Before I begin, I'd like to inform you that the VandyTigerPhD Baseball Stats article that I promised without telling him I was going to do so is in the works. How do I know this? Here's our most recent text message convo:
VTPhD: How many ABs would you say a college baseball player gets per game? 4.5?
VU'04: Team average was 3.64 last year.
VTPhD: I'll go with that.
VU'04: 3.91 for lead off (Swanson).
VTPhD: Stop showing off.
VU'04: 246 toothpicks... definitely, definitely 246 toothpicks.
VTPhD: Damn you.
VU'04: Uh oh... 15 minutes to Judge Wapner.
No matter. From that, I can only conclude one thing:
Now for the outfield preview:
#20 OF Bryan "The Aluminum Foil" Reynolds
6'2" 210lb S/R Sophomore
The Aluminum Foil came on like a house on fire last year, leading the team in hitting, RBI, AND creepy moustache growing. For his freshman campaign, all he did was go .338/.395/.480 with 24 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, and 54 RBI. More that that, he pretty much came out of nowhere for most fans, as injuries sapped him of most of his final high school season and scared the scouts away. Their loss, our gain. The Foil is a sweet swinging switch hitter with gap power and a bat that stays in the zone longer than anyone else on the team's. He's a contact hitter who almost always barrels it up. Women love him, men want to be him... all that crap.
Like Swanson, he's a USA College National teamer and owner of many preseason plaudits.
Like Swanson, I expect him to be better this year than last.
What does that mean? Bad news for the rest of the SEC. Sing it Weird Al!
The Uber-Talented One Poised to Break Out
#8 OF Rhett "The Natural" Wiseman
6'1" 205lb L/R Junior
I readily admit my man-crush on The Natural's left-handed stroke. It's compact, it's powerful, it's got that pretty slight uppercut that all the great lefties have - from Ken Griffey, Jr., to Chase Utley, to a young Barry Bonds (when he was swiping 40 bases and his head could still fit into a one size fits all hat). Sure, some of the not so great lefties have that swing, too, like Sean Green (who was pretty good for a few years) and Travis Lee (who was hot garbage), but listen... shut up a minute. Rhett has the size, speed, and quick hands to be one of the best hitters in college ball. He's shown flashes the past two years, but this year, what I want is consistency. I want him to play his way into one of the top 5 spots in the order. He's got the talent to hit 3rd. Seriously. He just has to... you know... prove it. Minor details.
Last year, he hit a respectable .277/.343/.387, but if he can cut out the strikeouts and see the off-speed stuff better, it's not crazy to project a .300/380/.410 season from The Natural. He swiped 12/17 bags, and I'd like that number to be closer to 20 this year. Again, he's got the talent to put together a .315/.425/.500 year. That's his ceiling (and if Jobu likes the rum I just bought him, he will hit that ceiling). I think his floor's pretty damn good, too. I think it all comes together for Rhett this year and he plays his way into top 3 round contention in the '15 MLB draft. Seriously.
No, that's not his ceiling. This is his ceiling.
The Young Burner
#3 OF Jeren Kendall
5'11" 180lbs L/R Freshman
When we lost Toussaint, Sheffield, Diaz, and whomever else to the draft last year, the one guy I was praying wouldn't sign was the lefty speedster from Holmen, Wisconsin. You want top of the order speed? Check. Can he play center field? Right away. Can he handle SEC pitching? Not so fast, my friend...
Just like with Will "Youth Hockey" Toffey manning the hot corner, I'm going to have to see him play a few games before I can come up with even a preliminary scouting report. However, all reports indicate he's a top shelf athlete with speed to burn. If he can play a solid CF, get on base at about a .400 clip, and swipe enough to put the fear of God into opposing pitchers, I'm happy. The hit tool will develop, but you'd have to be insane to predict a Bryan Reynolds-esque freshman campaign from the fleet-footed Kendall.
Still, this was the one prospect I was praying didn't sign... and that has to mean something.
Other Candidates for OF Playing Time:
Kyle Smith - RS JR
Nolan Rogers - SO
Ro Coleman - SO
Drake Parker - RS FR