Jan. 18, 2010
The Washington baseball team is just two weeks away from taking the field for the first practice of the spring Feb. 1. Two and a half weeks after that, the Diamond Dawgs will square off against New Mexico State at a tournament in Tucson on Feb. 19 in the season opener.
Here's the first look at the 2010 UW team, as GoHuskies.com runs through the squad, position by position. In this first installment, first-year coach Lindsay Meggs focuses on the catchers and infielders. In days to come, we'll have a look at the outfielders and the pitching staff as well as a general overview of the team as the start of the season gets closer.
2010 Husky Baseball Preview: Catchers & Infielders
Despite listing five players - including three returners - at the catcher position, the Dawgs are relatively inexperienced behind the plate. The group includes juniors Pierce Rankin and Miles Kizer and sophomore Brady McGuire, as well as senior Max Kwan and true freshman Chase Anselment.
"If we were to play tomorrow, Miles Kizer, a junior college transfer from Arizona, would be the likely candidate to start," Meggs said. "He's the most experienced guy, day in and day out and has been the most consistent guy catching and throwing."
Kizer earned JC All-America last year at Glendale CC in Arizona, where he also played linebacker on the football team, and has the size and strength befitting a catcher.
Rankin, who also figures into the mix at any one of several infield spots or even left field, will also see time behind the plate. He made the conversion to catcher last year, and was the starter for the first part of the season before an injury forced him to return to playing at other spots the latter part of the year.
"Pierce gives you the offensive upside that you like," Meggs said. "Before it's all over, Pierce is going to work his way into the lineup someplace on the field. If he catches, that would be great, but it's a Catch-22. He doesn't really have the experience to catch every day, but the only way he's going to get that is if he catches every day.
"He could play third base. He can help you in different spots in the middle of the diamond and has that offensive upside where you could pencil him in at left field if need be."
McGuire saw some action (13 games and six starts) behind the plate as a freshman in 2009 and adds additional support to the position. Kwan, who sat out all of last year due to injury, has yet to return to full participation and hasn't had a college at bat since 2007.
Anselment will spend the year developing his catching skills, but will also get plenty of opportunities with the bat and could see action in left field or as a designated hitter.
At first base, things are more clear than at any spot on the field for Meggs as junior Troy Scott, who's started there the last two seasons, returns.
"Troy has established himself as our best defender at first base," Meggs agreed. "He was one of our most consistent hitters in the fall. We project him to be in the middle of the batting order and to hopefully be able to drive in runs consistently for us."
Boyer, who missed all of last season with an injury, is nearly back to full strength and enters 2010 with 524 college at bats and a .309 career batting average. Cherry is a defensive whiz with 41 career starts under his belt.
"Boyer seems to be getting back to where we figure he was before his injury, when he put up some impressive offensive numbers," Meggs said.
"Doug is batting with him every day. He does a lot of the little things we like," Meggs continued. "He's a steady defender."
"Shortstop has been interesting because we have two guys who really haven't separated themselves from one another," Meggs said. "Bethel has been, from day one that I got here, very consistent defensively. Bentrott has been a bit more athletic in terms of making more spectacular plays in the hole, but hasn't shown the same consistency as Bethel. I don't even know who I'd put out there if we were play tomorrow because things really are neck-and-neck. They each bring something a little different to the table."
Heading into the spring, Meggs gives the starting nod at third base to freshman Jacob Lamb.
"Jake was probably one of our more consistent guys in the fall," said Meggs, "just in terms of his daily approach at the plate. We're excited about him. I think he has the potential to be an all-conference player down the road and be a reasonably-high draft pick. He's a left-handed hitter and he has a good feel for defense."
Russell, who has started about half the games the last two years at third base, returns, though he likely won't be available at the start of the season due to injury.
"Aaron was battling with Jacob there," Meggs said. "He gives us some depth there when a left-handed pitcher is on the mound."
Additionally, Rankin could play second, third or short, and has played at each of those positions during his UW career. Also, junior Julien Pollard has played second and third, but has yet to return to full participation after recovering from injury. While he could contribute in the infield, he's probably more likely to see action in the outfield.