“Spring” practice is in full swing for the Alabama Baseball team, and position battles are brewing across the diamond. With three straight top 15 recruiting class, coach Brad Bohannon’s team is looking to take a big step forward this season. Bama is building depth and versatility with their roster.
Bohannon has stated that he feels like he is close to having an “SEC” roster from top to bottom. The team has increased the athleticism, with several players that can play multiple positions. Bohannon feels in college baseball this is a must, and especially at places like Alabama where the scholarship limits hit harder than they do at other schools. At practice and scrimmages you are likely to see a player at catcher one day, third base the next, and centerfield on the third day. Multiple guys move around from middle infield to corner spots, and to the outfield. One player, sophomore right handed pitcher/switch hitter, Tyler Ras, is continuing to work as a top line pitcher, and at first base. Ras played both ways last year, mostly on offense as the designated hitter.
Several guys are in the mix for the starting rotation, and the spots could very well be fluid throughout the season. Freshman left hander Connor Prielipp has sparkled since arriving on campus, both in fall workouts and since the calendar has turned. The Tomah, Wisconsin native appears to be the leader at this point to take the coveted Friday night starter spot, a huge deal for a true freshman.
Others that have starting experience and are in the mix include Ras, who had 12 starts among 15 appearances last year, sophomore righty Conner Shamblin who started four games among his 14 appearances last season, red shirt junior, lefty Garret Rukes pitched in 18 games last year, starting four times. Freshman left hander Antoine Jean comes to Tuscaloosa from Montreal, Quebec, and has looked impressed this spring. Jean spent the early part of the fall on the U19 Canadian National team, gaining valuable international experience. Senior William Freeman came in from junior college last year and started six times out of his 12 times on the mound. All have been impressive during the scrimmages since camp began. Red shirt freshman Landon Green will pitch a lot this season, either as a starter or out of the pen. Green missed last season after arm surgery, but appears to be back in game ready mode.
Senior Casey Cobb pitched in 18 games last year, starting one, and is versatile enough to start or be used as a long reliever, or at the back end of a game. A pair of sophomores, Chase Lee and Jacob McNairy could very well be the two used at the back end, with the game on the line. Junior left hander Brock Guffey brings big game experience, and was often called on last year to face the oppositions top hitters. Sophomore Dylan Smith was a highly touted right hander coming into last season, and appeared 13 times. Smith could fill several roles on the staff going forward. Junior college right Ryan O’Connell has impressed in the preseason, and should log plenty of innings this season. Fifth year senior Kyle Cameron is back for his last season, and brings the only two SEC wins that any pitcher on the staff has. Left hander Dylan Oliver returns for his senior season after coming from Marion Military Institute for his junior year. Oliver was little used last season, but did not allow any earned runs in his five appearances. Freshman Garrett Hester (LHP), Dowd Ritter (RHP), and Blake Bennett (LHP), round out the staff and will battle to contribute throughout the long season.
Red shirt sophomore catcher Sam Praytor returns after playing in only six games last season before being lost for the year with arm surgery. Bohannon plans to work the Helena native back “on a pitch count” behind the plate. The powerful Praytor will likely catch two games a week at the beginning of the season, and work at designated hitter on his “off” days. Senior Brett Auerbach was expected to be the teams third baseman last season, but was pressed into the daily catching duties after the Praytor injury. The California native is the teams Swiss Army Knife. Auerbach will catch, play third base, second base, and center field during the season. Bohannon says he has told Auerbach where he plays isn't a reflection on him, but on the other guys, and where he is needed that particular day. Simply stated, the kid is a baseball player. Freshman Peyton Wilson, the brother of John Parker and Ross Wilson, is the next catcher in line, but also has seen time in center field and at second base. The youngest Wilson brother is a switch hitter that can really run. Senior Johnny Hawk had arm surgery in the fall and will be unavailable this season.
Drew Williamson returns for his sophomore year after starting 53 games last season at first base. The 6’5” Brewton, AL native is a slick fielding first sacker, that also hit .290 as a freshman. Williamson was an all state center fielder in high school and could play at any position except catcher. Ras has also worked at first base, and has picked up the position impressively. Second base has several candidates, led by freshman Jim Jarvis, who also has worked a lot at shortstop as well. Another freshman, Myles Austin has had a lot of action at second, but also at shortstop and in center field. Auerbach is another seeing time their, as well as freshman Logan Keller. Senior Kolby Robinson is returning starter at shortstop and has done everything correctly to keep that spot. Robinson has made every play this spring, and has rarely been retired at the plate. The Cullman native has added muscle, and his hitting the ball with more power after hitting .280 last season. Freshman Zane Denton, Keller, and Auerbach have all worked at third base, and likely all play some there when the season starts. William Hamiter is another freshman that has been used at first, second, and third base.
The outfield has a couple of returning starters in right fielder Tyler Gentry, and left fielder T.J. Reeves. Gentry led the Tide in almost every offensive category last year, with a .310 average and 13 home runs, 42 runs driven in, 65 hits, 116 total bases, and a .552 slugging percentage. The junior from Arlington, Tennessee looks poised to make a run at all SEC this year. Reeves was second on the team as a freshman with nine home runs, and has monster power. Reeves will play left field primarily but can also slide into centerfield if needed. The centerfield battle has been on going with junior college transfer Jackson Tate, senior Walker McCleney- known for his speed and defense, but has bulked up and his hitting the ball with authority this spring. Auerbach, Austin, Wilson, and freshman Andrew Pinckney are also candidates for playing time in center. Senior Justin King can play both corner outfield spots, first base, and designated hitter. Freshman Owen Diodati came from Niagara Falls, Ontario with a reputation as big time power prospect, and has not disappointed. The big left handed batter joined Jean on the U19 Canadian National Team this fall.
Diodati, Praytor, King, Denton, etc. will all likely see time at the DH spot. Prayter while he fully recovers his throwing arm could be in the spot every other game, or every third game in the early season. Matchups, injuries, and who is swinging a hot bat will also be a factor.
The Tide will likely not have a “regular” lineup for the first few weeks of the season, as Bohannon searches to find the is best combination of players to have a successful season. Having the depth and versatility will be nice change for the squad. After only having three left hander pitchers on the roster last year, the 2020 team has seven.
Breakdown of where are these guys from?
- Alabama 17
- Georgia 3
- Tennessee 3
- Canada 3
- California 2
- Florida 2
- Missouri 2
- Iowa, New Jersey, Texas, and Wisconsin, one each.
Bohannon truly will go anywhere to find a player.
The Crimson Tide hosts Northeastern for a three game series on February 14th, 15th, and 16th. Games can be seen on SEC Network+.