(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
As Pac-12 play gets into full swing, the Sun Devils are searching for something that they thought they had all along: offense.
After a few strong weekends at the plate, Arizona State has been struggling to push across enough runs to win games. They have scored just 10 runs during their four-game losing streak.
“I wish we weren’t dealing with the things we are dealing with right now,” head coach Tracy Smith said Wednesday at practice. “I wish we had a lineup that’s consistent, but we’re not there yet.”
With Smith prioritizing defense in left field, whether it comes in the form of Ryan Lillard, Coltin Gerhart or somebody else, the Sun Devils need to make sure they put the best hitters at positions that are typically known for their offense, such as both corner infield positions.
“If we put a defensive lineup out there, we feel like we’re really limited offensively. If we put the best offense out there we feel like we give up a lot defensively,” Smith said. “So what we’re trying to find, is that compromise between the two.”
Third base has been a position that is in serious need of some offensive production. The two most used players at the position, Jordan Aboites and Jeremy McCuin, have combined to hit for a .143 average and have driven in just four runs. While it would not be out of the realm of possibilities to see their production increase, the odds are not exactly in their favor, considering the Sun Devils schedule will be a lot harder than it was to open the season.
Smith has said he wants Aboties’s glove at third base, over the man who championed third base for the second half of 2015, David Greer. However Greer’s bat isn’t exactly expendable.
His offensive numbers this season speak for themselves. He has a .363 batting average, .475 slugging percentage, 13 RBI’s, and 15 runs scored, all of which are second on the team behind Colby Woodmansee. Greer has spent this season at first base.
Speaking of the incessant need for offense, no position is traditionally needed to fill with the best hitter than first base. ASU has done that so far by having Greer there, but if he is moved across the diamond they will need another potent bat to take his place. Enter R.J. Ybarra. The senior has struggled to find his footing with the team after three consecutive strong years at the plate.
Part of his struggle has revolved around the inability to find a position for him. The most natural fit for him, designated hitter, has been occupied by Sebastian Zawada, and he doesn’t appear keen on giving it up.
He received his first start of the season on Tuesday against San Diego and collected two hits, including a double, while playing first base. Few players on the Sun Devils roster can match the power that Ybarra possesses, as he has 14 home runs over the last three years. He is also just two years removed from finishing third in the Pac-12 in RBIs.
Despite his gaudy offensive numbers, he has started only four games at first base over the last two years, and it would be a major risk to plug him in at the position on an every day basis. Nonetheless, it is a risk that ASU will need to take if they want to compete with the powerhouses in the Pac-12.
Skip hinted that the above scenario would mean Greer would need a new position assuming Ybarra is at first and Aboites at third. He gave a point toward left field, and simply smiled.
With the pitching going through its share of struggles, the offense is being called upon more than ever to step and produce runs. In order to do that, the Sun Devils need to put out the best possible offensive lineup, and it all depends on where David Greer is playing.