It’s time for part two of our series taking a look at the upcoming baseball season for the Cincinnati Bearcats. Today we’ll be spending some time with the guys that man the right corner of the infield AKA first base.
So long Ryan Noda and your glorious home runs. As the primary first baseman for the Bearcats last season, Noda had 23 extra-base hits, including nine dingers, while slashing.236/.388/.478. Losing his bat in the middle of the lineup will make for some tough sledding for a team that didn’t have a ton of pop last year anyway. Cole Murphy played some games at first base last year and the junior may just be the starter in 2018. He has a lot of work to do, since his slash line (.174/.269/.239) was pretty poor, but perhaps a more consistent workload will help him get in a rhythm.
Behind Murphy, Cam Alldred, who will probably pitch more than anything else, has experience at first base. As we’ll discuss in more detail when we cover the middle infield, players like Eric Santiago, Dondrae Bremner and Jace Mercer are all infielders who could get time at this post as well, but will probably be saved for the more defensively intensive roles.
How the Opposition Stacks Up
Lefty Chris Winkel is poised to be the starter after he closed the season in that role last spring. He only had one home run in 57 games (45 starts) while batting .225 with an OBP of .283. To his credit, he has some wheels, with 11 steals and four triples, which tied for the second-most in the AAC.
Switch-hitting Lael Lockhart played in the NCAA Tournament at first base for the Cougars so clearly he will have continued playing time as a sophomore. He had some pretty nice games, including a 4-for-5 effort against Baylor. In all he didn’t have much power (.356 slugging), but he hit .276 and played in 56 games while committing just two errors.
No team is set up as well as the Knights at this position. With American Athletic Conference preseason player of the year Rylan Thomas in the mix, the Knights have a guy who can hit for a ton of power (.530 slugging) and average (.303).
Joe Genord is a useful player since he can play first and catch, but first base is his standard spot. He has hit 15 home runs in his first two seasons and last year played and started in 58 games. His eye improved in 2017, as he upped his on-base percentage from .325 to .352.
Someone has to replace Trent Turner. Perhaps it will be junior college transfer Kyle Ouellette, who hit .404 across 55 games with Walters State Community College.
Greyson Jenista is the rare first baseman that is comfortable at the top of the lineup, specifically the leadoff spot. He can hit for power (.509 slugging in 2017) and gets on base by hitting for a high average (.320) and working counts for walks (.413 OBP). He is instantly one of the best at his position in the American Athletic Conference.
Speaking of the league’s best, Spencer Brickhouse was a freshman All-American for the Pirates last season. Along with an awesome name, he produced a slash line of .310/.385/.413 with 19 extra-base hits as a freshman.
Hunter Williams was a slugging machine and an excellent first baseman, but the Green Wave have to figure out what to do now. Freshmen Will Mangurian and Michael Slatten can both play at first but I would expect the Green Wave to try out some different players as well.