Q&A: Cohen Talks Fall Ball, Pitching, More ‘Mature’ Renfroe

John Cohen, right, has guided MSU to two consecutive NCAA tournament berths. (Photo by Brad Locke)

Mississippi State’s baseball team wrapped up its formal fall workouts this past weekend, and so I chatted with coach John Cohen this morning about a few things. The Bulldogs have reached the NCAA tournament each of the last two seasons, and a lot of experience returns on this squad. There are some promising newcomers as well.

Here’s the full transcript of my chat with Cohen.

How has losing weight helped pitcher Jonathan Holder and first baseman Wes Rea?

Yeah, especially with Wes. Wes dropped about 25 pounds, and I think he’s moving better. He’s been healthier, his arm’s working better, offensively he’s been much better. There’s no question that that’s something that’s really helped him, but it’s something that he’s going to have to continue to – it’s not just something that you defeat, it’s a day-by-day thing.

Has anyone earned their way into the conversation of starting pitcher?

Certainly Kendall Graveman is somebody that, we have some depth, but it’s very tough to imagine us having a great year without Kendall Graveman getting close to the 100-inning mark as a starter. After that you have some great, great candidates who are very deserving, but there’s about four guys we feel are very deserving of that opportunity. Evan Mitchell is very deserving of an opportunity to do that. His last two outings were his best outings of the year. He touched 97 (mph), he’s sitting on 93, 95. Jacob Lindgren had as good a fall as anybody on our staff. He was phenomenal. Chad Girodo has made a huge jump in our opinion this fall, had a brilliant summer out in California. 

Any position players that have jumped out?

Certainly (Adam) Frazier is somebody that we can’t go as far as we want to in the postseason without Frazier. C.T. Bradford recovering from a shoulder injury, I thought he had a great, great fall. You mentioned Wes, he had a great fall in a lot of different ways. (Hunter) Renfroe had a very solid fall. We had a kid named Brett Pirtle who came on the scene who played shortstop, played second base, played third base, and he’s had a great, great fall. We have a bunch of contributor guys who we feel like – I think Demarcus Henderson had a great fall for us. A freshman named (Jacob) Robson, a Canadian kid, had a great fall for us.

Which freshmen really stood out to you this fall?

Robson is somebody who certainly stood out and had a great fall for us. We’re really excited about his development. The (Kyle) Hann kid is somebody that we feel like is going to develop into a great player. We had a junior college outfielder named (Derrick) Armstrong who’s provided some speed. He’s a guy who can steal bases and did a great job in the outfield for us. I always feel like there’s a future for Cody Brown; he’s going to be a great hitter in our program as well.

Hunter Renfroe had such a great summer, how’s he look versus this time last year?

Hunter’s just much more mature. I don’t mean to say he was ever immature, but as a player he’s just mature. He’s starting to figure some things out. Certainly his deal was swinging at strikes and taking balls. That’s a very easy thing to say, but it’s very difficult to put into play. They pay millions of dollars to people who can consistently do that in the big leagues, and it doesn’t matter how big they are or how strong they are, it doesn’t matter what their swing looks like. Being able to create a strike zone and understand what you can and can’t do with certain pitches is just a huge portion of the hitting product. That’s where he’s really grown, and he’s got to continue to grow in order to be a very good hitter. His athleticism is off the charts, his arm strength is off the charts. For a guy his size he runs incredible. He’s just got to continue to mature as a hitter, and I think he will.

What kind of injury concerns do you have going into the winter?

We want C.T. to get healthier. (Tyler) Fullerton is somebody who’s been nursing a hamstring this year. He also had a really solid fall offensively. We’re pretty healthy, at least at this point.

I am the online content coordinator for DJournal.com. I also co-host The Memo and Prep Rally podcasts and host the Newsbreak program. Previously at the Journal, I covered Mississippi State athletics (2008-13), high schools (2004-08), and was on the copy desk (2002-04).

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