Alabama baseball opens its 2019 season on Friday with a three-game series against Presbyterian. TideSports will examine the team in a four-part series this week before the season.
This season is the start of something new for Alabama baseball. Yes, 2018 was the first season for head coach Brad Bohannon and his assistants, but this is the first year with major changes on the roster. That’s obvious with a look around the infield.
Alabama played 56 games in 2018, meaning there were 224 starts at the four infield positions. Of those, 208 are gone as players graduated, drafted or otherwise moved on. The only returning player with even a little experience is junior John Trousdale, who started 16 games at first base or third base last season, plus five more as the DH.
Trousdale played more late in the season but doesn’t appear to be on track to open 2019 as a starter. Freshman Drew Williamson seems most likely to start the season as the first baseman. He’s a physical presence (6-5/210) who has potential to grow into some power. Junior college transfer Justin King is another possibility there.
Morgan McCullough, a junior college transfer who started his career at Oregon, is the leader to open the season at second base. He hit .271 as a freshman for the Ducks and was the JUCO World Series MVP last year at Chipola College, where he hit .381 with a .471 on-base percentage. He can play multiple positions if required.
Wallace State transfer Kolby Robinson looks like the strongest candidate at shortstop. He may not be a major player on the offense, but won a Gold Glove for his play at junior college.
Another junior college transfer, Brett Auerbach, could round out the infield at third base. It’s not his natural position but his bat might necessitate that he finds a place in the lineup. He was a late-round draft pick in 2018 but chose to come to Alabama.
The one position that does have real experience returning is catcher. Sam Praytor had a strong freshman season and took a bigger role as the season went along. Praytor started 39 games and hit .279, including .278 in the SEC. He had three homers and drove in 16 runs but will be counted on for much more this season. He receives the ball well and has an arm to deter runners, throwing out 10 runners on 19 attempts last season. Auerbach can also catch.