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Chatham’s 2024 pitching staff preview

by Cooper Andrews
Friday, June 14, 2024

Chatham’s 2024 pitching staff preview
Chatham first-year manager Jeremy “Sheets” Sheetinger said he's never seen a pitching staff click faster than this season's group. Thursday's combined roster scrimmage with Brewster proved it.

Pierce George, Karson Ligon, Micah Ashman, Hayden Murphy and Tanner Franklin registered five straight no hit innings in the exhibition — often getting ahead in the count and making hitters uncomfortable with off-speed pitches. According to Sheetinger, the performance blew him and Anglers' pitching coach Eric Beattie away. Now, the manager hopes his pitching staff's unofficial debut will set the tone for the mentality he wants to instill on the mound.

“We pound the zone, we're not afraid of contact, we're going to pitch a certain way and it's going to be aggressive and it's going to come at you,” Sheetinger said. “But we also have really good stuff and that backs up that plan and approach.”

Ahead of the 2024 season, here's a breakdown of Chatham's new-look pitching staff:

John Armstrong (RHP) - Auburn

The Marietta, Georgia, native is coming off a strong junior season in Auburn's bullpen. In 2024, Armstrong appeared 19 times for 33.2 innings, registered a 4.01 ERA, struck out 45 and limited opponents to a .242 batting average — all career-bests. Armstrong has proved throughout his three seasons with the Tigers that he can provide extended relief outings, and has potential to give Sheetinger a versatile piece out of the bullpen.

Brandon Arvidson (LHP) - Texas

Arvidson spent this last season in JUCO with San Jacinto College. He announced in October 2023 that he was transferring to Texas, though he played the year out with the Ravens. The lefty fanned 108 batters this past campaign for an average of 15.93 strikeouts per game, which was the best total in the NJCAA. Five of his 17 appearances were scoreless.

Micah Ashman (LHP) - Utah

Standing at 6-foot-7, 195 lbs., Ashman enters the summer expected to be one of Chatham's mainstay late relievers. The Sandy, Utah, native tossed 26.1 innings for the Utes this past season, totaling a 3.08 ERA with a career-high 11 saves. Sheetinger said Ashman fits with the style of pitching he wants to bring to the Anglers, calling him an “elite strike thrower.” Ashman walked just three batters this past year and five in 2023, painting the zone early and spinning a slider with fierce movement.

“We're going to lean on him quite a bit to close games,” Sheetinger said of Ashman. “He's incredibly hard to pick up, it's hard to see his pitches. He throws a slider and we think it's a changeup, but it is tough to hit his stuff. I think he'll be consistent for us.”

Murphy Brooks (RHP) - Louisiana Lafayette

After taking a redshirt year in 2023 at TCU, Brooks made his collegiate debut this season for Louisiana Lafayette. The 6-foot-3 righty made 10 appearances, including four starts, and posted a 4.80 ERA. He registered 19 punch outs and limited the home run ball, only letting up one all year long. Brooks also allowed zero runs in five of his outings, highlighted by a three-inning, six-strikeout performance on March 6 at Northwestern State.

Evan Chrest (RHP) - Jacksonville

Chrest is set to take the mound in Chatham's season opener on the road against Wareham Saturday. When asked about who stands out on his pitching staff thus far, Sheetinger didn't hesitate to name Chrest. The rising junior established himself as Jacksonville's ace during his freshman year, sporting a dominant 2.68 ERA while tallying 98 strikeouts — a JU freshman record. Despite struggling in 2024, Chrest accepted a chance to transfer to Florida State next season. He's also a former 2022 MLB Draft pick — Miami Marlins, 17th round — and was rated by D1Baseball as the No. 15 overall prospect entering the 2025 draft.

“We're excited about Evan Chrest,” Sheetinger said. “He's going to be an awesome starter for us.”

Chance Cox (LHP) - Austin Peay

One of three Chatham hurlers from Austin Peay, Cox has potential to be inserted within the A's rotation. Sheetinger spoke highly of Cox, saying he's an under the radar prospect and aligns with his aggressive mentality. Cox didn't play this past season for the Governors after he transferred from Houston, where he was originally on its fall roster, in January. Though he racked up impressive numbers from 2022-23 for Cowley Community College. Last season, he compiled a 2.72 ERA last season while opposing hitters batted just .201 against him. He also accumulated a perfect 7-0 record in 2022.

Phil Fox (RHP) - Pittsburgh

Fox shined through his debut season at Pittsburgh as a redshirt sophomore. In 17 appearances, Fox registered a 1.42 ERA in 25.1 innings of relief, only allowing four earned runs. Fox has also struck out 33 batters, nearly ringing up two per game, and opponents have totaled a measly .227 batting average against him. He spent the previous two seasons at Gardner-Webb before transferring to Pitt ahead of 2024. At Gardner-Webb, Fox underwent Tommy John surgery in 2022, but battled back to make the Big South All-Freshman Team as a redshirt in 2023.

Tanner Franklin (RHP) - Kennesaw State

Franklin was one of Kennesaw State's top bullpen options in 2024. The 6-foot-5 righty earned 21 appearances this past season and registered five saves. In 12 of Franklin's first 13 outings, he let in one run or fewer. His innings pitched have more than doubled since his freshman year, where he made 13 appearances and two starts. He also closed out a string of five straight scoreless innings from Chatham pitchers during its combined preseason scrimmage with Brewster.

Drake George (RHP) - Lewis-Clark State College

George has grown into a consistent member of the Warriors' rotation in his third season with the program. The Riddle, Oregon, native generated a 4.91 ERA in 2024, in which he threw 66 innings and garnered a 6-2 record. George began his collegiate career strong after making 10 starts and totaling a 4.62 ERA. Before then, he played one season at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Oregon, where he was a first-team all-league honoree.

Pierce George (RHP) - Alabama

Sheetinger named the Crimson Tide right-hander as a pitcher to watch heading into the season. George made a good first impression for the A's by completing a 1-2-3 top of the first inning in their scrimmage with Brewster. After spending his freshman year at Texas, George transferred to Alabama and made 12 relief appearances in 2024. He held the opposition to a .222 batting average and tallied seven scoreless outings.

Titan Hayes (RHP) - Austin Peay

Hayes has potential to be lethal out of the Anglers' bullpen this season. Sheetinger praised his hard-throwing nature and looks for him to be entrenched as a late-relief option. Hayes allowed zero home runs in 20.2 innings of work this past year, putting up a 3.48 ERA with seven saves. He even spent time in the 2023 MLB Draft league, making eight appearances and totaling eight strikeouts.

“Titan Hayes is going to be a big arm out of the 'pen for us,” Sheetinger said. “He can hit triple digits for us so we might have to stretch out the scoreboard a bit.”

Griffin Herring (LHP) - LSU

Herring is slated to start Chatham's second game of the season at home versus Yarmouth-Dennis. In 2024, He enjoyed a breakout sophomore campaign in a long-reliever role for the Tigers. He tallied a team-best 1.79 ERA in 21 games, in which he totaled 50.1 innings and 67 strikeouts. For his dominance, Herring was named a finalist for the National Stopper of the Year. The Southlake, Texas, native came to LSU after being ranked as Perfect Game's No. 3 left-handed pitcher in the state of Texas's 2022 class.

“He's going to be really good,” Sheetinger boasted about Herring.

Cameron Johnson (LHP) - LSU

Johnson is one of the most imposing presences in the Cape Cod Baseball League this year, standing at a towering 6-foot-5, 250 lbs. While he hasn't appeared in Chatham thus far, Sheetinger expects Johnson to arrive within a few weeks. Johnson experienced an up-and-down 2024 season, as Sheetinger said he looks to form him into a more consistent pitcher. But Johnson's talent is undeniable. According to Perfect Game, Johnson was the No. 2 rated left-handed pitcher and No. 11 overall prospect in the nation's 2023 class.

Tyler Kozera (RHP) - UCF

The rising sophomore enters Chatham following an efficient freshman season at Central Florida. Kozera was tough to scrape runs by, tallying a 1.50 ERA in seven appearances and 12 innings pitched. Opponents batted just .217 against Kozera. Against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 title game, the righty struck out three in a scintillating relief performance.

Karson Ligon (RHP) - Mississippi State

Sheetinger has spoken fondly of Ligon, pinning him as a high-energy and mature addition to Chatham's pitching staff. His fastball flirted in the upper 90's during the Anglers' preseason scrimmage while he put together a scoreless inning. He is fresh off a strong campaign as a Mississippi State transfer, registering a 4.56 ERA in 15 games, and also made the 2022 All-ACC Freshman Team while he was at the University of Miami. Ligon is set to join the mix of high leverage bullpen arms, with Sheets picturing him in a variety of roles.

“I think (Ligon's) got the confidence and the ability to go close games,” Sheetinger said. “But more than that, he can also be a stopper for us if we need those middle innings stretched.”

Connor Maggi (RHP) - Gardner-Webb

In 2023, Maggi led Gardner-Webb in appearances on the mound with 26. The Forest, Virginia, native didn't allow a run in each of his first five outings out of the bullpen and garnered scoreless contests in 16. He led the Bulldogs this past year with 60 innings pitched and 29 relief appearances. Maggi heads into his first year with the A's after a dominant junior year where he racked up 73 strikeouts and kept his WHIP to an impressive 1.07 mark.

Augie Mojica (RHP) - San Jacinto College

Alongside Arvidson, Mojica served mostly as a reliever this year for San Jacinto. The Wesley Chapel, Florida, native appeared in 20 games for the Ravens this year. The righty pitched 46 innings and put up a 4.30 ERA along with a 1.46 WHIP. Mojica had three saves and 57 strikeouts for San Jacinto as well.

Hayden Murphy (RHP) - Auburn

Another member who shined on the hill in Chatham's preseason scrimmage, Murphy lowered his ERA by nearly seven points from his freshman to sophomore season. He's become a key piece of Auburn's bullpen after a reliable 2024 campaign. Murphy allowed eight earned runs in 16.2 innings pitched while fanning 17 batters.

Griffin O'Connor (RHP) - Assumption

O'Connor served as a starter for the second consecutive season with Division II program Assumption University. He accumulated a 4-4 record with a 3.72 ERA across 48.1 innings. The righty pitched in one game last year on the Cape for Hyannis. He has announced his plans to transfer to Georgetown next year for his final season of college baseball.

Liam Paddack (LHP) - Gonzaga

Paddack returns for a second summer in Chatham after appearing in nine games for the Anglers last season. He was slotted into Gonzaga's rotation this year after transferring from Spokane Falls Community College and totaled 10 starts while tallying a team-high 77 strikeouts. On April 13, he put together one of the best performances of his career, pitching seven shutout innings against San Francisco while striking out 10 batters in an 8-0 victory.

Garrett Payne (RHP) - NC State

Payne was used inconsistently through this season during NC State's run to the 2024 College World Series, prompting him to enter the transfer portal. The redshirt junior made three appearances and tossed just 1.2 innings this past year after missing his junior season due to an injury. Payne's best campaign came in 2022, where he started five games, pitched 42.2 innings and tallied a 5.91 ERA.

Gabe Van Emon (LHP) - UConn

Van Emon entered 2024 as a graduate transfer from Division III Endicott College. He wound up propelling the Huskies to a NCAA Super Regional bid following a shutout 7.1-inning start on June 3 against Oklahoma in the Norman Regional, which was the lefty's longest appearance of the year. He tossed 59.2 innings for UConn throughout the season and struck out 64 batters. Born on January 26, 2001, Van Emon is Chatham's oldest rostered player.

Gavin Van Kempen (RHP) - West Virginia

Van Kempen's 2024 season with the Mountaineers was cut short due to an arm injury. His last appearance was on April 30. If healthy, Van Kempen could bring a promising relief presence to the A's. He received 12 outings as a freshman in 2023, where he totaled a 5.13 ERA and compiled a 3-0 record. The righty bullpen option was having a much-improved year, tallying a 3.14 ERA with 35 punch outs in 28.2 innings — showing an ability to sustain long relief outings.

Jacob Weaver (RHP) - Austin Peay

Weaver is another player who Sheetinger said slides into his pitching philosophy for the Anglers, despite not having as much draft attention. The right-hander earned 2022 OVC All-Freshman Team honors, in which he mostly came out of the bullpen. He's moved into primarily a starting role since. From 2023-24, Weaver made 25 starts and tallied 118 strikeouts. His workload has increased substantially each season too, as he threw a career-most 79.1 innings this past year.

Kyson Witherspoon (RHP) - Oklahoma

Both of the Witherspoon twins are expected to leave Chatham during the season for USA Baseball camp. Though Sheetinger still said he's excited for the two and believes they will both be “plus additions.” Kyson, who Sheetinger said will be a starter, is coming off a strong debut campaign with the Sooners. The Northwest Florida State college transfer spun a 3.79 ERA through 15 games and 11 starts, while striking out 86 batters. Kyson also held opponents to a .222 clip at the plate.

Malachi Witherspoon (RHP) - Oklahoma

Sheetinger said Malachi will come out of the bullpen during his time with Chatham this year. After he and his brother transferred from Northwest Florida State to OU, Malachi earned frequent opportunities in relief. He tossed 22 innings this past season in 20 appearances, ringing up 28 batters while posting a 2-2 record. Prior to college, Malachi was ranked as a top-10 right-handed pitching prospect in the state of Florida by Perfect Game.