The start of the 2011 college baseball season is less than two months away, so it’s time to start looking at what Kentucky players need to step up for their respective schools. In the coming weeks we’ll look at an almost-daily series that examines offseason position battles at each of the state’s five division one baseball programs. We’ll begin the series with a look at the University of Kentucky‘s first base slot.
The departed: Senior Gunner Glad and junior Lance Ray were UK’s primary first baseman during the 2010 season. Rising junior Braden Kapteyn is the only returning Cat with significant playing time at first base, but head coach Gary Henderson would probably prefer to keep him at designated hitter for the added flexibility not fielding provides in bringing Kapteyn in on the mound. With Ray and Glad moving on to the professional ranks, finding a new first baseman will be among the most important tasks for Henderson and his staff this Spring.
The returning candidates: In addition to Kapteyn catchers T. J. Daugherty, Luke Maile, Michael Thomas and Michael Williams could each conceivably spend some time at first base, though the group will probably see most of its playing time come behind the plate. Rising sophomore Tyler Townsend is the only returning infielder on the roster with the height one usually relates to a first baseman.
Newcomers to watch: Reports out of UK’s fall camp had freshmen infielders Dallen Reber, Matt Reida, Paul McConkey, and J. T. Riddle pushing for early playing time. Reida and Riddle figure to be primarily middle infielders leaving Reber as probably the leading newcomer candidate at both the vacant corner infield positions. Reber blasted a three-run home run in game two of UK’s fall World Series while playing first base but did have a fielding error in the game.
Wildcard: Matt May of The Cat’s Pause recently reported redshirt freshman football quarterback Ryan Mossakowski would suit up for the Bat Cats this spring. At 6-4 Mossakowski looks the part of a first baseman but will probably need significant time adjusting to SEC baseball after sitting out two years following shoulder surgery as a senior in high school. Mossakowski was named All-District in baseball for his Texas high school twice before the injury.