There’s still a long way to go before the first season for new Alabama baseball coach Brad Bohannon. But he’s sorted through much of his to-do list in his first eight weeks on campus.
That includes hiring his two full-time assistant coaches and a director of operations and sorting through the Crimson Tide’s roster situation before the start of the fall semester.
“It’s been exceptionally productive,” Bohannon told TideSports last week. “Every day you leave here and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I need to do this, this and this. I haven’t done this, this and this.’ Then, like right now, you look back for just a second and you’re like ‘I cannot believe what we’ve gotten done.”
The roster is firming up as summer ends. Bohannon still hasn’t seen the team play, but has an idea of what’s in store for fall practice.
Alabama will return its entire starting infield from the 2017 season. Second baseman Cobie Vance, shortstop Chandler Avant, third baseman Connor Short and first baseman Cody Henry and Hunter Alexander all started at least 47 games for Alabama last year.
Sophomore John Trousdale, batting over .300 in the New England Collegiate Baseball League this summer, also returns. Coaches have gotten good reviews on junior college transfer Jett Manning, an athletic player who arrives at UA as a junior.
“There’s a lot of SEC at bats returning, which is valuable,” Bohannon said. “I think no matter what level of athletics you coach, there’s no substitute for experience. We have a lot of guys who have been around the block and been through the league, and that’s exciting.”
The outfield includes junior Chandler Taylor, who turned down the Minnesota Twins after being drafted in the 27th round. Junior college transfer Joe Breaux and junior Gene Wood are both options in center field. Returners Sam Finnerty and Keith Holcombe both have experience in the outfield as well.
There are more questions about the pitching and catching. Junior college transfer Matt Malkin should have a chance to contribute behind the plate. Junior Kyle Kaufman, who started 39 games at catcher and designated hitter, is back after batting .301 last season. Freshman Sam Praytor was one of the state’s top recruits last year.
Senior pitcher Jake Walters was Alabama’s No. 1 starter last year and should start on the weekends again this season. Finnerty, a two-way-player, and ACA product Deacon Medders are also returning pitchers who will have an opportunity to play a bigger role. Walters State transfer Sam Gardner should also contribute.
The bullpen is a work in progress. Sophomores Davis Vainer and Sonny Potter are both back, but depth there remains a question.
Three UA pitchers who finished the season injured have begun their way back. Righty Brock Love and lefty Garret Rukes each had midseason Tommy John surgery, but began throwing this week. Lefty Dylan Duarte, who missed his final start with an elbow injury, also threw for the first time this week.
“Everything we’ve gotten has been positive,” Bohannon said. “We’ll handle that with what’s best for them individually, not necessarily what’s best for the team. We’re not going to rush them. If they need to redshirt, they’ll redshirt. If they’re ready to help us win in the spring and they want to pitch, then we’ll do that. Those decisions will be made individually and we’ll do what’s best for them.”
There’s still plenty of time before the season, and plenty for Bohannon and his staff to decide. Practice this fall will be his first opportunity to evaluate the roster in person.
“We’ll have to get out there and see what they can do,” Bohannon said. “I’m going to try really, really hard to stay open minded.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.