Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve discussed the five biggest sets of shoes to fill in SEC and ACC baseball. The players on these lists are the ones whose departures, either to the draft or graduation, will leave the biggest holes to fill on their respective program’s rosters.
Today we’re doing the same for the Big Ten.
The usual caveats for this list apply once again. We limited it to one player per team, just for variety’s sake, and we do not take into account a team’s ability to replace the player. This list is about how big a hole the player’s production will leave, not about how equipped the program is to replace him.
Let’s get started.
Jake Adams – Iowa
Jake Adams was headed to North Dakota to play for head coach Jeff Dodson out of junior college, or at least that was plan before news came down that the university was shutting down the baseball program.
Forced to re-open his options, Adams landed in Iowa City and his arrival paid dividends for head coach Rick Heller and his staff in a big way, as the Brandon, South Dakota, native established himself as nothing short of the most prodigious power hitter in the country.
He hit .335/.417/.747 with 14 doubles, 29 home runs, and 72 RBI in his one season in Division I. Perhaps just as impressive as any of those numbers, he also stole five bases on the season, a high number when you consider the man’s sheer size.
While Iowa had several others enjoy quality seasons at the plate, most notably guys like Mason McCoy, Robert Neustrom, and Chris Whelan, it’s tough to imagine the Hawkeyes having the type of season they had, capped by a run to the Houston Regional, if not for Adams having to change course and come to Iowa rather than NoDak.
In 2018, the Hawkeyes have a lot of their most important offensive pieces back, but there’s just no replacing a guy who put up 29 homers in a season.
Brian Shaffer – Maryland
Over his final two years at Maryland, Brian Shaffer was quietly just about as effective and durable as anyone else in the Big Ten over that same span of time.
Two seasons ago, as part of a starting rotation that included superstar and college baseball household name Mike Shawaryn, Shaffer put up numbers that were just as good as his more heralded counterpart. He was an absolute workhorse in throwing 103.2 innings on the season (and that’s without any innings in the postseason to pad that total) with a 2.60 ERA and an incredible 75/13 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
And he certainly backed up that performance with an outstanding junior campaign that saw him put up a 2.66 ERA, a 109/18 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and a .223 opponent batting average in 108.1 innings. That was enough to earn him honors as the Big Ten’s Pitcher of the Year.
For the sake of getting right to the highlights of his career, we glossed over his freshman campaign, but he was solid then as well, as he debuted with a 4.57 ERA and a 52/9 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 61 innings in a swingman role.
After the 2017 season, Shaffer was taken in the sixth round by the Arizona Diamondbacks, and even with Taylor Bloom and Tyler Blohm back in the fold for 2018, his production will not be easy to replace in the Maryland rotation.
Craig Dedelow – Indiana
In a perfect world, every drafted junior who decides to spurn offers from pro baseball to return and play one more season of college baseball would have a senior season like the one Dedelow enjoyed with the Hoosiers.
After a junior season when he put up a .302/.359/.453 slash line with 16 doubles, five homers, and 36 RBI, Dedelow was selected in the 34th round of the draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Rather than sign, however, he decided to enjoy one more season in Bloomington.
And things went swimmingly. His average was down a bit to .258 and his on-base percentage dipped to .336, but he took a massive step forward in the power department, making him one of the most feared power threats in the entire conference. He came into the 2017 season with 12 home runs for his career and then went out and hit 19 during the 2017 season alone. Those 19 homers were good for a tie for fifth all-time for a single season in Indiana baseball history, one ahead of the 18 hit in 2013 by Kyle Schwarber, a guy you may know.
After the season, Dedelow was selected in the ninth round by the Chicago White Sox, an improvement of 25 rounds over his draft spot in the previous draft. Was some of that jump because Dedelow was a senior with no ability to leverage coming back to campus in negotiations with the team that drafted him? Perhaps, but there’s little doubting that coming back for one more go ’round in 2017 was a huge boon for Dedelow from a draft perspective, to say nothing of how much it helped Indiana get back into a regional.
The Hoosiers are on the short list of teams that should be considered contenders to win the Big Ten in 2018, but even still, they’ll undoubtedly wish they had a guy like Dedelow in the middle of the order.
Oliver Jaskie – Michigan
The Michigan lefty is a great example of a pitcher getting better and taking advantage of the opportunities placed in front of him.
As a freshman, Jaskie was given chances out of the bullpen, and while there were some bright spots, such as a solid .254 opponent batting average and 35 strikeouts in 30.2 innings, he often struggled. He was walking too many guys, as he had 22 of them on the season, and his 5.58 ERA reflected a season where the opposition too often tagged him with earned runs.
But given the chance to move into a rotation role as a sophomore in 2016, Jaskie jumped on it and thrived. He started 14 games, threw 79 innings, and had a 3.19 ERA, and while his 39 walks were still probably more then he and the coaching staff would have wanted, he offset that by limiting hitters to just a .225 average.
Then, as a junior, he really blossomed into a dominant force. His ERA was a bit higher at 3.77 across 16 starts and 93 innings, but that doesn’t really tell the whole tale. He cut down on his walks, issuing just 31 on the season, his strikeouts skyrocketed (he had 119 of those), and he once again held opponents at bay by limiting them to a .234 batting average.
After the season, he signed with the Seattle Mariners after being taken in the sixth round of the draft. Erik Bakich has Michigan running smoothly as a program at this point, but pitchers as good as Jaskie don’t just come along every year, so his will be a presence missed in the rotation.
Sal Biasi – Penn State
It was largely a season to forget for the Nittany Lions up in State College. They went 18-37 overall and 4-20 in Big Ten play. Injuries and inconsistent play really hampered the team’s ability to take the next step in the building process under head coach Rob Cooper.
But through it all, without a ton of help around him, starting pitcher Sal Biasi was magnificent. In 72.1 innings over 14 starts, he had a 3.48 ERA, 88 strikeouts, and a minuscule .183 opponent batting average. For a team that had a 5.96 team ERA and only one other pitcher with double-digit innings and an ERA lower than 5.00 (reliever Nick Distasio – 4.96) the stability Biasi provided was huge.
That performance was enough to get him drafted in the 11th round by the Kansas City Royals after the season, but that junior campaign was just the continuation of what he did throughout his entire PSU career.
As a freshman, he held down a bullpen role and did quite nicely for himself, putting up a 2.62 ERA and a .229 opponent batting average in 34.1 innings across 18 appearances. Then, as a sophomore, when asked to move into a starting role, he shined. He tossed 67.1 innings over 14 appearances, 13 of which were starts, with a 3.74 ERA, 66 strikeouts, and a .238 opponent batting average.
Now that he’s off in pro baseball, Biasi will be leaving behind the 174 innings and 185 strikeouts he accumulated in a PSU uniform, making him an incredibly tough one to replace.
Honorable mentions (in no particular order)
Kevin Smith – Maryland
Mason McCoy – Iowa
Lucas Gilbreath – Minnesota
Alex Troop – Michigan State
Brian Glowicki – Minnesota
Drew Lugbauer – Michigan
Jake Meyers – Nebraska
Nick Gallagher – Iowa
Tom Marcinczyk – Rutgers
Ryan Erickson – Iowa
Joe Mockbee – Michigan State