Opinion: Boyd Vander Kooi is the pitcher ASU baseball didn't know it needed

The freshman has jumped toward the top of ASU's pitching depth chart

No starter for ASU baseball has been as dependable as Boyd Vander Kooi this season.

The freshman’s 1.07 ERA is the best among ASU pitchers who have started at least one game this season, and his 25 strikeouts are second behind only senior Eli Lingos, despite pitching in one game fewer.

Needless to say, Vander Kooi has been the ace thus far.

Coming into the season, it was unclear what impact Vander Kooi would have. He left Mesa’s Skyline High School as the 2017 Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year and was the No. 1 ranked pitcher and No. 2 overall player in Arizona. 

With a resume like that, his performance to this point in the season should not be too much of a surprise, but Vander Kooi has shown a mature and confident approach that is not incredibly common among young college pitchers.

 “From what I’ve seen, he’s very confident and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes," Michael Baron, ASU baseball beat writer for The State Press, said. "He’s going to strike out a lot of guys. Things could be shaking out where he’s the guy on Sundays pending nothing else dramatic with Lingos or (Sam) Romero.”

At the beginning of the year, Vander Kooi, Lingos and sophomore Spencer Van Scoyoc – who has since been replaced in the rotation by Romero – were likely to be the three main pitchers anchoring the starting staff. 

Lingos has held up his end with quality outings, but Vander Kooi’s performance has been even more important because of Van Scoyoc’s inconsistencies.

Vander Kooi’s dependability is something his teammates and head coach Tracy Smith have been able to rely upon each week, and he seems to have already taken that step to becoming a lock for weekend starts. 

Lingos is a senior and is pitching his last season as a Sun Devil, so now’s the time for one of the younger arms to step up and ready himself to potentially take over Lingos’ role. Vander Kooi is doing that.

“Thinking down the road, this guy could be even better,” Baron said. “The sky’s the limit.”

At 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighing 210 pounds, Vander Kooi still has room to add muscle and become stronger. He currently sits anywhere between 88 to 92 mph with his fastball, so there’s no reason to think he couldn’t increase his velocity to consistently reach the low-90s and occasionally touch the mid-90s.

His ability to pound the strike zone and limit mistakes is another reason for optimism moving forward. 

Previous successful ASU teams have typically been led by an upperclassman starting pitcher. The 2009 and 2010 College World Series teams had Mike Leake and Seth Blair, respectively. 

Lingos would probably be coined as the Leake/Blair type for this current team. This isn’t to say the 2018 Sun Devils are destined to make a CWS run, but the pattern shows that strong teams usually have a dominant junior or senior starter. 

Vander Kooi is on the fast track to becoming that pitcher for ASU. 

“He definitely is one of those Friday or Saturday guys of the future who can take you six or seven innings and get you to your set-up guys,” Baron said. “With a little run support, you could very well be in line for a win.”

With the overall pitching struggles that have accompanied the Sun Devils this season, Vander Kooi has been a major bright spot. 

The freshman has lived up to expectations so far and is currently making more of a positive impact than many people may have thought he would have. 

Reach the columnist at Steven.Slobodzian@asu.edu or follow @PSlobodzianASU on Twitter.

Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors. 

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