Season Preview: Breaking Down The 2016 Red Storm Roster

Two-time first team All-BIG EAST selection Michael Donadio.
Feb. 16, 2016

QUEENS, N.Y. - The defending BIG EAST Tournament and regular season champions, St. John's returns 20 letterwinners from a squad that went 41-16 and also finished as NCAA Regional Finalists.

With BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year Alex Caruso and BIG EAST Preseason Pitcher of the Year Thomas Hackimer leading the charge, expectations are high once again this season as St. John's totaled a league-high five Preseason All-BIG EAST selections and was voted to finish first in the annual BIG EAST Preseason Poll.

Caruso, Hackimer, Michael Donadio and Robbie Knightes each garnered unanimous Preseason All-League honors, while Troy Dixon was also selected to the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. In addition, Hackimer has earned a pair of third team Preseason All-America nods (Collegiate Baseball, NCBWA).

Pitching
Starting Rotation
"There are roles up for grabs in the rotation and it will take us a few weekends to figure things out," head coach Ed Blankmeyer commented. "We have the talent, but the group needs to gain experience and that takes time."

Redshirt senior righty Joey Christopher has the most experience among the group of projected starting pitchers. Christopher has made 42 appearances, including six starts, in his Red Storm career and has gone 4-1 with a 4.83 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 59.2 innings of work.

 

 

Sophomore Kevin Magee made 13 appearances, including six starts, as a freshman and went 2-3 with a 7.36 ERA in 25.2 innings of work. The lefty looks to build on a strong summer in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.

A junior transfer out of Northern Essex C.C., Ryan McAuliffe earned first team NJCAA Division III All-America honors as a sophomore. In two seasons with the Knights, the righty went 12-4 with one save and a 2.44 ERA to go with 122 strikeouts in 118.0 innings pitched.

Junior Joe Nellis, a transfer out of Herkimer College, garnered second team All-Region III honors after going 8-0 with a 2.37 ERA in 38.0 innings as a sophomore. The lefty attended Fulton-Montgomery C.C. as a freshman and earned all-state honors as a high school senior at Johnstown.

Freshmen Michael LoPresti and Cole Whitney should also contribute as starters. LoPresti, a righty, earned first team All-Passaic County and first team All-North Jersey honors as a senior at Wayne Valley and tossed a complete game to help the Indians win the 2015 Passaic County championship. Another righty, Whitney was a first team All-State Class A honoree as a senior at Goshen Central and pitched at Yankee Stadium as part of the 2014 Summer Rivalry Classic.

Middle Relievers
One of the more experienced arms on the squad, redshirt junior Mike Sheppard III returns to the mound after redshirting last season. Sheppard has made 17 appearances, including six starts, and has gone 1-1 with a 6.28 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 28.2 innings of work.

Redshirt junior Dylan Drawdy, a transfer from Hillsborough C.C., made 28 appearances in two seasons with the Hawks. Drawdy went 2-4 with a 3.43 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 44.2 innings of work. As part of a standout senior season at Lake Region Union, freshman Matt Messier garnered USA Today All-USA Vermont Player of the Year honors as well as both Mountain League and Caledonian Record Player of the Year accolades.

With a year of experience gained, sophomores Tyler Bauman and Jamie Galazin [see center field] figure to see increased action this season. Bauman, a lefty, made six relief appearances as a freshman and finished with five strikeouts in 4.0 innings of work. Galazin, a righty, posted a 3.18 ERA and had four strikeouts in 5.2 innings pitched.

Redshirt freshman David Moyer, a 6-5 righty and a four-time All-West Jersey selection in high school, sat out last season and looks to see his first collegiate action. A 6-6 righty and three-time Suffolk County All-League IV selection, freshman Jonathan Faraci rounds out the middle relief options.

Situational Relievers
Senior Joey Graziano has made 60 appearances, including seven starts, in his career. The righty has gone 7-3 with a 4.83 ERA and three saves, while striking out 81 batters and allowing just a .230 opponent average in 95.0 innings of work.

Graduate student transfer Joe Napolitano comes to Queens after a four-year career at Wake Forest. In his first collegiate action as a pitcher last season, the righty made seven appearances and had four strikeouts in 6.0 innings of work.

As two of just four lefties on the staff, both Bauman [see middle relievers] and Nellis [see starting rotation] could also contribute in situational roles out of the bullpen.

Late Innings/Setup/Closer
"I think our bullpen will be a strength," said Blankmeyer. "Having a guy like [Thomas] Hackimer at the end obviously helps, but we have some nice arms to build that bridge to the ninth."

Freshmen Turner French and Joe Kelly are expected to handle late inning roles as the bullpen builds the bridge to closer Thomas Hackimer. A 6-5 lefty out of Mark T. Sheehan, French was a two-time SCC All-Housatonic selection and helped the Titans win the Class M state title as a senior. A sidearm righty from California, Kelly played his high school ball at Damien.

Senior Kevin Torres will serve as the primary setup man. Torres worked just 3.2 innings in seven appearances last season, but had six strikeouts. The righty displayed an improved repertoire after a midseason change to a lower arm angle.

Already the program's all-time record-holder in both career-saves (28) and single-season saves (15), Hackimer returns for his senior season after being drafted by the New York Mets in the 15th round. A second team ABCA All-American and a unanimous first team All-BIG EAST choice last season, Hackimer went 4-1 with 15 saves and a 1.92 ERA to go with 55 strikeouts in 51.2 innings of work as part of a breakout junior campaign. In a program-record 96 career-appearances, the righty has gone 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 106.1 innings.

Position Players
"We have some power [in the lineup] and we have some speed, but I think our strengths will be our defense and our bench," Blankmeyer added. "We have some depth at a number of positions and we'll be able to move some guys around in the lineup and do some mixing and matching."

Catcher
A second team All-BIG EAST selection last season as a designated hitter, junior Troy Dixon takes on the role of starting catcher. In two seasons of backup duty behind the dish, Dixon has thrown out 15-of-35 base stealers (42.9 percent).

Sophomore Anthony Fava opens the season as the backup. A Westchester/Putnam All-Star in high school, Fava saw action in nine games last season. Junior college transfer Kyle Cunningham rounds out the depth at catcher. Cunningham earned first team All-Mid-Florida Conference honors as a sophomore at Daytona State College.

First Base
In his first season with the Red Storm, redshirt junior transfer Gui Gingras [see designated hitter] steps immediately into the starting spot at first base. A power bat from the left side, Gingras batted .371 with 27 doubles, three home runs and 75 RBI in 92 appearances, 89 starts, at Monroe College.

Freshman Gavin Garay [see designated hitter] backs up at the position. A two-time All-Hudson Valley/Westchester selection at John F. Kennedy Catholic, Garay represented the CHSAA in the 2015 NYC Mayor's Cup Baseball All-Star Game.

Redshirt sophomore utility man John Valente [see third base] adds to the options at first. Valente made his Red Storm debut last season and batted .206 with nine runs scored in 21 games, including four starts.

Second Base
Senior Ty Blankmeyer appeared in 33 games last season and made just two errors in 88 chances (.978 fielding percentage). Blankmeyer made the second-most starts at second base (18) a season ago as part of a three-man platoon.

Freshman Josh Shaw [see third base, shortstop] will challenge for time at the position. A two-time first team All-State selection and a two-time first team All-Bergen County honoree, Shaw was a two-time Bergen County Tournament MVP and earned ABCA/Rawlings All-Region 2 honors as a senior.

Third Base
Junior Robbie Knightes earned first team All-BIG EAST honors last season after batting .321 with 19 RBI. As a Freshman All-American and second team ABCA All-Northeast Region choice in 2014, Knightes batted .399 to rank eighth in the nation and win the BIG EAST batting title.

Shaw [see second base, shortstop] and Valente [see first base] provide depth at the hot corner.

Shortstop
Sophomore Jesse Berardi slides into the starting shortstop role after making three starts at the position last season to go with 13 starts at second base. A slick defender, Berardi made 43 total appearances as a freshman, and batted .200 with 14 RBI and eight runs scored.

Freshman Ryan Markey adds depth at shortstop. A first team All-Area and first team All-PAC-10 honoree as a senior at Spring-Ford, Markey also helped the Rams win the 2015 PAC-10 Tournament title.

Shaw [see second base, third base] adds another option at the position.

Left Field
Junior Michael Donadio, a two-time first team All-BIG EAST selection, was one of just two players to start all 57 games last season. The former BIG EAST Rookie of the Year batted .302 with 33 RBI as a sophomore, while ranking tied for second in the league with 48 runs scored.

Redshirt freshman Aidan McDermott [see right field, designated hitter] sat out last season and will be the backup in left. McDermott was a two-time first team All-Middlesex County honoree and a two-time first team All-Area selection in high school.

Center Field
A second team ABCA All-Northeast Region honoree and a unanimous first team All-BIG EAST selection last season, senior Alex Caruso returns to patrol center field. As part of a breakout junior campaign, Caruso led the league with a .382 batting average, posted a league-high .480 on-base percentage and ranked tied for second in the league with 48 runs scored.

Sophomores Galazin [see middle relievers] and Mark Venice [see right field, designated hitter] provide backup at the position. Galazin appeared in 15 games last season, including four starts in center field, and batted .227 with one double and four runs scored. Venice, an all-state selection as a senior at Seton Hall Prep, was limited by injury to just seven games a season ago.

Right Field
The most experienced returner at the position, sophomore Anthony Brocato [see designated hitter] made 11 starts in right field last season. Brocato made 39 appearances as a freshman, including 26 total starts, and batted .296 with 11 RBI.

Both McDermott [see left field, designated hitter] and Venice [see center field, designated hitter] add to the options in right field.

Designated Hitter
McDermott [see left field] provides power from the right side and figures to be one of the leading DH candidates as the season begins. Gingras [see first base], Garay [see first base], Brocato [see right field] and Venice [see center field, right field] could all see DH at-bats throughout the season depending on matchups.

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