Alabama baseball opens its 2018 season on Friday with a three-game home series against Valparaiso. TideSports.com will look at the team this week before the season begins.
This might be the most difficult position to guess entering the season. Junior Sam Finnerty could see some time here, but was announced as the Friday night starter earlier this week. His bat could help but he’s needed more on the mound.
Junior Gene Wood hit .269 in SEC play before a knee injury ended his season. He played mostly center in his first two seasons but is probably the favorite to open the season here.
Keith Holcombe has also played here in the last two seasons. He switches back to playing football when spring practice begins, so Alabama probably won’t have him all season once again this year. Notre Dame transfer Connor Stutts is a possibility, but he also pitches. Like Finnerty, his role could be determined by needs on the mound.
The best bet to start the season here is junior college transfer Joe Breaux. Alabama’s coaching staff made sure to hold on to him during the transition last summer. They expect him to help this season after turning down the Phillies in last year’s draft. Head coach Brad Bohannon said again at the start of spring practice that he would be a newcomer Alabama fans will get to know.
Alabama has some depth here. Wood is also an option in center. Walker McCleney acquitted himself well as a true freshman last season, batting .250. He can defend and has some speed as well.
Chandler Taylor. We can probably stop right here.
Taylor is the best bat in the lineup and among Alabama’s core of returners. He was second-team All-SEC last year, the only Alabama player named all-conference at the end of the year. He batted .282 on the season but improved to .295 in SEC play and was fourth in the conference with 16 home runs despite not reaching the postseason. Maybe he plays a little left field or something, but he’s an every day player and will be counted on to hit in the middle of the order.
He’ll be suspended for the first series of the season but will be among Alabama’s most important players when he returns.