Editor’s note: The Star’s Zack Rosenblatt is counting down the 50 best athletes on the UA campus right now, with help from athletes, coaches and those close to the program.
No. 36: Cody Deason
The details: Deason is a right-handed pitcher entering his junior season. The Ojai, California, native wasn’t even supposed to play at Arizona initially. Ex-UA coach Andy Lopez recruited him, but Deason committed to Oregon. The Ducks dropped him late in the recruiting process. New UA coach Jay Johnson pounced, and Deason became a Wildcat.
“I liked what I saw and felt like he could help us with some time,” Johnson said in May. “I’m really glad it has worked out the way that it has.”
The numbers: Deason went 5-3 with a 3.86 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 53º innings as a sophomore, but numbers don’t tell the full story. Deason’s worst performances of the 2017 season came both in his first and last starts — he allowed six earned runs in two-thirds of an inning against Eastern Kentucky to start, and seven earned runs in 1º innings during the Wildcats’ NCAA regional loss to Sam Houston State. As a freshman, Deason was 1-2 with a 3.73 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 31ª innings.
The value: The Wildcats have lost both starters ahead of Deason in the rotation: JC Cloney and Cameron Ming signed with the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles, respectively. Deason will likely open the 2018 season as Arizona’s staff ace alongside Michael Flynn. The Wildcats will need Deason to emerge as a consistent starting pitcher if they hope to make a run to the College World Series.
Why Deason? Deason showed flashes of what he was capable of during Arizona’s run to the College World Series final in 2016, throwing four scoreless innings across three appearances. Deason improved quite a bit as a sophomore, and the junior yields a mid-90s fastball with a curveball that’s considered the team’s best. Deason has pitched seven scoreless innings in four games for the Orleans Firebirds of the Cape Cod League so far this offseason.
Proof he’s good: Take away his first and last starts, and Deason was rather impressive this season. He tallied a 1.75 ERA in his 19 other appearances, a mark which would’ve easily led the team. Deason had a 14.40 ERA when he took a March meeting with Johnson and pitching coach Dave Lawn. The three of them outlined a practice plan for Deason to get him back on track. Deason pitched 3º shutout innings against New Mexico State in his first appearance after the meeting, and never looked back.
“That was the confidence boost I needed,” Deason said late in the season. “I don’t think I’ve ever looked back.”
What Deason can accomplish: Deason should post the best numbers of his career, at least in categories such as wins, strikeouts and innings pitched. If Deason pitches more like he did outside of his first and last starts of 2017, he has a good shot at All-Pac-12 honor.
Coachspeak: “The game is so hard. It’s so different than football or basketball. There’s so much failure. It’s very experiential. You can only get better and learn by playing. … He was relatively green. He didn’t have a whole lot of high school playing experience. You just have to kind of get through it. I’m really proud of him, because his season did not get off to a good start at all.” — Johnson
He said it: “I think the biggest thing I’ve worked on is composure, and just realizing that it’s just a game. At the end of the day, win or lose, we’re going to come out the next day and we’re going to get to play the same game we love. I don’t try to change what I do for anybody. I just try to help the team win the game.” — Deason