With 20 days to go before the Diamond Dores begin their title defense against none other than 2019 CWS runner-up Michigan, we might as well begin with the position that is most in flux: shortstop.
#10 Sr. SS Ethan “Chili P” Paul (.315/.386/.497)
In 2019, there were three constants: death, taxes, and Ethan Paul as your starting shortstop. The senior leader started all 71 games of 2019 at the 6, closing the year batting in the 3-hole. While his defense wasn’t on the all-world level of glovesmanship of the man who preceded him—Connor Kaiser—Chili P was steady as he goes at the most important defensive spot on the diamond, and a clear upgrade offensively. In short, our march to Omaha officially began when Chili P and human fire hydrant Stephen Scott eschewed MLB bonus money and signed up for one more go around at The Hawk. Paul led the team in RBI, and if we could keep him around forever Josh Henderson-style, we surely would. Good luck battling your way to the Show in the Pirates’ system, Chili P.
The Young Gun
#9 Fr. SS Carter “Young Gun” Young (N/A)
Freshman Carter Young is the presumptive starting SS, as he got the nod in the most recent exhibition game vs. Michigan and in the Black and Gold Series. Known more for his glove than his bat at this point, expect Young to open the season batting in the 9th slot. Anything north of a (.250/.350/.350) slash line is gravy. Think freshman year Connor Kaiser at the plate (.261/.362/.311), and hopefully that will allow you to temper your expectations of a 3 hole run producer like Chili P dropping out of the sky.
The Rising Sophomore
#6 So. IF “Little Man” Tate Kolwyck (.667/.750/1.333)
Kolwyck absolutely raked in limited action in 2019. Emphasis on limited. With Martin, Ray, and Paul ahead of him, there weren’t exactly a lot of opportunities for Tate at the plate or in the field as a freshman. In fact, he only appeared in 4 games in 2019, racking up a paltry 3 ABs. Of course, two of those three ABs resulted in hits—both doubles.
Take all that with a pretty hefty grain of salt, of course, as Little Man Tate went a combined 0-6 in fall exhibition games against Oklahoma State and Michigan, respectively.
Or don’t. I mean, I, for one, prefer thinking there’s a potential .667 doubles hitter ready to be injected into our lineup than to fixate on the exhibition game results. The man’s a slugging machine, con sarn it!
#VandyBoys Day 1 scrimmage highlights:— Max Herz (@MaxHerzTalks) January 25, 2020
-Jake Eder (3 IP) & Mason Hickman (2 IP) started and pitched well in short outings
-Freshman OF Troy LaNeve had extra base hits in both ABs, homer to RCF off Hickman and an RBI double to RF corner
-Tate Kolwyck line drive HR over the monster
The Senior Swap
#2 Sr. Harrison “Dirty Harry” Ray (.276/.358/.397)
Remember, one year ago today, we had a similar gaping hole at SS, and a similar lock at 2B. Corbs opted to move Paul from 4 to 6, and I’d say the move worked out pretty well for us. Dansby Swanson made a similar move, of course, in his junior year. Similarly, senior IF Harrison Ray seems like a lock to stay at 2B, but he did man short for one side of the Black and Gold Series. I think Young’s superior glove might keep Ray at 2nd, but hey, this has happened before.
The Conclusion: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Ah hell, if you’re going to make me choose, I choose The Young Gun. However, this position will only be rented early in the season, and if he makes rookie mistakes in the field, or is a liability at the plate, there are plenty of players looking to take his spot.