Arizona has come out swinging the bats this season and are hitting .318 with five players hitting over .350, three of them returners from last season. The Wildcats did most of their damage against Utah Valley State when they hit .358 and scored 34 runs in that series and have hit .289 and scored 25 runs in their last four games against Long Beach and UNLV. Arizona will play little ball with by using the hit and run, stealing bases (13 in 7 games) and bunting (8 in the last 4 games). The Wildcats are also being patient at the plate and are averaging around five walks per game and doing a solid job of making contact and are striking out about five times per game.
The dimensions at Kindall Field at Sancet Stadium are spacious down the lines (360 ft), relatively short to the power alleys (378 ft) and standard (400 ft) to CF which means there tend to be lots of 2B’s and 3B’s hit there. Due to the ballpark dimensions and Tucson’s elevation (over 2000 feet above sea level) according to Boyd’s World the park factor is 126, which means the ballpark increases offense by 26% and significantly favor hitters, especially when the weather warms up and the ball travels well.
Arizona was a poor fielding team last season and made 76 errors and was eighth in the Pac 10 with a .965 fielding %. The Wildcats have shored things up some this year and are fielding better with a .972 fielding %.
Arizona had a pretty experienced infield last season but didn’t field well. This year the Wildcats have three players returning but only one of them played the same position last season and the defense has improved some.
C – Soph Jett Bandy (RH – .485/.514/.848, 3-11-1; ’09 – .299/.397/.500, 4-39-1) was the 3B last season and has moved to C and done a solid job against the running game (3-5 SB’s) but has struggled some at blocking pitches (8 WP’s/PB’s). He has been on fire to start the season and will hit either 4th or 5th as one of the power bats in the lineup with 3 of the team’s 5 HR’s, including a walk off grand slam in the third game of the Utah Valley State series, and is tied for the team lead in RBI’s. He went 2-7 in last year’s midweek series at Fullerton. Bandy’s backup is JC transfer Jacob Meskin, who is 0-4 in two starts.
1B – SR Rafael Valenzuela (LH – .375/.484/.583, 0-8-1; ’09 – .277/.331/.411, 0-14-4) split time at 1B and DH last season and is doing that again this season but is limited defensively. Valenzuela went 7-13 against Utah Valley State and 2-11 the last four games. Bandy has started twice at 1B when Valenzuela has been the DH. Valenzuela does a good job of getting on base and bats 2nd.
2B – JR Bryce Ortega (RH – .143/.324/,143, 0-3-3; ’09 – .324/.429/.438, 3-33-16) was the starting SS last season but has been moved to 2B, which has helped improve Arizona’s infield defense. Ortega was predicted to contend for all-conf honors after leading the team in SB’s last season but he has gotten off to a very slow start. He has been the leadoff hitter every game and will work counts and leads the team with seven walks. Ortega went 0-8 in last year’s midweek series at Fullerton.
SS – FR Alex Mejia (RH – .192/.300/.269, 0-4-0) is a good athlete in the middle infield but he has struggled at the plate with making the adjustment to D1 pitching. Mejia has batted 9th in every game.
3B – FR Seth Mejias-Brean (RH – .133/.278/.200, 0-2-0) and FR Robert Refsnyder (RH – .423/.483/.423, 0-6-1) have been splitting time at 3B with Mejia-Brean getting most of the starts and usually batting 8th. Refsnyder is a versatile player and a good athlete who was the QB on his HS football team. He has also been playing in the OF and has often switched over to 3B during games and usually hits 5th or 6th. Refsnyder went 8-17 the last four games.
Outfield and DH
Arizona returned only one OF from last season so they have been relying on incoming players to take over and the newcomers have been playing well.
LF – Soph Bobby Brown (LH – .333/.385/.583, 0-2-1) and Refsnyder have been splitting time in LF with Brown going 4-8 over the last four games. Brown usually hits in the lower part of the lineup and is the only other LH bat along with Valenzuela.
CF – FR Joey Rickard (RH – .367/.406/.667. 2-11-4) was the most heralded newcomer in the large recruiting class and he has delivered. He has hit 2 of the team’s 5 HR’s and is tied for the team lead in RBI’s. Rickard went 7-12 against Utah Valley State but is 4-18 over the last four games. Rickard is a good athlete in CF and leads the team in SB’s and has been hitting 6th or 7th.
RF – Soph Steve Selsky (RH – .424/.472/.485, 0-6-0; ’09 – .318/.386/.541, 7-21-2) is the only returning player in the OF. He went 8-14 against Utah Valley State and has gone 6-19 the past four games. Selsky usually hits 3rd and has good power, which is why he is projected to be drafted around the 10th round in June as a draft eligible soph. He went 3-6 in last year’s midweek series at Fullerton.
DH – JC transfer Josh Garcia (RH – .200 in 10 AB’s) is one of several players who will see time at DH, including Valenzuela, Brown and Refsnyder as Arizona rotates players at this position.