2013 Aggie Baseball Season Preview (Part 2)

Courtesy of Texas A&M Athletics

In Part 2 of 3, we break down what the A&M lineup is likely to look like and what you can expect from the Aggies offensively in 2013.

Now that we've gone over the major contributors on the mound for the Aggies in 2013, let's take a look at what this year's lineup might look like. While there will be a lot of new faces for the A&M pitching staff in 2013, there will be quite a few names in this year’s lineup that Aggie Baseball fans are familiar with. The 3 biggest losses from last season offensively are RF Tyler Naquin, who was taken by the Cleveland Indians with the 15th overall pick in the MLB Draft, 1B Jacob House and 3B Matt Juengel who were graduating seniors. The versatile Scott Arthur also graduated last season, and while he did not have a major impact with his bat his defense was always sound and he was just a guy that you loved to watch play the game.

We're going to go through each position and review who is likely to contribute at that spot in 2013. As a formatting note, when you see a player's name followed by something that looks like (.380, .541, .458) those 3 numbers are batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage - and yes, I'll break that down for any baseball newbies. Batting average is simply the number of hits a player gets divided by the number of at-bats. Slugging percentage measures what it sounds like it measures, and is the number of total bases a player achieves divided by the number of at-bats. On-base percentage is also fairly self-explanatory, as it essentially calculates how often a player gets on base (excluding things like errors, fielders choice, etc.). I wanted to go ahead and get those 3 definitions out of the way now because I expect to use them regularly throughout the season. One last thing - I do want to encourage you not to just look at last year's statistics. In multiple cases they are not pretty, but a number of those guys saw limited time last year and have made major strides offensively since then. Now that we've gone through all of that, let's jump right in!

Catcher

Troy Stein (.304, .418, .387)
Mitchell Nau (.217, .250, .275)

Troy Stein will be your regular catcher for the Aggies in 2013, with Mitchell Nau seeing some time behind the plate as well. Stein started 46 games for A&M as a sophomore in 2012 and although he only hit 2 HR last season, he is certainly someone who can provide some power for the Aggies. I expect that Stein will find himself in the middle of the A&M batting order, and will need to be a big part of the offense in 2013. Nau was not great offensively in 2012, but he had a better summer for the Acadiana Canecutters with a .284 batting average, 10 2B, 27 RBI, and 29 walks in 183 AB.

1st Base

Cole Lankford (.146, .146, .160)

It probably goes without saying when you look at those numbers that it was a disappointing freshman season in 2012 for Cole Lankford, who started off the season in the mix at catcher. However, Cole has really continued to develop offensively and you can expect to see him move into the 1B spot vacated by fan-favorite Jacob House this season. Lankford did put up good numbers during the summer season playing with teammate Matt Kent for the Rochester Honkers. In 169 at-bats, Lankford hit for a .320 average, including 10 walks, 3 HR, and 22 RBI. A number of people close to the A&M program expect Cole to be a major contributor in 2013, and I am very much anticipating the same. Freshmen Hunter Melton and Logan Taylor (or even Troy Stein) could step in at 1B for the Aggies if needed, but the spot is definitely Cole's to lose.

2nd Base

Blake Allemand (.289, .336, .395)
Charlie Curl (.154, .154, .154)

Blake Allemand and Charlie Curl could both see time at 2nd or 3rd base this season, depending on how the rest of the infield shakes out. Blake was one of the biggest freshmen contributors for the Aggies in 2012 and I feel good about his chance to continue to develop and make a major impact this year. Blake isn't someone who will hit for power often, but he is going to make contact, put the ball in play, and get on base regularly. Curl saw action mostly as a defensive replacement in 2012 and only had 2 hits in 13 at-bats, but he did have much more success playing summer ball for the Sag Harbor Whalers in Long Island. Curl finished the summer with a .315 batting average and tallied 14 walks, 10 doubles, 7 HR and 19 RBI in 127 at-bats, not to mention 10 stolen bases.

3rd Base

Charlie Curl (.154, .154, .154)
Blake Allemand (.289, .336, .395)
Logan Taylor
Cory Raley

As you can tell by now, there are a number of options for the Aggies across the infield. Allemand and Curl will be in the mix at 3rd, but also keep an eye on true freshmen Logan Taylor and Cory Raley. Taylor was a 1st team all-state SS for Houston’s Deer Park HS, and has apparently impressed the A&M coaches enough that he is getting serious consideration for the starting spot at 3B. The amount of playing time that Taylor sees may depend on how he is able to perform offensively. Raley is the younger brother of former A&M star Brooks Raley, and Cory is more of a big and physical player, checking in at 6'3, 190. Having said that, Cory can run as well and brings a nice combination of strength and speed to the table. I would not be surprised to see Raley get a good amount of playing time in 2013.

Shortstop

Mikey Reynolds (.306, .403, .417)

Mikey Reynolds was actually selected in the 20th Round of last year’s MLB Draft, but an elbow issue affected negotiations and led to his decision to return to Aggieland for a senior season. Reynolds will most likely be in the leadoff spot for A&M this year after an impressive season in 2012. Mikey having a strong senior season might be one of the keys offensively for this A&M team to make some noise in the SEC. It will be extremely important for the top of the order to get on base regularly in order for the Aggies' offense to be fully successful, and Mikey will be a key part of that quite often.

Left Field

Jace Statum (.289, .356, .414)
Brandon Wood (.258, .410, .343)
Chance Bolcerek (.289, .371, .358)

Brandon Wood returns as the most experienced of the outfielders for A&M in 2013, and he will look to improve upon a pedestrian (and perhaps even disappointing) 2012 season for his senior year in 2013. Perhaps Wood’s biggest struggle in 2012 was strikeouts, leading the team with 58, and it seemed it was often "all-or-nothing" at the plate for most of the season. Wood must have a better approach with more consistency in 2013 and reduce his number of strikeouts. I would not be surprised if Wood saw more time at DH to allow him to focus on his hitting, and Jace Statum (or even Chance Bolcerek) was put into the LF role. Since both Bolcerek and Statum will also be in the mix at RF, I'll discuss them below.

Center Field

Krey Bratsen (.226, .286, .316)

After being named a Freshman All-American in 2011, Krey Bratsen had a "sophomore slump" in a disappointing 2012 campaign for the Aggies. Bratsen’s saw a significant drop from 2011 to 2012 in nearly every offensive category: batting average (.332 to .226), runs (45 to 34), RBI (36 to 25), and even stolen bases (31 to 21). However, Bratsen is a tremendous asset defensively for A&M, committing just 1 error on 137 chances last season and making countless plays that held opposing hitters to singles or doubles instead of doubles or triples. Bratsen’s speed can be a difference-maker on the base paths, but he must do a better job of getting himself on base this season in order to utilize that speed. Look for Bratsen to go after the 1st pitch more often than he did last year to give himself a better chance to make good contact and put the ball in play.

Right Field

Chance Bolcerek (.289, .371, .358)
Jace Statum (.289, .356, .414)
Daniel Mengden (.222, .389, .222)

Chance Bolcerek might be the most likely option in right field for the Aggies, but don't be surprised to see Jace Statum or Daniel Mengden (the A&M coaches may want his bat in the lineup when he is not pitching) in this spot at times. Bolcerek was named to the Big12 All-Freshman team for the Aggies in 2012, appearing in 42 games (starting 26) and hitting .289 for the season. Statum posted an identical batting average as Bolcerek, but did so in half the number of at-bats. In terms of summer ball, Bolcerek hit .274 for the McKinney Marshals, including 21 RBI and 9 stolen bases, while Statum posted a .309 batting average for the Shelter Island Bucks (NY) to go along with 15 stolen bases. Mengden, meanwhile, hit .286 with 2 HR and 6 RBI in 28 at-bat's for the San Luis Obispo Blues over the summer. This spot is obviously flexible depending on Wood's status in LF, and Mengden will be the wild card depending on how much Childress and Co. want to use him in the outfield when he is not on the mound.

Designated Hitter

Brandon Wood (.258, .410, .343)
Mitchell Nau (.217, .250, .275)
Daniel Mengden (.222, .389, .222)

As mentioned, Wood may find himself playing in the DH role more in 2013 to give him the chance to focus solely on his hitting. Brandon does have power, but it will be important for him to be more consistent at the plate and make better contact. I fully expect Mengden to get the opportunity to hit as DH on nights that he pitches since the A&M coaches would very much like to have his bat in the lineup whenever possible. Nau is another option at designated hitter when he is not behind the plate, but he also needs to be more consistent at the plate than he was in 2012.

Projected Opening Weekend Starters

I expect to be much worse at predicting who starts in the lineup for the Aggies this weekend (just 3 days away, y'all!), but I'll give it a stab regardless. These predictions are just who starts in what position, not the actual batting order.

C - Troy Stein
1B - Cole Lankford
2B - Charlie Curl
3B - Blake Allemand
SS - Mikey Reynolds
LF - Jace Statum
CF - Krey Bratsen
RF - Chance Bolcerek
DH - Brandon Wood

We can be honest - this is not an A&M offense that is built to go up to the plate and smash the ball out of the park every time. The debate of power hitting versus "small ball" is one as old as time - the Aggies have trended on the small ball side more often than not, and I expect the same in 2013. The biggest key to this is being able to get runners on base to start innings, something that the 2012 team had an extremely difficult time doing in stretches. I do think that the Aggies will eclipse last year's homerun total of 23 in 2013 (we can call that my bold prediction), but being able to start innings with guys getting on base is going to be much more important for A&M. There are certainly some question marks offensively going into this year, but look for a number of young guys to step up and have big seasons and hopefully surprise some folks in the SEC.

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