Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Position Breakdown: Outfield (by Zach Bigley)

As the Walla Walla Sweets’ season draws even closer, we take a look at the outfield for the ball-club. Playing outfield at Borleske Stadium can be difficult because of the deep gaps and very deep centerfield, so that led to manager Frank Mutz, general manager Katie Biagi and team president Zachary Fraser to search for guys who are athletic and can cover some ground. They came up with a class of outfielders that can all play center and that, for Mutz, is the best case scenario.

At this point I really don't know where each guy will fit in. I do know however they all can play centerfield and that's a good problem to have,” Mutz said.

One of the stars of the outfield looks to be Hunter Villanueva (Fresno Pacific) who won the West Coast League MVP award playing for Kelowna last season. He hit .378 for the Falcons with seven home runs and 33 RBIs. He also swiped three bases and walked 34 times in 46 games. He played infield on the left side for the Falcons, but he will take his athleticism to the grass for the Sweets.

“We had to plan to pitch around Hunter last year and I know we weren't the only ball club which did that,” Mutz said. “Hunter is a contact hitter with power and will fit very well in our number three slot in the line-up.”

He is not the only one that may impress this summer. There are a slew of young ballplayers that just finished their freshman season in college and will be making their way up north. Jordan Myrow (UCLA), Ryan Johnston (UC Irvine), Connor Doyle (San Diego) and Alex Muzzi (Long Beach State) all fall into that category. The youngest member of the class is Zach Weisz (Cal State Fullerton) who will be heading to Fullerton for his freshman season after this summer.

While the focus is on defense, Mutz wants his outfielders to produce on the offensive side as well.

“Having six outstanding athletes on offence allows me to create run production throughout the entire line-up,” Mutz said. “With the way these guys run and the way they put the ball in play, we will be very difficult to contain. Having athletes throughout the line-up gives us many options how we run the offence each series.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Position Breakdown: Infield (by Zach Bigley)

            The Sweets have put an infield together that has a potential to not only save a lot of runs, but score and produce a fair share as well. The infield looks to improve from a position group that last season had its problems in both of those facets.
            “Last season we could score runs but continued to give teams extra opportunities to score,” manager Frank Mutz said. “At times are pitching had to get 4 and 5 outs each inning. Our focus this off season was to shore up the defense particularly the infield and I believe we accomplished that.”
            One of the most impressive parts about this group looking at it from afar is the ability of the players to field at multiple positions. There is Myles Hager (Cal State Monterey Bay) who played second, shortstop and third for the Sweets last season and he is joined by Nick Nyquist and Patrick Chung (Gonzaga) who can also play different positions. Jarren Duran and Chris Fife (Long Beach State) can both play up the middle on either side and so can Coby Kauhaahaa (Cal State Fullerton). Ben Baird (Washington) presents young talent up the middle and Cole Rutherford (Cornell) brings veteran leadership to first base.
            Mutz is pleased with the polished playing style that these players bring into Walla Walla.
            “I believe all of these guys are special players,” he said. “What I like about all of them, is they are all MLB prospects and not projects. They are all steady players which will give our ball club a chance to be competitive every game.”

            This allows Mutz and the rest of the coaching staff to trust their durability throughout the season, but it also gives him options in the different positions. He says that there are no favorites for the starting positions currently, but he is sure that a lot of the players will get significant playing time over the long season.