Welcome to Keeping It Heel’s UNC Baseball preview! Over the next four days, KIH will get you ready for Opening Day for UNC on Friday February 14th against the College of Charleston. We will cover UNC’s Infield, Outfield, Pitchers and Catchers, and Overall Season Outlook. Check back every morning for the latest installment in the series! Today we will start with looking at UNC’s infield.
North Carolina lost two really good players from the infield to the MLB draft, but should still be strong in the 2014 season around the bases. Colin Moran and Cody Stubbs, two of UNC’s most productive infielders from last season, are gone and freshman Wood Myers and Joe Dudek are coming in to take their places. Myers is a local product from Jordan High School who has been a Carolina fan all his life, growing up just a couple of miles away from Boshamer Stadium. Dudek hails from New Jersey, and should take over at first base for Stubbs. Lets take a closer look at the projected infield for next season.
C: Kory Dunbar- Sophomore, .159(Batting Average)/.302(On Base Percentage)/.205(Slugging Percentage)
1B: Joe Dudek- Freshman, No College Stats
2B: Wood Myers- Freshman, No College Stats
3B: Landon Lassiter- Sophomore, .358/.491/.447 (Freshman All-American last year)
SS: Michael Russell- Junior, .298/.382/.381
The highlight here is Lassiter, the first of two returning freshman (with Skye Bolt) All-Americans UNC has. Lassiter will be called upon to carry this offense throughout the season. While he isn’t a power hitter, with only one homerun last season, Lassiter can drive in batters and anchor the middle of the Carolina lineup with Bolt.
Russell was a defensive ace and speed specialist for the Heels last season, but will be asked to produce more for the offense this year. Getting his On Base percentage up from .382 will help the Junior steal more bases and score more runs for UNC Baseball.
The three other infielders are somewhat of a mystery for the Heels, but all have the potential to break out and have really good seasons. Dunbar is listed as the ninth best prospect from the ACC for the 2015 MLB Draft, so the potential and upside is there. He will be taking over for Brian Holberton and should have a lot more at-bats this season, so hopefully for the Tar Heels he can put up some good numbers.
Dudek and Myers both have the potential to be impact freshman like Lassiter and Bolt were last season. Dudek is a lefty with flashes of power potential that the Heels will desperately need, so we will see if he can hit for power in his first season or if he needs time to realize his potential. Myers will be a tough out in the bottom of the lineup, and should grind out at-bats like last year’s Carolina team did.
Offensively, UNC should be just fine in the infield. Lassiter has the best bat and has to avoid a “sophomore slump”, and Russell and the younger guys have to be ready to grind out at-bats and drive the ball right from game one. On the defensive side, new starters Dunbar, Dudek, and Myers should have no trouble adjusting to their bigger roles on defense and will help a North Carolina infield that should be pretty good.