MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Another very successful season of West Virginia University baseball came to an end in the NCAA Tournament over the weekend. With the 2023 campaign now over, efforts are already underway to get the Mountaineers prepared for next season.
Those efforts by Randy Mazey and his staff will center around keeping the current roster as intact as possible, while also looking to bolster the lineup and pitching rotation with fresh talent, either via the transfer portal or incoming freshmen.
Roster construction is underway, and started almost immediately after the team returned home from its postseason tournament appearance in Lexington.
“I guarantee you my coaches are out there thinking right now how we’re going to be better next year. That’s what they do,” Mazey said Sunday. “Today, we’re going to say let’s do what we got to do to win [a regional] next year. So, we’re already going to work on how to make that happen.”
Mazey stated he and the coaches planned to meet with each individual player on Monday. Those conversations would not only be to detail the strengths and weaknesses of each player and give goals to accomplish over the offseason, but to flesh out which players are and are not sticking around for the future, as well.
Only two players on this season’s roster have exhausted all their collegiate eligibility: reliever Kevin Dowdell and starter Blaine Traxel, who pitched five complete games this spring. Other than those two, all players entered the offseason with the ability to return.
However, West Virginia’s pitching staff has already taken an unexpected hit, as Friday night starter Ben Hampton has entered the transfer portal. Hampton (5-3, 4.45 ERA) started 41 games in his three years with the Mountaineers and earned first team All-Big 12 honors this season.
With Hampton and Traxel gone, that’s two starting pitchers Mazey will have to replace. Young hurlers like Aidan Major, Robby Porco, David Hagaman, Gavin Van Kempen, Carson Estridge, and Grant Siegel all expect to be candidates to fill those roles.
It’s also possible Mazey could have to replace his closer, though he likely won’t know for certain until July.
“I feel like Carlson Reed is going to be a pretty big draft pick,” Mazey said. “He may have an opportunity to move on.”
West Virginia has averaged 3.5 players selected in the MLB Draft per year since Mazey’s first season in 2013. At least two Mountaineers have been drafted every year but one in the Mazey era, with the COVID-19-shortened 2020 MLB Draft being the lone exception.
Reed (2-1, 2.61 ERA, 7 SV) is one of a handful of WVU players expected to be selected in this year’s draft. Catcher Dayne Leonard and shortstop Tevin Tucker are, too. Outfielders Braden Barry, Landon Wallace, and Caleb McNeely, and reliever Noah Short are also draft-eligible.
All of those players, though, have at least one year of college eligibility remaining and can return to WVU if they are not selected as high as they’d like, or not at all.
Golden Spikes Award candidate JJ Wetherholt is not draft-eligible until next year.
“This experience that these guys went through could be good for us next year because, like I said, we could have almost this whole team back,” said Mazey.
As for incoming freshmen, Mazey’s latest signing class includes seven pitchers and 10 position players. Pitchers Chase Meyer and John Glasscock, and infielder Armani Guzman, are each rated as Top 500 players nationally by Perfect Game. Meyer was rated as the No. 92 overall player in the country when WVU’s signing class was announced.
If this season was any indication, many of the incoming freshmen will have the chance to compete for key roles.
It also remains to be seen what players, if any, Mazey brings in through the transfer portal. A number of the players mentioned in this story were brought in last offseason via the portal.