1) Blake Monar, SO, LHP
2) Matt Igel, SO, LHP
CL) Chris Squires, SR, RHP
I think Monar and Igel are safe bets to hold down the top two spots in the rotation, and assuming Squires doesn't start (I don't know that he won't, but let's just assume), he would be a virtual lock to close for the Hoosiers this season.
The #3 spot in the rotation may very well be the biggest question mark for the team heading into the opener. It would not be surprising to see Coach Smith give several guys opportunities to start early in the season before settling in on a more established #3 starter heading into conference play. We will obviously know more after a weekend in which four different guys will get to start and many others will see innings, but for now here are the guys I think are the most likely candidates to fill that #3 role this season:
- Walker Stadler, FR, RHP
At 6'4" and weighing in at 200 lbs, Stadler certainly has the build of a good pitcher. As a senior at Glenbrook South in Illinois, the right-hander posted a 1.90 ERA and struck out 80 in 50 innings, which is very impressive to say the least. He was also one of the most impressive newcomers in fall play.
- Drew Leininger, SO, LHP
The reason I throw Leininger into the picture is based on his collegiate experience compared to the others as well as this recent post by Coach Smith on Twitter:
So cool to see guys when they start to figure things out. Drew Leininger just might be one of those guys. Welcome to the party Drewby!
You obviously don't want to read too much into a simple "tweet," but at the same time there is no denying that Leininger could get a look at #3 this season. While he didn't live up to the expectations set for him as a freshman last season, maybe being a year older and a year wiser and having a year in Bloomington under his belt will translate into a better performance out of the lefty in 2010.
- Jonny Hoffman, FR, RHP
The right-hander from California comes to Bloomington after a high school senior campaign in which he struck out 56 and walked just 12 in 49 and 2/3 innings of work. In 2008, he became just the sixth player in greater San Diego history two no-hitters in the same season.
- Mike McKinley, FR, RHP
Out of Neuqua Valley in Naperville, Illinois, McKinley joins the Hoosier staff after going 7-3 with a 1.79 ERA and striking out 72 batters while walking just 14 in picking up all-conference honors for the third consecutive season as a high school senior. The right-hander also went 14-1 with an impressive 1.89 ERA as a junior in 2008. McKinley showed a very good curve during fall play that could certainly help the Hoosiers throughout the season.
- Matt Ernest, RS SO, RHP
Coming from the Hoosier football program, the 6'2", 188 lb righty has one of the top fastballs on the team. If he can develop his mechanics and secondary pitches, Ernest could also be a prime candidate for a weekend starter spot.
- Alex Herz, FR, RHP
At 6'7" and 210 lbs, the freshman from Boulder, Colorado will undoubtedly be an imposing presence on the mound at the very least. As a high school senior Herz went 2-1 with a 2.32 ERA, a .216 batting average against and over a strikeout per inning pitched in being named team MVP.
While the #3 starter spot is a relative unknown, one thing is for sure, unless Squires is tabbed to fill that role, there will be a lot of inexperience at the back of the weekend rotation. Of the six candidates listed above, only Leininger has any experience on the mound at the collegiate level. Let's hope one or more of these guys grows up fast. Go Hoosiers!