While the NC State baseball team lost key players like shortstop Will Wilson and first baseman Evan Edwards from a season ago, head coach Elliott Avent and his staff brought in some new faces ready to fill the gap. Some players will be moving around, like sophomore Tyler McDonough, who will likely see at a lot of time at second base.
The infield will look a lot different than it did last year. A position that won't change is catcher junior Patrick Bailey, who is entering his draft year and will absolutely be the base of the lineup, offensively and defensively. He is also vital to the success of the pitching staff. When he gets a break, it could be senior Brad Debo, depending on whether he is healthy throughout the entire year.
The rest of the infield could move around quite a bit. Based on the practices, McDonough will likely get a lot of time at second base in favor of junior J.T. Jarrett. McDonough hit .320 last year with 21 extra-base hits and 47 RBIs. Depending on the order, he could follow up the heart of the lineup in fifth or sixth, as he did most of the year last year, or jump up to leadoff or second.
All signs point to freshman Jose Torres starting at shortstop, and although he has big shoes to fill, Torres looks ready for the challenge. His range at shortstop is already really good, and arm strength will certainly get better as the year goes on. The only question will probably be how long it will take the freshman to adjust to ACC play at the plate.
The corner infielders are more up for grabs, but both have players penciled in to start the season. Sophomore Vojtech Mensik is probably the frontrunner and showed a lot of promise last year, when he started 35 games. Otherwise, junior David Vazquez has some experience at the hot corner, but it’s probably Mensik’s position to lose, and with the bats in front of him in the lineup, expect a big year at the plate.
NC State went to the transfer portal to find a first baseman for this season, bringing in junior Austin Murr from Des Moines Community College. Murr hit .440 with a .710 slugging percentage and 62 extra-base hits in two years. If it’s not Murr, a couple freshmen could get a little time, or possibly Debo, if he’s comfortable there.
With the move to the infield, NC State loses McDonough in center field, who performed really well in that spot last year, but junior Jonny Butler will take on that role after mostly taking a corner outfield spot last year. With this switch, the Pack probably doesn’t lose any defense either.
Left and right field, as it did in the 2019 season, could see a number of different lineups. Last season, juniors Terrell Tatum and Devonte Brown will probably get plenty of opportunities to earn those spots, but they certainly won’t be the only ones. Senior Lawson McArthur hasn’t been able to stick in the lineup that long over his four years, so it could be his time. Sophomores Luca Tresh and Marek Chlup could get some time, as well as freshman Noah Soles.
Honestly, all the options listed are fairly good, but after Brown’s impressive fall season, he should seize a spot, and Soles is also a really talented newcomer. However, Tatum had stretches last year when he was playing great ball.
NC State has a lot of options and an even deeper bullpen, so it should be another great year. How far the team will go into the postseason will depend a lot on the health of the arms in the bullpen and whether it can keep the intensity through April and May.