Canes Baseball season wrap-up with Javi Salas

Canes Baseball season wrap-up with Javi Salas

DMoney
DMoney

The last time Miami had a losing season, Elvis Presley (the skinny version) was ruling the pop charts. Javi Salas, pitcher for the 23rd perfect game in D1 history and host of the excellent Bullpen Mafia baseball podcast (available HERE), joined the CanesInSight Podcast with his takeaways on a difficult season for Canes baseball:

On the disappointing 27-30 season: First losing season since 1958, which is insane. This is uncharted territory, which means there are uncharted things for the staff to do. They’ve got to do things they've never done to turn this thing around. One thing we heard all year was how the late hiring of JD Arteaga made it difficult to fully take advantage of the Portal. So we should see a different kind of commitment to the Portal this year. That’s ultimately going to decide where this team goes.

Stat rundown: On offense, Miami was 12th out of 14 in the ACC in runs, 11th out of 14 in home runs, 3rd in strikeouts, 13th in stolen bases. On defense, Miami was 12th out of 14 in fielding percentage. Pitching-wise, Miami was 8th in ERA and 5th in strikeouts.

That's obviously not the formula for a postseason team. It didn't look pretty from a statistics standpoint. It didn't look all that pretty from watching the game with my own two eyes.

The late hiring of the current staff probably led to some delays getting into serious activity in the Portal. But this year, an early exit means a longer Portal period. So you can attack it from the get-go and address some of those problem areas.

It all starts with pitching. The stats show an average ACC staff. That’s just not going to get you where you want to go. If this team really wants to turn it around, you've got to have an elite pitching staff with elite frontline starters. There were some weekends where we didn't get a lot of depth on a Saturday and Sunday. Obviously, Gage Ziehl was a tremendous stalwart in front of the rotation, but he didn't have a lot of help.

One of the areas where we saw the biggest hole was that midweek game. We had so many different midweek starters, so many permutations and iterations of guys going in there. We didn't have one consistent starter, didn't have anything that we could build on going into weekends.

I also like to look at some of the little things. Baseball's a 27-out game. We didn't do a great job catching the ball, fielding it, throwing it to first base cleanly. Fielding percentage was down, didn't put a lot of pressure on defense with stealing bases. Base running was obviously one of the sticking points for this team. So beyond the hitting and the pitching, it was the little things, which we haven't seen from Miami Club in a long time. All of these areas need to be addressed sooner rather than later going into next season.

On priorities in the Portal: First and foremost, it's got to be the bats. We need the hit tool. You need to surround Daniel Cuvet with impact bats and protect him in that lineup. You need to bring back Daniel Cuvet and then get two or three versions of a Daniel Cuvet-light to protect him in that batting order.

We also have to add some impact arms at the front of the rotation and at the back end of the bullpen. What really plagued us in the ACC tournament was lack of depth in the bullpen. We had to keep going back to the same guys, Myles Caba and Nick Robert, pitching basically three consecutive days. Myles Caba gave a Herculean effort, but what do you have left after he's thrown 100 pitches in the first two games of the tournament?

When you look at the blueprint of other teams, like Duke, who beat Miami, they had four or five impact arms coming out of that bullpen. Upper high velocity guys with wipeout stuff and big strikeout numbers pitching in high-leverage situations. You need three, four, five of those guys to really compete in the ACC. When you get into the tournament-style format where you're playing four really competitive games in a five, six-day stretch, you need a lot of arms.

One of the things that you and I talk about a lot is athletic profiles. Athletic builds. We want guys who look the part in the uniform. Get big physical bodies and guys who play multiple sports. I always ask, “Would you mistake him for a football player in plain clothes?” I definitely wasn’t one of those guys (laughs), but I'd like to see my team look that way if I was a general manager.

Look at last year's team. Andrew Walters might have a chance to be in the big leagues here at the end of September. CJ Kayfus is off to a tremendous start. Yo-Yo Morales is a top 100 prospect. There's some serious talent. Those guys look the part. We've got to go out and get some of those types of players.

On the MLB decision for Gage Ziehl: It was a tremendous year from Gage, something he should be extremely proud of. As a former player, I'm proud of the effort that he put forth over the course of a very difficult season.

Gage is definitely going to get drafted. I think he probably made himself some money over the last couple weeks. Teams are looking at how he finished after a long season. It seemed like he got stronger as the season wore on. That’s something you definitely want in a starting pitcher.

He has pitched out of the bullpen and as a starter. At the beginning of the season, I truthfully had my reservations about him as a starter. He quieted all those personal reservations that I had. He definitely profiles as a starting pitcher. Good three-pitch mix. What I like is he's really aggressive with his fastball and can command it to both sides of the plate, which I think is something you really want to see in a starting pitcher. I still think there's a little room for growth in that velocity. We've seen major league organizations profile a pitcher and say, “He may be at 93, 94 now, but we see a mechanical tweak we can make to really escalate that velocity to 96, 97, 98, with that body type."

Personally, I say Gage is a fourth to eighth rounder. I'm not super plugged in with the MLB Draft, but this is from a production standpoint and from profiling that body type. If you get Gage Ziehl in the fifth round, it's a steal for your organization. He’s a guy you can put in High A right now, and he’ll pitch with success. He can throw three pitches for strikes. He’s got a really good head on his shoulders. And he understands how to pitch. That's the most important thing.

If Gage doesn't get drafted where he wants, I'm sure Miami is going to welcome him back with open arms. That Friday night spot will be his until he relinquishes it. Gage is the type of personality and the type of person you want in your organization. He's a great ambassador for the university.

On Rafe Schlesinger’s upcoming decision: His big decision is understanding what the next level looks like in his development. From an outsider's perspective, I think he pitched well as a starter. But if I was an evaluator, I'd like him in the bullpen with that deceptive left-handed arm slot. The velocity probably ticks up a little bit in the bullpen. Good feel for his slider, too. That's an out pitch for him.

Rafe was learning on the job. In a more perfect situation, you could have brought him along more slowly. Miami just didn't have the starting pitching this year to really say, “Rafe, let's ease you in as a midweek starter and then work your way into that weekend rotation.” Instead, it was, “Rafe, you're our second best guy right now. You're pitching on Saturday.”

So he’s probably a reliever at the next level. That's not to say that he can't start. We've seen guys like Carson Palmquist. Deceptive arm slot, left-hander, pitched as a closer early in his career at Miami, comes back as a junior and has a tremendous season as a starting pitcher. I’ll eat crow on that one. I thought he was better off as a reliever. He's in AA, playing for the Colorado Rockies organization, doing fantastic. He was an all-star last year. So what do I know?

But if Rafe wants to come back and be a starting pitcher, I'm sure that's a conversation that he could have with his staff. If he wants to come back and be a reliever, that's a conversation he could have with his staff. The options are open for him. Left-handed arms with that kind of velocity, they don't come around often. Now, what he has to decide is: do I want to develop in a big league organization, or do I want to develop at the University of Miami?

On Daniel Cuvet: I'm wowed. I almost feel stupid for that pod we did in the middle of the year where I said that he was struggling and it was going to be difficult for him in conference. He was on an island in this lineup. He was a solo act. He willed Miami to the semifinals of the ACC tournament as a freshman.

The thing that really sets him apart is power to all fields. We saw those balls flying out to right field. That home run against Duke was a curveball, not a bad pitch. If I throw that pitch and they hit it out, I'm ****ed because that was outer-third. He goes down and golfs it out to right field. It just goes to show you, (1), raw power; (2) elite hand-eye coordination; and (3) this guy's just a freak of nature. There's nothing that really phases him at the plate. He's willing to take the ball where it's pitched. He'll hit it off the scoreboard. He'll hit it out to right field. There's nothing that’s off-limits for him.

As complete a hitter as he is, he's done a very good job defensively. It’s a difficult spot to be thrust into as a freshman playing third base. We saw Yo-Yo Morales do it. Daniel Cuvet is following suit by playing a really good third base. You mentioned his base running. This guy's a total package.

From all I've heard, he's a tremendous human being. It’s the Cam Ward and Daniel Cuvet show right now on campus. The university is very fortunate to have horses that they ride into hopefully very successful seasons both in football and baseball.

On JD Arteaga heading into the offseason: A season like this is never welcomed. Let the process play out a little bit and let’s see what the staff has in store. Give them the ability to build that roster. As a former player, it’s very difficult to have a season like this because you feel like the weight of your world on your shoulders. You play at a place like Miami where there's four banners. The banners hang forever. You go out to practice and you see all the numbers retired. You see the flags flying over the field. You know the gravity of the situation here.

There's a lot left to be desired with this ball club, but it's sort of a blank canvas. The roadmap has been set by other programs. I'm looking at teams that made massive jumps from one year to the next. All it took was tapping into that transfer portal and this whole new system. It’s available to us. You can change the direction of your organization overnight.

I expect Miami to be really aggressive and follow the likes of a Florida State. They were in our same position last year. They turned around. They're a top eight national seed. So don't tell me it can't be done.

As a player, as a fan, I want the Miami roster to resemble some of those teams that we grew up loving. Those teams were physical, aggressive, stole bases and put a ton of pressure on their opposition. Looking at in-state, we want to get back to the place where we beat the Floridas and the Florida States. Midweek, we don't want to be losing to the Florida Gulf Coasts, the Bethune-Cookmans, the FAUs. Let’s turn this roster over, and hopefully this time next year, you and I are talking about Miami being a national seed and all this has gone by the wayside.

On what he wants the 2024 team to look like: Growing up, I was extremely fortunate to watch the 1999 and 2001 teams win national championships. There were a lot of intangible factors with those teams, a lot of grit. They were teams that played with a lot of fire and passion. No one wanted to play Miami. That’s the nastiness and the bravado that Miami operates best with. We've got to make Mark Light a difficult place to play.

Moving forward into 2024, we have so much at our disposal in terms of video scouting, player identification, player development programs. We can see anyone at any time from anywhere in the world. So let's cast a wide net. Let’s say, “We're going to go and find the best talent in the Portal and we're going to bring them to Miami.” Miami is a place where stars shine. There are players on the cusp of the major leagues one year removed from the University of Miami.

I still think Miami carries big-time weight. If I was in the transfer portal, from Middle of Nowhere, USA and I see a 305 number calling, I hope it's the University of Miami. No one will turn down a phone call from the University of Miami. I'd like us to be aggressive and go after the big names. Let's turn this roster over. Let's make this roster look like those 1999-2001 teams.

There’s an intangible aspect, too. You want to bring in the right guys. You want to build the locker room with character. You want to have guys that are interested in winning and are interested in being here for the right reasons. Obviously, the NIL era has opened up tremendous opportunities for players. I wish I played in this era. But you also want to build a roster that not only is here for the winning, but they're here for each other.
 

Comments (10)

Will baseball have nice NIL to use?
 
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JD has failed upward nicely. Man must be laughing his *** off getting rich of a program and delivering absolutely no value.

Maybe he turns it around…all you need is 2-3 stud pitchers yet I am not sure he is capable.

Says it all.
 
Did our AD get notified up in Carolina about this season?
 
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JD has failed upward nicely. Man must be laughing his *** off getting rich of a program and delivering absolutely no value.

Maybe he turns it around…all you need is 2-3 stud pitchers yet I am not sure he is capable.

Says it all.
The team needs way more impact hitters (not just 2-3 stud pitchers). We need 4-5 impact hitters (zero JAGs) as the batting average was poor from the middle of the order to the end (can’t keep doing that & expect success) and you need to surround guys like Cuvet & Cyr with protection & guys that keep productive innings going.

I think we also need 3-4 stud pitchers with a fair amount of experience.

Major remake of the roster Is required (while retaining our best young talent & guys like Gage).
 
The team needs way more impact hitters (not just 2-3 stud pitchers). We need 4-5 impact hitters (zero JAGs) as the batting average was poor from the middle of the order to the end (can’t keep doing that & expect success) and you need to surround guys like Cuvet & Cyr with protection & guys that keep productive innings going.

I think we also need 3-4 stud pitchers with a fair amount of experience.

Major remake of the roster Is required (while retaining our best young talent & guys like Gage).
2-3 stud pitchers you are in a regional. Maybe hosting. The rest is just icing.

Just watched interview with Oklahoma State coach…jealous.
 
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