selecting the team.
Here are the selections, and my thoughts:
STARTING PITCHERS–Austin Gomber-FAU, Daniel Wright-Arkansas State, Austin Robichaux-Louisiana-Shane McCain-Troy. -In a season where there were many candidates at this position, we can split hairs all day about first and second team choices. But the first four are who I would have selected if I had a vote. In the case of this category, you can’t look solely at numbers. You have to have seen the pitchers and followed them week to week. Gomber doesn’t have as many decisions as the other two. But he can be flithy. You can certainly make a case for McCain who led the league in strikeouts. He was a Saturday guy, though, and that, along with giving up 13 homers, might have cost him a vote or two. As a Saturday starter, he didn’t have to outpitch the best in the league. Wright might be the best of the bunch. Again, pitching for Arkansas State he had several close losses in league games. Robichaux is probably the best pro prospect of the six. He hits 92-94, had a good breaking ball, and everything sinks. SECOND TEAM: Chance Cleveland (UALR) was the biggest hard luck pitcher in the league. His stuff was much better than his record (5-9). Matt Bell (USA) had good numbers (6-0, 3.11) but he only averaged just over five innings per start. In my opinion, a better choice would have been ULM’s Cale Wine (6-8). who averaged more than six innings per start and threw four complete games. And, considering he pitched for the worst team in the league, six wins is pretty darned good.
The fact that there are four on the first team and two on the second tells me there may have been a tie.
RELIEF PITCHER: FIRST TEAM: Hugh Adams, FAU, SECOND TEAM: Kyle Bartsch, USA Easy choices. Personally I’d rather face Adams than Bartsch, but you can’t argue with the FAU pitchers’ numbers. So, Adams got the first team nod.
CATCHER: Aramis Garcia (FIU) and Whitt Dorsey (USA). I’ve got no problem with these selections. Garcia was a pretty easy choice. His offensive numbers (.330-11-49) are very good and he threw out 26 baserunners trying to steal, with two pickoffs. While I have no beef with Dorsey, my second team nod would have gone to UALR’s Blake Johnson, who hit .301 with seven homers and 37 RBI. Dorsey started just 35 games. Johnson was a workhorse.
FIRST BASE–FIRST TEAM: Ryan Huck, WKU, SECOND TEAM-Trey Santos, Troy–The coaches got it right. The two had an equal number of homers. Santos had more RBI, but he had three really good players hitting in front of him. Huck hit .372 to go along with his home runs. This would have been really interesting had USA nominated Jordan Patterson as a first baseman. Wisely, they didn’t.
SECOND BASE–FIRST TEAM: Robby Campbell, USA , SECOND TEAM: Johnny Thomas, Middle Tennessee. The coaches recognize that second base is a primarily defensive position. These two guys didn’t have the offensive numbers of UALR’s Chris Burk, but both were respectable hitters (Campbell hit .309) and the two combined for only nine errors all season, three fewer than Burk made by himself.
SHORTSTOP: FIRST TEAM: Tyler Vaughn, Troy. SECOND TEAM: Blake Trahan, Louisiana: Vaughn was the catalyst of a Trojan offense and led the league in runs scored. He hit .351 and only made five errors all season. Everyone is raving about the Cajuns’ freshman, who put up solid offensive numbers and has the best range in the league. Two obvious choices.
THIRD BASE-FIRST TEAM:-Logan Pierce, Troy. SECOND TEAM: Tyler Girouard, Louisiana–It’s hard to relegate the league’s second leading hitter to the second team, but Pierce hit. .362 with 8 homers and 62 RBI. Girouard missed being the regular season batting champion by one point. He made just three errors all season. This was a talented position, but the coaches got it right.
OUTFIELD: FIRST TEAM: Danny Collins, Troy, Seth Harrison, Louisiana and Dex Kjerstad, Louisiana. Collins was perhaps the easiest choice on the entire team. His numbers (.370-11-66) were unparalleled in the league. Kjerstad was the best hitter in the Sun Belt in the second half of the season. He led the league in batting and in hits and he also had ten homers…from the leadoff spot. Harrison is an interesting choice, not because he’s undeserving, (.356-8-41) but because with all the good outfielders in this league, I’m a little surprised the Cajuns got two of the three first teamers. SECOND TEAM: Nathan Pittman FAU, Nolan Earley, South Alabama and Ryan Stephens, Middle Tennessee. Pretty solid choices here, too. I like Pittman a lot. He’s good defensively, hit .330 and can run. Earley could make an argument for the first team. He had the most RBI from any player in the league who didn’t play for Troy. Stephens was Middle Tennessee’s leading hitter and covered some ground in the outfield. There are several other outfielders you could make a case for, but these six guys are deserving.
DESIGNATED HITTER: FIRST TEAM: Dustin Dalken-South Alabama, SECOND TEAM: Caleb Adams-Louisiana I get these two guys. I don’t get the order. Adams hit 13 points less, but had more runs scored, home runs, rbi, had a better slugging percentage by 60 points, walked more and struck out less. Since the DH spot has nothing to do with anyone’s defense, it’s all about the numbers. And, in this case, it isn’t close.
UTILITY–FIRST TEAM: Jordan Patterson, South Alabama. SECOND TEAM: Ryan Leonards-Louisiana. Mark Calvi was smart to nominate Patterson in this category instead of first base. Patterson was in the top five in the league in most offensive categories. The guy is simply a professional hitter. But he also had two saves as a pitcher, which makes him a utility guy. Leonards, meanwhile is the epitome of a utility man. He’s played second, first, third, left, center and DH. Oh. He also hit .339.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: JORDAN PATTERSON-USA. Okay, you can make your case for Kjerstad, Pierce, Collins and Huck. It’s a very tough call. But the nod for Patterson makes perfect sense….Very versatile player who did a lot of things right for USA.
PITCHER OF THE YEAR: SHANE McCAIN–TROY. I gave my opinion on McCain earlier. Here’s another reason why he’s deserving. In his only loss of the year, he gave up one UNEARNED run. I still wish he’d have been the Friday night guy all season, though, so we could make an apples to apples comparison.
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Blake Trahan–Louisiana Well, duh.
COACH OF THE YEAR: MARK CALVI–SOUTH ALABAMA. Calvi is deserving.
So, there you have it. Overall, I give kudos to the coaches for the decisions that were made. They did their due diligence and didn’t embarrass themselves. In fact, this might be overall the best I’ve seen. In the past they should have consulted me.
But not this year.