With 16 days before first pitch out in the MLB4 Tournament in Arizona, we continue our position previews with one of the easiest ones to predict who will receive the lion’s share of playing time: Second Base.
#2 Sr. 2B Harrison “Dirty Harry/Han Duo” Ray (.276/.358/.397)
With all the returning starters and senior leaders on last year’s team, it would be easy to forget that our defense did not finally begin to click until Corbs decided to end the Austin Martin at second base experiment, and install Dirty Harry as Ethan “Chili P” Paul’s double play partner.
Prior to that, Han Duo had split time with Jayson Gonzalez at the hot corner, as Corbs was trying to maximize the power potential of the lineup. For whatever reason, A-Mart struggled at second, but played lock-down defense at 3rd. Harry is a super utility type guy who can play defense anywhere (save catcher, really), and once he was given the 2nd base job, he never gave Corbs reason to make any more changes in our infield defense.
Beyond that, Ray acquitted himself just fine at the plate, and finished 5 shy of the team lead on doubles. Going (.276/.358/.397) with 18 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 38 RBI, and swiping 21 bags on 24 tries is just dandy production from the 7 spot in the lineup.
This year, however, more will be expected of the senior, and it would not shock me to see him batting higher in the lineup—possibly even in the 2 hole. In the exhibition game against Michigan 2 months back, Ray batted 3rd—the spot often reserved for the best all-around hitter. Of course, neither Austin Martin, Ty Duvall, nor Isaiah Thomas played in that game. All should be healthy come first pitch on Valentine’s Day, when the team once again faces off against their CWS Finals cohort. Will Ray, a talented AAU kid who played on the perfectly named “Chet Lemon’s Juice” squad fully break out this year at the plate? Will he step up to the challenge of batting higher in the order? Will the power ever come? These are the things to look out for early in the season.
In short, I expect Ray to lock down his job at 2nd base, but battle to keep a premium spot in the lineup.
Seeing as I fully expect Ray to keep his job at 2nd, I’ll just paste in what I wrote about Tate Kolwyck in the Shortstop Preview, as Little Man Tate will likely serve as Ray’s primary backup, and may see ABs at 2nd during midweek games.
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!
It’s Ray’s job, and I suspect he aims to keep it.