Plenty of Competition in Cajuns’ Infield – From the Bird’s Nest
(This is the first of a three part series on the 2013 Ragin' Cajuns baseball team. Today: The infield and catcher. Wednesday: Outfield and DH. Thursday: The Pitchers)
One of the things Tony Robichaux and his coaching staff wanted to do after the disappointment of the 2012 season was create competition at every position for the fall. With his infield, he succeeded. And, that could make this a much improved part of the 2013 ball club.
FIRST BASE--Chase Compton (.328-1-25) returns as the starter at first base. The team's leading hitter a year ago, the lefty also led the team in walks (25) and on-base percentage (.404). He also was the best hitter in his summer league in Alaska and should be primed to be one of the toughest outs in the Sun Belt. Logan Preston (.145-0-4) has been moved to first base and has impressed in the fall and spring with his bat under Matt Deggs' hitting system. There's possibility of a platoon here if Compton struggles against left handed pitching.
SECOND BASE--Jace Conrad (.286-1-17) had a solid freshman season at second base and returns as the starter. Conrad was especially good defensively, making only four errors at second base the entire season. He also brought a toughness that was really lacking overall in the 2012 team. The only question at this position is who backs up Conrad. Ryan Leonards (.327-0-22) has been working as the backup and Conrad's younger brother Brenn had a surprisingly good fall.
SHORTSTOP--Is this team ready for a freshman to anchor the infield? We're going to find out. Blake Trahan (5-9,175, Kinder) was on the Cajuns' radar early in his career and committed to the Cajuns as a junior. Trahan has great hands and feet, which give him very good range at the position. He's athetlc and should be a good contact hitter. He'll hit down in the lineup early, which should help him offensively. Another freshman, Joe Robbins (5-9, 175, Tioga HS) can be a solid backup here. As of now, there are no plans to redshirt him. If Trahan struggles, Sam Carriere (5-10, 185, Jr, Norco-LSUE) played shortstop in junior college.
THIRD BASE--Tyler Girouard (.298-1-20) was pretty solid with the bat, especially in the second half of the season. The Teurlings Catholic product did a good job of working the count and had a lot of two-strike hits. However, Girouard committed seven errors and his fielding percentage was the second-lowest on the team. He has to be better in that regard to keep his job. The aforementioned Carriere is athletic and has a little pop in his bat. It's very possible you could see a platoon situation, since Girouard struggled to hit left handed pitching last year. This position will play out as the season progresses.
CATCHER--The 2012 season went south in a hurry when the Cajuns lost Michael Strentz (.167-0-7) after just 30 at bats. Strentz got off to a slow start last year but got a medical redshirt after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He's healthy and good to go, and the Cajuns are counting on him to have a breakout year with the bat. Nick Zavos (6-0, 170, Jr, Dewey, AZ) was signed to be the backup but was injured and will miss the season. That leaves the backup duties to a couple of freshmen. Nick Thurman (6-2,. 210, Belle Chasse) hits from the left side and hits with some power. The staff likes him...a lot. Alex Stringer (6-1, 180, STM) who played on the Little League World Series team with the Conrad brothers, is a preferred walk on who could get some time behind the plate as well.
In the infield, Robichaux firmly believes the Cajuns will be a lot better defensively than they were a year ago. With a pitching staff that will get a lot of ground balls, they have to be. And, he likes the fact he's got some veterans that can start at three of the positions. But these guys need to hit as well. There is no doubt Strentz will be one of the keys to the Cajuns; offense. If he hits like they think he will, he'll give the Cajuns a dangerous hitter with power in the middle of the lineup. There's some versatility and depth. It's a question of making sure the right guys are in the right positions. Robichaux has options here he didn't have a year ago.
That's a good thing.