With just three days until the Nebraska Baseball team opens the 2016 season, a clearer picture on the pitching situation has emerged in Lincoln. We break down who to expect starting, relieving, and finishing games for the Huskers in 2016.
Colton Howell will get the start this Friday as he transitions from his role in the bullpen last season. Howell has worked on throwing a changeup and on maintaining his sinking fastball. Howell can bump up to 96 on the radar gun, but will probably sit closer to 90 with increasing movement. Howell has an outstanding breaking ball that will be his primary out pitch this season.
Garrett King will move from the midweek starting position to the Saturday starter position as he looks to continue on his outstanding freshmen year. King is outstanding at locating his pitches and using his true four pitch mix to get batters out. King is not a strikeout pitcher, and will need the defense to be ready to play to continue his success.
Derek Burkamper will enter the rotation in the third weekend of the season. Burkamper who is currently suspended for a violation of team rules is the only returning member of the rotation from last season. Burkamper appears to have found success last season using his fastball and slider combination. If Burkamper could continue his upward trajectory from last season, he could settle into the Saturday starter and bump King to the Sunday role. Expect Burkamper to throw in the 90 mph range with his fastball and into the upper 70’s with his secondary offerings.
Returning Relief Pitchers:
Max Knutson is a potential weekend starter. Seen as a star out of high school, the Huskers are waiting for his secondary pitches to develop. If the weekend rotation does not work out, look for potential starts during midweek, and relief duty on weekends.
Jeff Chestnut appears ready to work a variety of rolls again this season for the Huskers. He will be responsible for putting out any dangerous situation that Nebraska may find themselves in. He can also be the primary closer for the team if he is needed. He will look to climb atop of the leaderboard for most relief appearances as he needs 26 to set a new team record, eclipsing Steve Hale’s record of 87.
Jake McSteen returns after an injury last season. McSteen was a dominant high school pitcher in Virginia, and will look to come back and be a mainstay in the Nebraska bullpen. McSteen has an above average off-speed arsenal.
Jake Meyers looks to be a two way player for the Huskers this season. Expected to see time in the outfield, Meyers shined on the mound last season. After not allowing a run in his final 10.1 innings, expect Meyers to see action in the late innings. Meyers leads all returning Nebraska pitchers with a strikeout to walk ration of 3.11.
Zack Engelken returns after starting a handful of games a true freshmen. Engelken could see more midweek action and long relief roles this season. The big issue last season was being unable to limit the free passes, as Engelken gave out nine in just twelve innings.
Reece Eddins returns after being roughed up last season. Opposing batters hit .500 off Eddins as his fastball was straight and his breaking ball was about as straight as his fastball.
Ben Miller may also see a bit of time on the mound, depending on the situation for the Huskers. Miller struggled in the Big Ten Tournament in Minneapolis last season, having difficulty finding the strike zone. Miller may need to appear more often for the kinks on the mound to work out. There is talent there, as Miller can be a deceptive pitcher capable of giving a team good innings.
Byron Hood is expected to see action after redshirting last season. Hood was one of the top 500 players in the nation in 2014, and could see extended action this season. Look for a fastball working up to 94 from Hood. Secondary pitches are unknown.
Chad Luensmann chose to attend Nebraska after being drafted by the New York Mets in the 32nd round of the 2015 MLB Draft. Luensmann has a sharp late tailing fastball that hits between 88 and 90 on the gun. Luensmann has a bit of a funky delivery, but is an extreme ground ball pitcher, something the Husker defense should love.
Robbie Palkert comes to Nebraska coming off a losing high school season. Palkert rebounded in summer ball and shows flashes of being a middle reliever type of pitcher.
Mitch Steinhoff threw three no hitters his senior year of high school. Coming off of a redshirt year, Steinhoff could contribute in middle relief, or work his way into the later innings.
Matt and Mike Waldron are twins for will be joining the Huskers after outstanding prep careers at Omaha Westside. Matt was originally recruited by Nebraska, and has a higher ceiling pitching. Mike might see time in the field, as his bat helped propel Westside to a state title last season.
Tommy West is a transfer from Iowa Western Community College. West did not pitch last season as he redshirted. West was a highly thought of prospect out of Nebraska in 2014.
Ryan Connolly comes to Nebraska after averaging 13 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in high school. Connolly a left handed pitcher, will look to continue with his arsenal of strike throwing pitches.
Ethan Frazier comes from Blue Spring South High School, the same school as Reece Eddins. Frazier held opposing batters to an absurd .085 batting average in high school. If Frazier is able to continue his dominate ways, he could quickly become an interesting piece for the Huskers.
Sean Chandler was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 32nd round. Chandler said no to the Brewers and accepted a late offer from the Huskers to come and toe the rubber. Chandler threw a no hitter against Omaha Westside this past season.
Overall, the Huskers have a couple of returning pieces to form a quality bullpen. The freshmen in this class will determine the fate of the Huskers season. If players such as Hood, Luensmann, and Chandler give the Huskers meaningful innings throughout the year, the Huskers could end up competing for a league title.
Nebraska starts the 2016 season this Friday as they travel to Charleston, South Carolina as they take on the College of Charleston in a three game series. First pitch Friday is set for 4:05 local time.
A look at who will toe the rubber for the Huskers this season