Stanford baseball is set to kick off a highly anticipated season on Friday with a three-game series against Indiana and one game against Cal. With the Cardinal undergoing a high turnover rate in the field, however, somebody’s going to need to step up to ensure that the young Stanford offense can support what is expected to be a strong pitching staff. We asked baseball writers Jordan Wallach, Do-Hyoung Park and Vihan Lakshman: Who will be the new Stanford breakout star this year?
Do: Stanford seems to pull a new power hitter out of nowhere every season. These are guys that were always expected to hit well but didn’t exactly have the most promising starts to their careers as backups seeing limited playing time. Two years ago, it was Austin Slater. Last year, it was Zach Hoffpauir. This year, it’s going to be Austin Barr.
Barr is a junior catcher/first baseman that’s a career .172 hitter going into this season, but he’s only seen really limited action as the third-string catcher and occasional designated hitter so far. This season, he’s likely going to see significant time in platoons at catcher, first base and designated hitter.
I’ve heard that he has, by far, the most raw power on the team, and although he’s never going to hit for average, he can carry pretty much anything out of the park, and I’d be shocked if he didn’t hit double-digits in homers this season as he sees more and more pitches. Think Adam Dunn. I think Stanford will have enough contact hitters (as always) that having an all-or-nothing, big power threat in the heart of the order will have a much higher positive than negative overall effect.
Jordan: There’s no arguing with Do that Stanford will certainly need a strong bat to join Hoffpauir in the middle of the lineup. And while it might be easy to look for a returner to step up and fill the role, it’s tough to look past Stanford’s freshman class, which was ranked No. 8 nationally and tops in the Pac by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
Catcher Bryce Carter, who was recently ranked the No. 6 freshman in the country by Perfect Game, is the hitter to look for this season. He’s a left-handed bat with simple mechanics and a smooth swing that goes straight to the ball. His teammates have noted the quality of his approach that they’ve seen in the offseason, as Carter has shown he’s a line-drive hitter who can use the entire field.
Carter, a Tulsa, Oklahoma native who was a three-sport athlete in high school (baseball, football and basketball), is expected to split time at catcher with sophomore Matt Decker, but chances are, the Cardinal will need his left-handed bat to break up their righty-heavy lineup. Switch-hitters Tommy Edman and Jonny Locher are the only other Stanford regulars who can hit from the left side.
Vihan: As Stanford gets set to take on Indiana on Opening Day, a lot of eyes will deservedly be on Tommy Edman, the most valuable player of last year’s Bloomington Regional after his walk-off home run for the ages to defeat the Hoosiers.
While Edman’s walk-off blast last year came out of nowhere (it was the first homer from the left side of the plate in his life), he’s capable of taking the next step in his game and becoming Stanford’s breakout player of 2015.
Edman already has plenty of experience after a strong freshman season, in which he started 48 of the team’s 56 games and finished with a batting average of .256, including going .400 in the month of April and .417 in the aforementioned epic Bloomington Regional.
With the shot of confidence that has to come with hitting one of the biggest home runs in Stanford baseball history, Edman looks poised to be a key component of this year’s Cardinal squad. In addition to his offense, he is a very solid defender, capable of playing both second base and shortstop, and should be bringing a lot of versatility to the lineup over the course of a long season.
Contact Jordan Wallach at jwallach ‘at’ stanford.edu, Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu and Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu.