Feb. 7, 2012
SEATTLE - The 2012 college baseball season is right around the corner as teams across the nation begin playing on Friday, Feb. 17.
The Huskies, under third-year head coach Lindsay Meggs, open the campaign with a three-game series at San Diego State Feb. 17-19. The following Tuesday, Feb. 21, the Dawgs open the home slate with a game against Seattle University at Husky Ballpark.
The first weekend home series for the UW is March 2-4 vs. St. Joseph's, and Pac-12 Conference play begins with a three-game set vs. Oregon at Husky Ballpark March 16-18.
Over the course of this week, we'll preview the 2012 Husky baseball team. The first edition looked at the pitching staff. In this second installment, here's a look at the catchers and infielders:
2012 Husky Catchers (alphabetical order):
At first blush, the Husky catching staff seems to be the most experienced segment of the UW roster. After all, the Huskies welcome back the three players who caught every pitch of the 2011 season: senior B.K. Santy, junior Chase Anselment and sophomore Ryan Wiggins. The Huskies also add three true freshmen at the position in Mark Chen, Parker Guinn and Ryan Krustangel.
Santy did the majority of the catching last season as 42 of his 43 starts came behind the plate. Now in his second season at the UW after having transferred from Palomar College, he's one of only two seniors on the roster.
"We have a great battle behind the plate," Coach Meggs says. "B.K. comes back with probably the best knowledge of the art of catching and probably the best feel for what it takes to be a catcher in this league day by day. I thought he did an admirable job for us behind the plate for us last year."
Wiggins earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 as a freshman last year when he started nine games at catcher, along with 25 at DH and one each at first base and in right field.
"Ryan Wiggins is a good offensive option for us," Meggs says. "He is a middle-of-the-order type guy. He has gotten better and better."
Anselment, who started 39 games in right, five at DH and three behind the plate last season, is another top power-hitting option for the Huskies and is a left-handed hitter.
"Chase is a bat you want in the lineup," Meggs explains, "so in my opinion we don't have the perfect solution to what we want behind the plate. If we could combine all three guys we would have the perfect catcher. We have three good options ... I think it is a good problem to have to be honest with you."
While Krustangel will miss the coming season due to injury, Chen and Guinn add depth at the position. Coach Meggs also notes that Guinn could help in the outfield if necessary.
2012 Husky Infielders (alphabetical order):
Only six of the eight players listed above are returning players for Washington - shortstop Ty Afenir and third baseman Jacob Lamb. All six of the remaining players enter the 2012 season as true freshmen, meaning that at least half of the infield on any given day will likely be manned by freshmen.
Mitsui was the state's Gatorade Player of the Year at nearby Shorewood High School last year, when he struck out only twice the entire season while batting .712 with 13 home runs. He was the Tampa Bay Rays' 12th-round draft pick.
"Trevor has come in here with all kinds of accolades," Meggs says, "and has lived up to all the positive things we have heard about him as a student and as a power hitter. I would expect Trevor to start at first base."
Berry brings similar power credentials as Mitsui, having hit .432 with 10 home runs and 46 runs batted in as a senior at Rancho Bernardo High in 2011.
"Branden is right there with Mitsui and will compete for DH at bats from the right side," Meggs says. "He was the San Diego Player of the Tear in high school and hit three home runs in the Purple and Gold Series."
Freshmen will also compete for the job at second base, with Robert Pehl from W.F. West High in Chehalis at the front of the pack heading to the season. Pehl batted over .500 in each of four varsity seasons and was named first-team all-state three times at W.F. West, which posted a 91-9 record in his time there.
"He is kind of a Jeff Kent-type second baseman," Meggs says. "In other words he is not your prototypical smaller base stealer. He is a legitimate middle-of-the-order type player. I thought he was the best hitter I saw in the state of Washington last year at the high school level. He really is going to be, before it's all over, a professional hitter."
"Both are very good players," says Meggs. "Andrew is probably our best infielder when you talk about footwork, accuracy with the throwing arm, instincts and feel for the infield. He is probably our best defender at any spot. He is a left handed hitter and is not a bad hitter by any means for a kid his age.
"Jackson can play all three spots," Meggs continues. "Both those guys will gives us at bats off the bench, late-inning defense and the option to pinch run."
Afenir enjoys the advantage of being the incumbent starter at shortstop. As a sophomore last year, he missed the start of the season due to injury, but still started 46 of the Huskies' 54 games, all at shortstop, where he committed just five errors.
Freshman Erik Forgione was a teammate and classmate of Pehl's at W.F. West, earning first-team all-state as a junior and senior. He was chosen by the Angels in the 33rd round of last June's MLB draft.
"We have a great battle going on it is just the total package of experience and savvy vs. youth and athletic ability," Meggs says. "Afenir comes back with a season under his belt. He was beat up all year, but has come back healthy and has been much more effective. If we were to hit the ground running tomorrow he would be our shortstop.
"Forgione is our best runner on the field and is our most athletic kid," continues Meggs. "He gets down the line better that anyone we have. He is a great base-stealing threat and I would say he is really athletic at short although he is really inexperienced. So it is going to take him a little while to understand what it takes to play at this level."
Lamb is the most experienced player on the team at this level. Having started 108 of a possible 110 games in his two years at the UW.
Largely due to injuries to others, the left-handed hitting slugger played all over the infield last year, starting at second, short and third, but third base is his most natural position. Barring incident, there's no reason he shouldn't be the everyday player at the hot corner in 2012.
"He is a third baseman. That's where he belongs and that's where he will play," Meggs states. "I can't imagine him playing an inning anywhere else on the field this year. Jake is the leader on that infield. He has already done a nice job on getting our young guys to get a feel for what is going to be expected of them. He is going to hit in the middle of the batting order and if we are going to have success, Jake is going to have to have a good year.
Ely and Jackson are the most natural backups at third base behind Lamb.