Over the past few weeks BluGrass Baseball has been counting down the top 2011 returning Kentucky collegians. Freshmen and junior-college transfers were excluded from that list, but don’t worry the newcomers are about to get their due. Check out the preseason all-newcomer team below. The team is focused on players who are projected to receive major playing time for their respective schools.
Catcher — Sean Hagen — Eastern Kentucky University
Hagen is projected to start at catcher for the Colonels. After Hagen signed with EKU out of high school, Colonels head coach Jason Stein said, “Sean will fill an immediate need at catcher following the graduation of 2010. He is a complete catcher who can catch, throw and block. But he is also a very offensive-minded player, as well.”
Honorable mention: Murray St. junior-college transfer Jacob Rhodes figures to be a mainstay in the Breds’ lineup at either catcher or designated hitter.
First Base — Tyler Beers — Murray State University
There is no clear first base candidate among the 2011 Kentucky newcomers, Beers may start for the Breds so he takes this spot almost by default. Beers batted .300 with five home runs and 25 RBI as a sophomore at Mineral Area College.
Honorable mention: UK head coach Gary Henderson said freshman infielder J. T. Riddle could see time at first base if carries his strong spring offensive performance over to the season.
Second Base — Matt Reida — University of Kentucky
Henderson hasn’t officially named a starter at second base for the Cats, but all signs point to Reida as the likely winner of that position battle. Reida may struggle with the bat early on, but as a plus defender he figures to get plenty of playing time at the position.
Honorable mention: Murray St. junior-college transfer Travis Isaak batted .420 with eight home runs and 19 doubles as a sophomore at Lincoln Trail Community College.
Shortstop — Alex Chittenden — University of Louisville
On Monday UofL head coach Dan McDonnell announced Chittenden would start at shortstop for the Cards. Chittenden batted .588 with eight home runs and 19 stolen bases as a senior in high school.
Honorable mention: Morehead St. freshman infielder Bud Morton may not start for the Eagles to begin the season, but he adds an excitement factor to the lineup the Eagles could use.
Third base — Thomas McCarthy — University of Kentucky
McCarthy comes to UK after batting over .400 for two seasons in junior-college baseball. UK head coach Gary Henderson doesn’t predict that for his third baseman this season, but Henderson said “he’s going to be able to get a hit.”
Honorable mention: EKU freshman infielder Bryan Soloman, who head coach Jason Stein called “a complete third baseman,” is projected to start for the Colonels.
Outfield — Ryan Hutchinson — Western Kentucky University
Baseball America recently ranked Hutchinson, who was an all-American at 2010 NJCAA World Series champion Iowa Western Community College, the No. 3 newcomer in the Sun Belt Conference. WKU head coach Chris Finwood expects Hutchinson to provide a middle-of-the-order power presence for the Hilltoppers this season.
Outfield — Lucas Witt — University of Kentucky
In an interview with College Baseball Daily, UK head coach Gary Henderson singled Witt out as a the freshmen outfielder who was making the best case to start in right field. Witt may not be the full-time starter to begin the season, but he figures to see plenty of playing time in 2010.
Outfield — Paul Ritzheimer — Murray State University
Ritzheimer batted .405 with three home runs and 20 RBI as a freshman at Kaskaskia College in 2010, and he should push for playing time in the Murray State outfield this season.
Honorable Mention — UK freshman infielder and outfielder Dallen Reber probably has the most power on the UK roster and will likely push for playing time in right field for the Cats.
Designated hitter — Ivan Hartle — Western Kentucky Unviersity
Junior-college trasnfer Ivan Hartle will start at second base for WKU this season and only is included at DH here to get him into the starting lineup. Hartle was named the NJCAA Division I defensive player of the year in 2010 while playing for the NJCAA World Series champion, Iowa Western Community College.
Honorable mention — UofL freshmen infielder Adam Engel will start for the Cards at designated hitter to begin the season.
Starting pitcher — Corey Littrell — University of Kentucky
Freshman left-handed pitcher Corey Littrell will be UK’s primary midweek starting pitcher to begin the season and stands to be the first option on the weekend in the event of injury or poor performance by one of UK’s top three starters. Littrell was all-state as a senior at Trinity High School and was the 43rd-round pick of the Nationals in 2010.
Starting pitcher — Justin Hageman — Western Kentucky University
WKU head coach Chris Finwood says freshman right-handed pitcher Justin Hageman, the 2010 32nd round pick of the Royals, has as much talent as any pitcher he saw on a Friday night during his time in the Southeastern Conference, but it remains to be seen what Hageman’s role will be with the Hilltoppers. He figures to begin the season as a midweek starting pitcher, but will move to the weekend rotation if he proves himself in that role.
Starting pitcher — Kyle McGrath — Eastern Kentucky University
Freshman left-handed pitcher Kyle McGrath figures to begin the season as a midweek starting pitcher for the Colonels, but you have to figure he will be given every shot to carve out a more substantial role with the team considering the Colonels’ poor pitching performance in 2010. McGrath was all-state at Butler High School.
Honorable mention — Due to the overall depth of UofL’s pitching staff, freshman right-handed pitcher Dace Kime may not start for the Cards this season but as the highest-drafted player attending a Kentucky college this season he figures to push for playing time in some role.