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2024 Michigan Baseball Preview: Players to know, Big Ten teams to watch for this season

What to expect from Michigan this year and how the the Wolverines stack up in the Big Ten.

COLLEGE BASEBALL: MAY 19 Michigan at Ohio State Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Spring is (kind of) here, which means the 2024 college baseball season is fast approaching. Michigan will be back in action on the diamond looking to build on a 28-28 season under Tracy Smith in his first year with the program.

While the Wolverines finished in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten in 2023, there’s still a lot to like for this season. Michigan’s lineup should be one of the Big Ten’s best and most experienced. Meanwhile, the starting rotation is a bit of a question mark at the moment, but there is potential there.

Without any further ado, let’s take at what the Wolverines will be working with in 2024.

Position Players

C: Will Rogers (Junior)

1B: Mitch Voit (Sophomore)

2B: Mack Timbrook (Graduate)

3B: Cole Caruso (Junior)

SS: Kyle Dernedde (Graduate)

LF: Stephen Hrustich (Graduate)

CF: Jonathan Kim (Sophomore)

RF: Greg Pace Jr. (Sophomore)

DH: Collin Priest (Freshman)

If there’s one thing to be optimistic about heading into the season, it’s Michigan’s lineup and defense. This group has a good balance of experience and young talent that should help them to be able to score runs against the conference’s pitching staffs, ultimately helping them win a good amount of games.

The biggest thing to notice here is that while experienced, the lineup features some new faces, including five transfers and one true freshman. Michigan will deploy two of those transfers in the middle infield with shortstop Kyle Dernedde (Oregon State) and Mack Timbrook (Kent State). Dernedde has two seasons of starting experience under his belt, while Timbrook was a second-team All-MAC selection last year.

Third baseman Cole Caruso is another one of those transfers — coming over from South Carolina Upstate — where he showcased some good on-base skills last year with a .424 OBP and .319 AVG. Outfielder Stephen Hrustich comes from Northwestern, where he hit .325 with six homers a year ago. Additionally, catcher Will Rogers comes from Arizona and is expected to be a useful piece behind the dish.

The lineup’s star is center fielder Jonathan Kim, who broke out as a true freshman in 2023. He was third-team All Big Ten last year and was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman team after hitting .322, which led the team.

Mitch Voit is expected to take on a two-way role with the team this year, moving over to first base while also being in the starting rotation. He served as the team’s closer last year and also hit .267 with seven home runs on the year. He was also a member of the All-Big Ten Freshman team.

Although right fielder Greg Pace Jr. didn’t do much at the plate last year, he is a candidate to take a step forward while also showing some good defense, speed and athleticism as a freshman. True freshman Collin Priest is also likely to earn the nod as the designated hitter as a young power threat.

Don’t be surprised to see the Wolverines also get production from guys like Dylan Stanton and Joe Longo.

Pitching Staff

Friday: Dylan Vigue (Freshman)

Saturday: Jacob Denner (Graduate)

Sunday: Mitch Voit (Sophomore)

This is where things get a little interesting for Michigan. While the lineup is impressive and should help this team win ballgames, no team can go far without a sound pitching staff. There will be plenty of production to replace at the top of the rotation with the departure of Connor O’Halloran, who went pro after last season.

Fortunately, Michigan might have a good replacement for O’Halloran in Dylan Vigue. While just a freshman, Vigue flashes a low-to-mid 90’s fastball, as well as a changeup and slider. He’ll have some parts of his game to refine as he adjusts to being on the mound full-time, as he was also a shortstop in high school. But at the end of the day, the potential is there for him to be a solid Friday night starter.

Behind Vigue, Jacob Denner should slot into the Saturday role. The fifth-year senior had a 4.56 ERA last year in 71.0 innings pitched. While his career ERA of 5.07 might leave something to be desired, he’s experienced and serves as a good leader for the young guys, which will be important for this team.

The aforementioned Mitch Voit will have his chance to shine in the rotation this season after coming out of the bullpen as a freshman. He pitched to a 3.25 ERA in 36 innings last year and shows an impressive mid-90’s fastball.

Due to the relative lack of experience in this group, fans can’t be blamed for having some pause about how the pitching staff will hold up, but the potential, especially with Vigue and Voit, can make things interesting.

Where Michigan Stacks Up

Last season was up and down for Michigan, but the Wolverines ended up finishing sixth in the Big Ten with a 13-11 conference mark and a 28-28 record overall.

In 2024, the Wolverines have a good mix of experienced veterans and young stars, which gives the team a pretty wide range of outcomes. According to d1baseball.com, Michigan is projected to finish sixth in the Big Ten once again, with the top dogs in the conference being Iowa and Indiana.

Iowa finished with the best overall record in the conference last year with a mark of 44-16 and should be considered one of the top teams in the country in 2024. The Hawkeyes are led by Brody Brecht, a right-handed pitcher who could be one of the top arms in the MLB Draft this summer. Their starting pitching is their biggest strength, but they also have a strong lineup, making them the conference favorites.

Indiana has some exciting pieces as well. The Hoosiers are led by sophomore outfielder Devin Taylor, who was a Freshman All-American last year with a .315 AVG and 15 home runs. They also bring in outfielder Andrew Wiggins, whom d1baseball.com projects to be the top freshman in the conference in 2024. The Hoosiers, like Michigan, could be vulnerable on the mound, but their lineup is as solid as they come, making them a threat to make some noise this year.

A trip to the NCAA Tournament is very much in the cards for Michigan this season, but it will have to take advantage of the weaker conference opponents on the schedule while also making the most of its opportunities against the big boys like Iowa. The Big Ten isn’t well-respected on the national stage, so Michigan can’t leave room for debate on its resume.

Fortunately, the Wolverines will also have the chance to make some statements early in the year, as they will take on Oklahoma State, Oregon State and Arkansas in February. All three of those teams should be among the nation’s best this season.

Michigan’s season will get going in just over a week, as the Wolverines will play four games against Western Michigan beginning Friday, Feb. 16 at Camelback Ranch in Arizona.