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Diamond Hogs’ 2019 Outlook

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With the draft out of the way, how is next year’s team shaping up?

ArkansasRazorbacks.com

With the most successful season of Dave Van Horn’s career at Arkansas now over, the coaching staff has already begun to look ahead at fielding next season’s roster. While there will be several familiar faces penciled into the starting lineup, the draft and graduation took a large percentage of the 2018 key contributors. Overall, 11 players were drafted and two more have exhausted their eligibility. Additionally, two signees were lost to the draft in a 2nd round catcher and a 24th round RHP.

We will no longer be seeing Grant Koch, Jared Gates, Carson Shaddy, Jax Biggers, Eric Cole or Luke Bonfield swinging the bats at Baum. Additionally, Blaine Knight, Kacey Murphy, Jake Reindl, Barrett Loseke, and Evan Lee have all thrown their last pitch for the Razorbacks. However, Arkansas will retain a couple of draft picks in Isaiah Campbell and Zack Plunkett who will join a talented group of young players returning with their sights set on making it back to Omaha.

Offense

All-American freshmen Heston Kjerstad and Casey Martin will anchor the lineup once again, but could find themselves in different positions defensively. Dominic Fletcher will return to center field for his junior season and look to pick up where he left off at the end of 2018. After these three it will be up to who shows Van Horn the best stuff in the Fall. Jordan McFarland has proven he can hit at a high level and will be given a chance to field his position at either corner infield positions or the outfield. Hunter Wilson will return for his senior season to contribute solid defense at either second or third, while Jack Kenley looks to be the shortstop of the future as he tries to find some consistency at the plate.

Redshirt freshman Cole Turney had a lot of hype surrounding him when he came to Fayetteville in the fall, but injuries kept him out of competing for a starting position. He has started red hot in the summer league and will hopefully earn a spot in the outfield or at DH this fall. Casey Opitz filled in nicely for Koch behind the dish this season and will likely be the front-runner at catcher. A few new bloods to look forward to will be freshman outfielders Christian Franklin and Dillon Lifrieri, and transfer outfielder Matt Goodheart who will have three years of eligibility after spending one season at San Jacinto Junior College. Goodheart could start immediately and provide a spark in the order with speed and quality at bats.

Projected Lineup

2B – Casey Martin (R)

CF – Dominic Fletcher (L)

LF – Heson Kjerstad (L)

DH – Cole Turney (L)

1B – Jordan McFarland (R)

C – Casey Opitz (S)

3B – Hunter Wilson (L)

SS – Jack Kenley (R)

RF – Matt Goodheart (L)

Pitching

Campbell returns the best stuff from a starter, though he will need to work on his consistency and longevity this off-season. Others who showed promise as potential starters this season include Kole Ramage, Bryce Bonnin, and Caleb Bolden. With Matt Cronin back in the closer role there is little to worry about saving late leads, and Cody Scroggins will also be back to provide a relief option. Returning from Tommy John surgery last fall, Kevin Kopps will hopefully return to his form from 2017 as a starter or long reliever.

Zebulon Vermillion was kept on the roster late, which is a sign of what Van Horn believes he can provide, and Hunter Milligan will look to contribute more after pitching just 4 innings this season. Freshmen who may have an impact on the mound next season are quarterback commit Connor Noland and left handed pitcher Patrick Wicklander. It is always hard to project pitchers out of high school but at least on paper Van Horn has signed a large class of quality arms.

Projected Rotation

RHP – Isaiah Campbell

RHP – Kole Ramage

RHP – Bryce Bonnin

Top Relievers

RHP – Cody Scroggins

RHP – Caleb Bolden

RHP – Kevin Kopps

LHP – Matt Cronin (CL)