So normally I update the football recruiting board on Wednesdays, but last week's action just about cooled down any near-future updates to that puppy. So instead it's the perfect time to hit up our annual baseball update. In three parts, here are mini-profiles on the incoming freshmen.
Robert Bennie - OF
Stroudsburg HS (PA)
UVA got an athletic one out of Pennsylvania when Bennie committed last summer; he not only plays shortstop and center field for Stroudsburg (the usual locations for a team's best player), but was also the conference MVP this past season in football, where he was a two-way player as a (primarily running) quarterback and defensive back.
Baseball is his sport, though, and Brian O'Connor recruited him to UVA as an outfielder. He hit .550 as a junior and .452 as a senior, has moderate power, and as you'd expect from a running quarterback and defensive back, also has good basestealing speed.
The Hoos have a surplus of good options in the outfield next year: Derek Fisher has a death grip on left field, center field could be manned by either Brandon Downes or Mitchell Shifflett, and right field is probably Mike Papi, Reed Gragnani, or Colin Harrington. So any outfielder in the incoming class (and there aren't many) isn't likely to be factor in 2013. Bennie has a decent shot to be the center fielder of the future, though - his speed and contact hitting make him a possible top-of-the-order hitter with a little development.
Tyler Carrico - RHP
James River HS (VA)
The best story of the draft class - maybe the best story of any recent draft class. Carrico goes to something of a UVA feeder school; he's teammates with superstar recruit Nathan Kirby (to be profiled a little later) as well as Jack Roberts - brother to Will and another future Hoo in the 2013 class. But that's not why he accepted a scholarship offer from Brian O'Connor before O'Connor was finished with his sentence.
Both his parents are UVA grads, but that's not why either. Carrico broke his back playing football during his freshman year, and while he was in the hospital recovering from his first of three surgeries, his 11-year-old brother had surgery of his own to remove a (fortunately benign) tumor the size of a softball from his chest; the UVA baseball team rallied to the support of their occasional batboy and helped speed his recovery. So it wasn't a tough decision for the older brother to act on that scholarship offer when it came.
That broken back is an obvious reason major league teams never even came close to giving Carrico a sniff in their draft process; he never really even got off the bench much his junior year until he pitched his team to the regional championship last year. In a sport where colleges routinely recruit and offer sophomores, Carrico was a late bloomer indeed.
The feel-good-itude of the story probably ends there, for now anyway. Carrico will have a long road to playing time in college. He still pitches with pain in his back. He brings a high-80s fastball and a very solid curve, but nothing else that's reliable; he'll be strictly on bullpen duty as long as he has only two pitches. Carrico's back history will probably ensure he doesn't get enough attention from MLB to consider leaving early, so he'll likely be a four-year player. He could follow a career track similar to Justin Thompson, who pitched well in scarce appearances as a freshman and sophomore, appeared reliably out of the pen as a junior, and became the closer as a senior; that would be a best-case scenario.
Robbie Coman - C/RHP
Park Vista HS (FL)
Primarily a catcher, Coman also throws off the mound in relief for his high school team, and is occasionally thought of as a possible college pitching prospect - but only occasionally. His mid-to-high-80s fastball and OK stuff probably won't translate as well to college, especially when he's really a much better catching prospect anyway.
After his senior year this year, Coman was named to the 8A all-state team in Florida, no small feat in that state. He's a guy who doesn't stand out in any one particular area, but still does everything very well; you could say well-rounded. The scouting reports all give an impression of a guy with good polish and well-developed skills, but with a little lower of a ceiling.
Nate Irving basically put the starting catching job on lockdown this year by hitting .279 with a good batting eye. But he's not invulnerable either; he fields his position well but could stand to do a better job throwing out baserunners (though his percentage is partially the fault of our pitchers, who mostly didn't do very well holding people on base.) And the depth chart at catcher is so thin that the second catcher was Keith Werman, so Chace Mitchell (who only got seven at-bats all season) is probably not the answer as Irving's backup. Fortunately, there are two catching prospects coming in the fall, and Coman is one. Playing time is available if he brings what the coaches want to see. Coman is also versatile enough to play some corner infield if need be, but he can help this team best behind the plate; he'll get a shot to earn the innings behind the plate that Werman had in 2012.
Kevin Doherty - LHP
Our Lady of Good Counsel HS (MD)
Yep, back to the OLGC well. Doherty is the ace pitcher at one of the DC area's better baseball schools. I hate to use the word "soft-tossing lefty" because it implies a certain kind of pigeonhole but Doherty is kind of a soft-tossing lefty. BOC has actually loaded this class up with left-handers, so Doherty might have a hard time standing out.
However, he's also proven himself a big-gamer. This April, near the end of Good Counsel's season and on senior day, Doherty took the ball against St. John's and pitched a complete-game shutout that ended St. John's 20-game winning streak. Doherty struck out 11, walked none, and struck out the side in the final inning to preserve Good Counsel's 1-0 win. He's not one of the really high-profile recruits in the class, but that might be the best game any of them have ever pitched. Doherty's also not a bad hitter, compared to some other pitchers.
This year's starting rotation left a few question marks; it was respectable but not really what you'd call dominant, and Branden Kline of course is off to professional pastures. Everyone will be looking to Nathan Kirby to fill that spot, but the door is open a crack for some new blood to earn a role. Doherty's initial spot is most likely the pen, and he probably won't be in the regular bullpen rotation as a freshman, instead having to fight his way in. The most likely effect of all these southpaws in the class is really (and hopefully) that one or two of them emerge as a good enough bullpen option that Kyle Crockett can take his talents to the weekend rotation.