With the MLB draft having given a good indication of what the starting lineup for the Texas Longhorns will look like in 2014, now is as good of a time as any to look at where things stand.
The Longhorns will have Andy McGuire's bat somewhere in the lineup in 2014.
I'm still projecting that Mark Payton and Erich Weiss will sign pro contracts. These projections are based both of those things taking place.
Third Base: Andy McGuire (Off the Bench: Madison Carter)
McGuire has the ability to play second or third base. It looks like the quickest way to get his bat into the lineup will be by putting him at third base. He's a solid defensive player, but by adding his bat to the mix the Longhorns will have two high upside offensive players on the left side of the infield. McGuire has great bat speed and could make an immediate impact.
Carter (.194 BA/.293 OBP/.250 SLG; 2 2B, 1 3B, 6 R, 4 RBI, 2/4 SB) struggled through most of the season last year. He should have the opportunity to fight for playing time next season, but I don't expect him to beat out McGuire.
Shortstop: C.J. Hinojosa (Off the Bench: Bret Boswell)
You can pencil Hinojosa in as one of your starters on the left side of the infield. I expect him to stay at shortstop, but there is a small chance that he could be utilized at third base if Andy McGuire is forced to play second (this scenario would mean that Brooks Marlow and Zane Gurwitz do not impress at second base and Bret Boswell impresses at shortstop).
In my opinion, Hinojosa will be the most important piece to the Texas offense. If he continues to improve, and is able to put up big offensive numbers at short, Texas' offense may be able to put up the runs needed to win games.
Hinojosa (.309 BA/.368 OBP/.414 SLG; 10 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 19 R, 29 RBI, 3/4 SB) needs to improve defensively and show consistency with his arm for his impact to be significant. He had the worst fielding percentage of any defensive player that played a significant amount of time (.951).
Boswell will see the field next season, but I think it is most likely backing up Hinojosa. There's a chance that he fights for playing time at second base, but that would be out of necessity – if Marlow and Gurwitz struggle – or he really outperforms those two in the fall offensively. Boswell is a true shortstop prospect and that will be his position in the long run at Texas.
Second Base: Brooks Marlow or Zane Gurwitz
Marlow had an up and down season last year and needs to show a lot more consistency, both offensively and defensively to be an every day starter next season. He did tie for second on the team with ten doubles and he had the third most extra base hits of all Texas hitters (.250 BA/.302 OBP/.356 SLG; 10 2B, 2 3B, HR, 18 R, 11 RBI in 160 AB). He has the built in advantage having a lot of experience and I think he is the favorite to be the opening day starter.
Ben Johnson is likely going to get the starting nod in left field as a sophomore.
Gurwitz is the stereotypical second base prospect. An undersized player who has good hands, solid speed and hits for contact. Consistency may prove to be the deciding factor in who wins the second base spot.
Obviously, Marlow has the ability to provide extra base hits at a position in which it is normally a luxury to posses, but Gurwitz can fight for the job if he shows the ability to get on base consistently and is solid in the field. Marlow can hold onto the job if the basement of his roller coaster ride rises from last year's production.
First Base: Ty Marlow or Alex Silver
Both of these guys struggled immensely at the plate last season (Marlow – .215 BA/.239 OBP/.338 SLG; Silver – .196 BA/.357 OBP/.214 SLG).
This is the biggest hole Texas has in it's lineup. Kacy Clemens could be a dark-horse candidate if he plays well in the fall (and doesn't end up pitching) due to the fact that Texas looks to be desperate to find a first baseman.
Catcher: Jacob Felts (Off the Bench: Tres Barrera)
Felts has showed that he possesses the tools needed to be a successful collegiate catcher, but he has still not taken the next step to become a player that is feared by opponents. In the years that Texas has had it's most successful seasons there's been difference makers at catcher and first base. Felts (.272 BA/.348 OBP/.327 SLG; 5 2B, HR, 12 R, 15 RBI, 3/4 SB) has not been that type of player, but he still has a season to prove that he he has not plateaued.
Barrera may be in the most interesting position among the newcomers. I think Barrera may battle for Felts for the starting catching job, but I listed his as the back-up catcher because I think he will be the starting designated hitter.
His power potential will be too much to keep him out of the lineup. He will probably play a little at catcher, but unless a big bat emerges at the DH position, or he proves to be as good as Felts and Jeremy Montalbano defensively, there is no need to throw him into maybe the toughest position on the field.
Outfielders: Weston Hall, Ben Johnson, Taylor Stell/Collin Shaw (Off the Bench: Matt Moynihan, Mark Gottsacker)
Hall will most likely start in center field (no errors in Big 12 play) with Ben Johnson most likely starting alongside him in left field. Taylor Stell and Collin Shaw should compete with each other for the other open outfield position.
Both players are solid on defense (no errors last season). Offensively, Shaw showed the ability to get on base more than Stell, but Stell runs better than Shaw and he seems to have a higher ceiling as a player.
Hall – .226 BA/.313 OBP/.252 SLG; 4 2B, 22 R, 10 RBI, 11/14 SB
Johnson – .220 BA/.317 OBP/.407 SLG; 6 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 9 R, 3/8 SB
Stell – .181 BA/.281 OBP/.217 SLG; 12 1B, 3 2B, 13 R, 5 RBI, 11/12 SB
Shaw – .222 BA/.352 OBP/.311 SLG; 67 1B, 2 2B, 3B, 9 R, 3 RBI 2/2 SB