Excitement abounds the Aggie baseball community for 2009, and there's plenty of good reason for that – given the preseason rankings and potential of the pitching staff. Those thoughts have given penchant to forgetting about the hitters, for better or for worse.
For those with trepidation about the team, the bats are the biggest
why. Gone are five every day starts from 2008, including Big 12 MVP
Jose Duran, All-American Blake Stouffer, Dane Carter, Darby Brown, and
Ruggiano. That group combined to hit well over .300 last season, with
home runs and 284 of the team's 477 RBI.
Rob Childress and offensive coordinator Matt Deggs are charged with
those gaps in, and recent history suggests that they can do just that.
2008 team faced a similar turnover from 2007; and that club saw Duran
Carter give their only real year of production, while Brown and
elevated their game from the season before and Stouffer failed to
(which, to be fair, would have been extremely difficult – his 2007
the best few seasons in school history).
They'll need to fill those holes are a very solid returning nucleus
features All-Big 12 CF Kyle Colligan (.317-14-39, .421 OBP) and 1B
Anders (.349-16-58, .486 OBP). Colligan is likely to continue as the
leadoff hitter, while Anders will serve in the four hole and cleanup
mess that Colligan and friends create on the basepaths before him.
returning to the starting line-up is catcher Kevin Gonzalez
was a capable backstop throughout 2008 and improved his bat steadily as
season went along. Brodie Greene (.290-4-27) was a utility
last year's club, and has sufficient talent combined with a new
switch-hitting approach that will not only land him in an everyday role
2B, but probably toward the heart of the Aggie batting order.
figures into the bottom third of the order.
The corner outfield spots are among the hottest competition, and
likely to see a pair of new faces there on opening day. Dylan Petrich
brings speed and a quality contact / gap power bat and will likely
left field on Friday night, while Brett Parsons will bring a similar
swing with a bit more pop into right field. When he's not pitching,
Raley is likely to see time in one of these corner outfield slots.
The Anders blood runs thick with maroon, and that will be no more
than when Luke's younger brother, Nick, starts at third base on Friday
night. Nick was a prolific JUCO hitter in his own right, and despite
stature quite different from his brother's, you're likely to see a
type bat when he's at the plate. Just to Anders' left will be freshman
Adam Smith, who will likely draw some comparisons to recent Aggie legend
Cliff Pennington. Smith's fall indicates that he's a slightly different type
player than Pennington, with a little less overall speed and a bit more
but the flair for the dramatic may well be in order. Like Pennington
2003, expect Smith to start the year at the bottom of the order...but
not stay there all that long.
Nick Fleece, who first wowed Aggies with a moonshot homerun at last
Big 12 tournament and followed it up with a very good fall, will open
season as the Designated Hitter. Childress stated his initial goal,
entering the spring, was for Fleece to learn the third base position,
effectively allowing Nick Anders to move back to second, Brodie Greene
to the outfield, and free up the DH slot for another big-time bat (like
Patterson), but an injury has slowed Fleece's progression at that spot.
Fleece carries over his outstanding last few months, it will be
to get him out of the lineup.
There are many more capable bats that won't crack the opening day
and will continue competing towards starting roles as the season moves
along. One already mentioned is Joe Patterson, who hit over 30 home
towards earning the JUCO player of the year award last season.
a backstop who is defensively behind Kevin Gonzalez, but brings a pure
bulldog mentality to go along with a well above average bat, and Deggs
be challenged to find a way to get him into the lineup. Caleb Shofner
play almost anywhere on the infield, and should see good playing time
season and potentially push his way into the starting lineup. Scott
and Zac Luther are middle infielders who both had flashes of potential
fall, and Arthur has also followed up with a solid spring campaign.
Thorpe and David Alleman are both speedy freshman outfielders who are
finding themselves a bit buried on the depth chart, but with plenty of
talent and history has shown that this coaching staff is unafraid to
pieces in play, when necessary, to win (see Kyle Colligan in 2006,
Ehlert in 2007).
Aggie Baseball Preview: Hitting
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