Offseason position battle: UK catcher

College Baseball

Marcus Nidiffer, center; Photo: UK Athletics

In the fifth University of Kentucky post in the “offseason position battle” series we will look at the vacant catcher position.

The departed — Catcher Marcus Nidiffer, a 2010 senior, started 43 of UK’s 56 games in 2010, batting .320 with 10 home runs, 35 RBI, 32 runs scored and a .571 slugging percentage. In his final home at-bat Nidiffer launched a grand slam to send UK to a must-have victory over LSU. Nidiffer committed just two errors on the season, though opposing base runners were successful in 79.5 percent of stolen base attempts when he was catching. Nidiffer signed a free-agent contract with the Houston Astros after not being selected in the 2010 draft and was named an Astros organizational all-star after slugging 14 home runs in his first 69 professional games. Nidiffer will likely begin 2011 with the Lexington Legends.

Returning candidates — Sophomore Luke Maile looks to take Nidiffer’s spot not only as UK’s primary catcher but also as the team’s vocal leader. In 26 games as a freshman Maile was 7-35 with three home runs, six RBI and six runs scored. He threw out just two of the ten base runners who tried to steal against him last season. Maile was the 43rd round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2009…Junior catcher Michael Williams will likely split time with Maile at catcher and first base after batting .241 with four doubles, six RBI and three runs scored in 2010. Williams was named an all-star in the New England Collegiate Baseball League this summer and was ranked the No. 4 prospect in the league by Baseball America…Redshirt junior catcher T. J. Daugherty appeared in three games for UK in 2010.

Newcomers to watch — Maile and Williams all but have the top two catching positions on the UK depth chart locked up, but the Cats did add two new catchers to the roster this season. Freshman Steven Hoagland will likely serve as a bullpen catcher for the Cats, while freshman Thomas Bernal will be used primarily as an infielder. Bernal is listed as an infielder/catcher on the roster, giving UK head coach Gary Henderson some useful late-inning flexibility.

Wildcard — Freshman catcher Micheal Thomas redshirted during the 2010 season but started 21 games for the Lexington Hustlers this summer. Thomas struggled with the bat during his time with the Hustlers, going just 14-76, so his primary role for UK in 2011 will likely be a bullpen catcher and possible defensive replacement.

Offseason position battle: UK First Baseman

College Baseball

Braden Kapteyn; Photo: UK Athletics

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.

Lexington Hustlers Roster

College Baseball

In the earlier links post I directed you to Lexington Hustlers General Manager Adam Revelette’s post on Examiner.com revealing the 2010 Hustlers’ roster, but I thought I’d also post it here. Players are listed with their last college and high school.

Pitchers

  • Koby Hearn — Union — Bourbon Co. HS
  • Todd Duff — Alice Lloyd — Breathitt Co. HS
  • Max Saxman — Mount Aloysius — Chestnut Ridge HS (Penn.)
  • Jon Wes Adams — Asbury — Lafayette
  • Gardner Adams — Asbury — Lafayette
  • Shane Crain — Indiana St. — LCA
  • Austin Johnson — Lincoln Memorial — LCA
  • K. C. Massie — Georgetown College — Lexington Catholic
  • Wade Bush — Indiana State — North Vigo HS (Ind.)
  • Richard Kestner — Bluefield State — Ripley HS (W.V.)
  • Tanner Perkins — Western Kentucky University — Rockcastle Co. HS
  • Alex Blodgett — University of Louisville* — Tates Creek HS
  • Andy Heston — Northern Kentucky University — West Jessamine HS

Catchers

  • Micheal Thomas — University of Kentucky — Elizabethtown HS
  • Michael Schornik — Georgetown College — Lexington Catholic
  • Dain McNabb — Middle Tennessee — Loudon HS (Tenn.)

Infielders

  • Tyler Oliver — 1B — Wabash Valley — LCA
  • Ken Riley — 1B — Transylvania — Lexington Catholic
  • Ben Hartley — 2B — Union — LCA
  • Travis Redmon — 2B — Morehead State University — Lexington Catholic
  • Casey Dishman — 3B — Morehead State University — Saline HS (Mich.)
  • Jordan Queen — SS — Murray State University — Western Hills HS (Ky.)

Outfielders

  • Dalton Henzman — Middle Tennessee — LCA
  • Justin Riddell — Cincinnati — Lexington Catholic
  • Taylor Russell — Northern Kentucky University — Loveland HS (Ohio)
  • Thomas Tolliver — Transylvania — Raceland HS

* — Blodgett transfered from UofL but hasn’t committed to a new school yet.

You can see the roster in spreadsheet form here.