Stanford's pitching staff possesses as much depth and talent as Cardinal baseball coach Mark Marquess, now in his 39th season, has had over the years and that's saying quite a bit.
Marquess has coached a Cy Young Award winner and a 200-game winner in addition to numerous first-round MLB draft picks.
The six guys who started at least one game for Stanford last year remain on campus and six of the other eight pitchers who appeared in at least one game are also back.
"It's unique for me," Marquess said. "I've never had that happen before."
This is a pitching staff that includes All-American and reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the year Cal Quantrill (7-5, 2.68 ERA) and left-hander John Hochstatter (10-3, 3.36). That's the equivalent of going 19-13 and 26-8, respectively, over the course of a major league season.
The Cardinal (35-26 last year, 16-14 in the Pac-12) returned to the postseason last year and reached a Super Regional, where it lost, in three games, to eventual national champion Vanderbilt.
Stanford won 11 of its final 13 regular-season games, and went 16-6 over its final 22 games, with all but six of those games on the road.
The Cardinal opens its season at Sunken Diamond with a three-game series against visiting Indiana, beginning with a 3 p.m. game Friday, followed by a 6 p.m. start on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday. California comes to town for a nonconference game Monday at 1 p.m.
Stanford plays seven games over the first 10 days of the season, which will test the depth of the pitching staff from the start.
Brett Hanewich (4-4, 3.17) and Logan James (3-4, 5.31) are the leading candidates to make starts this weekend, with Chris Viall (2-3, 4.74) and Tyler Thorne (2-0, 4.76) in the mix for possible mid-week starts. Marc Brakeman (1-3, 3.80) could also force his way into the rotation at some point.
"We're as ready as we've ever been to start a season," Marquess said. "I think we're all ready to start playing someone else."
The star-studded bullpen will miss closer AJ Vanegas and Sam Lindquist, but will have plenty of experience remaining. Chris Castellanos (0-1, 4.12) was trusted with late-inning situations and recorded three saves. Thorne saved two and Brakeman also saved a game.
"I think we'll have four starters who all have the stuff to go out and pitch a complete-game shutout," Cardinal second baseman Tommy Edman said. "In fact, we probably have more capable starters."
Griffin Weir, Daniel Starwalt, Gabe Cramer and David Schmidt all took the mound for the Cardinal last year. Junior Freddy Avis from Menlo School, however, has retired from the sport after numerous attempts to rehab an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder were unsuccessful.
Edman (.256, three homers, 18 RBI last year), outfielder Zach Hoffpauir (.324-7-35) and shortstop Drew Jackson (.167-0-4) are the top returning position players. Stanford will be looking to fill in around those three from a group that includes returners Alex Dunlap, Jack Klein, Austin Barr and Jonny Locher, all of whom found themselves in the starting lineup at some point last season.
Barr and Dunlap are joined by sophomore Matt Decker and freshman Bryce Carter as a group from which a catcher, first baseman and designated hitter will ultimately emerge.
Menlo School grad Mikey Diekroeger has a chance to start at third base. Junior Bobby Zarubin, who was 3-3 with a 2.16 ERA two years, senior Luke Pappas, sophomore Brian Higgins and freshmen Beau Branton, Matt Winaker and Jesse Kuet are also potential candidates in the infield.
"Mikey is doing well," Edman said. "He's swinging the bat well. He'll definitely get a start, most likely at third base. That's just my conjecture."
Five freshmen pitchers, along with sophomore Joey Starling and senior Jordan Kutzer, will push for innings.
Edman said he likes the whole group, but singled out Keith Weisenberg and Colton Hock as two pitchers with a chance to make an immediate impact. Left-handers John Henry Styles, Andrew Summerville and Quinn Brodey, who can also play in the outfield, give Stanford a deep staff.
"Pitching is a strength," Edman said. "The key over the course of a long season is having a lot of pitchers back."
Stanford was 14-18 against teams that reached the postseason last year, including playing the Hoosiers three times in the Bloomington Regional, where Edman was named Most Outstanding Player after hitting .417 with a walk-off home run that clinched Stanford's spot in the Super Regional.
Edman, a switch-hitter, has not changed anything about his swing just because of the home run. He enters the season as Stanford's lead-off hitter and doesn't mind hitting with two strikes. The Cardinal was 23-12 when Edman batted at the top of the order.
"I try to see a lot of pitches," he said. "I won't swing that much early in the count. I feel like I have good bat control and I'm able to go deep in the count."
One of the top base-stealers in San Diego County history in high school, Edman stole three bases in six attempts last year. He figures to be a little more aggressive this time around.
Hoffpauir was a pleasant surprise last year, starting the baseball season slow after playing football. He wound up second on the team in batting average (.324) and home runs (seven). As a freshman, Hoffpauir hit .077 (2 for 26).
As a safety for the Cardinal football team, Hoffpauir was one of the top players on a defense that was one of the nation's best.
He took a week off after Stanford won the Foster Farms Bowl and hasn't looked back since.
"Catching up the first month is normal with the football guys," Hoffpauir said. "I just have to grind through the nonconference part of the season."
Hoffpauir, who hit .418 with runners in scoring position last year, saw his average steadily climb through the course of the season. He hit .453 in May, raising his average to .332 on June 1. On March 1, he was hitting .172.
Stanford was picked to finish fourth by the Pac-12 coaches, behind UCLA, Arizona State and Oregon.