Baseball Preview: Part 2-of-5 -- Outfield
Feb. 16, 2009
This Kentucky baseball outfield preview is part two of a five part series that UKathletics.com and Cat Scratches will run before Kentucky's season opener Friday against Coastal Carolina. Tuesday we will look at the catchers, Wednesday the starting pitchers and wrap things up with the relievers on Thursday. Cat Scratches, the official blog of UK Athletics, will start its live chat segment with the baseball team Monday, featuring infielders Chris Wade and Chris McClendon starting at 2 p.m.
2009 Kentucky Baseball Outfield Preview
A look at the 2009 roster shows that the Wildcats will be without two first-team All-Americans - Cowgill and Sawyer Carroll - and a bevy of veteran pitchers. However, UK, fresh off a season that saw the Wildcats lead the conference in ERA and rank second in fielding percentage, will be anchored by a potentially dominant pitching staff and an impressive defensive club.
In the outfield, the two All-American's are gone, with Keenan Wiley the lone returning starter for the Wildcats. The center fielder has been a fixture in the lineup since cracking the rotation as a redshirt freshman. Considered one of the best defensive outfielders in the SEC, Wiley has hit .327 in both of his first two seasons, primarily hitting first or ninth in the order. A speedy left-handed hitter, Wiley totaled 13 doubles, two triples, two homers and 38 RBI last year, before earning Cape Cod League All-Star honors. Wiley also hit a walk-off home run against Louisville last year, sending a ball clear over the high right field wall at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
"Keenan is going to be as good as anybody's center fielder, he is as good a defensive center fielder as there is," Henderson said.
Competing for the corner outfield posts will be a host of players, with returners Troy Frazier and Bryan Rose expected to provide some experience. Frazier functioned as UK's extra right-handed bat in 2008 and hit .256 with five doubles, three homers and 26 RBI, while playing excellent defense, typically in right field. Last year, Frazier played in 46 games for the Wildcats starting 30. Frazier also showed he has a big bat hitting a home run in the NCAA Regional win at Michigan.
Rose had some breakout moments as a redshirt freshman in 2008, including a two-homer game at state rival Louisville, a home run in his first collegiate at bat, and a 4-for-5 outing against SEC Tournament Champion LSU which included a homer and a double. Rose played in 46 games for Kentucky starting 20 times. He hit .290 on the season with seven doubles, two triples, four homers and 21 RBI.
"The other spots at left and right are open and at this point, we are really pleased that we have some good candidates," Henderson said. "Troy Frazier, Bryan Rose and Brock Wright have the experience, but Chad Wright, Cory Farris and Navarro Hall are all going to push for playing time."
Freshmen Navarro Hall, Cory Farris and Chad Wright will all have an immediate impact, with each bringing different skill sets to the outfield. Hall, an athletic 6-foot-1, left-handed hitter, is considered to be a defensive weapon in center field after redshirting in 2008.
Farris, a high school All-American from Florence, Ky., is a power threat as well as a good athlete. As a senior, Farris hit .469 with 42 runs, nine doubles, nine homers and 33 RBI. Chad Wright, brother of junior outfielder Brock Wright, had a stellar fall, showcasing an ability to step in and have an immediate impact. As a senior in high school, the two-time first team All-State selection hit .418 with 51 runs, 15 doubles, five homers and 34 RBI.
Outfield depth could also come from several other players on UK's roster. Gunner Glad, the versatile six-foot junior could compete for one of the corner-outfield spots. Glad was one of the top junior college recruits in the country, setting school records for home runs in a career and season during his time in two years.
"The positives of having such good competition for starting jobs are obvious - you have to show up every day and it creates a sense of urgency within the group," Henderson said. "We have several jobs open and that creates a very positive, healthy environment."