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K-State Baseball 2014 Preview: Outfield

The infield is the same. The outfield? Facing a complete reload.

Rebuilding... or reloading?
Rebuilding... or reloading?

So, you're all excited after reading the infield preview, are you? All those returning starters, things must be great.

Yeah, about that.

Tanner Witt .337/.398/.402 1 35
Jared King .335/.439/.523 7 53
Jon Davis .302/.428/.476 5 42
Joe Goodwin .267/.313/.378 0 5

That's all three outfield starters right there, including 2012 Big 12 Player of the year and 2013 first team All-Big 12 center fielder Jared King (graduated and drafted by the Mets), 2013 first team All-Big 12 left fielder Tanner Witt, and our beloved Pornstache, the inimitable Jon Davis, whose penchant for clutch hits when the Wildcats desperately needed them last year made him a cult hero in Manhattan. As much as the returning infielders provide stability and hope, the damage done to the Wildcat outfield due to graduation cannot be understated. So the question is: can Brad Hill reload?

5 Clayton Dalrymple R R 6'1" 190 So. Coppell TX .343/.343/.400 0 6
35 Mitch Meyer L R 6'3" 185 Jr. Stilwell KS-Blue Valley .281/.322/.492 4 34
27 Kyle Speer L R 6'4" 210 Jr. Manhattan KS .143/.273/.200 0 4

The answer: probably. He's got a decent start in Mitch Meyer, who saw regular action as the BatCats' designated hitter last year. Meyer especially caught fire late in the season and during K-State's post-season run, and that momentum carried into his summer league play; Meyer hit .376 with 4 homers and 34 RBI in the Texas Collegiate League. He's the presumptive replacement for Davis in right field, though he could remain at designated hitter if one of the newcomers fits better in the field.

Dalrymple was a true freshman last year and saw significant action as a pinch hitter and a late-inning defensive sub. Statistically, he's by far the best returning hitter among the bench players, and has the speed to suggest he's got a good shot at establishing himself as the regular center fielder.

Speer, on the other hand, is probably destined to remain on the bench unless he's shown some growth. Although the sample size is small, the Manhattan native's numbers last year don't show the promise you expect from a potential starter.

16 Max Brown R R 6'5" 200 Jr. Bellevue (WA) CC/North Bend WA-Mount Si
19 Brooks DeBord R R 5'9" 190 So. Hutchinson CC/Manhattan KS
17 Nate Hale L R 5'9" 180 Jr. Cochise (AZ) CC/Las Vegas-Cimarron Memorial

Here's where the Wildcat fan's finger can be removed from the panic button. It's entirely possible that two of three newcomers could step right in and solidify the outfield if their JUCO performance translates to Division I action. Brown is a hot prospect, batting .378 with 21 extra base hits last year. He played for New Zealand in the qualifiers for the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He's almost certain to slide into one of the outfield slots. Hale isn't quite as much of a certainty, but he'd appear to be a better option than Speer. He doesn't have a lot of fence power, but he did hit .367 and reached double figures in extra base hits last year in Arizona, and most importantly he reached base over half the time. Brad Hill values the power of the free pass, and a guy with the plate discipline to draw a walk in nearly 15% of his at-bats is going to get opportunity. DeBord, the younger brother of starting catcher Blair, looks bound for utility duty, but nobody's going to look like they just ate a lemon if he's announced as a pinch-hitter.

Next: the pitchers.