We all know Tech lost Joey Bart behind the plate, but the second biggest hole in the roster comes with the loss of talented veteran Wade Bailey manning the middle of the infield.
Just like yesterday, it makes sense to glance at the roster to see what Tech has to fill the four infield spots:
2019 Roster (Infield)
Bold for players largely starters last year
Xzavion Curry (Junior)
Carter Hall (RS Junior)
Billy Zinnershine (Freshman)
Luke Waddell (Sophomore)
Charlie Benson (Freshman)
Tristan English (RS Junior)
Austin Wilhite (Junior)
Kyle McCann (Junior)
Oscar Serratos (Sophomore)
Ryan Miller (Freshman)
Paxton Rigby (Junior)
Jackson Webb (RS Senior)
And here’s how the veterans fared:
Returning Infielders 2018 Stats
If you would have asked me before last year about our infield status following the year, I would’ve been more worried than I am right now. Coming off a year where Kel Johnson saw significant playing time at first base, it was easy to presume that he would continue to hold down the fort while Wade Bailey, reliable as ever, manned second base. Thing is, I was only half right.
I’ll say this right now - Wade Bailey will be missed. When I went back to the stats to take off infielders no longer on the roster, losing his stats - a reliable presence on the basepaths, reasonably speedy, and an absolute fixture at second base - was absolutely notable. Best of luck, Wade, wherever you find yourself this season.
Meanwhile, the left side of the diamond is in a different boat. With Austin Wilhite established in his second year at shortstop, it left Luke Waddell and Oscar Serratos, both freshmen, to split time at third, and also first and short, when the regular presences at those positions were resting, pitching, or injured. It was helpful and talented depth, for sure, but when Serratos was on, he was on, and consistency definitely affected his play. Waddell is a slightly better fielder, and Serratos is a slightly better bat, but both were around .300 at the plate and spent the most time manning the hot corner in the field, so not too bad for a pair of freshmen.
Which brings us back to first base. Dare I say it, but on the days he wasn’t pitching, Tristan English had a pleasant return to full-time action after his redshirt Tommy John season. His numbers at the plate were fine, and another year of health and repetitions stand to only better that performance. However, the player he split time at the position with last year was perhaps the biggest revelation of the season, as Kyle McCann absolutely mashed the ball as Joey Bart’s backup at catcher and familiar face at first base. Look for him to spend more time behind the dish and not at first, though that’s a story for another article.
With all that said, the question really becomes - who takes over for Bailey at second base? This seems unconventional, but I’m going to apply some mid-2010s Theo Epstein logic to an interesting problem. Really, Georgia Tech has two problems - generally, there are too many solid hitters to start them all every game, and specifically, there is a distinct glut of shortstops.
I think that means Austin Wilhite, the polished fielder and multi-year starter, and roughly average hitter, keeps his traditional position on opening day. However, with Serratos, the electric hitter, you cannot keep him out of the lineup. So, you pull the old Javier Baez / Addison Russell swap and send Serratos to second base on days he can’t start at shortstop. This keeps his bat in the lineup at a position where he’s not as much of a defensive liability, and could even see benefits from his quickness. Meanwhile, give Waddell the full-time opportunity to start at third base, establish himself both in the field and at the plate, and see the benefits in his sophomore season. Finally, give Tristan English the start at first on days he’s not pitching, with the freshman Ryan Miller taking over on rest and pitching days for English while also backing up Waddell at the other corner. Billy Zinnershine, natural shortstop, will be in the same boat as Serratos, and will therefore somewhat shadow him in the middle infield positions. Rather than just picking starters, I see the infield as a fair bit more dynamic, so it’ll probably wind up looking something like this:
Tristan English / Ryan Miller 1B
Oscar Serratos / Billy Zinnershine 2B
Austin Wilhite / Oscar Serratos SS
Luke Waddell / Ryan Miller 3B
Like I said yesterday, I see Baron Radcliff taking over the DH spot, hopefully with Waddell, Serratos, or some of the freshmen given opportunities when he is resting or in right field. Consistency is key, especially for young players, so getting them the reps they need to develop is vital. Hopefully, Tech manages to strike that balance between the veterans and the young ones early, because the talent is there for some good seasons with this crop of infielders.
For continuing coverage of the run-up to the 2019 baseball season, click here.
What are your thoughts on the infield? Let us know below!