Several departures to MLB imminent, coach Rooney will have his work cut out for him in offseason
Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 16:06
The Knights will have a new look next season, but the potential departure of six of the team’s leaders will not leave the cupboard completely empty.
Joe Rogers (Round Five, Tigers), Roman Madrid (Round Seven, Padres), Darnell Sweeney (Round 13, Dodgers), Ronnie Richardson (Round 16, Padres), D.J. Hicks (Round 17, Twins) and Matt Collins (Round 37, Angels) were offered the opportunity to continue their baseball careers professionally through the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Although five of the aforementioned players are rising seniors, all will move on to play professionally.
As a rising senior, you have much more leverage to work with than a player with no remaining college eligibility, and it’s tough to improve your draft stock over one year of college baseball.
So where does this leave UCF?
The team will be losing 39 percent of its run production, 49 percent of its stolen bases and the players with the two highest on-base percentages in 2012 with the departure of Hicks, Richardson and Sweeney alone.
Not only will the offense lose much of its 2012 production, but the bullpen will be hit hard.
Rogers and Madrid, the cornerstone duo of head coach Terry Rooney’s bullpen, were the two highest Knights selected in the draft, and for good reason.
Rogers will leave UCF as the all-time leader in saves with 30 over the course of his career, and his 13 saves in 2012 came mostly with the help of Madrid.
Madrid served as the team’s eighth-inning setup man, appearing in 45 innings over which he accumulated a 1.00 ERA.
Collins, the only drafted senior, also contributed as a long-relief man and a spot starter.
But even with that much run production and pitching leaving, the team will be in decent shape.
Rooney has made a reputation as a great recruiter, and he’ll have the chance to prove it next season.
Rooney knew that many of his stars would be leaving for the pros in 2012, and he has recruited accordingly.
Rising sophomores Erik Barber, Tommy Williams and James Vasquez were each given a taste of what its like to play big-time college baseball this season, and they’re going to need that experience for 2013.
Barber will likely take over at center field, Williams at shortstop and Vasquez at first.
Each player was a highly sought-after recruit. Williams was a 20th round selection by the Diamondbacks out of high school, and Vasquez impressed his coaches and teammates with his swing freshman year.
If these players live up to the expectation that Rooney has for them, it will be a smooth transition.
While none of those replacements will immediately be able to do what their predecessors did, the team will have a nice balance.
The biggest worry for Rooney will be at the back end of his bullpen. It’s been a long time since anyone besides Rogers has been a consistent closer, and it will be tough to find his replacement.
Rooney has a plethora of arms from which to choose. He may go with Jimmy Reed, who served as a closer for Skagit Valley College before coming to UCF, but it will be difficult to find a player that has the mindset it takes to be a dominant closer.
The last thing the Knights can afford is to have a shaky bullpen.
With the departure of the team’s statistical pillars imminent, it’s not quite time to panic. The talent is there. Now, only time can tell if the ballplayers are.