A year after boasting a pitching staff with Graeme Stinson and Noah Song, the Firebirds are back and even stronger in the pitching department in 2019. With Garrett Mitchell, JT Ginn, Kumar Rocker, and Mike Vasil in tow this could be one of the stronger squads in team history. This is a deep squad with a stable of arms at their disposal. The offense features college stars like Garrett Mitchell, Phil Clarke, Pat DeMarco, Raymond Gil, and UNLV’s Josh Zamora. The Firebirds have not won the league since 2003, and have made it through to the final once in the fifteen years since. Is 2019 the year for the pride of the lower Cape? Let’s take a look at the roster, and see what they have to work with.
Andrew Abbott, LHP Virginia
Jake Eder, LHP Vanderbilt
Nick Frasso, RHP Loyola Marymount
Nick Garcia, RHP Chapman
JT Ginn, RHP Mississippi State
Michael Hobbs, RHP St. Mary’s
Carter Lohman, LHP Louisville
Austin Love, RHP UNC
Connor Pellerin, LHP Tulane
Kumar Rocker, RHP Vanderbilt
Adam Seminaris, CSU Long Beach
Owen Sharts, RHP Neveda-Reno
Jared Shuster, LHP Vanderbilt
Noah Skirrow, RHP Liberty
Mike Vasil, RHP Virginia
Zebulon Vermillion, RHP Arkansas
Chase Wallace, RHP Tennessee
Summary: This is as deep a group as you will see on the circuit, led by potential 2020 top ten pick JT Ginn, the Firebirds feature three players with 2018 day one buzz in Ginn, Kumar Rocker, and Mike Vasil. Outside of the hype names there’s plenty of talent throughout the staff, with strong performers like Loyal Marymount’s Nick Frasso, Liberty’s Noah Skirrow, and St. Mary’s Michael Hobbs. With a corps of arms as deep as this one is, not only will the Firebirds be one of the best takes on the Cape, they should also have a strong shot to make a run for the title. This is an exciting group.
Standout(s): JT Ginn, Mississippi State - The right-hander left the Bulldogs regional tilt with an injury, but he’s expected to start the second game of their super regional matchup with Stanford on Sunday night. If Ginn makes it to the Cape — in all likelihood he should — there’s a case to be made he could be the best pitching prospect on the circuit this season. His fastball sits low-90s, but will touch 94-95 mph with sink. His slider sits in the 84-87 range, he’ll manipulate its shape, showing more spike than sweep on his harder sliders, the pitch frequently flashes plus. Ginn began to use his changeup more as the season wore on, but I haven’t seen enough to have a feel for its quality.
Kumar Rocker, Vanderbilt - If Ginn is Orleans’ standout in the 2020 class, Rocker is their 2021 standout. Rocker was considered a top 20 prospect in the 2018 class, but his desire to hit campus at Vanderbilt dropped him to the 38th round. Rocker made 11 starts for the Commodores and produced a solid 7-5 record, with a 4.32 ERA, a 9.18 K/9, and a 2.02 BB/9. Rocker’s stuff is top of the scale with a fastball that can touch 98, though the velocity is inconsistent, and his slider is a near double-plus pitch.
Sleeper(s): Nick Frasso, Loyola Marymount - A favorite of our college baseball analyst Tom Mussa, Frasso combined with Friday night starter Codie Paiva to lead the Lions staff. Frasso’s fastball sits 94-96, touching 97, mixing in a mid-70s curveball that gets off balance swings. Not a name on a lot of draft boards at the moment, but a strong showing this summer could change that quickly.
Noah Skirrow, Liberty - A three-pitch mix led by a low-90s fastball, that touches the mid-90s, he mixes the heater with a pair of breaking balls, a 78-80 mph curveball, and slider. The Canadian right-hander knows how to miss bats with a career 10.96 K/9 over 29 career starts for the Flames. Another name that’s not heavily touted on draft boards, but another guy with a pro-body and the stuff to match.
David Avitia, Grand Canyon
Zach Britton, Louisville
Shane McGuire, San Diego
Phil Clarke, Vanderbilt
Summary: This group is a strong hitting catching corps, Clarke is listed as a temp player and he was selected in the ninth round of the recent draft by the Jays. There’s a solid chance he goes back to school and sees if he can raise his draft stock even higher the third time around. He’s mostly known for his bat as he hit .316/.396/.491 with six home runs and 59 RBIs this year while showing an advanced approach (11.43 K% - 9.8 BB%). Britton and McGuire have also performed with the bat, but neither offer the balance of power and approach that Clarke does. Should be one of the stronger offensive groups down the Cape.
Standout: Zach Britton, Louisville - Hit .287/.372/.470 with four homers in 44 games behind the plate, a strong performance for the Sophomore backstop in 2019 for the Cardinals. Showed improved feel to hit this season, and flashes power.
Sleeper: Shane McGuire, San Diego - Doesn’t flash much extra base pop, but showed excellent feel to hit this season slashing .325/.444/.401. Strong on base skills and bat to ball are the carrying tools of McGuire’s offensive game. He’s also been incredibly durable during his time at San Diego starting 105 games across two seasons for the Toreros.
Raymond Gil, Miami
Matt Goodheart, Arkansas
Eddie McCabe, Georgetown
Tanner Murray, UC Davis
Danny Serretti, UNC
Josh Zamora, Nevada -Reno
Summary: No big name prospects in this group but the collection is a group of strong performers with four of the five fielders hitting .300 or better in 2019. It would not be shocking to see a few of this bats pop onto the draft radar if they can replicate that success hitting with wood bats on the Cape.
Standout: Raymond Gil, Miami - A 2017 37th round draft pick of the A’s, Gil had a breakout season for Miami slashing .326/.406/.574 with 11 home runs in 52 games. He has some serious swing and miss questions, best exemplified by his 28 K%. It’s a three outcome profile, but it’s plus power, making him one to watch. There’s a high likelihood he struggles, but if he can take a step forward with his hit tool he might find himself squarely in the day one conversation in 2020.
Sleeper: Josh Zamora, Nevada-Reno - A Freshman All-American in 2018, Zamora took another step forward physically heading into 2019, but he got over-aggressive at times and his numbers ticked down some. He displays pull-side power, and though his approach is aggressive he hasn’t struggled with contact in his career, as he still slashed .320/.381/.511 with 8 home runs, and 13.7 K%.
Zach Daniels, Tennessee
Garrett Mitchell, UCLA
Pat DeMarco, Vanderbilt
Zach Kokoska, Kansas State
Summary: Another group featuring a late-round sophomore draft pick from Vandy, not sure if DeMarco signs with the Yankees or not, at the moment he’s listed as a “temp” on the roster. His presence would go a long way in a group lacking much star power outside of UCLA’s Garrett Mitchell. Zach Daniels flashes big raw power, but it’s yet to translate in games, and his 45 K% gives you a view into his struggles in 2019 with the Vols.
Standout: Garrett Mitchell, UCLA - A top recruit heading into 2019 Mitchell returned strong in sophomore campaign slashing .362/.431/.592 with six home runs and a significantly improved approached. He’s considered one of the top 10-15 college bats in the class, and a strong summer could push his stock up further. The questions surrounding Mitchell’s approach remain, but big improvements in the strikeout (22% in 2018 - 13.2% in 2019) and walks rates (6.2% in 2018 - 9.6% in 2019) show improvements, and that Mitchell’s pitch recognition is trending in the right direction. Possibly the best position player on the roster, certainly the highest pedigree.
Sleeper: Zach Kokoska, Kansas State - The outfielder transferred to Kansas State following a freshman season at Virginia Tech where he was rarely used. He broke out in a big way at the dish in 2019 slashing .329/.409/.514 with seven home runs, and solid plate discipline (15.2 K% - 8.3 BB%). He made two appearances on the mound for the Wildcats in 2019, but I hardly consider him a two-way talent.