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Previewing the Kentucky Infield

Evan White

Evan White, via UKAthletics.com

With only one full day standing between Kentucky Baseball and the start of their 2016 campaign in Spartanburg, South Carolina, it’s time to take a more in-depth look at the lineup Gary Henderson will send out onto the field come 5:00 Friday afternoon against the Wofford College Terriers. The Wildcats boast some serious talent in the infield, but with the start of each season comes the new faces, the new positions, and the new position battles that will inevitably be a storyline for the first phase of the schedule, as Hendo tries to find the perfect combination to enter SEC play. That being said, let’s take a trip around the horn and see how the infield is starting to shape out.

Current (Projected) Lineup:

C — Zach Arnold/ Tony Squires (IF)

1B — Evan White

2B — Heady/Becker/Mahan/Lewis

3B — JaVon Shelby

SS — Heady/Becker/Mahan/Lewis

Roster:

Trey Miller (IF/OF)

Tyler Marshall (IF)

Josh Smith (LHP/IF)

Gunnar McNeil (1B/OF/RHP)

Kole Cottam (C)

Zach Reks (IF/OF)

Joe Dudek (1B/OF)

Marshall Gei (IF/C)

Notable Losses:

C — Greg Fettes

1B — Thomas Bernal

Players to Watch:

– JaVon Shelby (3B):

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 7.27.45 PMScreen Shot 2016-02-17 at 7.28.03 PM

The third-team Preseason All American looks more than ready to hold down the hot corner for the Cats. With a strong showing at second base in 2015 under his belt and Evan White as a defensive mainstay at first, expect a seamless transition for the junior who could play anywhere on the field and could emerge as a leader on this team as an experienced upperclassman and Kentucky’s primary run-producer in 2015.

  – Evan White (1B):

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 7.27.45 PMScreen Shot 2016-02-17 at 7.29.58 PM

Touted by Gary Henderson as “the best first basemen in the country”, this could be the breakout year for the sophomore from Gahanna, Ohio. In 52 starts last season, White produced some solid numbers from the plate, including twelve doubles and 28 RBI, and proved to be the anchor of the Wildcat infield at first. After an extra summer and fall of training in Lexington, one has to believe to production will only improve offensively as a middle-of-the-lineup type hitter. If the Cats are going to be competitive into late-SEC Tournament play, they’re going to need the corner infielders to step up like they’ve proven they can.

 

Key Position Battles:

– Up the Middle:

In his Media Day press conference, Gary Henderson made it pretty clear that second base and shortstop were still up in the air, and could end up being a decision to be left until Opening Day. My guess is that Hendo keeps the competition going throughout the season and plays the guys who are producing when called upon. With veterans on the corners in Shelby and White, I’d honestly be completely fine with a platoon system up the middle. Having the internal competition adding extra motivation to Heady/Becker/Mahan/Lewis will only make the three better as the season and their careers progress in the program. Heady could be an early favorite early on, with Henderson praising the strides the junior has made offensively during the offseason and his defense already at ‘everyday-starter’ caliber.

Stay turned for more preview coverage over the next 24 hours, follow myself and @TreyHuntsmanKSR during the weekend for live updates on all the action, and tune into KSR for Opening Weekend recaps once the final out has been made.

@brooksHoltonKSR

Article written by Brooks Holton