The Horizon League’s tournament champion in 2009 was Wright State, and the Raiders are favored for the regular season title in 2010 by the annual coaches poll. However, they are going to have to fend off a solid Illinois – Chicago team and the Penguins of Youngstown State, who have some of the top prospects in the conference.
Player of the Year: Quentin Cate, SR 3B, Wright State
Pitcher of the Year: Alex Kaminsky, SR RHP, Wright State
Conference Champion: Wright State
Horizon League (by order of projected finish):
1. Wright State – Wright State won the Horizon League Tournament Championship in 2009 and will look to get a regular season crown behind a solid group of 15 upperclassmen including 10 seniors. They will easily have the best lineup in the league with seniors Quentin Cate (.352 AVG, 12 HR), Casey McGrew (.340, 52 RBI), RJ Gundolff (.347 AVG, 52 R), and Aaron Fields (.314 AVG). Submariner and closer Michael Schum (1.95 ERA, 13 SV) sits ready to lock down games in the bullpen for returning starters Alex Kaminsky (6-2, 2.66 ERA) and Michael Woytek (4-3, 5.89 ERA). JUCO transfer Max Friedman went 11-0 with 9+ K/9 and should have a big impact for the Raiders.
2. Illinois – Chicago -The Flames relied heavily on pitching and defense in 2009, posting a 4.62 team ERA and .968 team fielding percentage. In order to defend their regular season championship in 2009, they will need someone to step up to fill the innings left open by the departure of staff ace Adam Worthington (4-5, 3.48 ERA) and closer Derek Miramontes (6-2, 2.58 ERA, 7 SV). Returning starters Chris Kovacevich (7-4, 3.69 ERA) and Michael Heesch (5-0, 4.02 ERA) will still be the best 1-2 punch in the league, and top returning hitters will including Nathan Orf (.429 AVG) and Jason Ganek (.333 AVG, 35 RBI). Look out of senior Chris Rutta who only got 81 at-bats in 2009, but had 13 extra-base hits (6 HR) and 30 RBI in just 27 games.
3. Youngstown State – Youngstown State could cause some problems in the Horizon League this year with the return two of the top pitching prospects in the league including 6’7″ righty Phil Klein (5-2, 4.62) , and Aaron Swenson (3-6, 6.10 ERA), who made some mechanical adjustments during the summer and dominated the Valley League to the tune of a 5-2 record and 2.20 ERA . YSU will also start the season with a healthy two-way threat in Eric Marzec (20 k in 17 IP, 27 RBI in 30 games), who spent a good part of the 2009 season out of the lineup with injuries, but is a power threat at the plate and on the mound – he has been known to be a low to mid 90s guy in the past. The Penguins will depend a lot on shortstop Jacke Healey (.521 SLG, .952 FLD) for offense, but the question is going to be whether or not the can score enough runs to support their strong pitching staff.
4. Milwaukee – Milwaukee returns two of their top three hitters in 2010, including one of the most feared hitters in the conference in outfielder Tim Patzman (.389 AVG, 11 HR) along with Doug Kekoning (.338 AVG, 5 HR). The Panthers chances in 2010 will rely heavily on the pitching production of sophomore pitching Kyle Schmidt (3-4, 5.13) and Cameron Amsrud (5-1, 4.94 ERA).
5. Valparaiso – Valpo closer Jared Miller (2.16 ERA, 17 SV) is our pick of the Horizon League’s top draft prospect for 2010, and outfielder Kyle Gaedele (.278 AVG, .392 OBP) has turned some heads after being named the #2 prospect in the Prospect Collegiate League last summer and ran a 6.5 in the 60-yard dash at the league’s all-star game. The loss of slugger Matt Lenski (.406 AVG, 43 RBI) will hurt the worst for a team that hit just .275 last spring. A lot of pressure will be on staff ace Bryce Shafer (7-3, 3.59 ERA) to keep the other team off the board and get the ball to his closer.
6. Cleveland State – The loss of two-way star Josh Hungerman (.345 AVG, 11 HR, 88 IP) to the MLB draft will be a major set-back for the Vikings, who had a 6.56 team ERA in 2009. The good news is that they will have some pop in the lineup and could outscore the competition with a lineup full of .300 hitters including Ryan Franks (.380/.420/.519), Josh Lowe (.333/.390/.569), and Tyler Winn (.303 AVG, 11 HR).
7. Butler – Butler has a couple of nice hitters in the middle of their lineup with the return of Grant Fillipitch (.302/.380/.490) and Vermont transfer Cory Moylan (.312 AVG, 34 RBI), but will need someone to step up to protect their big hitters – Butler scored just 236 runs in 2009 while giving up 451. The departure of senior pitchers Ryan Kruszka, Jeff Sinkiewicz, and Matt Sokolowski, who combined to start 30 of Butler’s 54 games, will be a difficult task for a staff that had a team ERA of 7.59.
Top 10 Draft-Eligible Prospects –
1. Jared Miller, JR RHP, Valparaiso
2. Quentin Cate, SR 3B, Wright State
3. Alex Kaminsky, SR RHP, Wright State
4. Bryce Shafer, JR RHP, Valparaiso
5. Eric Marzec, SR RHP/OF, Youngstown State
6. Phil Klein, JR RHP, Youngstown State
7. Tim Patzman, SR OF, Milwaukee
8. Chris Kovacevich, SR LHP, Illinois – Chicago
9. Aaron Swenson, SR RHP, Youngstown State
10. Jacke Healey, SR SS, Youngstown State