We all know that @CardinalStrong is the best at what he does with his 100 days until kickoff countdown. On the baseball side of things, we are rolling with a five-week countdown.
For the next four Fridays, you will find a preview of position groups for the upcoming season, starting with catchers today. The schedule will look like this:
- Today - Catchers
- January 20th - Corner Infielders
- January 27th - Middle Infielders
- February 3rd - Outfielders
- February 10th - Pitchers (thoughts and prayers are appreciated)
- February 17th - Opening Day!
Before we get into the catchers, a few things to catch up on:
— Losses from the 2022 roster:
- Dalton Rushing (C) - selected 40th by the Los Angeles Dodgers
- Jared Poland (RHP) - selected 172nd by the Miami Marlins
- Michael Prosecky (LHP) - selected 176th by the Colorado Rockies
- Ben Meztinger (3B) - selected 222nd by the Milwaukee Brewers
- Levi Usher (OF) - selected 295th by the Kansas City Royals
- Cam Masterman (OF) - signed UDFA deal with the Oakland Athletics
- Carter Lohman (LHP) - signed UDFA with the Los Angeles Dodgers
- Ben Bianco (1B)
— The Cards also lost nine additional players from last season:
Jaxson Davis (OF) has transferred to John A. Logan College, a very prestigious Junior College that has been generous to Louisville over the years. Davis is the older brother of Brady Davis, a longtime Louisville commit in the class of 2024. He attends George Rogers Clark HS in Winchester. Jaxson will likely spend one season at John A. Logan before landing on his feet again next year.
Austin Bode (C), who saw limited action behind the plate last season, has transferred to Indiana. With Jack Payton and the trio of freshman catchers on the roster, Bode chose to take his chances with the Hoosiers.
Adam Dowler (LHP) and Braden Calise (RHP/SS) have both entered the portal, but their destinations are unknown at this time.
Drake Westcott (1B) returned to his home state and is attending Illinois, Seamus Barrett (RHP) is heading to Loyola Marymount, Kurtis Reid (SS) will be spending a season at Walters (TN) Community College, and Camden Jordan (OF) moved to Bloomington and has joined the Hoosiers football team.
Finally, Kyle Walter (RHP) spent one season at Louisville and although he didn’t have eye popping numbers, he had a few really big moments and appeared that he could contribute in a larger role in the future. It does not seem like Walter is playing baseball at this time.
— Rest assured, there will be plenty of talent this season at Third and Central. Coach McDonnell and Co. welcomed the 7th ranked recruiting class, according to Perfect Game. You can read all about it here.
— The recruiting class will also be joined by a few JUCO transfers, two of which were ranked in the top 50 JUCO transfers by D1 Baseball. Ryan McCoy (1B) and Greg Farone (LHP) will both be impact guys on the 2023 roster. More to come on them in their position group breakdown.
— Two of the six (I know, I know..) major publications have released their pre-season rankings and both have Louisville in the top 10. Collegiate Baseball Newspaper (6th) and Perfect Game (7th) are showing the Cards some love early on. I anticipate the other four will follow suit once they are released. College Baseball Nation also has the Cards ranked 10th.
— Jack Payton was named as a pre-season second team All-American by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
Now, on to the good stuff.
Not to sounds like Booger McFarland because no one aspires to be like him, but the catcher position this year is going to be Jack Payton and a bunch of (dudes) freshman. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
We all know what Payton can do after spending time behind Henry Davis and Dalton Rushing. In 2022, he started 62 of the 64 games, playing in 63 of them, while batting .350 with 54 RBI, 23 doubles, and four home runs. He led the ACC in doubles and led the Cards in average, doubles, and hits.
PBR just released their draft board for 2023 and ranked Payton as the 102nd best prospect for next years MLB Draft. Prospects Live tabbed him as the 151st ranked prospect.
After that, three freshman are fighting for the additional spot. As Coach McDonnell tends to operate, we will likely see at least two of them get a chance before he makes a decision on who the second catcher is going to be for the year.
Will Vierling was the highest rated prospect of the group and who I think has the best chance to etch his name as the next member of “Catcher U” at Louisville. He was the 251st bester player in the 2022 class and has earned his ranking during this short tenure for the Cards.
During the fall scrimmages against Miami (OH) and Purdue, and the Pizza Bowl, Vierling has displayed more power than I envisioned from him as a freshman. He went yard against Purdue and again in the Pizza Bowl.
Matt Klein, from Trinity High School, is also in the mix. Klein was ranked 499th in the country by PBR and has a big arm but isn’t going to display quite the power as Vierling early on. As he continues to grow, he has the build that will likely translate to additional power down the road.
He is very disciplined in the box and uses all three fields due to his approach to the plate. He’s very athletic and has the ability to shine in the Louisville offense.
Brantley Bamberg is the final member of the freshman class that will be competing for innings. There are a lot of words that I could type about Bamberg, but our very own Keith Wynne summed him up with one single tweet.
UofL has a very thiccc newcomer at DH today and he went yard while I was walking to my car. Didn’t catch his name.— Keith Wynne (@Keith_Wynne) September 25, 2022
A few things to unwrap here:
— Bamberg immediately inserted himself as a candidate for the all-name team.
— At 6’1, 210LBS in high school, he is going to hit his fair share of piss missiles when his name is called.
— We need more baseball coverage from Keith. I’ll work on that.
Up next: Corner Infielders