Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Get to Know Your Longhorns

The 2007 baseball season, by most accounts, was a disappointment by Longhorn standards. At this point in time, anything less than Omaha is a down year for the Horns. But looking at 2007, it was an un-Augie like team. It lacked pitching depth and wasn't built for small ball.

Looking to 2008, the Longhorns have a lot of their roster turned over from last season. From the media standpoint, it means not much is expected from this Longhorn team, but that's just where they like to be. A team that is built more for small ball and pitching, this 2008 group could surprise some people.

So let's take a minute and introduce ourselves to this 2008 crew.

1. Travis Tucker, Jr. - 3B - A returning starter from 2007 (.307/1/34). Replaces Nick Peoples at the top of the lineup and hopes to build on a productive '07 season.

2. Michael Torres, Jr. - 2B - A transfer from USC. Didn't do much in limited opportunities there. Hopefully will be the prototypical #2 hitter for Augie, bunting and moving runners along.

3. Jordan Danks, Jr. - CF - A returning starter from 2007 (.332/4/38). Expected to be his breakthrough season from a power standpoint. 5 tool player that should go high in the MLB draft this year.

4. Kyle Russell, Jr. - RF - The reigning NCAA Home Run Champion and a surprise return to the Forty Acres after being drafted (.335/28/71). Needs the rest of the lineup to step up to help make sure he sees good pitches.

5. Preston Clark, Jr. - C - A returning starter from 2007 (.286/8/45). Should be ready to handle a young pitching staff after a year under his belt. Look for continued improvement from the bat.

6. Brandon Belt, So. - 1B - A transfer from San Jacento JC. At 6'5" 205, he could emerge as another power threat.

7. Russell Moldenhauer, So. - DH - A returning starter from 2007 (.278/6/32). Forced into duty due to a lack of depth, will need to hit to remain in the lineup.

8. Kevin Keyes, Fr. - LF - A 6'4" 225 freshman from Austin, TX. He is big, athletic outfielder that was drafted in the 25th round by the Rangers.

9. David Hernandez, So. - SS - A transfer from Fresno State. Will be more relied upon for his defense and leadership, but any contributions with the bat will be welcomed.

Pitching Staff:

1. Austin Wood, Jr. - LHP - The only returning pitcher from the 2007 staff that logged significant innings (8-1, 3.15). He will need to be the ace of the staff to take pressure off the younger arms in the staff.

2. Cole Green, Fr. - RHP - A freshman from Coppell, TX. Doesn't have overwhelming stuff, but knows how to pitch and will be given an opportunity in the rotation.

3. Kenn Kasparek, Jr. - RHP - Returning from injury after missing the 2007 season. He was reliable late in the 2006 season, and could be the surprise of the staff. At 6'10" he is imposing on the mound.

4. Brandon Workman, Fr. - RHP - A freshman out of Bowie, TX, Workman may well force himself into the rotation. A third round selection of the Phillies, he has great stuff and if he isn't a starter will definitely be one of the first calls to the pen.

5. Chance Ruffin, Fr. - RHP - A freshman from Austin, TX, he will see most of his work out of the pen, except for the occasional spot start.

6. Kyle Walker, Jr. - LHP - Saw limited action last year. Could be a reliable late inning arm.

The Rest:
Riley Boening, So. - LHP - 6'3" southpaw that will get a chance this season.
Keith Shinaberry, Jr. - LHP - Saw limited action last season.
Hunter Harris, So. - Saw limited action last season.
Marcus Tackett, So. - Transfer from Oral Roberts
Stayton Thomas, Fr. - Freshman from Corsicana, TX
Casey Whitmer, So. - Transfer from Florida State that pitched well over the summer.

The Longhorns are off to a quick start in 2008, taking 3 games from VCU and taking the first from UT-Pan-Am. The Longhorns will need to get production from the top and bottom of their order if they hope to contend this season. They will also need people to emerge from the depth of the pen and fill roles on the staff. If they can figure out who their three reliable starters are with a good closer and a few solid arms in between, this could be one of those Texas teams that is built for a run to Omaha.

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