This is final part of the four-part Stanford baseball season preview series by The Daily. This part looks at the outfield.
In a nutshell
Stanford baseball has enjoyed a gluttony of returning players in both the pitching staff and in the infield. Juniors such as pitchers Tristan Beck and Kris Bubic or middle infielders Nico Hoerner and Duke Kinamon have solidified the diamond for head coach David Esquer’s squad.
But what about the outfield?
The outfield positions don’t enjoy the same luxury. Outfielders Quinn Brodey, one of the best hitters in the country, and Jack Klein, a rock at center field, are now toiling in the minor leagues.
Brodey won Pac-12 Player of the Week multiple times due to his offensive exploits while Klein was dependable in the outfield and as a batter. Brandon Wulff, who returns this season, manned right field, and while he wasn’t as good offensively as the other outfielders, he showed some potential in his home-run hitting.
How do you replace players with the calibers of Brodey and Klein?
You can throw a bunch of bodies at a position and see what sticks. This is at least the plan for left field.
“There are some key spots where we turned some people,” Coach Esquer said referring to the hole in left field. “There are some players right on the edge of cracking the lineup, and the DH and left field spots seem to be the open positions.”
Junior Alec Wilson is an option for the left field spot, and so is sophomore Kyle Stowers. Both were used primarily as defensive replacements last season. If those two cannot come up on the offensive end, Coach Esquer said he could be inclined to put sophomore Daniel Bakst in left field.
Another option to replace someone like Brodey or Klein is to turn to an up-and-coming new face.
Freshman Tim Tawa is talented athletically. He played both football and baseball in high school, and he was proficient in both sports. If Coach Esquer thinks the Oregon native can play the wide expanse that is center field, then he won’t hesitate to throw him into the fire. Joining Tawa in the competition for center field is Wilson. He can play both outfield spots, so he has many opportunities to play.
Wulff should be expected to keep his spot in right field this season.
Despite the many questions in the outfield, it should be exciting to see who will emerge to take these spots when the season begins on Feb. 16.
Brandon Wulff (RF): Wulff is returning after a season that saw him start 44 games, which includes 26 games at right field. Wulff’s offense was up and down, batting .231, but he showed power in his 143 at-bats. Wulff was third on the team in home runs (six) and fifth in RBI (23). He also had the ability to get on base without recording a hit, as evidenced by his .325 on-base percentage.
[Wulff] is a middle-of-the-order guy,” Coach Esquer said of the right fielder. That just means Wulff can hit the ball pretty hard.
Alec Wilson (LF/CF): Joining Wulff in the outfield is Wilson. He played 43 games last season but only started in two, as he was used primarily as a late-game defensive replacement in the outfield. The junior only had 33 at-bats, and he managed seven hits, six runs, three doubles and three RBI. Last year was a season of firsts for Wilson as he had his first start (Texas, March 4), first at-bat and first hit (Kansas, Feb. 24).
While Wilson has done well defensively, he will have to show what he can do offensively. 33 at-bats is too small of a sample size, but this season, either in left or center field, he will have the chance to show his offensive prowess.
Kyle Stowers (LF): A freshman last season, Stowers played in 19 games and started eight in left field. He got his first start on Opening Day but went 0-4 in his at-bats. The San Diego native had 39 bats, as he was used primarily as a defensive replacement or a pinch hitter.
Stowers’ 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame should be primed for offensive firepower, but that remains to be seen. He had one home run, which came against Kansas on Feb. 24. Left field is the real question mark in the outfield, so if the other left fielders are having trouble, then Stowers could swoop in and make it his job.
Newcomers to watch for:
Tim Tawa (CF): The fresh-faced freshman was a two-sport phenom in high school. Tawa was Oregon’s three-time Gatorade Football Player of the Year and the 2017 Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year. His prolific athletic career earned him the 2016 MaxPreps Male Athlete of the Year. He also competed in six state championships across three sports in his high school career. As a quarterback, Tawa set state records for career touchdown completions and passing yards. With Stanford football’s lack of healthy quarterbacks for spring football, maybe they’ll try to recruit Tawa’s services as a signal caller? Just kidding.
Tawa is clearly an incredible athlete and is tailor-made for the center field position. He will compete with Wilson to man the middle spot in the outfield.
Quinn Brodey (LF): Brodey was the team’s best hitter last season. He led the team in nearly every offensive category, including batting average (.314), home runs (11), RBI (51) and triples (four).
Brodey had a proclivity for being clutch. He had walk-off hits in back-to-back games against Texas. Down 4-1 in the ninth inning against Cal State Fullerton in the NCAA Regional, Brodey tripled and then scored. The man had ice in his veins.
MLB teams also thought highly of Brodey as he was the first Cardinal drafted in the 2017 MLB Draft. He was selected in the third round by the New York Mets. After batting .257 in Class A Short, Brodey continued onto Class A Full, where he hit one home run and recorded seven RBI in nine games.
Jack Klein (CF): After having a down year offensively in his junior season, Klein excelled in his final year on the Farm. The team’s starting center fielder last season, Klein was fifth on the team in batting average (.293) and fourth in slugging (.408). He even pitched a scoreless inning, with one strikeout, against Cal State Fullerton in the second game of the season.
Like nine other Cardinal players in 2017, Klein was selected in the 2017 MLB Draft. He was taken in the 34th round by the Kansas City Royals. The Royals must have been impressed with Klein’s arm because he played as a pitcher in the Rookie league for nine games.
Contact Jose Saldana at jsaldana ‘at’ stanford.edu.