Five days before college baseball's opening day Ohio State announced junior right-handed pitcher and first baseman Josh Dezse would be out at least two months due to a stress reaction in his back. The injury stemming from a bulging disc would force Dezse to discontinue all baseball-related activities for two months, to rest and re-evaluate.
After receiving the re-evaluation Ohio State's premier power threat and two-year closer will have surgery on May 3, forcing him to miss the entire 2013 season. By red-shirting this season Dezse will have two more years of eligibility remaining.
That Dezse exhausts the two years will yet to be seen, a full recovery would likely have him gone following next season.
Prior to the this season, Dezse was considered one of college baseball's top prospects for June's MLB First-Year Player Draft. A selection to the National Collegiate Baseball Writer's Association's preseason Stopper of the Year Watch List, Dezse's ability to reach 100 MPH and sit in the upper-90s with his fastball saw him ranked as Baseball America's No. 37 draft prospect in its August 2012 edition.
The build-up to Dezse becoming a prized prospect started the day he arrived in Columbus.
From Olentangy, Ohio (Liberty High School), Dezse turned down a near-$500,000 signing bonus from the New York Yankees whom drafted him in the 28th round of the 2010 draft. During his freshman season Dezse appeared in 53 games, carrying a .332 average, collecting 11 doubles two triples and four home runs on his way to driving in 42 runs, slugging .427 and posting an on-base percentage of .427.
On the mound, the 6'5 righty went 4-2 with six saves, striking out 32, walking 22 in 27.2 innings with a 5.53 ERA. In addition to his conference honors, Collegiate Baseball selected Dezse as a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American and the NCBWA placed him on its All-America second-team.
Heading into his sophomore season, Baseball America, in its season preview, named Dezse the Big Ten's top draft prospect, solidifying the sentiment after the opening weekend of the season.
Though Dezse produced one of college baseball's most impressive singular individual feat of the season, a three-home-run game against Georgia Tech, honors would not be bestowed in 2012.
At the plate, Dezse saw a decline in production, a line of .306/.423/.426, as he finished with nine doubles, a triple and five home runs. Dezse did show improvement on the mound, his ERA lowered to 2.86 as he surrendered fewer hits per nine innings, 6.03 from 9.75 and issued fewer walks, 4.76/9 compared to 7.15, but where he struck out more than a batter per inning as a freshman, 10.4/9, the number fell to 6.03 as Dezse was unable to duplicate his upper-90s fastball, peaking in the mid-90s.
Looking to cement his place as one of college's baseball top prospects heading into his draft-eligible junior season, Dezse headed to the Cape Cod League to play for the Bourne Braves.
In five games, Dezse pitched 5.2 innings, allowing four hits, four runs, two earned, as he walked five and struck out six. With two saves and a 3.17 ERA, Dezse's summer was off to a strong start. But the 5.2 innings represented the entire workload as Dezse was shut down and returned home due to the ailing back injury.
Back in Columbus, Dezse headed into fall practice with the Buckeyes hoping to convert him into a weekend starter, but the top-end velocity had yet to return. With it becoming evident Dezse was not 100%, the junior did not participate in Ohio State's scout day, nor its intra-squad Scarlet & Gray World Series seeking rest and a hope for full recovery, yet to pitch since.
In Dezse's departure, sophomore right-handed pitcher Trace Dempsey has emerged as the Ohio State closer, one of the best in the nation and the lone Big Ten representative on the mid-season Stopper of the Year Watch List.
Ohio State has had more trouble replacing Dezse's bat in the lineup. With a .269 team average and .358 slugger percentage, both ranked seventh in the Big Ten, Greg Beals has shuffled players in and out of the Designated Hitter looking for a spark while first baseman Brad Hallberg carrying a slash of .242/.349/.331.