With the loss of both Cam Masterman and Levi Usher, two outfield spots are up for grabs heading into the season. This roster has 6-7 guys that could realistically split time amongst the three positions. I will cover them in depth after a few quick updates that have been announced since last Friday.
— First, the 2022 team received their rings from last season, which included an ACC Championship and Super Regionals berth in College Station. These things are beautiful.
— The Preseason ACC Coaches Poll was released on Thursday and Louisville was once again selected as the favorite to win the conference. They were tied with Wake Forest with six first place votes in the Atlantic Division, but received more overall points, giving the Cards the nod in the standings. Miami, with 10 first place votes in the Coastal Division, is the favorite on the other side. Here are the full standings:
— Christian Knapczyk was named a D1 Baseball Preseason All-American. He was selected to the second team as a second basemen. You can read the full list here.
— Jack Payton continues to rack up preseason accolades with the addition of a third team Preseason All-American selection by Baseball America. Here is the list of all three teams.
— The Leadoff Dinner is tonight at 7 PM in the Grand Ballroom at the Galt House. Reid Detmers and Drew Ellis are the special guests for the evening. Tickets are $65.
Now, on to the position overview.
It is no secret that the anchor in the outfield this season is Isaac Humphrey. After turning in a successful 2022 season where he batted .328, chipping in 15 doubles, five home runs, 38 RBIs, and 11 stolen bases, his role will increase as one of the best bats on the roster in 2023.
With the loss of a few batters that were ahead of him in the lineup last season, I believe Humphrey will thrive in the Cards offense as he has more opportunities to showcase his talent. Of the three outfield positions, he is a lock, but the other two are up for grabs.
Although he redshirted last season, Louisville fans will soon be familiar with Eddie King Jr. King played in the Prospects League over the summer and was named the MVP of the league. All he did was bat .310 with 15 home runs, 49 RBIs, and 31 stolen bases. Those numbers will do.
A local standout from South Oldham High School, JT Benson, could see an increased role this season. Benson displayed many qualities that fit the style Coach McDonnell wants to play at Louisville but could not shake the injury bug in 2022. He’s very athletic and produces a good mix of both speed and power. Although he hit just .224, he chipped in with three doubles, three triples, and a home run.
Tyeler Hawkins has been around the program for a few years but he, like Benson, has fought a few injuries that have kept him off the field. If he can remain healthy, Hawkins is worthy of outfield reps and has the athleticism to disrupt the opposing pitchers while on the base paths. In the fall scrimmage against Purdue, he went yard twice, and this team needs to find some power throughout the lineup. If he can hit the ball over the fence and cover ground defensively, he will earn some reps in the outfield this season.
Another local star, Korbyn Dickerson, is worthy of getting looks in the outfield in his freshman campaign. He was selected 594th overall in the MLB Draft and had a tough decision after the Minnesota Twins put the full court press on him to sign.
Ultimately, Dickerson made it to campus and has the intangibles to produce from day one. During his senior year at Trinity, his numbers were ridiculous, batting .481 with 11 home runs and 56 RBIs.
Patrick Forbes, another freshman from Bowling Green High School, could be an option to suit up in the outfield. As discussed previously in the corner infield preview, I think that is a more realistic landing spot, but if an outfield spot becomes open due to productivity or injuries, finding a place for Forbes on the field is a priority.
One additional name to remember is Haven Mangrum, a JUCO transfer from Columbia State. Defensively, Mangrum will display a ton of speed and cover a lot of grass in the outfield. He put up video game numbers last season at the plate, batting .401 with four home runs, 25 RBIs, 22 stolen bases, and 54 runs scored.
The next (and final) position preview will release next Friday and cover the pitching staff. Wish me luck.