When you are scoring a baseball game using traditional terminology, second base is considered the No. 4 position. That’s where you get 6-4-3 double play, with four the second basemen who relays the ball from the shortstop (six) to the first baseman (three). This rudimentary baseball lesson was brought to you by a need for a lede for part four of our positional preview series as we get set for Cincinnati Bearcats baseball. Today, you guessed it, we’re examining the second base environment in the American Athletic Conference.
Most of the infield is pretty well set in stone for the Bearcats. We talked about Connor McVey and his hold on third base yesterday and now we turn to Kyle Mottice, who is the starting second baseman. At least, he should be unless he has another dreadful season like he did in 2017. Coming off a breakout sophomore campaign when he hit .278, stole 13 bases and scored 28 runs, Mottice was ice cold at the plate in 37 games as a junior. He slashed a miserable .191/.284/.265 while scoring 16 times total and stealing six bags. His 26 hits in 136 at-bats was far below the 57 he produced across 205 the previous year.
Despite the deteriorating returns at the plate, Mottice improved as a fielder, setting a career-high in fielding percentage (.983) while committing only three errors.
Mottice’s hold on the starting spot loosened down the stretch in 2017 as Jace Mercer pushed for playing time and became the regular second baseman. Mercer was much better with the bat (.273/.345/.358), showing solid plate discipline and good pop, as 11 of his 48 hits went for extra bases. Mercer can play multiple spots in the infield, but second seems like the spot he’d get most of his playing time. In addition, Eric Santiago can fill in as well.
It is possible that Mercer will jump Mottice on the depth chart, but for now I’d lean toward the senior.
How the Opposition Stacks Up
The Huskies got used to playing Aaron Hill (no, not that one) at second, but he finished his senior season in 2017 hitting .174 with 21 runs scored. Jack Lambrecht is a redshirt sophomore who played 16 games last year, including 12 starts at second base. His triple slash (.222/.327/.311) wasn’t incredibly alluring, but he did walk at a decent pace.
As Connor Hollis has gotten more playing time, his success rate in terms of hitting have gone down. He batted .321 in 106 at-bats as a freshman, then only played in two games as a sophomore, before hitting .294 in 180 at-bats in 2016. In 2017, he hit .266 across 203 at-bats. However, don’t get the idea that Hollis isn’t a strong second baseman. Far from it. He is extremely skilled at getting on base, with an OBP of .387 last season when he had nearly as many walks (30) as strikeouts (31). He also set career-highs in total bases (75), RBI (30) and extra-base hits (14).
Matthew Mika may not hit for much power, but he has a great deal of speed (25 stolen bases in 2017). He added 28 RBI, 12 doubles and a .278 average to the mix. A junior from Lake Worth, Florida, Mika did hit two home runs in 2016 and the fact that he improved his gap power shows that he is getting better as a hitter. 2018 could be a real breakout year for a player already considered to be one of the best at his position in the AAC.
Coco Montes played second base during two of the Bulls’ three games in the NCAA Tournament last season and started in 61 games overall. He has some pop (four home runs, .394 slugging), a good eye for making contact (.293 batting average) and a talent for getting on base (.358 OBP). He also laced 13 doubles and scored 37 runs. His fielding is also pretty solid, as he committed only five errors.
Brandon Grudzielanek’s uncle Mark was an MLB veteran and now Brandon is chasing the same professional dreams after playing rookie ball in the Toronto Blue Jays’ system. That means the Tigers have to get one of their infielders, including some newcomers, to pick up the slack at second.
After Charlie Yorgen had a breakout senior season, earning all-league honors while slashing .339/.438/.438, the Pirates need to find another player to hold down the position. If they can even get half of the production they got from Yorgen, they’ll be doing fine.
The Green Wave have to solve the replace-a-very-good-second-baseman equation as well. Jake Willsey was a second-team All-AAC performer last season and smashed 19 home runs over his final two seasons. A depth of infield reinforcements may help fill the spot, but it will be tough to match Willsey’s late-career power surge.
Even though he normally hit at the bottom of the lineup, Jordan Byer was a fine hitter for the Shockers last season. He slashed .295/.379/.448 with some surprising pop (20 extra-base hits) and an ability to bring batters in (42 RBI). His fielding was not as top-notch, as he committed 10 errors, but Byer is still a player who will challenge for all-league honors.