Arkansas "All Decade" team (2010-2019)

[color=#0000FF]Off the top, I’m going to give credit to “ucahogfan” on “another board” for this idea. In fact, I’ve used much of his post here, but edited to reflect my choices - which sometime differ from his.

To look over and mull one’s selection among the many choices is to confirm just how solid a program DVH has built during his time in Fayetteville. There are no “weak” spots on this squad. In fact, you could make up a second team of those not selected, and field a very strong team.

Your ideas/thoughts welcomed:
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Some parameters for the selections below:

  • Selected for what they did as Razorbacks, not pro ball
  • Select 8 position players and a DH
  • 5 starting pitchers, 3 relief pitchers and 2 others
  • Best team
  • Most surprising team
  • Best assistant

Here are my selections:

Catcher - James McCann (2010 - 2011) - Currently having his best season in the bigs, he was a key piece of both the 2010 and 2011 teams. Was not only an elite defender, but was a threat at the plate as well - who can forget the walk-off HR against LSU on National Television? Plus, it would be hard to find a better guy.

Other Notables - Casey Opitz (2018 - 2019), Grant Koch (2016 - 2018)

First Baseman - Chad Spanberger (2015 - 2017) - Obviously picking him mainly because of his huge season in 2017 when he had a week for the ages. We always knew the power potential was there, but he finally lived up to it. Very close between Chad and Ficociello - who played during the “dead bat/ball” era, so hard to compare offensively. Fic was excellent defensively.

Other Notables - Andy Wilkins (2010), Dominic Ficociello (2011 - 2013), Trevor Ezell (2019)

Second Baseman - This is a tough call, because there are several good choices and not one of them stands clearly above the rest. But I’ll go with Carson Shaddy (2015-2018) based on his 4 years (vs. 3 for the others) and intangibles. He just did it over a longer period than the others (Kenley had the best junior season, but was a non-factor prior to that).

Other Notables - Brian Anderson (2012-2014), Jack Kenley (2017 - 2019)

Short Stop - Jax Biggers (2017 - 2018) - One of the more successful JUCO transfers we have had in the last few years. Had a great 2017 before struggling in 2018 (after breaking his finger badly while attempting a bunt).

Other Notables - Matt Reynolds (2010 - 2012), Michael Bernal (2014 - 2016), Casey Martin (2018-2019)

Third Base - Zack Cox (2010) - He hit .429 in 2010. Never really did well in pro ball, but dominated as a collegian.

Other Notables - Bobby Wernes, (2015-2016), Jared Gates (2017-2018)

Outfield - Andrew Benintendi (2014 - 2015) - Golden Spikes winner. No-brainer.

Outfield - Dominic Fletcher (2017 - 2019) - Not many Hogs have the career he had. Would argue his career at Arkansas was as good as any we have seen this decade. Consistent average and power threat at the plate, and the best defensive outfielder we’ve had this decade.

Outfield - Heston Kjerstad (2018 - 2019) - SEC Freshman of the Year. Freshman All-American. Hit at least .325 each year with double digit HRs, double digit 2Bs, and more than 50 RBIs. Not a great outfielder defensively, but has a plus arm.

Other Notables - Brett Eibner (2010), Collin Kuhn (2010 - 2011), Joe Serrano (2012 - 2015), Tyler Spoon (2013 - 2015), Eric Cole (2016 - 2018)

Designated Hitter - This is where I’d go off-script a little and select Trevor Ezell. Though he usually played first base, he certainly could be a DH. Goodheart has a higher average, but Ezell is a switch hitter, with power and an excellent base-running record.

Other Notables - Matt Goodheart (2019), Luke Bonfield (2015-2018)

Starting Pitcher 1 - Blaine Knight (2016 - 2018) - An undefeated record (although we lost a couple of his starts) in a season that ends in the CWS Championship series puts you at the head of this list. Won head-to-head match-ups against every other significant “Friday Night Starter” in the SEC in 2018.

Starting Pitcher 2 - Isaiah Campbell (2016 - 2019) - He might have had the best season by a starting pitcher this decade when you consider the change in offense. 2.13 ERA in 2019. Also made “Zay Day” the best day of the week

Starting Pitcher 3 - Drew Smyly (2010) - He had a 2.80 ERA when the bats were still “hot”.

Starting Pitcher 4 - Ryne Stanek (2011 - 2013) - Consistently got better each year on campus and was a monster in 2013.

Starting Pitcher 5 - Trey Killian (2013 - 2015) - He struggled a lot in 2015, but was our Friday night guy in 2014 which had two other elite weekend pitchers in Jalen Beeks and Chris Oliver.

Other Notables - Randall Fant (2010 - 2013), Jalen Beeks (2013 - 2014), Chris Oliver (2012 - 2014), Keaton McKinney (2015 - 2018), Trevor Stephan (2017)

Relief Pitcher 1 - Colby Suggs (2011 - 2013) - Big time arm. Was a beast out of the pen.

Relief Pitcher 2 - Zach Jackson (2014 - 2016) - Another big time arm. His curve was just filthy. Got wild sometimes, but when he was “on”, no one could touch him.

Relief Pitcher 3/Closer - Matt Cronin (2017 - 2019) - He continues our trend of a big time arm at the back end of the pen. Hopefully someone steps up to get slapped moving forward.

Other Notables - Jake Reindl (2016 - 2018), Barrett Loseke (2016 - 2018), Kevin Kopps (2016 - 2019), Nolan Sanburn (2011 - 2012), Trent Daniel (2011 - 2013), Jacob Stone (2013 - 2014)

Other Pitcher 1 - DJ Baxendale (2010 - 2012) - Was the closer in 2010 before being a weekend starter in 2011 and 2012. Had a great career.

Other Pitcher 2 - Barrett Astin (2011 - 2013) - Was a reliever in 2011 (belief he picked up a win and a save on the same day against Ole Miss), the closer in 2012 and a weekend starter in 2013.

Other Notables - Brandon Moore (2011 - 2013), Dominic Taccolini (2014 - 2017)

Best Team - 2018/2019 (flip a coin)

Most Surprising Team - 2016 (not for the right reasons!)

Assistant Coach of the Decade - Tony Vitello

C: James McCann–Casey Opitz
1B: Andy Wilkins–Dominic Ficociello
2B: Brian Anderson–Carson Shaddy
3B: Zack Cox–Bobby Wernes
SS: Casey Martin–Matt Reynolds
OF: Andrew Benintendi–Dominic Fletcher
OF: Brett Eibner–Matt Vinson
OF: Heston Kjerstad–Eric Cole
DH: Chad Spanberger–Luke Bonfield
SP: Isaiah Campbell
SP: Ryne Stanek
SP: Blaine Knight
SP: Drew Smyly
SP: Trey Killian
RP: Matt Cronin
RP - Zach Jackson
RP: Nolan Sanburn
RP: Colby Suggs
RP: Barrett Astin
Best Team - 2018 (runner-up: 2012)
Surprise - 2019 because of the way the previous season ended and the roster turnover
Assistant - Wes Johnson because of the way he revamped pitching

Surprised no one else wants to “play” . . . Clay? Dudley? Marty?

Y’all have fine lists, but I think Nick Schmidt and Baxendale were overlooked.

Baxendale could easily be included, but Schmidt doesn’t qualify. He played from 2005-07.

Look again - I have Baxendale on my team.

Oh, okay. I thought it was the All DVH team.

FYI, I’ve been gone since June 29. So I am just now seeing this. Fun idea and so I give a thumbs up.

I like a lot of what I see here. You can make a strong case for all of these lists. Very good by everyone.

Just to play devil’s advocate, I’d go with Todd Butler as the assistant. Some of his signees didn’t arrive until after he left, like Andrew Benintendi and Chad Spanberger. He was involved in signing hitters and pitchers for much of his time.

Dave Jorn didn’t go on the road quite like Wes Johnson and Matt Hobbs do now. So Todd was signing those pitchers that re-wrote the record books when the bats went cold. Jorn did cross check them, as did DVH. Some blame Todd for hitting shortcomings, but it was a head coaching decision to load up on pitching when there just was no way to hit the ball out of the park. So he did. Just have to remember the bats and balls during part of that time. Horrible time for college baseball hitting coaches.

As far as comparing Butler to Vitello, I’d say Tony was more of a recruiter than a technician in the cage. Butler was the combination of teacher, motivator and recruiter. It’s ironic that he’s at Missouri now, where Tony used to be.

But, having said that, I don’t argue much with Matt’s pick of Wes Johnson. There is a reason the Twins hired him and they are doing well. I love what Wes does in all areas, including recruiting.

Here’s the deal, Dave Van Horn has hired great assistants. You can make a case for all of them. That’s a big part of his magic. But, he’s also hands on in how the games are run as far as the offense. It’s his offense. So when you look at hitting coaches, I don’t think you can separate them much from Dave. Every team looks much like a Van Horn offensive team. They are coached similar, no matter the hitting coach. I think each new assistant has his own drills, but the management of the game is usually Van Horn.

I don’t argue with the selections on the players. I have my favorites like McCann, Keuchel, Benintendi, Cox, Spanberger, Wernes that take the top spots. I would probably put Benintendi in left field and Fletcher in center just to have them both on the field, but both were center fielders. I don’t have a strong feeling on the middle infielders. Biggers was much better in his first season than his second. That first season was amazing, but he didn’t hit as well for most of his second season and didn’t seem to be as good in the field. Shaddy had one amazing year at second. Until then, he was just a decent hitter. It all changed his senior season, but I kind of like Kenley better as the all-around player (hitter and fielder).

Just rethinking all of this: Dominic Ficociello was the best of all of the first basemen, but had periods of slump at the plate. But he was really good around the bag. Wilkins was more consistent over three years as a power hitter. But Spanberger’s breakout year may trump all of the above.

Maybe we need something for the best base runner. To me, that was not close: Andrew Benintendi. That wasn’t just stealing, but first to third and second to home. No one was close.