Cavaliers position players are more proven than their counterparts on the mound. I expect a big year from these returners and hope they can improve on the good numbers they put up last year
Unlike the pitching staff, which God only knows who is going to be in what role, most of the position players roles are fairly set. The only real questions as far as the position players goes is who might step into a role in the event of an injury (which we all know is inevitable because God loves hurting UVa athletes).
The outfield became pretty clear last year with the impressive first years put forth by Derek Fisher and Brandon Downes. Fisher is coming of a hell of a first year in which he was named a Freshman All-American by Lousiville Slugger and the NCBWA. Further, Fisher was named a 2nd team PreSeason All-American earlier in the year. Downes missed a month last year due to a broken hand, but still impressed me in the limited time. He ended the year starting the last 20 games for the Cavs and hit .321 on the year, he needs to do that again but be more aggressive on the basepaths. I think Downes could be a strong leadoff hitter and table setter. In LF, RS JR Colin Harrington is going to lead the outfield with the experience he has gained over the last three years. Colin should be a strong middle of the order guy and continue his low strikeout numbers like he had last year.
Behind the plate should be no surprise as Nate Irving returns to the starting position he had for the entire year last year. Coach O'Connor and Kuhn love having a guy stick behind the plate for three or four years because it allows them to not worry so much about what's happening in the position. Coach Kuhn's system is so complex that Irving likely hadn't grasped everything quite yet last year. This year he'll be more comfortable with the pitchers and how the Cavaliers play the game. Look for this kid to have a big year.
The infield it gets a little tricky. Having to replace Keith Werman, Chris Taylor, and Stephen Bruno are no easy tasks. Luckily, 5th year 4th year Jared King returns yet again to lead the infield from 1st base. If 4th year Reed Gragnani can stay healthy all year he should have no problem maintaining his hold on 2b. Reed only got to play in 20 games last year but batted .369 in those games; if he can maintain those stats for a whole year he could be an All-ACC caliber player.
The left side of the infield is less clear. It looks like 2nd year Brandon Cogswell will succeed Chris Taylor at SS. Cogswell didn't have an overly impressive 1st year but did show flashes in the field and battled at the plate. If Cogswell struggles I wouldn't be surprised if we see a relatively unknown first year get a chance to prove themselves. Nick Howard is likely to see a majority of the innings at 3rd, unless he has to pitch. He's going to be key on the mound so I imagine there will be ample opportunity for Kenny Towns to also prove himself in the field.
If Towns or another young guy proves themselves, don't be surprised if Howard supplants King at first. This is likely to bother some people given the sacrifice King has given the Cavaliers over the last four years, but King struggled at the plate at times last year and this team is getting a lot younger.
Mike Papi and the aforementioned Kenny Towns will likely DH. I thought Papi was going to have a breakout year last year, but I think his head got in the way a little bit. (Luckily he didn't transfer as I thought he might) If he can show the coaches he's matured a bit and the game slows down for him, I could see Papi being the go-to DH, the 4th outfielder, and a great 5 hole guy to give UVa a 1-2 punch with Fisher in the 4 hole.
Well, we're only 2 days away from first pitch. Tomorrow I'll detail what sortof expectations we should have with this team, for better or for worse.