Today is the day we've all been waiting for, it's finally opening day! All of college baseball gets started today and the Cowboys are in Phoenix, Arizona right now to play the Arizona State Sun Devils in three-game weekend series. However, before the game starts tonight we need to look at the outfield situation.
Coach Holliday's outfield will no longer have last year's Big 12 Player of the Year, Zach Fish, who was drafted in 11th round of the MLB draft by the Chicago White Sox. In 63 games played, Fish hit .308 with a team-leading 11 home runs and 48 RBI's.
The outfield situation is not as clear as the infield. The team has returnering players Corey Hassel, Conor Costello, Ryan Sluder and the possibility of Gage Green in the outfield. Newcomers like Stillwater's own Jon Littell will also be expected to contribute right away. I expect coach Holliday to use all of these players in some capacity in the outfield in 2015, here's my prediction of what the starting three will be:
Left Field, Ryan Sluder, So.
Sluder played 35 games as a freshman, hitting .284 for the Cowboys last season. Sluder brings a very strong arm to the outfield that will be great asset for an OSU team that should be very strong defensively. I see Sluder as someone who could be similar to what Craig McConaughy was at the plate last year, hitting for a .300 average, but not bringing much power to the table.
Center Field, Corey Hassel, Jr.
The center field job is Hassel's for now, but he will need to show something better than the .172 average he hit for last season if he wants to keep the job. Mind you that was only in 29 at-bats, but I believe he needs to be impressive at the plate to establish himself in center field.
Hassel only started four games last season, but he entered 49 games as a substitute, either for his defense or his legs. The Stillwater native is known for his outstanding defensive range and his ability to make incredible plays in the outfield.
If Hassel cannot hit enough to stay in the lineup, the easy switch would be to move Green to center field from behind the plate and have Bryan Case move to catcher. I know Holliday likes Green behind the plate, but I would prefer to have Case's bat over Hassel's. Holliday did lead the team to the Super Regionals last season so I think his opinion holds more weight than mine does.
Left Field, Jon Littell, Fr.
I have a good feeling that Littell is going become to an instant fan-favorite. Another Stillwater native, Littell passed up a chance to go pro and play for the Washington Nationals to be a part of OSU baseball.
"Johnny's a great team player, he has tremendous work ethic so he's right in line with that and I think he'll handle the opportunity [to play] very well," Holliday told the media earlier this week.
According to Perfect Game, Littell is the fourth rated outfielder among incoming freshmen. Littell was an integral part of the 2014 Stillwater HS state championship team in 2014. I expect Littell to be instant contributor for the Cowboys in 2015, bringing a powerful bat to the lineup and an above-average arm to the outfield.