Coming off yet another College World Series appearance, Stanford baseball is once again projected to be one of the top teams in the country. But in 2023, the team photo won’t have the exact same faces as last year.
Six Cardinal players were selected in the 2022 MLB Draft, all but one, senior pitcher Quinn Matthews, electing to sign professional contracts and move on from college. These include shortstop Adam Crampton, second baseman Brett Barrera, center fielder Brock Jones, pitcher Alex Williams ‘22 and catcher Kody Huff.
Moreover, the team’s fifth year seniors, pitcher Cody Jensen and catcher Vincent Martinez, decided to grad transfer to Georgetown and Notre Dame, respectively. Redshirt senior pitcher Justin Moore also left the program, joining Martinez in South Bend, Ind.
But Stanford has returning players from last year’s roster along with new additions that can fill the voids left by those departures.
On the mound, expect do-it-all sophomore Braden Montgomery to pitch more innings this upcoming season. While he was only on the mound for 18.2 innings last season, he was able to amass 28 strikeouts and two saves.
“He’ll still hit in the middle of the batting order and play right field,” said head coach David Esquer. ”But the ability to use his arm on a more consistent basis is definitely something we’re planning on.”
It also seems likely that senior pitcher Quinn Mathews will take on a starter role next season. Mathews worked a lot of innings out of the bullpen in 2022 and ranked second in the conference in ERA. His ability to rack up innings from the closer spot leaves Esquer to believe the senior can finally take on a starter role this season.
“I think we were looking to start Quinn this year,” Esquer told the Daily over the phone. “I think we can find someone to come pitch the end of the game, whether it’s Braden [Montgomery] or Ryan Bruno. So I think we can have the back end of the bullpen taken care of and then maybe utilize Quinn in the starter role.”
Esquer remains confident about the infield. His team, he said, has the depth needed to absorb the draft blows at shortstop and second base.
“We’ve had good players behind good players behind good players,” Esquer said. “And then we’re bringing in a few more players this year. But I think between [junior infielder] Tommy Troy and [senior infielder] Owen Cobb, we can take care of the middle of the diamond. Then we got some young freshmen if one of them wants to step up. James Nati, a shortstop from Australia, is coming in. He’s a great offensive player. So we’ve got some options even though we lost good players in Adam Crampton, Brett Barrera and Kody Huff.”
In addition to those returning from last year’s roster, Stanford also has an incoming class of nine players that could provide immediate depth at key positions. Stanford was fortunate to not lose any of its freshman class to the MLB Draft. Even right-handed pitcher Matt Scott, who was drafted in the 20th round by the Texas Rangers, elected to continue his baseball career with the Cardinal.
“That was a big factor. We thought we had a couple kids with a chance of getting drafted. But we dodged that bullet,” Esquer said. “We’re gonna come into this season with our full class.”
Stanford’s freshman class contains four right-handed pitchers in Scott, Nick Dugan, Toran O’Harran and Trevor Moore. Joining them and Moore are shortstops Gabe Springer and Jimmy Nati and outfielders Ethan Hott and Cort MacDonald.
Whether intentional or not, these players play the same positions as those in the departing 2022 MLB draft class. If a few of them can make a quick adjustment to college baseball, Stanford will once again have considerable depth backing up their starters.
While Stanford did lose quite a few pieces to the draft, they still bring back a solid core of players with a lot of experience. These include junior third baseman Drew Bowser, junior outfielder Eddie Park and junior pitcher Drew Dowd alongside Montgomery, Troy and Matthews. These players gained meaningful postseason experience during the team’s College World Series runs of the past two years.
Come spring, Stanford’s leadership and improvement, along with the play of the newcomers, should have the program competing for another Pac-12 regular season title and college baseball championship .