louisville bats season preview
By Mike Gilpatrick
April 5th, 2018
April 5th, 2018
Professional baseball has returned to the city of Louisville. The Louisville Bats will play the Toledo Mud Hens, the Detroit Tigers Triple-A affiliate, tomorrow at 7. The Bats are looking to improve on a disastrous 2017 campaign, where they finished 30 games under .500, and last in the International League West division.
On paper, the opening day roster for manager Pat Kelly looks solid. Most players are in their mid-20s, and six players are listed in Cincinnati’s top-30 prospect watch list.
They’re led by 22 year-old third-baseman Nick Senzel. The Atlanta native is seventh in the MLB Prospect watch, and no doubt will make the trip up I-71 sometime this season. Senzel had a monster year in the minors last season, slashing .321/.391/.905 with 14 home runs and 14 stolen bases. He’ll most likely be the Bats No. 3 hitter Friday.
The rest of the lineup isn’t bad. It combines a good mix of power and speed. Four batters hit more than ten long balls, and another four stole more than 20 bags last year. Brandon Dixon was another player that had done both. In 124 games, the second-baseman hit .264 with 16 home runs and 18 steals, all with the Bats.
Jose Lopez leads the pitching rotation. He is the Reds No. 26 prospect, and went 9-6 with a 2.57 ERA in 24 starts for both Pensacola and Daytona in 2017. Also definitely in the rotation is Justin Nicolino, Jackson Stephens, and Robert Stephenson.
Barrett Astin is another player that can start games. While his ERA isn’t good, he opened five of his 35 minor-league games last year, and had a short stint with the Reds.
Louisville’s bullpen features two pitchers in the top-30 prospect list, Jimmy Herget and Tanner Rainey. Herget is 14th on the list, and the Bats’ probable closer. He saved 24 games in 52 appearances last year, going 4-4 with a 2.90 ERA. Rainey is 29th, and went 3-3 with a 3.19 ERA last year. Rainey will compete with Zack Weiss for the setup position. Weiss went 4-5 with a 2.63 ERA.
Of course, the roster will change as the year goes on. Many of the players will play in the majors sometime this season, and major-leaguers, or lower-level minor leaguers will replace them. Triple-A is a prime spot for rehab assignments. Anthony DeSclafani is on the 60-day DL, out with an oblique strain, and more than likely will play in Louisville sometime in late-May or early-June. Rookie Davis is another pitcher on the 60-day DL.
With 162 games in a full major-league season, and the amount of injuries plaguing baseball players; other big names are bound to play at Louisville Slugger Field.
Louisville’s campaign starts this Friday. Professional baseball is back.