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Experts impressed with Dirtbags

Several LBSU players have stood out in the minds of scouts and college baseball writers.

Oscar Terrones, Sports Editor

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There are just a few weeks left in the college baseball regular season, which means scouts and talent evaluators have gotten a good look at every major Division I program.

The Long Beach State baseball team, picked to finish seventh in the preseason coaches’ poll, has taken those who follow the sport closely by surprise.

Shotgun Spratling, a former college baseball player-turned-analyst, is a writer for D1Baseball.com. He has been covering the sport for over six years, and he predominantly focuses on programs on the west coast.

“[It’s] somewhat remarkable,” Spratling said, when asked about the job LBSU head coach Troy Buckley’s done this season.

“There’s not much offensive talent, yet the Dirtbags [have a winning record],” Spratling said. “The fact that they are even in consideration for a regional right now and competing in the Big West race is proof of Buckley’s coaching ability. The pitchers keep [LBSU] in nearly every game because they don’t give up any freebies.”

Spratling said that when a team replaces its entire rotation, it usually means it is rebuilding. He said Buckley’s pitching staffs are usually the exception to the rule.

“[Buckley] gets the most out of his pitchers, which is why a guy like Josh Frye was able to go an afterthought in the bullpen to a dominant weekend guy last year,” Spratling said. “Having a veteran like [right-hander] Kyle Friedrichs at the front of the rotation never hurts, either.” 

 Aaron Fitt, a longtime Baseball America and college baseball writer, said this wasn’t the most talented team LBSU’s ever had, but called the Dirtbags a scrappy bunch that has overachieved.

“[Sophomore shortstop] Garrett Hampson is the best prospect on the team,” Fitt said. “He has a chance to be a first or second-round pick in the 2016 draft because he’s an excellent defender at a premium position with good overall tools.”

Fitt also said that junior right-hander Ty Provencher is probably a late-round pick in this year’s draft. He said Provencher’s 91 MPH fastball plays up because of a good angle delivery, and his slider is solid.

ESPN’s Keith Law called Hampson a very intriguing long-term prospect, and that he is a plus-plus runner who has a ways to go to fill out his slight frame.

“[Hampson’s] quickness and lithe build give him a good chance to stay at shortstop as long as his arm strength improves as he matures,” Law said. “He has good hand-eye coordination with a direct path to the ball, and earns high marks for his instincts.”

Spratling agreed with Fitt and Law that Hampson could be a successful pro, and how far the shortstop advances will depend on how consistent his hitting is at the professional level.

“Hampson is going to make his money by knocking line drives around the park and filling up the gaps for extra-base hits,” Spratling said. “He doesn’t really wow you with any single aspect of his game. Instead, he is just a solid player in every facet.”

Spratling called freshman Chris Mathewson one top young pitchers in the Big West, and there’s no reason to believe the right-hander’s season is a fluke.

“There’s a reason why he was All-CIF both his junior and senior seasons and then was picked in the 28th round by the Texas Rangers,” Spratling said. “He has an advanced feel for pitching already as a freshman. He has a legit breaking ball he can use as a putout pitch.”

Spratling said the surprising thing about the Dirtbags’ season is how much success they have had following the “overhaul” it went through in the offseason.

“This [year] looked to be a rebuilding year,” Spratling said. “But instead they are again competing for a potential regional berth.”

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