To begin the fourth lap in the “offseason position battle” series we will look at the vacant University of Louisville catching position.
The departed — San Francisco Giants draftee Jeff Arnold, a 2010 UofL senior, started all 63 games for the Cards in 2010, serving as the primary catcher for the Big East Conference champions. Arnold batted .306 with three home runs, 32 RBI, 64 runs scored and 16 stolen bases in 19 attempts. The Male High School graduate was named second-team All Big East following the 2010 season, and the Giants selected him in the 26th round of the MLB draft. Behind the plate Arnold threw out 41.2 percent of opposing base runners attempting to steal a base.
Returning candidates — Senior catcher J. J. Ethel batted .303 with two home runs, 15 RBI and 15 runs scored in 41 games for UofL in 2010 after transferring from Scottsdale Community College. Opposing base runners were successful in 53.8 (7-13) percent of stolen base attempts against Ethel in 2010. During the UofL Fall World Series Ethel started each of the five games for assistant coach Xan Barksdale’s team, going 6-20 with two runs scored and two RBI.
Newcomers to watch — Freshman catcher Kyle Gibson was named first-team all-state by the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association following his senior season at Henderson County High School. As a senior Gibson batted .485 with 20 home runs, seven triples, 15 doubles, 67 RBI and 61 runs scored. Gibson set a Kentucky high school record with home runs in five consecutive games as senior and was 4-15 with three runs scored and an RBI during the Fall World Series. Gibson started all five games in the series including two at catcher…Freshman catcher Jeff Gardner was name honorable mention all-state by KHSBCA after his senior season at Whitfield Academy in Louisville. Gardner starter each game during the Fall World Series, including three at catcher during the Fall World Series, going 3-12 with three walks, two runs scored and three RBI.
Wildcard — Sophomore Asaad Ali didn’t see any action as freshman, and may reprise his role as the team’s bullpen catcher after not appearing during the Fall World Series. Still head coach Dan McDonnell could decide to give Ali, who is the adopted son of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, some playing time. Ali was the 40th round pick of the Los Angeles Angels out of high school in 2009. While Ali could qualify as a redshirt freshman since he didn’t play in 2010 the UofL roster lists him as a sophomore.