The 5 Biggest Sets of Shoes to Fill in American Athletic Conference Baseball

(Patrick) #1

They say Wong. I agree to a point, although, a case could be made for both Julks and Scheiner. We have a good crop of catchers coming in and have Nick Slaughter on the roster so I’m not too worried about the catcher position. Little more worried about replacing Julks as he always seemed to come through in the clutch.

Connor Wong – Houston

Jake Scheiner might seem like a more obvious choice for Houston, given the physical quality he brought to the UH lineup right from the start, but Wong gets the nod not only because of his production, but also for his versatility and varied tools.

First, the numbers.

He had his struggles adjusting to pitching at this level as a freshman, as he hit just .248 with a .320 on-base percentage, but there were flashes of what was to come. He collected four triples, which showed off some of his speed and slugged six home runs, which showed some pop that doesn’t come around often for a freshman playing the shortstop position, as Wong was at the time.

As a sophomore, he took a huge jump. He hit .304/.415/.439 with 14 doubles, five homers, 30 RBI, and nine stolen bases. The power was still there, and he was using his speed (this time more to steal bases than to leg out triples), but he was a better all-around bat handler and he was far more patient, as shown in his 43 walks compared to just 24 as a freshman.

The step forward in his junior season was just as impressive. He hit .287/.379/.494 with 13 doubles, three triples, 12 home runs, 36 RBI, and 26 stolen bases. Clearly, he was able to harness all of his tools and put it all together as a junior.

Now consider that he did what he did over his last two seasons while serving as the team’s primary catcher, a position he hadn’t played before taking over as a sophomore. And not only did he do a passable job, he became an asset behind the plate for the team.

By the time his junior year was over, Wong was a catcher who could also handle shortstop, third base, and the outfield, and at the plate, could bring power, speed, and a patient approach to the leadoff spot. Those types of guys don’t grow on trees, so it’s no wonder that the Dodgers scooped him up in the third round of the most recent draft. And that’s also why it’s going to be such a tough challenge for head coach Todd Whitting and staff to replace him.