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See You in Omaha: 2016 Infield

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With the addition of two freshmen shortstops who will be starting in the infield for OSU?

Logan Ice backstops the deep Oregon State infield.
Logan Ice backstops the deep Oregon State infield.
Andy Wooldridge

Depth is an interesting issue to have and is not one the Beavers have had in the infield recently. With highly touted freshmen Cadyn Grenier and Nick Madrigal joining the roster, the Beavers are overloaded with infielders. But are they good enough to knock off the incumbents?

1st Base

The least affected position of the this talent influx is at 1st base where KJ Harrison is likely to remain the starter and Billy King able to fill in when Harrison slides over to catcher. Both are good options as Harrison was the best hitter on the team last year and King showed flashes, plus he turned in a solid showing in the West Coast League. Here are their conference stats from last season, I'll be using conference stats throughout this preview as I feel that the higher level of competition is more representative overall of skill.

Name BA AB RBI SLG
Billy King 0.25 44 8 0.295
KJ Harrison 0.239 109 23 0.33

K% BB% ISO BABIP OBP
Billy King 23.9 2.2 0.045 0.333 0.283
KJ Harrison 25.9 11.9 0.091 0.358 0.348

Neither guy posted great stats in conference last year. Harrison had an outstanding non-conference showing, it's where he had 8 of his 10 home runs last year. He specifically had struggles with seeing pitches and guessing, as demonstrated with his high strikeout percentage, which is somewhat surprising that he was still able to achieve an acceptable walk percentage.

With another year to refine his approach Harrison should be just fine, and hopefully can even improve from his Freshman All-American season. Nationally, he is expected to, as evidenced by his also being a pre-season All-American.

King meanwhile should just benefit from more plate appearances. He had a slash line of .336/.406/.398 in summer ball and should be getting every opportunity this season. For games when Harrison gets the start at first I would expect to see him at DH.

2nd Base

Chirstian Donahue is the incumbent but the competition is even stronger this year with Grenier and Madrigal in the fold. Pat Casey has said that most guys will get a look at all the infield spots and maybe even in the outfield. Here are the stats of Donahue below (conference stats again):

Name BA AB RBI SLG
Christian Donahue 0.291 103 5 0.34

K% BB% ISO BABIP OBP
Christian Donahue 18.3 7.5 0.049 0.375 0.362

Across the board all his numbers are pretty reasonable though not overly outstanding. He did do a pretty good job of just getting on base and played some excellent defense as well. It's not going to be easy though, as Morrison is a former 1st team all-Pac-12 honoree, Madrigal has been getting unbelievable levels of hype, and Grenier was in the talks in the MLB first round and was only passed over because of his signability with the bonus he was requiring.

It sounds like any of those guys might be pushed into the lineup over him and my feel is that Madrigal slots into the lineup there. He matches the past Beaver 2nd basemen as a slightly smaller player, he's listed as 5' 8" so he's not really small, but his defense will be critical. He should not be a drop off on offense either, with his stats from his time with the Corvallis Knights:

Name Batting Avg AB RBI SLG% OBP
Nick Madrigal 0.296 186 20 0.376 0.337
K% BB% ISO BABIP
4.0 4.5 0.080 0.307

That strikeout percentage is something else and the rest is acceptable. Not world-beating but still good enough to plug into the lineup. This might be pegging into a slot unfairly but if the defense proves to be as good as is stated he will get on the field. Which brings us to...

Shortstop

For all the discussion about the freshmen, especially among the national pundits, it seems that incumbent Trever Morrison has to hold onto his role. Before getting injured last season he was starting to find his groove offensively while offering the same tremendous defense he has shown over his two year career so far at OSU. Grenier and Madrigal are certainly talents, but Morrison already has a track record as one of the best shortstops in the Pac-12. Here are his offensive numbers from the last two years.

2014 2015 Grand Total
Trever Morrison BA 0.214 0.297 0.246
AB 103 64 167
RBI 12 6 18
SLG 0.301 0.328 0.311

2014 2015 Grand Total
Trever Morrison K% 21.6 13.75 18.537
BB% 12.8 11.25 12.195
ISO 0.087 0.031 0.118
BABIP 0.293 0.358 0.320
OBP 0.322 0.408 0.355

Morrison is already one of the best defenders in the conference and his offense was really coming around next year. The others will certainly get a look at shortstop in non-conference games, but with his experience and skill I expect him to hold down his same old spot, though it is possible he's the one that slides over to second base as well.

3rd Base

This is where I finally expect Cadyn Grenier to land. Michael Gretler and Caleb Hamilton were playing at third last season but their offensive numbers were not fantastic:

2014 2015 Grand Total
Caleb Hamilton BA 0.202 0.191 0.197
AB 89 94 183
RBI 13 10 23
SLG 0.270 0.309 0.290
Michael Gretler BA 0.157 0.157
AB 51 51
RBI 6 6
SLG 0.176 0.176

2014 2015 Grand Total
Caleb Hamilton K% 24.3 18.0 21.1
BB% 12.1 10.8 11.5
ISO 0.068 0.118 0.186
BABIP 0.279 0.227 0.252
OBP 0.314 0.270 0.292
Michael Gretler K% 18.8 18.8
BB% 9.4 9.4
ISO 0.019 0.019
BABIP 0.211 0.211
OBP 0.241 0.241

Both played some pretty darn good defense but this position more than any other needs the offensive upgrade. That's where Grenier comes in. He is already regarded as a good defender and his bat has been one of his more highly regarded tools. Here are his numbers from his time last summer with the Bend Elks of the West Coast League:

Name Batting Avg AB RBI SLG% OBP
Cadyn Grenier 0.323 186 29 0.484 0.382
K% BB% ISO BABIP
16.9 9.2 0.161 0.380

The West Coast League is not the Pac-12 but it still has decent players. The numbers match the expectation with his tools and that bodes well. If he struggles expect to see the old guard (probably Hamilton) to step in, but his larger build inclines me to think he will be more well suited to 3rd base over 2nd and I still believe in Morrison at SS. OSU will need as bat as well and this seems like the most logical starting spot for him.

Catcher

Logan Ice will be the man behind the plate and KJ Harrison will play when Ice has a rest day. Pretty cut and dry. Here are Ice's stats from the last two years:

2014 2015 Grand Total
Logan Ice BA 0.267 0.297 0.279
AB 90 64 154
RBI 9 10 19
SLG 0.300 0.469 0.370

2014 2015 Grand Total
Logan Ice K% 12.8 13.6 13.1
BB% 17.9 11.1 15.2
ISO 0.033 0.172 0.205
BABIP 0.329 0.340 0.333
OBP 0.398 0.387 0.394

While not a terrific bat he is one of the best backstops out there, playing outstanding defense ever since his first game for Oregon State and he will be the starting catcher and play majority of the innings there.