Ohio State is in the midst of its annual Scarlet and Gray World Series. With the team divided up into two squads, the series caps the fall season of baseball. While details on how the Buckeyes fared across the five-game intra-squad series will come next week, along with a look at the 2013 crop of arms, after Ohio State's scout day last Thursday, there are observations to be shared.
Ohio State only lost one positional starter to graduation in outfielder David Corna. Considering senior Joe Ciamacco and junior Mike Carroll each saw time in the outfield, on paper Ohio State's starting nine would seem to be easy to peg.
For the most part it is, but there are a few lingering questions to be decided over individual winter workouts and preseason practice which begins in February. A rundown of the biggest question marks throughout the line-up and in the field follows.
Left Field- As mentioned Carroll and Ciamacco return after starting 43 and 26 games respectively. The bulk of Carroll's at-bats came as the team's designated hitter, 31 starts compared to 12 in the field. But, as discussed later, Carroll may find it easier to receive playing time in the field. Carroll held an offensive edge over Ciamacco, finishing with an OPS over .701 to the senior's .681, but Ciamacco is regarding as the better fielder and finished a perfect 14-for-14 on the bases, Carroll stole 11 in 15 attempts. With two of the three outfield positions locked up by junior Tim Wetzel and sophomore Pat Porter, who joins them will likely not be determined until the first weekend of the season.
Third Base- Ohio State did not lose its 2012 third baseman, Brad Hallberg, to graduation nor the draft. Hallberg is back for his red-shirt senior season, but has moved across the diamond. As Ohio State converts junior right-handed pitcher Josh Dezse from closer to starter, Coach Beals and staff will take Dezse away from his first base duties and insert Hallberg. Sophomore Ryan Leffel has the edge in manning the hot corner. Leffel appeared in 39 games last season, mostly as a defensive replacement when Dezse was on the mound and Hallberg slid across the diamond. Leffel's toughest competition comes in the form of freshman Jacob Bosiokovic. Bosiokovic, from Delaware, Ohio, was Ohio's Division I Player of the Year his final two seasons at Hayes High School. Bosiokovic has a ceiling that may be unrivaled among the Buckeyes, but is learning a new position and adjusting to college pitching.
Designated Hitter- While Dezse has taken a break from hitting this fall to fully heal a lower back injury, and now is completely shut down, the plan was to slot him as the team's designated hitter. Dezse's future is on the mound, he currently projects to be a top-three round draft pick in June's draft, but he finished second on the team in home runs, 5, and slugging, .426. It could be determined that it is best for Dezse's development to fully focus on pitching and take the bat out of his hand for good. It could also be determined for his health that he becomes a one-way player. Ohio State would love to have the best of both worlds, but if not, Carroll could resume his DHing duties while freshman infielder Troy Kuhn has shown through fall practice he has a bat that is college-ready.
Catcher- Unless one takes a giant step forward, it appears Ohio State will have a platoon behind the plate. Sophomore Aaron Gretz is a left-handed hitting catcher that made 29 starts while senior Greg Solomon is a right-handed hitting catcher that made 31 starts. Gretz maintained the slightest advantage in hitting, .253 to .252, but was far betting in reaching base .384 to .295. On the other side, Solomon provided more pop with a .396 slugging percentage to .286. Solomon provided steadier defense than the first-year player in allowing half as many passed balls, 4 to 8, and throwing out 29% of baserunners to Gretz' 26%.
The coaching staff has the next four months to figure out their starting nine, fans have three final chances to see the Buckeyes this fall. The Scarlet and Gray World Series resumes Friday Oct. 12 at 6 p.m. at Bill Davis Stadium. Admission is free.
Former Buckeye Nick Swisher is no stranger to the spotlight. Be it his drafting highlighted in the book Moneyball or marrying a television star, the Big Apple is home to one of baseball's brightest personality. As the New York Yankees take on the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Divisional Series, Swisher is carrying the torch for Big Ten baseball as the only positional player among the 10 teams to qualify for this year's postseason. The right fielder finished the regular season with a .272 average, 36 doubles, 24 home runs, 75 runs scored and 93 RBI. As Swisher is in the final year of his contract, a big offseason can help bring in a big payday.
More Stadium Upgrades
After installing a new synthetic surface after receiving a gift of $500,000 from the Bronx Bomber, Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium is set for another noticeable upgrade. The scoreboard in right-center field has stayed the same since Bill Davis Stadium was first held a game on March 14, 1997. After 15 years the scoreboard will be gone. Ohio State is set to have a new video scoreboard in place for the first home game of the 2013 season, March 15 vs. Bryant University.
Recruiting with the Big Boys
Coach Beals has made it no secret he is out to recruit the best. For Ohio State to return to past glory, and ultimately reach its goal of getting to Omaha, the coaching staff knows they need more Swishers coming through the program.
With less than a month until the early signing period, Ohio State is set to haul in another strong recruiting class under Beals. But what the Buckeyes are doing in 2014 is where the eyes open up. Though all three have pledged to be a Buckeye for almost a year now, Ohio State's three committments of Jordan McDonough, Jacob Niggemeyer and Zach Shannon represent the 14th-best class according to Perfect Game. In early 2014 draft prospect rankings, Shannon, an outfielder and first baseman from Cincinnati Moeller, checked in at 69.