Baseball optimistic despite losses to MLB draft

Feb. 16, 2024, 12:50 a.m.

After losing nine players to the MLB draft, uncertainty looms over the Stanford baseball team’s upcoming season. But head baseball coach David Esquer ‘87 is optimistic — for him, one part of the team shines the brightest: “I really like our arms.”

“I think we have as much arm talent as we have had in recent years. I think early on we have built almost everyone up to be a starter,” Esquer said at Bay Area Baseball Media Days.

Stanford, along with several other regional college baseball teams including Cal, Santa Clara University and San Jose State, attended the annual event last Tuesday. Esquer, sophomore catcher Malcolm Moore and sophomore pitcher Matt Scott spoke to the media about the Cardinal’s upcoming spring season. 

KZSU lead baseball broadcaster Carson Trail ‘24 echoed Esquer’s praise for his pitching staff.

“The ceiling for this pitching staff is as high as it’s ever been,” Trail said. “The best pitching staff Esquer has had at Stanford was the 2018 staff. This is the kind of group, even if they don’t come along right away, if they develop, in one to two years they could be close to what that 2018 staff was.”

Stanford’s roster totals 17 pitchers, and Esquer said he intends to play each one early in the season to establish a pitching rotation that will win games. 

There is no question, however, about who will lead the pitching staff: right-hander Matt Scott. The sophomore pitcher said he wanted to improve his pitching consistency from last season. 

“Last year, I hit a stint where my slider wasn’t as sharp, my fastball wasn’t as sharp, and I have been figuring out what I need to do on a daily basis to dial it in,” Scott said. 

He said he is also trying to incorporate a third pitch into his arsenal. 

“The biggest thing for me was having a third pitch. I was really fastball- and slider-heavy last year with the occasional changeup,” Scott said. “I started throwing a splitter rather than a changeup, but it’s definitely still a work-in-progress.”

Other than Scott, Stanford’s most proven returner is sophomore catcher Malcolm Moore.

Moore, who maintained a batting average over .300 and hit 15 home runs last season, said the value he brought to the team came from his role as an offensively-productive catcher.

“I take pride in not only being a catcher that can hit, but also being a catcher that, when I am not hitting, I can catch and still help the team win,” Moore said.

Another player primed for a big season is junior infielder Trevor Haskins. After battling through mono at the beginning of last season, Haskins tallied disappointing stats during limited games the 2023 season. But according to Trail, Haskins may be the key to unlocking Stanford’s offense.

“The shape that the offense takes depends on the kind of season he has,” Trail said. “He went to the Cape Cod Baseball League last summer and tore it up. I think now that he’s finally healthy and feeling like himself, the sky’s the limit for him.”

Despite the loss of experienced players, there is still confidence that the younger players will fill the roles of the players before them. Esquer said he is intrigued by the uncertainty that lies ahead and how the team will respond.

“They don’t want any drop-off of the standard that the program has had for the last three years. I am excited to see how they embrace that challenge,” Esquer said. 

For Trail, while a drop-off in performance should be expected due to the loss of several power-hitting players, the team should still see relative success this season.

“I think we get anywhere between 32-38 games in the regular season,” Trail said. “That’s good enough for second place in the Pac-12. I think they’ll host a regional, but probably not a super-regional, but anything can happen from there.”

Stanford baseball opens the 2024 season with a three-game series against Cal State Fullerton starting on Friday, Feb. 16. First pitch is scheduled at 2:05 p.m PT.

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