It’s time to have some fun and publish our Projected 2023 Titan Baseball Roster: Pitchers edition.
Disclaimer: These projections are based solely on our observations spanning from fall practices, fall ball exhibition games vs. UNLV and Washington State, the Navy vs. Orange Fall World Series, the Alumni game and Spring intrasquad scrimmages. We did not consult with the coaching staff prior to publishing this projected line-up.
Year 1 under Head Coach Jason Dietrich saw a slight improvement in the winning percentage (.364 in 2021 to .400 in 2022) over the previous year. Although winning two more games is nothing to throw a party over, the major improvement from 2021 to 2022 came on the mound.
In 2021, the final year of the Rick Vanderhook regime, the Titans team Earned Run Average stood at 6.01 for the season and an even worse 6.44 in Big West Conference play. Enter the Pitcher Whisperer, Jason Dietrich, in 2022 and the team ERA dropped to 5.20 and more importantly, 4.34 in conference play. In just one year, Jason Dietrich and his staff shaved 2.1 earned runs in conference from one year to the next.
When it comes to pitching at Cal State Fullerton entering the 2023 season, the arrow is pointing up while the earned runs should come noticeably down.
What’s changed on the mound from 2022 to 2023?
As with every year, a college baseball program changes due to graduation, the MLB draft, incoming recruits and more frequently nowadays, guys coming and going via the NCAA transfer portal. We will touch on the new guys coming into the Titan Baseball program later, but first let’s look at who from 2022 will not return for the 2023 campaign.
Cameron Repetti started the season opener up at Stanford last year and held that spot for a few weeks before being demoted to the Saturday starter the third weekend series vs. Pepperdine. By the fourth weekend series vs. Loyola Marymount, Repetti found himself in the bullpen, a place he would stay until his final two innings vs. Long Beach State on May 20, 2022. Repetti was no longer with the team for the season finale series vs. UC Irvine.
After the Long Beach State series, Repetti’s name was removed from the roster and his player profile deleted. The only proof that Repetti played in the 2022 season came via looking at individual box scores. Clicking on his name from the box score takes the visitor to the team stats page where his name does not appear.
It’s unclear as to what instigated the sharp removal of Repetti from the website but it’s safe to speculate his intention to enter the transfer portal may have prompted that reaction. On May 28, 2022, House of Sparky, an Arizona State blog, reported that Repetti would transfer to ASU. However, Repetti’s name does not appear on the current ASU Baseball roster nor did it on the fall roster.
As of publish date, Repetti’s playing status is unknown and is unclear if he is even playing any form of college baseball.
Jake Vargas entered the transfer portal after the completion of fall practices. He has matriculated to Azusa Pacific University and their season has started already. Vargas pitched 2 innings for APU on February 3rd, striking out five batters.
Although Gil had an additional year of eligibility, he chose to graduate from Cal State Fullerton and start his career outside of baseball.
The flame throwing Weisberg chose to enter the MLB Draft after last season but unfortunately did not get drafted. He was open to signing a free agent contract but as of press time, we have not heard of that happening.
Joya appeared in six games during the 2022 season and finished the year with a 13.50 ERA in four innings pitched. Joya transferred to El Camino College located in Torrance, which is closer to his hometown of Wilmington, Calif.
Johnson made 13 appearances and one start during the 2022 season and finished the year with a 7.84 ERA in 10.1 innings pitched. Johnson chose to transfer to the University of Northwestern Ohio, an NAIA affiliated university.
Lefty Sam Gomez spent two years on campus at Cal State Fullerton (2021-22) and has chosen to transfer to play at DII Cal State Dominguez Hills.
Grant Kelly made five appearances during the 2022 season and recorded a 0-1 record with an 18.00 ERA in 3 innings pitched. Kelly was not on the fall roster, and it is unclear if Kelly is still playing baseball or where he is attending college.
As you can see, a few of the youngsters that did not perform well in their limited innings in 2022 chose to transfer to junior colleges or non-Division 1 schools. Suffice to say, all of those pitchers that departed were not recruited by the current coaching staff.
Of those arms from 2022 that did not return, fair to say it’s not that much of a loss. Repetti, despite his accolades coming to Fullerton, was erratic as a pitcher and susceptible to giving up the big home run. Weisberg looked the part of a closer with his high velocity but his control and ability to consistently throw strikes hampered his success. Vargas, in his years on campus, never seemed to stay healthy to see his full potential. The other youngsters and the JC guys didn’t make a huge impact on lowering the team ERA and the overall success of the staff last year.
That means those that threw impactful and meaningful innings in 2022, almost all have returned. A year older and hopefully stronger, the full year under Dietrich should pay immediate dividends in 2023.
Let’s look at how we expect the Titans to take shape on the mound and out of the bullpen in 2023.
Predicting the 2023 Pitching Rotation
Friday Starter – Trevor Hinkle
The battle for Friday night has come down to Trevor Hinkle and Tyler Stultz. Many assume that since Stultz started 12 of the 15 Fridays in 2022, he would be a lock to remain in that spot. As Lee Corso of ESPN’s College Gameday would say, “Not so fast, my friend”. From what we have been hearing, Hinkle has transferred in and made the battle for Friday a real dog fight and is in the best position to start February 17th vs. Stanford.
Hinkle arrives at Cal State Fullerton via the transfer portal after playing at Pepperdine for three years. Hinkle is considered a junior despite the 2023 season being his fourth year in college. (He was a freshman in 2020 and the NCAA granted those players an additional year of eligibility due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.) Last season, Hinkle held down the Saturday night spot for the Waves, notching a 5-4 record which ranked tied for seventh in the West Coast Conference in wins. Hinkle led Pepperdine in innings (73.1) in 2022, ranking sixth in the WCC and led the Waves in strikeouts (52).
Hinkle started 11 games last year for Pepperdine and in those starts, averaged roughly 5 2/3rds innings per start. He went seven innings April 9, 2022 at Saint Mary’s and finished the 2022 campaign strong, going eight complete innings on May 21, 2022 vs. Portland. If Hinkle can duplicate or even improve on those numbers and innings pitched from last season, the Titans could have a well-rested bullpen late in the season, when it counts the most. Which brings us to another workhorse type pitcher…
Saturday Starter – Tyler Stultz
Tyler Stultz finished last season as the Friday night starter after starting the first few weekends in the Saturday night spot. He led the Titans in many statistical categories including innings pitched (88.1), wins (5), games started (14) and strikeouts (86). Considering the Titans only won 22 games last season, Stultz’s five wins accounted for with nearly 23% of those wins. Also, consider this, Stultz as a Friday starter was also going head-to-head with the opponents’ ace of their staff, their Friday night starter. Grabbing wins from the other’s team’s ace is quite a feather in his cap.
Just today, D1Baseball ranked Stultz No. 85 of the Top 200 Starting Pitchers in college baseball. Not bad to have your Saturday guy ranked that high in the most respected college baseball publication on the market.
For those thinking last year’s Friday night guy now “moving back” to Saturday nights is a demotion, it’s not. This two-horse race between Stultz and Hinkle could go down to the wire to this weekend when Jason Dietrich and staff have to make those hard choices and determine which guys throw their bullpen when in relation to when they are slated to start.
The reality remains that Hinkle and Stultz could flip flop the nights they pitch, and it would not surprise us at all. The competition has been fierce and the good news remains, the 2023 Titans essentially have two Friday night caliber starters. The only problem is that only one guy can get the ball to start on each night. We’re calling our shot and saying Hinkle gets the Friday while Stultz gets Saturdays.
Sunday Starter – Fynn Chester
The Sunday role is tightly contested and, in our opinion, three Titans, Evan Yates, Fynn Chester and Peyton Jones all could easily end up starting on Day 3 of the weekend series. We’re going to make the call and predict Fynn Chester gets the ball on Sundays but we’re not super confident on that one. Here’s our rationale:
Chester started the majority of Sundays last season when Evan Yates moved into the Saturday role vacated by Christian Rodriquez following his injury that required Tommy John surgery. So why wouldn’t Yates go back to Sundays if he was the Saturday guy last season?
Yates very well could grab the job but we’re calling our shot and saying Chester. Based on age and experience, (Chester graduated high school in 2017 which makes him 24 years old.) Chester could get the Sunday nod. Because Chester played Junior College ball during the teeth of the pandemic, a number of those years were forgiven, and he gained additional years of eligibility. (Tyler Stultz is in the same boat when it comes to eligibility years.) Chester also closed the 2022 season on a high note, pitching a complete game shutout on May 22 against Long Beach State on just 76 pitches. Chester completed the season throwing 62 2/3rds innings, striking out 32 batters and registering a 2.30 ERA, the lowest of the 2022 staff.
By comparison, once Yates consistently started games beginning March 27, 2022 vs. UC Riverside, he never reached six innings. Yates, a true freshman last season did not go deep into games and that is understandable given his youth. This is not a knock on Yates by any stretch of the imagination but a 24 year old man that can throw a complete nine innings with 76 pitches will go deeper into games than a sophomore. In Yates last three games, he threw 118 pitches in 5.2 innings vs. UC Irvine, 84 pitches in 5 innings vs. Long Beach State and 90 pitches in 3.2 innings vs. Cal Poly.
Compare that to Chester’s final three games, he threw 90 pitches in eight innings vs. UC Irvine, the previously mentioned 76 pitch nine inning complete game vs. Long Beach State and 73 pitches in 4.2 innings vs. Cal Poly. If the bullpen can remain healthy and rested, the starting pitchers will need to go deep into games. As of right now, Chester’s age and experience gives the titans the best opportunity to do just that.
Also, Chester is a righty and with all things being equal, Dietrich may go with a right hander as a weekend starter over the lefty Jones. If our predictions hold to form, the Titans could go righty-lefty-righty Friday-Saturday-Sunday. With six total left handers on staff and Stultz being used as a starter on Fridays or Saturdays, that leaves five left handers in the bullpen. If Jones gets the nod on Sundays, the bullpen is down to four left-handers with one of them slated to be the closer. (We’ll make that prediction a bit later.)
Seth Tomczak and Ryan Faulks could be dark horses for the Sunday spot as they have performed well this Spring. However, it appears to be a three-horse race between Yates, Chester and Jones and we’ll place a few sheckles on Chester to win the Sunday spot.
Mid-week Starter – Peyton Jones
Honestly, whomever does not win the Sunday starter role could very well take the mid-week starts. We’ll predict that Peyton Jones gets the non-conference starts on Tuesdays for several reasons.
Jones is a bona fide starter evidenced in the previous section regarding the Sunday starting role. Typically, the Mid-Week non-conference games consist of a “Johnny All-Staff” approach where the bullpen combines for one or two innings per guy and they try to piece together a nine-inning win. Not since the days when Coby Guana pitched for the Titans (2012-2014) has there been a surefire Mid-Week starter. Jones could take on that type of role of starting on a Tuesday and then get enough rest to be able to come in out of the bullpen on the weekends in relief.
The same argument could be made for Yates that he could start on Tuesdays and still have enough in the tank to pitch in relief on the weekend. Since Yates started the Alumni game for the titans and Jones was “on loan” to the alumni pitching for them, it’s clear that Jason Dietrich used that opportunity as an audition for the Sunday and the mid-week roles.
Set-up Man – Jason Blood
Jason Blood comes to Cal State Fullerton from Golden West College with high expectations placed on him. Named the No. 22 JUCO transfer by D1Baseball.com, many expected Blood to come in and compete for a weekend starting role. Now that he has landed on campus and gone through fall and now spring practices, Blood appears poised for a backend of the bullpen role.
Closer – JoJo Ingrassia
The transfer portal was good to the Titans in the summer of 2022 with the addition of Trevor Hinkle and now JoJo Ingrassia. (Outfielder Colby Wallace and RHP Ryan Faulks are also beneficiaries of the transfer portal.) Ingrassia transferred from San Diego State and has a low-to-mid 90’s fastball and low 80’s off-speed stuff including a wicked change up. The closer role appears to be all but his and he has shown to not only have the velocity and the stuff, but the mental attitude it takes to be a closer.
Look no further than the alumni game when Ingrassia came in the top of the ninth inning and faced four batters, striking out three of them, all on swing and misses. Most notably, the first strike out came against Scott Hurst, a third-round draftee of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2017. In 2021, Hurst became the 69th Titan to reach the Major Leagues and is most famously known amongst Titan fans as the man that hit four home runs in a single game vs. Cal State Northridge. A college guy striking out a Big Leaguer is nothing to sneeze at nor ignore.
Despite striking out Hurst, as impressive as that may seem, Ingrassia showed good presence in the fall exhibitions and intra-squads as well. The Titans have not had a true closer since Brett Conine held that role in 2017. Moreover, the Titans have not had a true left handed closer since Tyler Peitzmeier in 2015. What do the years 2015 and 2017 mean to Titans fans? Those are the two most recent years the Titans played in Omaha.
Bullpen: Left Handers – Josh Howitt, Aaron Peterson and Jack Meek
We already touched on three of the six left handers on the Titans pitching staff. The next left hander that is truly a middle reliever is Josh Howitt. Howitt had a fantastic summer in the Northwoods League and returned to Fullerton with what looked to be more velocity but more importantly control and confidence. Although his numbers in 2022 were nothing to write home about, (23 appearances, 17 innings, 0-3, 6.35 ERA and 14 Ks) Howitt should improve and become one of the more reliable lefties out of the bullpen. He showed in scrimmages he can relieve, eat up innings and put up zeros on the scoreboard.
We have not seen much of Aaron Peterson in the fall nor the spring but hopefully he will add depth from the left side when called upon. Jack Meek, a freshman from Sonora High School, is a promising young arm for the Titans. As with most freshmen on a deep and experienced pitching staff, hopefully Meek will see some innings in low leverage spots to help build confidence when facing college hitters.
Bullpen: Right Handers – Seth Tomczak, Ryan Faulks, Gavin Meyer, Evan Yates, Carter Herrera, Izeah Muniz, Aaron Ceniceros, Andrew Morones and Jesse Alfaro.
The right-handed depth in the bullpen outnumbers the lefties 3-to-1 but that is typically normal for a college baseball team. With so many right-handed arms and a just a few relief innings to go around, the depth of this year’s bullpen could prove a vital asset. When the season gets late and arms gets tired, the success of the season could rest on the depth and readiness of this group.
Seth Tomczak, Ryan Faulks and Evan Yates appear to be the first right handers that Jason Dietrich may call for in relief inning situations. Tomczak showed well in the Alumni Game and arrives in Fullerton via San Joaquin Delta College and was at Arizona State before that. Another transfer portal signee, Ryan Faulks is a former Aztec from San Diego State. During the Alumni Game, Faulks showed a low 90’s fastball and 80 MPH off-speed stuff. His split finger fastball is a thing of beauty with swing and miss potential. That splitter will make several opponents shaking their head as they head back to dugout.
It seems unfair that Yates could end up in the bullpen with his fastball in the low 90’s and his off-speed stuff in the high 70’s. We said it before, not everyone can start and there is no shame in coming out of the bullpen to gobble up innings should a starter stumble. Yates showed he can start last year and could transition to the bullpen nicely to become the fireman to put out fires when needed.
Back for his sophomore year, Izeah Muniz could factor into the reliever mix. Muniz contributed during the fall in stretches but did not make an appearance in the Alumni Game. In the Blue-Orange Series, Muniz broke out a devastating curve ball that has the potential to make batters look silly. Depth is always a good thing and Muniz should provide it should he stay healthy.
Much like the left-hander, Jack Meek, the freshmen Carter Herrera, Aaron Ceniceros and Jesse Alfaro could see limited time in 2023 due to the talent and experience in front of them. All of the freshmen should see ample tutelage from Dietrich and could really take the torch when ready.
Look for the freshmen to get some trial by fire in the mid-week contests so that Dietrich can test their mettle in a higher pressure situation other than a bullpen session. Dietrich’s track record of developing pitchers and he and his staff’s eye for talent, do not be surprised if one or more of these freshmen get more time on the mound than originally expected.
Added Depth from Position Players
The Titans have a handful of players that primarily play on offense but can pitch as well. In a pinch either due to injury or possibly the bullpen has been overworked, these players could grab a few innings if asked.
JT Navyac has pitched in the past for the Titans and could if an emergency arose. Navyac took the mound in the 2021 season for 1.1 innings, gave up three hits, one earned run and also struck out one batter. Not a ringing endorsement to give him an increased role on the mound but he can pitch if needed.
Freshman Luke Mistone came on campus looking to fill a dual role but as the spring practices wind down, it appears that Mistone will direct his focus more as a position player rather than dividing his time between batting cage and the bullpen sessions. During the summer, Mistone pitched primarily for the San Luis Obispo Blues in the California Collegiate League.
There he registered a 3.68 ERA in seven appearances and pitched 14.2 innings and struck out 18 batters. Not bad for a guy coming off his high school senior season and facing D1 caliber opposition. From what we heard, as a Titan, Mistone’s bread will be buttered as a position player and his opportunities for playing time increase while focusing there. Mistone will compete for playing time with the position players and check back here for that preview coming soon.
Moises Guzman did see some pitching action in the fall but his role looks to be in the outfield and at the plate with a bat in his hand. While at Long Beach City College the last two years, Guzman appeared in 18 games, starting eight of them and throwing 65.1 innings. While there, he struck out 71 batters while walking 34, a more than 2:1 K:BB ratio. Of the position players that have pitching potential, Guzman looks like the best candidate to make an appearance on the mound in 2023.
If our predictions hold true with Hinkle, Stultz and Chester getting the weekend starts, their ability to go six plus innings per game, should prove invaluable in order to keep the bullpen healthy, rested and ready if needed. The college baseball season grind of 56 games demands weekend starters go deep into games so that the bullpen can remain fresh in May and hopefully deep into June.
Although Stultz and Hinkle are strikeout type pitchers, they are not going to strike out every batter that comes to the plate. They will need a few ground balls to get through innings and solid defense behind them can help bolster their confidence. The seven guys behind the pitcher with trustworthy gloves on their hands helps pitchers understand they do not need to strike everyone out.
Last season, the Titans fielded at a .973 clip recording 53 errors in 55 games. Simple math puts that at nearly an error per game. If the fielders can cut that number down and the pitchers uphold their end of the bargain, the good ole days of the Titans winning 5-2 or even 4-1 ball games could return. Ask any Titan Baseball fan and they would probably prefer a 10-0 shutout but you have to pick your battles and live in reality.
The offense took a step forward in 2022 over the 2021 team, improving the batting average by 14 points from .264 to .278. If the Titans can add another 14 points this season and bring that batting average to .292, the Titans will be in business.
Make sure to check back soon for our Projected 2022 Titan Baseball Roster – Batters coming soon.