Pitching and defense have been the foundation of MSU’s resurgence under John Cohen. Once again the Bulldogs have what looks to be a solid fielding group, although a few key pieces will have to be replaced from last year.
This will be the most significant defensive change from 2013. None of these guys saw live action last year:
- Zach Randolph (redshirt juco transfer)
- Daniel Garner (redshirt freshman)
- Cody Walker (juco trasnfer)
- Gavin Collins (true freshman
Nick Ammarati and Mitch Slauter did a tremendous job handing Mississippi State’s incredible pitching staff over the past two years. The race to become the go-to catcher will likely be determined by their defensive capabilities…and it’s a race too close for anyone on the outside to call.
Randolph and Garner appear to be the best offensive options, while Walker and Collins appear to be better defensively. This is a solid group of back-stops, and one or two of them may see time as a DH in order to get their bat in the lineup. The good news is there are four options, just finding one the pitchers feel comfortable with is the key.
Wes Rea has this on lock-down. He is the leader of the team and outside of injury he should be the starting first baseman in almost every game. He provides a huge target for infielders to throw to, and is one of the best defensive first baseman you’ll find in college baseball. Assuming Dylan Ingram and Brent Rooker are slated to redshirt, Alex Detz and Reid Humphreys will likely be Rea’s backup (in case of emergency).
Brett Pirtle repeats as the starting second baseman. His defense is superb, and was one of the main reasons Cohen stuck with him early in the year last spring. He had a .967 fielding percentage and was in on 44 double plays. Kyle Hann, a solid fielder backs him up.
The job is between Alex Detz or Reid Humphreys. The question is really can Humphreys find his way into the lineup because Detz will be there either at 3B or DH. Alex doesn’t have great range but he is almost automatic when anything is hit in his direction. If Humphreys is able to progress offensively as expected he may be playing in the field due to his range, something Coach Cohen liked about Sam Frost last year, and his above average arm.
There are big shoes to fill here: Adam Frazier. Before Frazier took over as full time shortstop MSU only turned 40 double plays in 2011. In 2012 they turned 71 and in 2013 there were 80 double plays, 63 of them involving Frazier. While his impact on the middle infield is undeniable, MSU should be in excellent shape with either Matthew Britton or Seth Heck. Cohen has described Britton as one of the SEC’s best defenders and Heck won a gold glove in junior college.
There will be lots of speed in LF this year with Jake Vickerson and Jacob Robson. Both should be able to track down most anything and have adequate arms.
C.T. Bradford has had CF nailed down since his freshman year in 2011. His speed and jump on the ball makes him one of the best defenders on the team, plus he has an excellent throwing arm. Bradford led the team with a .992 fielding percentage in 2013. Either Vickerson or Robson could be be candidates to take over in CF when he pitches, but look for him to start nearly every game he is healthy as he has in the past.
Demarcus Henderson looks to make the switch from LF to RF this year. Hunter Renfroe was obviously a big time weapon in RF last year racking up eight outfield assists as well as many who chose not to run against him. Henderson’s arm isn’t quite as good but he is a solid defender and has good speed. Backing him up will be Cody Brown and Derrick Armstrong who are similar in their defensive prowess.
C, SS and RF lose quality defenders, but I think MSU will be able to equal the 2013 level at both catcher and shortstop. In right, it will just be really hard to compete with what Renfroe provided but Henderson and Co. won’t hurt us.