Offense. There's going to be plenty of offense.
Opening Knight for UCF baseball is less than a month away. The biggest storyline heading into the year for the 2015 edition of UCF baseball is the fact that they're returning all eight starting position players from last season.
"There's a lot of strengths of our team, but if you just look at it on paper, position-player wise, I think we're going to be very good," said UCF head coach Terry Rooney. "I think we're gonna swing the bats."
Over the coming weeks leading up to Opening Knight, the Central Florida Future will take a look at the UCF roster position by position. This week we're starting with the infield.
Going into the season last year, catcher was a position that had several options, but no defined starter. By the end of the year, Jordan Savinon had started 53 of UCF's 59 games.
Savinon's strength as a catcher is his ability to block balls in the dirt, as he allowed only 10 passed balls all season. However, he threw out only 19 percent of would-be base-stealers.
At the plate, Savinon hit .238 with two home runs and 23 RBI.
Along with Savinon, returning catchers for UCF are Kyle Perkins and Matt Diorio. Perkins started the six games Savinon didn't last season, but was never able to get anything going offensively and didn't develop into a regular option.
Diorio, on the other hand, is UCF's best offensive catcher. He started 27 games last year, mostly as a DH, hitting .288 with a .348 OBP. Diorio was also named to the preseason American Athletic Conference All-Conference Team.
This season, Savinon is likely to once again get the bulk of starts, with Perkins or freshman Logan Heiser spelling him on occasion. Diorio figures to get into the lineup in other ways, like as a DH or in left field.
Of all the positions that are going to be strengths for UCF, none are likely to be stronger than first base.
The returning starter is James Vasquez, who was almost undoubtedly the Knight's best offensive player last season. He hit .340 with eight home runs and 56 RBI while slugging .519 with a .445 OBP. Vasquez was named to the All-Conference First Team after last season.
"This guy in my opinion is going to have an All-American-type year. I really believe that," Rooney said.
While Vasquez can be counted on to be one of the team's leading offensive forces, there is a chance it's not always at first base. We likely won't know until at least a couple weekends into the year, but Rooney said that Vasquez might spend some time in left field this year.
Why? Because Rooney is also high on sophomore Tyler Hayden. Hayden had very limited playing time last year, but with a season of experience under his belt he could have a few more opportunities this season.
The middle of the infield is yet another spot for UCF that will have seniors starting. Dylan Moore and Tommy Williams were two very key players for UCF last season, and both are returning following All-AAC campaigns.
Last season, Moore was the everyday second baseman for UCF, staring 56 games and hitting .315 with a .391 OBP. Williams hit .263 and led the team with 12 home runs.
While both players are sure to return as starters for more than 50 games this season, they might not be doing so in the same spots. Williams, while good on offense, was only OK on defense.
He had a fielding percentage of .933 and committed 16 errors. Moore, on the other hand, had a fielding percentage of .990 and committed only three errors.
So what might happen is that they'll both remain starters, but they'll flip positions — with Moore moving to shortstop and Williams sliding to second. We'll have to wait until the season starts to see what coach Rooney decides to do.
Third base saw the only full-time starting freshman last season for UCF — Kam Gellinger.
Gellinger's best quality last season was his defense. While he did commit 12 errors, there were several times the converted shortstop ranged farther than many third baseman would be able to, and made plays in the hole.
Offensively, UCF could use a bump in production from Gellinger. He hit only .227 with one home run and a .309 OBP.
If the Knights go elsewhere at third this season, there are a couple of options. One would be sophomore Brooks Morgan. In 20 games last year, Morgan hit .244 with a .340 OBP.
Another option at third is freshman Kyle Marsh, who's interesting because he's a two-way player. On top of being an infielder, the freshman will likely see some time on the mound this year.
Of all the infield, third base is likely the position that has the most unknowns at this point. If Gellinger returns as the starter and shows growth on offense it could be a huge boost for the Knights. If, however, he struggles offensively, Morgan or Marsh might challenge him for the everyday role he occupied last season.
Colin Bell is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future. Email him at email@example.com.