Miami Hurricanes Baseball Preview: Year 1 of the J.D. Arteaga Era

Miami Hurricanes baseball Arteaga

Miami, FL – With the end of Super Bowl LVIII it’s now time for the first year of the J.D. Arteaga head coaching tenure at Miami Hurricanes baseball. Not only do the Canes have a new coach, but UM has plenty of fresh players. The new-look Hurricanes have 15 guys returning from last year’s 35-man roster. Former coach Gino DiMare stepped down after the program failed to progress past the regional for the third straight year. The stinging loss left many fans wishing for a different approach in the wake of a historic season at the plate and overcoming adversity on the mound. As a result, Miami announced the in-house hire of the team’s pitching coach.

Starting the 2024 season unranked, the Miami Hurricanes have a lot of proving to do. Every aspect of J.D.’s inaugural year will be briefly looked upon from the pitching to the hitting. Heading into the campaign, Arteaga promises a more novel way of doing things. He’ll have his work cut out for him with the consensus prediction being the team finishing the year middle of the pack.

Offense: The familiars

With Yohandy Morales, C.J. Kayfus, Zach Levenson, and Dominic Pitelli gone, it will fall to the veterans (and new guys). Starting from home plate outward, Carlos Perez returns alongside Jack Scanlon. The former had a productive 2023 mashing 13 home runs and 31 RBIs. Scanlon figures to be the backup although he faces competition from a fella we’ll mention later. The rest of the infield is going to be dramatically different. Fans are going to recognize only Blake Cyr and Dorian Gonzalez Jr. with Hollywood the lone starter from last season. Cyr slashed .305/.427/.620 tallying 17 homers and 63 RBIs marking an impressive freshman stint. There’s also Jason Torres who can factor in at both first base and third. Torres’ small sample size showed potential hitting .472 in 36 at-bats.

Lastly in the outfield, Edgardo Villegas returns for his third season at Miami joined by others. Lorenzo Carrier comes back looking to vastly improve from his previous .253/.326/.520 line. Another familiar is Jacoby Long. In 51 appearances (and 64 AB), Long produced three doubles, three dingers, nine RBIs and a .313 batting average. Renzo Gonzalez also made his  87 plate appearances count hitting .322 including a pair of round-trippers and 11 RBIs. For depth, there’s Gaby Gutierrez who hit .250 in 40 at-bats in ’23.

Pitching: Building upwards

Similar to the infield, the arms department underwent a lot of change. For those in need of a refresher, UM was rolling with two starting pitchers, even at times one, witnessing a herculean effort from the relief corps for roughly the second half of the season. Gage Ziehl had a great year on the mound going 8-4 with a 4.30 ERA including 100 strikeouts in 16 starts. Ziehl started off in the bullpen his freshmen year making the jump to the weekend rotation in ’23. He’s been tapped to be the Friday night starter.

The Saturday starter is Rafe Schlesinger. Beginning his third year at Coral Gables, Schlesinger is transitioning from the pen. He posted a 3.38 ERA in 24 appearances for 2023. Rafe collected 34 K’s in over 29 innings of work and seems primed for a good 2024. The versatile Ben Chestnutt (7 -0, 5.71 ERA) and Chris Scinta (1-1, 3.53 ERA) also return. Andrew Walters’ younger brother Brian Walters is still on the injured list recovering from Tommy John surgery. Walters is slated to rejoin the roster in March.

FNG

With the veterans come the new guys. Some are freshmen from the recent recruiting crops others hail from a different program hoping for a fresh start. You’re probably wondering who’s the Sunday guy. That would be Herick Hernandez. The junior southpaw pitched for Miami-Dade College (8-3, 2.86 ERA) and was the 19th-round pick by the Cincinnati Reds. Hernandez opted to continue his college career looking to build on the 90 strikeouts from last season. A guy to keep an eye on is Brandon Olivera, the top-ranked freshman recruit out of Miami Springs. Olivera went 6-3 with a 1.30 ERA as a senior. Miami’s top transfer is outfielder Lucas Costello. Formally of Wake Forest, Costello hit .288 in ’23 including 24 RBIs, 9 doubles, and four dingers.

If you’re looking for some more immediate impact players look no further than Daniel Cuvet and Antonio Jimenez. This duo could have a Hollywood-esque season. Jimenez is ranked 23rd in the country among shortstops according to Perfect Game, 72nd overall. Cuvet, meanwhile, is the numero uno third baseman and 36th overall.  He passed up getting drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Could he be the next Yoyo? Rounding off this list is catcher AJ Goytia. The freshman will likely be Perez’s backup, however, he’s top 40 in terms of catchers in the 2023 class.

Schedule and Prediction

The first half of the schedule will be significantly tougher this year. Once again the No. 2 ranked Florida Gators provide an early test (at home this time) during the third weekend of the regular season. From there it’ll be two more weekends hosting ranked opponents Virginia and North Carolina. In late March, the Canes return home from South Bend to face (currently) ninth-ranked Clemson before going on a trip to FAU and then toward Durham for Duke kicking off April. The good news is they’ll mostly be at home for these matchups. In fact, 20 of their first 21 games are at the Light. UM is very lucky they don’t have to face a dangerous Wake Forest squad this year. The home stretch will be easier than past years playing BYU, FIU, Virginia Tech, and Pitt providing a promising stretch of needed wins.

When it comes to highlighting the calendar, I’m circling the contests involving the Gators, Tigers, Cavs, and lastly FIU for the four-midweek game slate. That leaves me with the prediction. A year removed from the historic season mashing 122 home runs supplemented by Ziehl and All-American closer Andrew Walters, the Hurricanes are in for some growing pains. Arteaga should finish with a winning record but it’ll be a short stint in the ACC tournament. What about the regionals? I see them squeaking in with an at-large bid, forget about hosting. Regardless, it’ll be a fun season to watch.

Final record: 30-25.

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