Offseason position battle: UK second baseman

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Chris Bisson; Photo: UK Athletics

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.

Offseason position battle: UK third baseman

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UK Athletics Wallpaper

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.

Offseason position battle: UK First Baseman

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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.

Kentuckians in the NYCBL

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We’ll continue our look at where Kentucky collegians are playing summer leauge baseball with the New York Collegiate Baseball League. Check out the list of Kentuckians below with their college and NYCBL teams:

  • RHP Kyle Williams — Morehead State University — Allegany County Nitros
  • RHP Shane Stancill — University of Cumberlands — Albany Dutchmen
  • OF/RHP Sam Kidd — University of Kentucky — Amsterdam Mohawks
  • C Luke Maile — UK — Amsterdam Mohawks
  • RHP Sean Bouthilette — UK — Amsterdam Mohawks
  • C T. J. Daugherty — UK — Mohawk Valley Diamond Dogs
  • 3B Tyler Townsend — UK —  Mohawk Valley Diamond Dogs
  • OF Jared Clarkson — University of Louisville — Oneonta Outlaws
  • OF Tyler Fisher Georgetown College — Allegany County Nitros
  • C Brian Erie — Northern Kentucky University — Elmira Pioneers
  • RHP Matt Atkins — Kentucky Wesleyan University — Geneva Red Wings