First Week Evaluations

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The OG can spin a yarn with the best of them, and while his vocabulary is extensive and his experiences so exceedingly entertaining that a lack of embellishment is oftentimes difficult to believe, the man is not one for hyperbole. The OG tends to shoot straight as an arrow, even when he is being purposely coy. So, when he started dropping plaudits on freshman infielder Michael Ratterree late Tuesday afternoon, the notepad flew open and the pen got to writing.

"He's going to be very good," The OG said. "If he isn't very good by March, he will be by April. The way Ratterree has played so far, he's going to be a starter somewhere.

"He's got the raw tools; we just need to refine them. Tool-wise he's not restricted, and attitude-wise he's not."

There's nothing like knowing that Ratterree has the physical gifts to play Division I baseball and the mental capacity to thrive for the Owls. He appears ready-made as a hitter, so it seemed appropriate to question The OG on how Ratterree is developing defensively. He has the soft hands, arm strength and expansive range to man second base, but he has to learn how to play the position at a greater depth. Formerly a shortstop at Memorial High, Ratterree needs to recognize the possibility of extending his range, his responsibilities on pop-ups as a second baseman, and the different angles that come from shifting one position to his left.

It's good that Ratterree is a willing and apt pupil, because his instructors are ready to teach.

"Our job is to familiarize him with everything before the first game," The OG said. "No surprises."

Ratterree has the largest profile of the 11 true freshmen on the roster, but several others enjoyed a solid opening week to fall ball. It should be noted that the three pitchers who have impressed thus far - Tyler Spurlin, Chase McDowell and J.T. Chargois - are superior athletes capable of playing in the field. While the Owls' lineup is ostensibly set, versatility remains an asset on a veteran club. Pitching is an area of need, but handy glove work isn't frowned upon.

"Two of the young arms, Spurlin and McDowell, have shown good velocity and good breaking balls so it's all about command with them," The OG said. "We like Chargois both as a position player and a pitcher; he's pitchable right now because he can spin it. For our kind of defense he's good because he's going to throw a lot to contact, but he's going to throw off the fat of the bat a lot.

"(With) Spurlin, McDowell and Chargois, how much they pitch this spring is going to dependent on their command and how well they hold runners and how well they field their positions. It's about being a complete pitcher."

Catcher Geoff Perrott and lefthander Holt McNair have been pleasant surprises. Perrott is progressing to the point where the staff can consider utilizing veteran catchers Diego Seastrunk and Craig Manuel as designated hitters, while McNair has pitched well enough to earn consideration as a spot reliever. McNair remains in the running to contribute next season.

One reason behind delaying the start of fall ball was to get the freshmen acclimated to their surroundings and the expectations that come with contributing for a national title contender. The additional two weeks the newcomers had to become accustomed to their teammates and expectations facilitates their rapid development, and it opened the door for several freshmen to step forward and begin the process of seizing the precious few slots that remain available.

The OG also revealed that redshirt freshman righthander Anthony Fazio and junior lefthander Matt Evers will pitch during the next intrasquad cycle. Neither has participated this fall.

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Thanks for the piece, MK. Always love the baseball updates. Glad to hear some freshmen arms are asserting themselves. Hopefully as scrimmages continue, we'll lower some of those walk totals, and get better performances from our sophomore arms. No easy feat for a young pitcher to face these hitters.

WG has often talked about playing the young men that may not be the best producers now but will be when the games start to really matter. To regretfully steer this comment back to football, I can't help but wish our coaching staff would take the same approach.

At Ease: I wouldn't worry too much about the walk totals, for the umpiring has been fall ball quality. I've sat behind home plate for several intrasquads and haven't witnessed the consistency with balls and strikes one would expect during the season. Now that goes both ways (Ratterree, for instance, was punched out on a ball well low and outside yesterday) of course, but some of the evaluation come through ability/potential and not exclusively on performance (ERA, walks, etc.). And thanks for steering the discussion back to football. Tense times over at HRS. - MK

Is there word on why Evers had been held out of throwing?

At Ease: I was told just a little soreness coming out of the summer. Nothing to worry about, but it was a while ago when I got that report. I'll check again. - MK

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