We will begin the third lap in the “offseason position battle” series with a look at the vacant University of Kentucky second base position:
The departed — Second baseman Chris Bisson, a 2010 junior, was a stalwart in the middle of the UK defense and lineup during 2010, batting .329 with five home runs, 35 RBI and 43 runs scored. Bisson, who moved on to professional ball following the season as the fourth-round pick of the San Diego Padres, batted .325 in his three-year UK career with seven home runs, 91 RBI and 101 runs scored. Bisson led the Southeastern Conference with 32 stolen bases in 2010 and was honored with a second-team all-SEC selection following the season. The left-handed batter missed five games after being hit in the face by a pitch during a game versus Monmouth on March 6.
Returning candidates — Redshirt senior infielder Neiko Johnson started 21 games for UK in 2010 and filled in for Bisson at second base while he recovered from the early season hit-by-pitch. Johnson batted just .171 in 33 games but boasted an impressive .388 on-base percentage and stole 24 bases in 25 attempts. This summer Johnson batted .307 with 25 stolen bases in the Coastal Plains League…Redshirt freshman Tyler Townsend, who sat out during the 2010 season, is the only other returning backup infielder on the roster. Townsend batted .220 in 36 games in the New York Collegiate Baseball League this summer.
Newcomers to watch — In a recent interview with College Baseball Daily UK head coach Gary Henderson listed freshman infielders Dallen Reber, Paul McConkey, J. T. Riddle and Matt Reida as standouts during fall practice. Riddle and Reida profile best as middle infielders and should push for early playing time at second base. Henderson told CBD that Reida was the most advanced of the group defensively, so that praise can only help his chances. When Reida signed with UK, Henderson described him as a future stalwart at middle infield and the leadoff spot in the lineup. The Chicago White Sox selected Reida in the 47th round of the 2010 draft…Riddle was named Mr. Kentucky Baseball in 2010 after batting .514 with 7 HR, 62 RBI and 20 stolen bases as a senior at Western Hills High school. He was the 35th round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2010. Riddle homered during UK’s Fall World Series and could pitch for UK as well.
Wildcard — UK’s lone returning starting infielder is shortstop Taylor Black, the 28th round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2010 draft, so the second, third and first base positions could be a revolving door in 2011. The Cats aren’t lacking candidates for the vacant second and third base positions, but Henderson could decide not to name a full-time starter at either position early in the season and instead choose to rotate several of the players. Ideally UK would have a fairly consistent lineup in time for conference play, but don’t be surprised in Johnson, Reida, Riddle, Reber, McConkey and Townsend rotate early in 2011.