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Cincinnati Baseball Preview: Middle Infield

Double-team partners Kyle Mottice and Manny Rodriguez return but the depth behind them is green.

Joseph Fuqua II/

With just a few weeks remaining until baseball season gets underway, its time we revisit Ty Neal and the Cincinnati Bearcats baseball team. We'll take a look at each positional group as well UC's competition in the American Athletic Conference over the next two weeks before the Bearcats begin the season with a three-game series at Northwestern State.

We'll get things started with the middle infield, which features the return of double-play partners Kyle Mottice and Manny Rodriguez.

Mottice spent the majority of his time at second base and at the top of the lineup for the Bearcats in 2016. He is also capable of playing shortstop, but second base is his natural position and a position he plays well. Mottice ranked second on the team in batting average (.278) last season, smacking 57 hits and scoring 28 runs along the way. Not really a power threat, Mottice had only eight extra bases hits and his on-base percentage was not ideal for a leadoff hitter (.329). However, he was a decent stolen base threat, snagging 13 bags on 21 attempts.

As far as his fielding goes, there wasn't a ton to complain about. With a .980 field percentage and only five errors, he was solid enough up the middle. Interestingly enough he also led the team in assists (155) and ranked second in the entire conference in the category. He also played a hand in 37 double plays, which led the American Athletic Conference.

A 5'10" junior from Brooklyn, Rodriguez played shortstop in all 51 games he played for the Bearcats as a sophomore. His batting average dipped a bit from his freshman campaign, as he hit just .219 last season compared to a .223 success rate the year before. Like Mattice, he is not one to boast of an inflated slugging percentage, with only 12 extra base hits on the season, although he did rank second in the team in doubles (nine) behind Connor McVey

Rodriguez obviously plays a premium defensive position manning shortstop and he did well enough there, posting a fielding percentage of .979, but he did have more errors than anyone else on the team (11). Rodriguez' gaffs didn't mean he didn't work well with Mottice, however, as Rodriguez finished fourth in the AAC in double plays in 2016 (35).

The depth behind Mottice and Rodriguez is very young. Freshman Luke Turino, a left-handed hitting freshman from Toronto can play multiple positions., but it is fellow freshmen Jace Mercer and Eric Santiago that will be pushing for playing time up the middle. Mercer is a likely backup to Mercer who has impressive glove skills and a bat that produced a .471 batting average in his senior year of high school.

If Mercer is the guy behind Mottice then Santiago is the next in line at short. The 6'1", 170-pound freshman was a Rawlings Perfect Game Preseason All-American in 2016 and is fresh off a senior campaign at Notre Dame Green Pond in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where he hit .521.