I’m getting a better feel for who will play where in on the field next season. Here is my stab at the starting lineup after talking with some coaches and players.
C - Grant Koch - He is easily the top player there. He has some shown some power this fall and he is much better defensively. I could actually see him being a three-hole hitter this year.
1B - Jordan McFarland or Jared Gates - This is a toss up. Gates had a strong JUCO season last year, so he has some experience. McFarland was a big-time recruit who has adjusted well. There is a chance Chad Spanberger could get some time here because of his bat.
2B - Carson Shaddy - His bat is probably going to win him this job as much as anything. Jaxon Williams is the understudy here. He has great athleticism, but is error prone.
3B - Hunter Wilson or Matt Burch - I would probably give the upper-hand to Wilson, a transfer from Stephen F. Austin. He actually started a game at Baum two years ago.
SS - Jax Biggers - He has separated himself from Cody Scroggins. Biggers is another JUCO guy. Arkansas beat out Arizona State and Auburn during the late signing period.
LF - Luke Bonfield - He is the team’s best hitter and a serviceable outfielder. Barring injury, he is going to start every day.
CF - Dominic Fletcher or Eric Cole - It’s not often you see a freshman start in center field, but Fletcher probably will. His defense is top shelf and has shown some flashes of being a pretty good hitter. He has a lot of speed. Like McFarland, he was a top recruit.
RF - Eric Cole or Chad Spanberger - Cole may be the most improved player on the team. If he doesn’t start in center, he’ll probably be in right. He has added about 20 pounds since last season and is hitting the ball real well; good candidate to leadoff. He had a nice opposite field hit today.
DH - Chad Spanberger or Evan Lee - Spanberger is hitting the ball much better, including off-speed pitches. Lee is impressive. He is probably going to be the Hogs’ best two-way player since Brett Eibner. He has power at the plate and is a quality left-handed arm out of the bullpen. I think Alex Gosser has improved quite a bit as a hitter, too, so he may get some playing time here.
Pitcher - Blaine Knight, Isaiah Campbell and TBD - Knight and Campbell are clearly frontline pitchers. My guess is Knight is the opening day starter. After them, it looks like it’s going to be a competition between Trevor Stephan, Dominic Taccolini and Keaton McKinney. In my opinion, McKinney is the real wild card. He was great as a freshman, struggled last year and is looking better as the fall goes along. I would think his experience may win him the Sunday job. Taccolini is throwing 94 now and Stephan throws 97, so both could be back-end pitchers.
It looks to me like Barrett Loseke is a bullpen guy now. I also like Anthony Dahl as a reliever. He throws hard and his delivery looks just like Zach Jackson. I think Lucas Krull, a freshman left-hander, could be a serviceable arm out of the bullpen this year. I think he can make some money for himself in a few years. He’s a lefty who can throw 95, and at 6-foot-7 has the frame to throw even harder by the time the next draft comes around for him. He was a high draft prospect this year, but wanted too much money. One other arm to note out of the bullpen is Cannon Chadwick. He had a great fall last year, but was plagued by injuries in the spring. I could see him being a setup guy.