If there is one place in the Cavalier lineup there are no questions entering the 2017 season it is on the right side of the infield. The Hoos might have the strongest right side in the country with Pavin Smith and Ernie Clement. The left side will feature some new faces and a mix of old and new behind the plate.
Pavin Smith will enter his third year in a Cavalier uniform regarded not only as one of the top first basemen in the ACC, but also the country. Smith batted .329 with 8 HRs and 57 RBI last season, and although he won’t have first rd pick Thaiss in the lineup this year, Smith could see his power numbers improve.
The other position in the Cavalier lineup all but locked down will feature third year Ernie Clement. Clement burst onto the scene last year batting .351 with 6 stolen bases. He built on his impressive season with UVa by being named the Cape Cod League MVP over the summer and could be a major force at the top of the Hoos lineup setting the table for Smith and Haseley.
Now we get to the unknowns. Fellow third year Justin Novak could fill the void left by Daniel Pinero. The light-hitting, Keith Werman look alike will almost assuredly be in the field somewhere and in the No. 2 spot to move Clement over whenever the leadoff hitter gets on base. If not Novak, freshman Cayman Richardson could be yet another shortstop to assume the position as soon as he gets to grounds. Richardson was the #6 recruit in VA and the #1 SS in the state according to Perfect Game.
The aforementioned Novak could fill the hot corner if Richardson assumes the SS position. Sophomores Andy Weber and Nate Eikhoff could see time at 3rd as well. Weber saw action in 33 games, including 26 starts at third in 2016 while batting .269. Eikhoff had similar numbers last year appearing in 40 games with 22 starts, although he batted .284 with a .441 slugging. Both Eikhoff and Weber could also be candidates for the DH spot giving Pavin Smith some protection.
After missing almost all the 2016 season thanks to Tommy John surgery, 5th year Senior Robbie Coman will return to assume the backstop. I cannot tell you how much comfort Coach Kuhn will have in someone who has already been through the system for four year. That will be a blessing for not only the catching position, but the pitching staff as well. If Coman can repeat his 2014 and 2015 seasons where he batted .283 and .289, any other offensive production will be gravy. Outside of Thaiss, the UVa catcher is more important to the defense and staff than the lineup.