No one at Arkansas would turn away Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez. The sophomore slugger is going to end up in the major leagues some day. There will be no put downs of Alvarez in this space. However, the Hogs aren't willing to trade their third baseman for anyone in the Southeastern Conference.
"Alvarez is a great player," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "But our guy is right there with him for All-SEC right now."
Our guy is sophomore Logan Forsythe. Make no mistake about it, Forsythe is the league's best defensive third sacker already. And, with his 4-for-5, 6 RBI day Sunday in a 10-7 Arkansas victory over Florida, he's out hitting Alvarez in SEC play, too.
Forsythe is a red-hot 26 of 64 in the Hogs' 15 SEC games. That's .406 in league play. That will probably put him in the top five in SEC games when league stats come out this week.
Baseball is about pitching whether you are talking about the college game or the big leagues.
Pitching is one of the main reasons the Hogs have sailed to the halfway point in SEC play with a league best 11-4 mark. They are tops in the SEC in pitching.
However, don't look now, but the Hogs are about as good at the plate thanks to Forsythe. The Hogs are just a point or two behind South Carolina for second in the batting race in league games only. He's gone down swinging only three times in SEC play.
"He's really become a tough out," UA hitting coach Todd Butler said. "He digs down when he gets two strikes and he just won't let that third one get past him. He went the other way on a 1-2 pitch today and drove it into the gap in right for a double. That was a big-time at bat.
"I told him I can turn my back and look away when he's got two strikes because I know he's comfortable hitting with two strikes."
About that comparison to Alvarez, Butler said he's thought about it of late.
"Funny that you ask that, but I've been wondering if Logan wasn't just as good or better than Alvarez," Butler said. "Yes, Alvarez is as good as they say at the plate, but Logan is right there with him. He's fun to watch play whether it's in the field or at the plate. Logan has him at first base. He's one of the finest third basemen I've ever seen."
Forsythe got an Alvarez-like break Sunday against Florida. It was Alvarez who hit the towering fly that Brad Secrist lost for a inside-the-park grand slam that became the key play in Vandy's only victory over Arkansas last month. It was a similar misplay of a towering fly deep to center by Forsythe that plated three runs in the eighth inning Sunday.
Forsythe might have gotten a homer, too, except Sean Jones, the man on first, was slow to recognize that the center fielder had lost the ball. Forsythe ended up with his second double of the day.
"I saw that he didn't know where it was and told Jonesy to get going," Forsythe said. "I had to wait on him a little bit."
There was a time that the Hogs didn't know if Forsythe was good enough at the plate to be in the lineup every day. He's always been a Brooks Robinson-like on defense. But when Danny Hamblin's arm was healed to start the fall, he was stationed there throughout the offseason.
"It was a dogfight at third every day in the fall," Van Horn said. "You know, Logan could have complained. He could have come to tell me that I owed it to him to give him third after what happened last year."
What happened last year was that Forsythe planned to redshirt until the Hogs got into SEC play and began to lose infielders to injuries.
"He was a good player last year, but it was unfortunate what we had to do to him," said Butler. "He really hadn't had the at bats against SEC quality pitching to handle it at the time. He was behind since he was going to redshirt. That set him back."
Forsythe recalls having some struggles including an "O-for-series at Vanderbilt." His confidence went away at the plate.
"When the season was over, coach just said, ‘Go play summer ball and get your swing back. You are a good player and just need to get some confidence,'" Forsythe said. "That's how it worked out. I came back with some confidence. I worked hard on my swing this summer."
Still, he had to beat out Hamblin at third.
"Danny came up to me one day in the fall and asked if I was going to hit this year," Forsythe said. "I just told him, ‘Why don't you get your butt back over there at first base.' I wasn't going to give it up. I love a challenge. We battled all fall, but Danny and I have become good friends."
That's what Van Horn liked most about Forsythe.
"He's just a competitor," Van Horn said. "I call him kind of a throw back to another era. He wasn't spoiled by his parents. They didn't give him anything easy and he isn't afraid to work.
"It was a dogfight, but all along the deal was if Logan was going to hit, he was going to play. He's a smart kid and he knew it. He just worked his tail off and kept getting better at the plate.
"Coach Butler has got him using his legs more. He's learned to get a little deeper into his swing, too. He can wait on a pitch with two strikes and drive it the other way. He's just really coachable, too."
No question, Forsythe has baseball smarts. He's also got some grit, moxie and all of the intangibles. He's smart enough to know that he didn't handle things right last year.
"I knew I had to play because the team needed me," he said. "I started off OK, but then I kinda went back to being a freshman. Let's just say I acted like a freshman."
What does he think of comparisons with Vandy's Alvarez?
"That's not what I do, try to put myself against guys around the league that are great," Forsythe said. "I'm not one to look at that stuff and he's a power guy. I don't spend anytime looking at power numbers."
But he does like to compete with the other team's third sacker in each SEC series.
"Yes, sir, I do that," he said. "I take that as a personal challenge, yes, sir, I do. I look at like if I do better than the other team's third baseman, it helps our team. I want to outhit him and outplay him in the field. That gives our team a shot if I do that."
He wants the other teams to fear the Hogs.
"That's what we talk about, when it's just the guys," he said. "We want the other team to hate to see us show up. We want them to think that we are going to compete, battle and get after them. That's me and that's this whole team. It's important to us to play like that."
While everyone is talking about UA pitchers Nick Schmidt, Duke Welker and Jess Todd, the SEC is learning to fear Logan Forsythe's bat just as much.
State of the Hogs: Logan Forsythe
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