As HBCU baseball speeds towards its first pitch of the 2016 season, fans can’t help but speculate how well their teams will perform on the field. Recently Black College Nines assembled a brief preview of most all of the large school baseball programs (found here) and small school programs (found here). We then followed up with our 2016 preseason list of all-americans in both divisions (found here).
Now, Black College Nines has put together a short list of unfamiliar names to look out for during the 2016 season. These are players who could be big pieces to their team’s puzzle.
Here are ten names you may not know, but could be HBCU top baseball players in the making for the 2016 season.
1. Angel Avalos – Prairie View A&M
Junior utility infielder only played in 25 games during the 2015 season. His offensive numbers for the Panthers provide one of the most unique stat lines for any player in HBCU college baseball. He hit .359 with a .446 on-base percentage in 78 at bats, hitting 3 home runs and driving in 27 runs. All things considered, hard to believe that Avalos wasn’t in PVAM lineup every game. He could be a top hitter if given the chance to play daily in the SWAC.
2. Eric Roberts – West Virginia State
West Virginia State senior pitcher has maintained a level of consistency since his arrival in 2013. Steadily improving over the last three years, Roberts, as a sophomore, went 4-1 in 9 games with a 2.43 ERA in 29.2 innings pitched. His junior season, he proved to be a workhorse, going 5-2 with a 3.78 ERA, 10 starts in 52.1 innings pitched. Roberts could blossom into a bonafide weekend ace on a staff that finished the 2015 season 35-16, ranked No.2 in Black College Nines (BCN) HBCU small school national poll and as well, advanced to the NCAA DII regional tournament. Roberts has the experience and should be a key piece to the Yellow Jackets success in 2016.
3. Ryan Lazo – Texas Southern
During Texas Southern’s 2015 run through the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship claiming its first SWAC title since 2008, Tigers second basemen Lazo was a key piece to the TSU attack. Last season, Lazo Hit a mere .243, but he knocked in 29 runs on a team that kept men in scoring position. Texas Southern won the SWAC behind Lazo’s leadership, which also included former Tigers outfielder Zach Welz and shortstop Robert Garza. Lazo was a big contributor to the Tigers success on the base paths helping them reach the NCAA regional tournament. Returning to campus for another go aroundround in 2016, TSU won’t be short of quality hitters to go along with Ryan Lazo’s experience.
4. Jaron Johnson – Paine College
If you want someone who does a little bit of everything, Johnson is your guy. Coming off of a season hitting just .268, the Chicago native had a good year considering he played a dual role as catcher and designated hitter. Johnson drove in 19 runs in 2015 with a .400 on base percentage in 46 games played and was a constant presence on the base path. What Johnson lacks in power, he finds ways to get on base which includes being hit by pitch 19 times leading Paine College.
5. Jean Marmol – Talladega College
Over the last two seasons, Marmol has really developed into a consistent all-around hitter for Talladega. In 2014, he batted .357 in 47 games, had 51 hits to go along with 12 doubles and 39 runs batted in during the team’s banner 2014 season that ended in the NAIA national tournament. During the 2015 season, his stats were slightly down, but Marmol still had another impact year for the Tornadoes. Last season he hit .324 in 55 games, with 58 hits, 4 home runs, 44 runs batted in and a .514 slugging percentage. Over the last two seasons, Marmol has been a big run producer for head coach Wil Ramos.The coaching staff knew what they were going to get from him every time out and 2016 should not be any different.
6. Emmanuel Pantaleon – Wiley College
Pantaleon has been the top workhorse in Wiley’s pitching rotation. During the team’s 2015 season, Pantaleon had a tough 4-4 record, but sported a 3.92 ERA. He was at times the most overpowering pitcher in the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC). He started 7 games with 62.0 innings pitched and 89 strikeouts. Pantaleon was selected to RRAC All-Conference second team last season. He has the tools to develop into a top weekend starter this season.
7. Sam Campbell – Jackson State
In 2016, the responsibility of filling the void created by the graduation of All-American, Melvin Rodriguez, will fall upon Sam Campbell. As a sophomore last season, he was named first team All-SWAC. At the plate, he hit .306 in 53 games, with 53 hits, 18 doubles, 3 triples, 3 home runs and 42 RBI. He also had 37 walks and a .451 on base average. Campbell may not put up the offensive numbers Rodriguez had at the plate in 2015, but his numbers from last year tell you that Campbell could have his way with SWAC pitching in 2016.
8. Adan Ordonez – North Carolina A&T
Ordonez was among the best hitters in the MEAC Conference last season. In 2015, Ordonez hit .337 in 46 games with 172 at bats, 58 hits, 10 doubles and 13 runs batted in. He was also All-MEAC and a Freshman All-American. One of HBCU baseball’s up and coming hitting catchers, Ordonez could develop into a power producer, is good at handling his pitching staff and a player to watch in 2016.
9. Jerimiah Figueroa – University Arkansas Pine-Bluff
Figueroa will be the UAPB closer in 2016. He could blossom into a top notch save man, with an overwhelming mid-90 fast ball, if he can maintain a level of consistency. Last year, Figueroa pitched in the shadow of Kevin Walsh who was drafted in the 10th round of the Major League draft after the spring season. Figueroa, as a sophomore, went 2-0 in 8 games in relief with a 4.50 ERA in a set-up role. With his experience, Figueroa should be a key piece to the Golden Lions run to repeat as SWAC West Division champions in 2016. And, by the way, Figueroa also belted 2 homeruns and had 19 runs batted in last season.
10. Lane DeLeon – Delaware State
Sophomore Lance DeLeon, a right handed pitcher, appeared in fourteen games for the Hornets last year, starting ten. DeLeon went 5-5 with 75 strikeouts and a 3.12 earned run average in 66.1 innings pitched. A proven effective starter and reliever, all of his wins came against MEAC opponents last season. All indications are that he could be among the top pitchers in the conference during the 2016 season.