In a fitting bit of contrived coincidence, the third part of our position-by-position preview series for Cincinnati Bearcats baseball will focus on third base. Unlike the prospects at first base, the Bearcats are better suited to have success at this position, but how much success is up for debate. Let’s get into it.
There’s no need to make options plural for this one. Connor McVey’s name might as well be written in Sharpie on every lineup card the rest of the year. The senior has been one of the best players on UC’s roster the last two seasons, mixing speed, contact and on-base skills to be a hitter to fear. While he isn’t going to be sending balls to the moon (eight career home runs, .374 slugging), McVey is adept at making pitchers work and putting balls in play. He batted .280 last season and that was considered a down year. Despite that, he posted a career-high in on-base percentage (.382) and walks (29), while striking out only 30 times. He started in 57 games for the second-straight season and stole 14 bases, although he has shown 20-steal potential before.
If McVey is injured or Scott Googins decides to give him a break, its not entirely clear who would fill in at third, but I’d expect Eric Santiago would get a long look since he slashed .234/.308/.305 with eight extra-base hits in 50 games across multiple infield spots (mainly shortstop) a year ago.
How the Opposition Stacks Up
With Willy Yahn and his superior contact hitting off to chase the MLB dream, the Huskies will be working in some new players at third base.
Jake Scheiner was showered with accolades during his run at third base for the Cougars, including being named the American Championship Most Outstanding Player and the American Player of the Year, as well as that whole All-American thing. The 22-year-old infielder is now playing in the Philadelphia Phillies’ system. What this means is the Cougars have a tough task ahead in replacing him.
I’m beginning to sense a pattern here. Kam Gellinger was a strong hitting third baseman for the Knights over the last four years (.256/.336/.353) especially in 2016 and 2017. There are some young reinforcements coming to town who should make an impact.
David Villar should provide the Bulls with another year of solid middle-of-the-order production after he hit .294/.421/.453 last season. His on-base skills were elite as heck, but he also launched seven home runs and drove in 47 runs so he’s more than just a walk machine.
Entering his senior season, Kyle O’Keefe may get to play full-time. A junior college transfer student, O’Keefe didn’t hit exceptionally well last season (.162/.205/.221) but he played 34 games around the infield including as an understudy to normal starter Zach Schritenthal.
The Pirates had one of the best third basemen in the conference in Eric Tyler, who batted .342 last season. Now that Tyler has moved on the Pirates will roll with a small cohort of infielders to fill in the gaps. With five dedicated infielders on the roster, it will be interesting to see how they go about constructing their infield. Turner Brown is obviously going to play shortstop, so the candidates for third base include Nick Barber, Connor Litton, Brady Lloyd and freshman Collin Watt, although that group doesn’t have much experience at the position.
Just as they no longer have Hunter Williams, the Green Wave had to say goodbye to Hunter Hope and his 13.5 home runs per season over the last two years. With a roster packed with infield depth, Tulane may be keen to try out a few different players.
Wichita State is really going to challenge for the AAC crown in 2018 thanks to a lineup that not only features first baseman/outfielder Greyson Jenista but third baseman Alec Bohm, who was one of two Shockers on the pre-season all-league team. Bohm hit .305 with 11 home runs and 40 RBI last season.