(Photo: Sun Devil Athletics)
It is not often that a team will lose its entire starting outfield from the previous year, but that is exactly what has happened to Arizona State.
Both Trever Allen and Jake Peevyhouse graduated, while Johnny Sewald opted to sign with the Houston Astros after they drafted him rather than staying for his senior season.
As three of the most reliable position players on the 2015 team, they will leave big voids at their respective positions. Head coach Tracy Smith will be faced with replacing them with three players–if not more if he chooses to use a platoon–who do not have as much experience. With the infield apparently set, there are seven candidates who could patrol the outfield for the Sun Devils next season.
Christopher Beall appears to be one of the frontrunners to start somewhere in the outfield, most likely in left field. He had a down year last season, but he is the most experienced option that Smith will have. Beall started just two games in the outfield last season, but two years ago, in his sophomore season, he made 23 starts in left field and posted a .305 batting average.
Due to his status as a freshman, Gage Canning brings a lot intrigue but also some uncertainty to the table. He has been compared to Sewald in terms of playing style, and if he lives up to those expectations he could be a mainstay in the outfield during his time as a Sun Devil.
Despite his small frame (5-foot-11, 173 pounds), Canning may find himself in the leadoff spot when he starts.
The most interesting case on the team is that of Coltin Gerhart. As one of the backup quarterbacks to Mike Bercovici on the football team, Gerhart did not get the reps that everyone else got during fall ball. That did not hold Gerhart back in his freshman season though, as he was the Opening Day starter in left field.
Much like Beall, Gerhart suffered through some struggles, ending with just a .182 batting average and two RBIs in 24 games. His experience, however, should work in his favor when it comes to determining the starting jobs. He is a breakout candidate if he can find a way to overcome his limited practice time.
Highly touted freshman Ryan Lillard is a natural infielder, but is blocked at the corner positions by Jordan Aboites and David Greer. Because of this, he is expected to get some looks at the corner outfield spots. He did not start a game in the outfield last season, but was a defensive replacement multiple times.
Although he battled injury problems, Lillard may have been considered a disappointment last season due to him only hitting batting .233 with 12 strikeouts and zero walks in 30 at bats. However, now that he is healthy, he is also a breakout candidate.
A pair of newcomers who share a last name, Daniel and Tyler Williams, both find themselves in the thick of the outfield competition as well. Daniel is a transfer from Weatherford Junior College in Texas, and was first-team All-State in high school. Tyler, a local freshman from Peoria, was a 26th-round selection by the Twins in the 2015 MLB Draft, but opted not to sign. He was recently described as a “big-time talent” by Perfect Game USA.
The final name competing for a spot in the outfield is another transfer, Sebastian Zawada. One of the bigger long shots of the group, Zawada is a sophomore transfer from South Mountain Junior College in Tucson.
The group of outfielders that the Sun Devils bring to the table is not as strong as the core they had last season, but the depth can allow for Smith to mix and match his players to maximize the results.