We will begin our second lap in the “Offseason position battle” series with a look at the vacant University of Kentucky third base position:
The departed — This season was supposed to be the year that Colorado native Andy Burns, arguably the highest ranked high school position player to ever sign with Kentucky, rode his immense talent to an early MLB draft selection. Burns batted .279 with 18 home runs and 63 RBI over two seasons at UK before deciding to transfer to Arizona following the 2010 season. The only other Cat to appear at third base during the 2010 season was since departed senior utility man Gunner Glad.
Returning candidates — The only returning infielders who didn’t start in 2010 on the roster are redshirt senior Neiko Johnson and redshirt freshman Tyler Townsend. Johnson batted just .171 in 33 games as a junior but is better suited for second base, where he filled in for an injured Chris Bisson in 2010. Townsend redshirted during the 2010 season.
Newcomers to watch — Freshman infielder Dallen Reber belted a three-run home run in game two of the Fall World Series. In an interview with College Baseball Daily head coach Gary Henderson listed freshman infielders Paul McConkey, J. T. Riddle and Matt Reida as standouts in fall camp. Henderson noted Reida was the most advanced defensive infielder of the group, though he probably profiles as a second baseman or shortstop. Junior college transfer Thomas McCarthy slugged two home runs and a double during game one of the Fall World Series. McCarthy batted .415 with three home runs and 36 RBI in 36 games for Feather River College in 2010.
Wildcard — We listed UK redshirt freshman football quarterback Ryan Mossakowski as the wildcard in UK’s first base race after The Cat’s Pause reported he would play baseball this spring, but his quarterback’s arm could also fit at third base. Mossakowski is unlikely to contribute early in the 2011 season after missing two years following shoulder surgery in high school, but could fit in later in the season as wide receiver Brian Adams did in the outfield at the end of the 2010 season.
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.
Latest links from around Kentucky baseball including a potential big addition for the UK baseball team:
Matt May of The Cat’s Pause reports University of Kentucky quarterback Ryan Mossakowski will play baseball this spring. Mossakowski was a highly touted prep baseball player in Texas before having shoulder surgery as a senior.
Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports the Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals and a mystery team continue to pursue former UK right-handed pitcher Brandon Webb. Crasnick notes the Cubs have slowed in their pursuit of Webb.
Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reports the Phillies may wait to trade former UK right-handed pitcher Joe Blanton until free agent Carl Pavano signs with a new team.
Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports the Phillies should have no problem trading Blanton in a thin pitching market.
The Lexington Legends have announced one person could win season tickets if they correctly guess the new name of the team’s ballpark.