The two corner outfield starters for Ohio State saw their production go in opposite directions. Enjoying his first season as a full-time starter, right fielder Pat Porter emerged as Ohio State's top bat and overall best athlete. Down the left field line, Tim Wetzel struggled through a season of bad hops, misfortune and plain rotten luck. Between the two was senior Joe Ciamacco, a fleet-footed center fielder who provide range in the outfield and speed on the bases.
Going into the 2014 season the outfield presents a position group Greg Beals and his staff can lean on. A premium talent at the plate, premier defense throughout, leadership from a captain and a freshman ready to make a name for himself, here's a closer look at the Scarlet and Gray outfielders.
Junior RF Pat Porter
Stepping foot on the Columbus campus as a late addition to the 2011 recruiting class, Porter has stepped up as one of the top players for the Buckeyes. A strong all-around athlete, Porter's tools grade favorable, possessing good speed, a strong arm a bit of pop at the plate with solid bat-to-ball skills. Flashes of Porter's promise were displayed in 2012 when the freshman batted .266 with four doubles and a pair of triples in 143 at-bats. Most impressive were the eight outfield assists Porter compiled in 38 starts.
As Ohio State's everyday right fielder, Porter batted .296, the team's leading slugger with a .472 slugging percentage behind 13 doubles, five triples and four home runs. On the bases the Kenston, Ohio product stole 11 bases in 13 attempts. In the final regular season series against Indiana, Porter sustained an injury, keeping him out of the Buckeye's season finale as they sought to claim a share of the Big Ten tirle, as well as the conference tournament. Though successful, surgery forced Porter to miss all of the summer. As a result Porter may not sit high on prospect lists, but head coach Greg Beals believes he will show he is a prospect a professional club will keep an eye on this spring. Porter has added muscle mass, refined a swing that left the left-handed hitter with a hole on inside hard stuff and appears set for a fine season in every aspect of the game.
Freshman CF Troy Montgomery
Montgomery joins the Ohio State outfield out of Fortville, Ind. A one-time commit to Illinois, Montgomery played a summer game on Ohio State's field, was able to take in more of the campus and re-opened his recruitment before committing to Ohio State. From the first time the coaching staff saw him, a belief was held that Montgomery would step in as a freshman and start.
Montgomery brings above-average speed to the Ohio State defense, an elite defender who reads the ball off the bat will and wastes no effort in tracking down balls, turning in and out of cuts exceptionally. Montgomery may start at the bottom of the Ohio State lineup inititally, but his speed and contact skills present a player built for the top of a lineup. Montgomery's efforts in the field and on the bases provide Ohio State with a center fielder with two above-average skills, if Montgomery's bat allows him to hit .275-.290, Ohio State has a star in the making.
Senior LF Tim Wetzel
Wetzel has had an up and down career in the Scarlet and Gray. A three-year starter, Wetzel was the OSU center fielder as a freshman, providing strong defense and a .278 average at the plate. Though Wetzel's average saw a modest increase, up to .280, Wetzel was getting more bang out of his hits, slugging .336 after debuting with a .318 clip, strengthing an already sharp eye with a .411 on-base pecentage, up from .411. Expected to provide more of the same as a junior, a dependable fielder who has a knack for getting on base, it was tough sledding for all of 2013 for the Mayfield, Ohio native. A plummet to .211 occurred in Wetzel's average, as a result his slugging of .303 and on-base percentage of .311 were career-lows.
But for those who watched the Buckeyes, it seemed like Wetzel was a left-handed hitter who didn't have luck on his side. Wetzel maintained a good eye at the plate, striking out 21 times against 24 walks, but when the ball was put in play, more times than not it found a fielder. Batting average on balls in play, BABIP, is an advance stat to determine luck. It is believed a player, both batter and pitcher, has little control on where a ball falls after being put in play. Wetzel's BABIP for 2013 was .232. The Big Ten average is usually between .300 and .320, over Wetzel's first two seasons his BABIP was .323, in line with what is expected when his batting average and production was strong.
Assuming Wetzel's BABIP normalizes, and he has the normal luck, the senior captain provides Ohio State with on of the better left fielders. He provides above-average defense for a corner infielder, and his on-base ability and speed gives Beals compliments those of Montgomery and Porter.
Sophomore Jacob Brobst, and true freshmen Ronnie Dawson. will make up the outfield options behind the three starters. Brobst is a speed-first player who provides good a good glove and range in the outfield, an option for pinch running duties. Dawson, who may also see time as a DH, is more of protypical corner outfielder possessing raw power.