Friday, February 19, 2010

Opening Day Storylines

 

SNAKE BIT The Tigers will go into the 2010 season already in a hole. Two key players, Trent Mummey and Casey McElroy are lost and their return in unknown (Mummey at least has been rumored to return for start of SEC play). Just how key are McElroy and Mummey? Even before first pitch Friday, Auburn was deemed “slumping” by Baseball America:

The spring has gotten off to a rough start for the Tigers even before the first official pitch has been thrown. …"We're the thinnest in the middle—that's what we're working on," Auburn assistant coach Scott Foxhall said last month. "If Casey gets to it, he's catching it. He has great hands and an accurate arm." …McElroy does not have the range to play shortstop at the next level, but he's steady. Now Auburn has huge question marks at two critical up-the-middle positions … Whoever fills in at short will have to play high level early on for the Tigers to get off to a good start.

Baseball America focuses mainly on the loss of McElroy, but Mummey is just as big (if not bigger) loss. Trent had a great summer at the Cape, and his glove will be sorely missed. Before the injury, he was one of the best CF (defensively) in College Baseball, and I’m not the only one who thought so:

 

With the Division 1 season getting underway this weekend, I hope many of you will take the opportunity to catch a game, especially in these several weeks where college teams are playing baseball that counts long before the pros do. With that in mind, here are some of the best active collegiates, according to their results from 2008 and 2009.
Let's start by looking at center fielders:

Player           School            +/-  
Mummey Trent Auburn +10
McGuiggan Steve Illinois Chicago +9
Moore Jonathan Purdue +9
Malloy John Lasalle +8
Parker Jarrett Virginia +8
Holt Tyler Florida State +8
Martin Jason San Jose State +8
Heid Drew Gonzaga +7
Rowe Connor Texas +6
Johnson Addison Clemson +6


These are the leaders among players who were in center for at least 800 balls in play (about 40 games) in both 2008 and 2009. To put each fielder on the same scale, the plus/minus numbers shown are per 2000 balls in play (about 100 games).




So starting off with two solid gloves will be something Auburn will need to overcome early.



 



NEW FACES With Mummey and McElroy out, the Tigers will have to rely on some guys to step up early. JUCO Justin Fradejas is pretty much locked in to replace Mummey in CF and another JUCO guy, Creede Simpson will more than likely occupy the other OF position.



Shortstop is a different story. Initially it looked like 3B Dan Gamache could slot over to replace McElroy. Now, it looks like SS will either be freshman Jordan Neese, freshman Mitchell Self, or yet another JUCO guy in Justin Bryant.



Those are to the biggest positions where Auburn will see new faces, but not the only ones. The pitching staff will feature JUCO Cole Nelson (slotted in to start Sunday) and a host of other guys could fill in role player spots.



 



LESS HEFTY HUNTER Hunter Morris is facing a make or break year. He’s fully healthy and now a little less hefty. So much so that Coach John Palowski felt the need to reacquaint Morris with the Media:




Flanked by Hunter Morris, one of the most recognizable faces on the Auburn baseball team, Tigers head coach John Pawlowski nonetheless felt compelled to re-introduce his first baseman during last week’s preseason press conference.



That’s how much Morris transformed his body last offseason.



Morris, a preseason All-American selection by Baseball America, showed off his svelter side last week, slimmed down to 208 pounds from the 220 he was listed at last year.




Auburn fans have been waiting for Morris to regain his Freshman form and now he seems more determined to show why he passed up big bucks from the Red Sox to return to the Plains.



The Tigers take the field at 3pm Friday. The Offseason is over and its finally time to play ball:



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