To say that this season has been disappointing for Virginia Tech baseball would be an understatement as the program will once again miss the ACC Tournament in a year that had been seen at one point as a potential breakthrough year for Pat Mason’s team. Instead, this will almost certainly be the last season of Mason’s tenure in Blacksburg with a managerial change likely to be made right after next weekend’s series at Virginia.
Whoever the next manager is will have some pieces to turn around the program quickly, and a large part of that will be the emerging outfield trio.
Saige Jenco has been the Hokies’ star outfielder for the past three seasons, but the Hokies have gotten some offensive help from two other outfielders in Tom Stoffel and Nick Anderson. Stoffel has become one of the three regular Hokies’ starting outfielders recently while Anderson splits some time between the outfield and the DH spot though Garrett Hudson may push Anderson into regular outfield role with Hudson as the DH.
The trio have been three of the top four hitters for the Hokies this season led by Jenco who leads the team in stolen bases (9), on-base percentage (.449), and walks (37) along with having a .313 batting average and 19 RBIs. Jenco has continued to be a standout leadoff hitter and solid defensive center fielder with only three errors so far this season.
Whoever the manager is next year would love to have a leadoff hitter like Jenco to build his batting order with, but the only concern is whether Jenco, a redshirt junior, will return for his senior season or will he sign with a MLB team. Last year, Jenco was drafted in the 27th round but elected to return to Blacksburg knowing he still had two years of eligibility left.
At this point, Jenco will be facing a tougher decision on whether to stay or go as staying would take away some of the leverage he has to negotiate a contract depending on how early or late he is selected. However, staying and having a big season in 2017 could allow him to jump into the eighth to tenth round range as a senior that may not get a big signing bonus but can still get a respectable bonus due in part to MLB’s draft slot system in the first 10 rounds.
If the Hokies can keep Jenco, they’ll have two other quality outfielders to keep him with.
After redshirting in 2014 and having four at-bats in 2015, Nick Anderson has had a huge breakout season in 2016 as he has started in 40 games and appeared in 45 while leading the Hokies in batting average (.342) and slugging percentage (.458) while also having 2 home runs, 25 RBIs, and only 1 error plus 2 outfield assists.
Anderson has become a very good middle-of-the-order hitter that can fit in the three or five spot next season as a quality run producer whether he is playing in a corner outfield spot or the DH. Anderson’s breakout season also ensures that the Hokies will have at least one high-level run producer returning next season.
After redshirting in 2015, Tom Stoffel has locked down a starting outfield spot this season with a .281 batting average, 1 home run, 30 RBIs, no errors, and 4 outfield assists this season in 36 starts and 38 games. Stoffel has become a reliable offensive player in addition to being a very good defensive player that will likely slot opposite of Anderson in the three or five spot with home run leader Sam Fragale likely to go in the cleanup spot next season with Phil Sciretta graduating.
With Tom Stoffel and Nick Anderson being only redshirt sophomores and Saige Jenco being a redshirt junior, the Hokies have three quality outfielders right now who can form a strong outfield trio that can lead to a quick turnaround in Blacksburg. The key question is can the Hokies keep Saige Jenco from leaving for the pros after this season?
The answer to that question is definitely an unknown at this point.