The defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma State Cowboys are faced with questions to answer heading into the 2015 NCAA baseball season. Opening day for all of college baseball is this Friday with the Cowboys opening the season against the Arizona State Sun Devils in Phoenix, AZ.
The pitching staff had a strong season in 2014, with a 3.29 ERA as a whole. That was good enough for the fourth best mark in the conference.
The starting rotation was a little bit chaotic early in the season with 10 different pitchers making starts, but by the time conference play started coach Holliday had three solid starters in Jon Perrin, Tyler Buffett and Tyler Nurdin to complete the three-man rotation. With all of these players returning for the 2015 season I see the rotation shaping up like this:
Friday Starter - RHP Jon Perrin - Sr.
Perrin started off the 2014 season in the bullpen making eight appearances. Perrin eventually worked his way into the rotation, starting 13 games going 8-5 with a 2.38 ERA for the whole season. The 6-foot-5-inch senior was one of the most pleasant surprises for coach Holliday's team, becoming the undisputed No. 1 pitcher by mid-season.
Perrin has a very advanced pitch repertoire, featuring a fastball in the low 90s, a great swing-and-miss changeup and a polished breaking ball. The Kansas native will definitely be drawing pro scouts to every one of his starts. Perrin was a 33rd round pick in the 2014 MLB draft by the Detroit Tigers and was an All-Big 12 First Team performer among many other accolades. I expect a big year from this kid; if Oklahoma State is going to make a run to Omaha it's going to be on the golden arm of Jon Perrin.
Saturday Starter - RHP Tyler Buffett - So.
I don't know a better way to say this, but Buffet has balls! He came in as a freshman and pitched phenomenally, logging a 2.95 ERA in 51 innings pitched. Buffett only factored in three decisions going 2-1, but this young right-hander pitched in some very pivotal games down the stretch in the Cowboys run the Super Regionals.
Buffett has a fastball that can occasionally get over 90 mph, but will mostly sit in the high 80s, a slider that is incredibly developed for someone as young as he is and a changeup that is in the works. He had a K/9 rate that was just under 6 in the 2014 season, I expect that with his slider he will miss more bats as he continues to develop in 2015. Buffett will need to work on pitching later in games if he wants to be respected as a true No. 2 starter in the Big 12.
Sunday Starter - LHP Tyler Nurdin - Sr.
I don't know if there is really anything positive that I can say about Tyler Nurdin's 2014 season. He allowed 38 earned runs in just over 52 innings (6.54 ERA). Long story short, Nurdin should completely forget everything about 2014.
Instead he should remember his absolutely incredible 2013 season. Nurdin went 5-3 with a 1.89 ERA (not a typo!) in 14 starts. I don't know what happened...
Based on his incredible season many assumed Nurdin would become the ace of the staff, but obviously that didn't happen. His biggest issue in 2014 was his control, among other things, the senior south paw walked 39 batters and only struck out 31. (yikes!)
He stayed slated as the Sunday starter all season and I'll give Holliday a lot of credit for sticking with Nurdin throughout the whole season. If 2014 Nurdin shows up again I hope Holliday will yank him out of the rotation pretty quickly, but if Nurdin reclaims his 2013 form this Cowboy rotation could be something special.
Coach Holliday has a lot of possibilities for who he can start during the week, one of which is Thomas Hatch. A hard-throwing right-hander, Hatch can hit the mid-90s with his fastball and he pitched 46 innings while registering a 5.28 ERA in 2014. He was able to log valuable innings as a freshman both in relief and as a starter. This kid has through-the-roof potential and I would like to see Hatch get some weekday starts so he can continue to develop.
Mark Robinette is another guy that I expect to get the nod for a couple of weekday starts. Robinette had success in his six starts and six relief appearances, logging a 3.58 ERA. The right-hander will be a valuable swingman, similar to Vince Wheeland, who can be effective as both a starter and reliever.
I expect Garrett Williams to see time on the hill as well as at first base. Williams showed incredible strikeout potential with 50 in his 41 innings pitched. Williams made seven starts as a freshman and like Robinette, I see him splitting his appearances, but I think he is best suited for the bullpen.
Junior college transfer Michael Mertz could potentially get a spot start, Connor Costello started two games in 2014, but I think he will focus more on hitting and I wouldn't rule out a guy like Trey Cobb seeing a start or two.
All stats courtesy of Oklahoma State Athletics