A pair of top left-handed pitchers headline seven players who signed letters of intent with Cal Poly baseball during the early signing period this week. Other signees included two right-handed pitchers, an infielder, a catcher and a third baseman.
“This class of signees, though small, adds quality and depth to a number of different areas,” said Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee, who is entering his 16th season this spring. “We expect some of these players to have an immediate impact on the program.”
Here’s a brief look at the next crop of players to join a Cal Poly baseball team that finished in second place in the Big West last season with a 28-28 overall record (16-8 Big West).
Erik Tolman, left-handed pitcher/first baseman, El Toro High (Lake Forest)
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As a member of a team that won the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 title, Tolman was 8-3 with a 1.24 ERA, striking out 60 batters and walking 13 batters over 52 innings pitched. He also hit .380 with four home runs and 28 RBI. He is Perfect Game’s No. 1-ranked left-handed pitcher in California for the 2018 class.
He was recruited by Arizona, Oregon and San Diego State before choosing to play at Cal Poly in December 2015.
“Erik has emerged as one of the top left-handed pitchers in Southern California. Erik displayed great intangibles and winning characteristics very early in the recruiting process. We feel Erik should make an immediate impact as a two-way player,” said assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Teddy Warrecker.
Chase Watkins, left-handed pitcher, St. Francis High (Watsonville)
Watkins chose Cal Poly over a host of other schools, including Arizona State, UC Santa Barbara, Cal and UC Irvine, after a junior season in which he went 2-2 with a 1.23 ERA over 28 1/3 innings. He also hit .423 with four home runs and 22 RBI. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound senior also averaged more than 17 points and six rebounds a game for a basketball team that reached the reached the state title game.
“Chase is a very athletic two-sport athlete with big upside on the mound. Chase made big jumps on the baseball field over the last year and, along with a potential power arm as a left-handed pitcher, he showed feel and command for three pitches,” Warrecker said.
AJ Esperanza, catcher, El Modena High (Orange)
Esperanza is a two-sport standout who throws right-handed but can hit left-handed. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound junior is the school’s all-time passing leader for the football team, throwing for 4,100 yards and 40 touchdowns over three years. He batted .235 and had six steals as a junior last baseball season.
“He will compete to play right away. AJ has great leadership abilities, which is critical for the catching position,” Warrecker said.
Ryan Jameson, right-handed pitcher, San Benito High (Hollister)
Jameson was 3-0 and struck out 25 batters over 45 innings his junior season at San Benito. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound senior was recruited by San Jose State, Pepperdine and Utah before deciding to join Cal Poly in part because of the number of Mustangs pitchers selected in the MLB Draft in recent years.
“Ryan showed great strides over the past year and we expect him to come in and make a contribution right away. Ryan can possess a heavy fastball combined with a hard slider that should translate well to Baggett Stadium and the Big West Conference,” Warrecker said.
Willie Cano, infielder, Mesquite High (Gilbert, Arizona)
A baseball and basketball standout who led his basketball team to the Arizona State title game as the basketball team’s point guard, Cano (6-foot-1, 175 pounds) hit .333 with 12 RBI and nine stolen bases as a junior. He was also recruited by Arizona before choosing Cal Poly.
“Willie has the athleticism and versatility that we were looking for. He stood out early in the recruiting process with a very athletic ceiling. Willie is another two-sport athlete that continues our effort to improve the overall athleticism of our roster,” Warrecker said.
Zane Lindeman, right-handed pitcher, La Salle High (Altadena)
Lindeman was the No. 1 starter as a junior last season at La Salle and went 8-4 with a 1.71 ERA with four complete games that included a no-hitter.
“Zane displayed a mound presence and confidence that we liked. He has shown a great ability to throw strikes and command multiple pitches,” Warrecker said.
Conagher Sands, thirdbaseman, Centennial High (Bakersfield)
Sands hit .355 as a junior last season at Centennial and showed good discipline at the plate, striking out seven times in 120 plate appearances.
“I have known Larry Lee since I was 9. I would always sit and listen to him in the dugout. He is someone I have always looked up to,” Sands said.
After the one-week early signing period ends Wednesday, the regular signing period for baseball will run from April 10 through Aug. 1, 2018.