The University of Miami baseball team lost three of its five starters around the diamond to the MLB draft, but they are still led by slick-fielding shortstop Ryan Jackson.
Jackson, a junior, is co-captain along with closer Kyle Bellamy and provides leadership on and off the field. Jackson is a 2009 preseason All-American and is projected to go in the first round of this year’s draft.
Last season, Jackson had a breakout season. As a tall lanky player, he had always been known for his defense until he proved to be one of the best hitters in the country with the second-best batting average on the team at .360, 124 points better than his freshman campaign. This year he put on more muscle and is the first one out on the field taking grounders and hitting in the cage.
The reigning 2008 First Team All-ACC shortstop is keeping the same mentality despite the fact that he is expected to be a leader for this young squad.
“[My approach] does not change that much. If you let it get to your head, it’s going to change the way I go about my business,” he said. “I am keeping the same approach I had last year. I am always talking to young guys telling them what they should be thinking in different counts.”
Up the middle the Hurricanes are strong as they have junior college transfer Scott Lawson playing second base. He has quick feet and is a line drive hitter who has very good plate discipline. At Grayson Community College in Texas, Lawson had back-to-back seasons in which he hit over .420. Like his predecessor, former Miami star Jemile Weeks, he bats second, plays second and wears No. 2.
The hot corner will feature new faces as junior college transfer Chris Herrmann replaces Mark Sobolewski at third. Herrmann is highly regarded as he was drafted in the 10th round by the Baltimore Orioles. He was teammates for two seasons with fellow Hurricane Taylor Wulf while at Alvin Community College in Texas.
At first base lies the biggest shoes to fill: those of Yonder Alonso, the seventh overall pick. Junior Jason Hagerty, a backup catcher last year, will see most of the time there. He could also play in the outfield or at catcher, too. Hagerty might possess the most power on the team; last year he hit a home run every 17.8 at bats.
Sophomore Yasmani Grandal will be the back stop. He is a tremendous defensive catcher, whom head coach Jim Morris believes is one of the best in the country. He came on strong late last season with only one error in the final 16 games and was tied for second on the team with eight RBIs in postseason play.