Despite the layer of snow and ice that encases the Pacific Northwest, opening day for the Husky baseball club is less than a month away. I thought it would be interesting to look at the individual position battles for the Huskies this year and what the starting lineup will look like when they take the field for the first time against San Diego State on February 17th. In this article, I will only analyze the catching position as well as the infield.
Let’s start behind the plate. There are six catchers on the Husky roster. Three are returning starters while the remaining three are freshmen. Last year, these three returning starters, sophomore Ryan Wiggins, junior Chase Anselment, and senior B.K. Santy, all found themselves in the starting lineup on a consistent basis by several different methods. These three will probably have a monopoly on the position again this year.
Santy got a majority of the starts behind the dish but struggled to put up power numbers at the plate. On the other hand, Wiggins got a majority of his starts at the DH position while Anselment, who was on the roster as a catcher, started on a regular basis in Right Field. However, with an offseason surge of depth at the outfield position, it will be tougher to fit a third catcher into the lineup as an outfielder and the DH spot may not always be open for a catcher either.
The question is, who is the odd man out? Santy struggled with power production but threw out the fifth most base runners in the PAC-10 last year which makes him valuable defensively. Wiggins started less than 10 games behind the plate but was towards the top in most offensive categories for the team. Anselment had a phenomenal year at the plate as a freshman, but his numbers dropped off significantly last season, so I believe that his playing time will depend on which version of Chase Anselment we will see this year. I don’t expect that all three of these catchers will be starting on an every-day basis like last year, so it will be interesting to see who comes out of the offseason on top.
Unlike the catching position, the Husky infield has hardly any experience. Only two infielders from last year return to the Huskies this year: juniors Jacob Lamb and Ty Afenir.For the past two years, Lamb has been a top contributor at the plate for the Dawgs and will find a way into the lineup whether he is at third base, shortstop, or second base. Afenir started all of his 46 games last year at shortstop, and although he hit a low .235, he maintained an excellent .969 fielding percentage making him a defensive commodity.
After these two, there remain two infield positions to be filled by freshmen. Newcomer Trevor Mitsui is the frontrunner to take over at first base. Mitsui stands 6’5” and was named the Gatorade State Player of the Year in Washington last year. This freshman was also a twelfth round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Rays but chose to attend the Udub instead. However, don’t sleep on California recruit Branden Berry who showed signs of great power last fall by hitting three homeruns in three inter-squad games. If he continues to hit at that pace, he will force his way into the lineup weather it is at first base, dh, or somewhere else.
The last infield position could go in a number of different directions, but I think that Erik Forgione is an early frontrunner for the spot. A thirty third round MLB draft pick, Forgione may fit in well at second base considering that his 6’1” 166 pound frame is a bit undersized for the left side of the infield. This arrangement would move Lamb to third base where he started 19 games last season. Robert Pehl, who played alongside Forgione in high school, and highly ranked Idaho native Andrew Ely may also see some time on the field.
In my next article, I will finish the review of position battles in the Husky baseball program by analyzing the outfield and pitching staff for the upcoming season.