A look ahead to Cajuns baseball 2012–The Infield
Now that the 2011 season is over, here's a preview of 2012. In this segment, we look at the infield.
The Cajuns will return both of their catchers from 2011. Sophomore Michael Strentz (.216-3-22) slumped badly toward the end of the season. That's understandable, given the physical and mental rigors of the position--pretty tough for a freshman. Strentz threw out about a third of opposing base-stealers and didn't make an error. He did, however, have eight passed balls on the season. He still needs to work on blocking pitches. But Strentz showed flashes offensively and has pop in his bat. Breaking balls ate him up at times, but he should be better next year with a year's experience. Senior Chris Sinclair (.323-2-12) was a surprise offensively, although he had only 65 at bats. He hit some balls in the gap and showed some power. I don't think the coaching staff necessarily expected him to hit as well as he did. Sinclair is more advanced defensively than Strentz right now. Expect Sinclair to get more at bats next season, both behind the plate and as a possible DH.
The Cajuns lost their best defensive first baseman in the departed Trask Switzenberg. Sophomore Chase Compton (.236-0-3) got only 55 at bats, but showed toward the end of the year that he's in the mix to win a job next season. Five of Compton's 12 hits went for extra bases. He hit a lot of balls hard late in the season. Junior Tyler Frederick (.241-0-13) struggled offensively last season and then got hurt and wasn't a factor in the last 25 games. He'll have Tommy John surgery but should be ready to go in the spring.
This position is open. The Cajuns will miss the offense of Jordan Poirrier (.265-8-53), who was fifth in the league in RBI this past season. But Poirrier's batting average was down 60 points from his junior year. There will be plenty of competition for the spot. Sophomore Matt Hicks was used exclusively as a pitcher last year, but wants to compete at second base. He's playing for the Acadiana Cane Cutters this summer and will see plenty of live pitching. Ditto redshirt freshman Thomas Simoneaux, a solid glove man who hits from the left side. Neither are what you'd call physical. Hicks was listed as 5-7, 160, Simoneaux at 5-9, 155. But the Cajuns have added Lafayette High product Jace Conrad, who had an outstanding career for the Mighty Lions. Conrad brings some intangibles as well as some talent to this squad. He has to earn the position. He has a real chance if he can make the adjustment to the new bat and college pitching.
The Cajuns say goodbye to one of their better shortstops in the Robichaux era in Greg Fontenot, the Cajuns' all-time assist leader who also was a career .300 hitter with over 200 hits and 100 rbi. Those are tough shoes to fill. But Ryan Leonards got 72 at bats in 2011 and hit .292. He'll probably hit leadoff next season. He'll be good defensively, but it would be asking a lot for him to be Fontenot.
Jordan Bourque (.227-0-18) solidified the Cajuns defensively at the hot corner. But if he's going to keep his job, he has to get better with the bat. He'll be pushed by incoming freshman Logan Preston, a middle infielder in high school (Texas HS) who projects as a corner infielder. There's a chance Preston will be drafted, but probably not high enough to keep him from enrolling at UL in the fall.
There's talent in the infield. But boy, is it going to be young. If the Cajuns are going to get it done on offense next season, Strentz and Compton need to have complete years, Leonards will have to be the leadoff guy that everyone thinks he can be and the Cajuns have to find a way to get some offense at second and third base.