With first pitch just 14 days away, it’s time for Crimson Quarry’s preview of the 2018 Indiana Hoosiers baseball season. In Part I, Auston Matricardi takes a look at an experienced Indiana lineup. In the days leading up to the season opener, we’ll discuss the pitching staff, the schedule, the rest of the Big Ten, and make some predictions.
In 2017, Indiana was an offensive-minded ball club, leading the Big Ten with 75 home runs and scoring the third most runs in the conference behind Michigan and Maryland. During the offseason, the Hoosiers lost a few key pieces in Craig Dedelow, Tony Butler, and Alex Krupa, but don’t despair! The Hoosier Baseball boys are still going to hit the longball and score plenty of runs in 2018! Here’s our projected lineup for this season’s team:
2018 Projected Lineup
|Played at John A. Logan College (JUCO) in 2017
|Missed most of 2017 due to injury. Stats are from 2016.
|Played at Madison College (JUCO) in 2017
Looks like a pretty good group of hitters, huh?
This could very well be the best lineup in the Big Ten and should give opposing pitchers nightmares. Indiana was lucky to keep the group of Lloyd, Miller, and Sowers, who could all have possibly gone to the MLB but went undrafted (except for Miller, who was picked by the Minnesota Twins in the 31st round and elected to return). This group should remain in their roles from last season as the core of the lineup.
There is also a pair of new faces in the lineup in junior college transfers Logan Kaletha and Cade Bunnell. They come right in and will be tasked with filling in for the aforementioned Dedelow and Butler, and it seems like they’ll be up for the task. Kaletha tore it up at Logan College last season (did you see that slash-line!?) hitting .354 and tacking on 6 home runs and 17 stolen bases. He appears to be the frontrunner for the leadoff spot but should face some competition. Bunnell is a former Kansas State Wildcat, playing in 43 games for the Big 12 team, but transferred to Madison College for his sophomore season. As a member of the Wolfpack, Bunnell hit .291 with 8 round-trippers and 37 runs batted in.
After a season in which he was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman team, Scotty Bradley was expected to be a contributor to last season’s team. That went sideways when Bradley suffered an injury early in the season and didn’t return to the field. Now that he’s back to full health, Bradley figures to be a factor in the Hoosier lineup once again, as he should be the team’s primary first baseman, allowing Matt Gorski to move to a more natural outfield position.
Speaking of Gorski, he should be prepared to take a large leap this season. IU’s 2017 Rookie of the Year and an All-Big Ten Freshman selection, Gorski has all of the tools to be a force for the Hoosiers. He can hit, run, field, and has some power to boot. Due to his expansive skill set, don’t be surprised to see Gorski all over the lineup.
We all know that Ryan Fineman is a force behind the plate, but can he be more of a contributor with a bat in his hands? In 2017 the California product took a step back at the plate as his entire slash line dropped, he hit fewer home runs, and drove in fewer runs, but he should be able to bounce back as a junior and provide a veteran presence in the lineup.
At the end of the lineup, we should see sophomore Jeremy Houston. Houston was great for the Hoosiers in the 9-hole in 2017 but was hampered by an injury for a chunk of the season. He played through that injury and was selected to the All-Big Ten Freshman team. According to Chris Lemonis, Houston is back at full health, so we should expect him to continue to grow into a valuable player for the Hoosiers.
On top of all of those talented, experienced players in the lineup, Indiana also has some pretty good bench depth. Guys like Colby Stratten, Laren Eustace, Pat Loeffler, and Chris Lowe will provide Lemonis with options when he wants to rest some of his starters, and those are just some of the returners on the bench. Indiana could also give playing time to newcomers Justin Walker, Wyatt Cross, and Sam Crail among others this spring.
With the amount of talent in the lineup and the amount of depth on the bench, it’s reasonable to expect the Hoosiers to score runs with the best of them in 2018. There should be plenty of hits, and plenty of home runs for that matter, to go around as the Hoosiers chase a College World Series berth.