The Arizona State baseball team’s season is over after losing the final two games to Texas in the Super Regionals.
It could be an interesting summer, though.
The Sun Devils were originally banned from this year’s postseason for NCAA infractions under former coach Pat Murphy, but since the university’s appeal had not yet been ruled on when postseason berths were announced, ASU was allowed to participate in the tournament.
But short of a giant twist, Arizona State seems destined to spend the 2012 postseason at home under the original penalty, and it could affect the way next year’s roster plays out.
First and foremost, it seems that junior draft picks Riccio Torrez (fourth round to the Tampa Bay Rays) and Johnny Ruettiger (eighth round to the Baltimore Orioles) will almost assuredly turn pro. Players have much more leverage following their junior seasons, and those two players are in line for a decent signing bonus.
It gets a little murky surrounding a couple of other significant contributors.
Second baseman Zack MacPhee was the Pac-10 Player of the Year as a sophomore, hitting .389 with nine homers, 14 triples and 64 RBIs. While his on-base percentage of .419 in 2011 led the Sun Devils, all of his other numbers took a nasty stumble. The ban of composite bats caused offensive numbers to go down across the board nationally, but MacPhee finished the year hitting only .279 with a slugging percentage of just .360. Since he is only 5-foot-8 and 172 pounds, MacPhee dropped down draft boards, getting selected by Cleveland Indians in the 13th round. In the past, a guy like MacPhee would strongly consider returning to school to improve his stock as a senior. But with the prospect of no chance to make the College World Series, will that play into his decision?
Another player that may be in the same boat is Mitchell Lambson. He has been the team’s closer for three seasons, and has always put up good numbers at Arizona State. However, with a fastball that sits around 86 miles per hour, he wasn’t a priority for major league teams, as Lambson was chosen in the 19th round by the Houston Astros.
Lambson’s stock won’t change much if he returns to Arizona State — save for coach Tim Esmay rightfully sticking him in the starting rotation — but the chance to spend another year on the same team with his brother and savor the college experience as a senior may have gotten him back.
But no postseason may affect his thinking, as well.
Critics can say what they want about Murphy, but despite his lack of a national championship, he regularly churned out star players and very talented baseball teams. Arizona State has been strong for a long time, but if next year’s postseason ban causes MacPhee and Lambson to jump ship, the Sun Devils may take a small dive.
The tradition of the program will keep ASU above water, but a second place Pac-10 finish and a Super Regional loss this year were seen as disappointments.
Next year, it could get worse.
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