Feb. 12, 2014
Later this week the Navy baseball team will begin its 2014 regular season at Florida A&M. In part two of a two-part release, today's edition focuses exclusively on the team's position players.
Three athletes should see the majority of the time behind the plate for the Mids as catchers in 2014. The junior duo of Chris Cannon and Jack Keller, as well as freshman Adrian Chinnery sit atop Navy's catching depth chart. As sophomores in 2013, Cannon and Keller appeared in 41 combined games with 30 starting assignments.
"Our starting catching position is wide open at the beginning of the season," said Navy head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. "All three players bring different skill sets to the table and we will have to see who breaks out and grabs the starting job during non-conference play. Cannon is a strong-armed catcher, while Chinnery is a better defender and receiver. Keller brings a little bit of both offense and defense."
Freshman Nick Paglialonga rounds out Navy's 2014 catching corps.
In the infield, senior first baseman Kash Manzelli, a member of the 2013 Second Team All-Patriot League, is one of two returning starters for the Mids. Navy's team captain this season, Manzelli finished his junior campaign with a .335 batting average, 35 runs scored, 30 RBIs and a .411 on-base percentage, all stats that ranked him amongst the Patriot Leagues' top 10.
"Manzelli is our most complete player," said Kostacopoulos. "He's our top offensive threat, as well as a premier defender at first base. A consistent performer, you can trust Kash in the middle of the batting order, game-in and game-out."
Manzelli is joined in the infield by junior Brad Borosak, who will be a full-time second baseman after filling a two-way utility role for the Mids in prior seasons. An all-around athlete, Borosak led Navy with 16 stole bases in 2013, while hitting .245 with 21 runs scored and 18 RBIs. He is not scheduled to see time on the mound in 2014, after serving as a reliever his first two seasons.
"Borosak is one of our more experienced returners on offense so we have high expectations for him," said Kostacopoulos. "As a second baseman, we will need to continue seeing improvement from him, but I trust that he will succeed at his new full-time position."
The left side of Navy's starting infield will be completely new as it is slated to feature freshman Travis Blue at shortstop and sophomore Drew Hayes at third base.
Blue joins the Mids after a prosperous high school career at Orange Lutheran in Orange, Calif. A member of the All-Trinity League First Team, he played with eight current or future DI college baseball players at Orange Lutheran.
"We are cautiously optimistic with Blue," said Kostacopoulos. "He's a skilled athlete, but its always tough on freshman to make that transition to the college ball, so we'll look to minimize his potential pitfalls and continue to work on improving his all-around game."
Hayes is a newcomer to third base after seeing the majority of his 26 games of action in 2013 as a second baseman or designated hitter. In his debut season, he posted a .357 on-base percentage and a .941 fielding percentage.
"Hayes doesn't have a ton of experience at third base and will continue to learn as we go in the early part of the season," said Kostacopoulos. "We will continue working with him to help him gain experience and succeed with this move."
Senior David Norman and freshmen Patrick Brady and Jett Meenach will serve as Navy's top infield options off of the bench for 2014. Norman will serve as a backup to Manzelli at first base and DH occasionally, while Brady will see time in the middle of the infield. Meenach is slated to backup the corner infielder positions.
Navy's strongest offensive position this season will be its outfield. With senior Brandon Beans and sophomore Robert Currie returning to its starting lineup, the Mids have a pair of speedy, multi-talented athletes who can hit, steal bases, as well as drive in runs.
Beans registered a .291 batting average with 33 runs scored, 21 RBIs and 13 stolen bases on 14 attempts in 48 games played in 2013. Currie, who was Navy's opening day starting centerfielder as a freshman, batted .273 with 24 runs scored and 19 RBIs, along with eight stolen bases in his debut season.
"Beans and Currie are two important pieces that we return in our outfield," said Kostacopoulos. "Both are above-average runners, that'll help us defensively and on the base paths. Beans' average-plus arm will also be an asset to us in the outfield."
While Currie will occupy center field and Beans left field, sophomore Connor Deneen and freshman Leland Saile will platoon in right field early on during the schedule.
After appearing in 33 games and making 13 starts as a freshman, Deneen will look to translate his strong limited play over to a full campaign. In 58 at bats, he hit .258 with 13 runs scored, eight RBIs and three extra-base hits.
"Deneen is another good athlete in the outfield," said Kostacopoulos. "He has good sense in the field and showed glimpses of having a strong bat as a freshman."
Saile joins the Mids after a three-year varsity career as part of the nationally renown Jesuit High School program in Tampa, Fla. Besides producing seven DI players in just its Class of 2013 alone, Jesuit was ranked No. 1 nationally at least once a season during Saile's career.
"Saile will see significant time for us in both the outfield with Deneen or as a DH," said Kostacopoulos. "He's a freshman, so there will be some growing pains, but he comes from a great school and has a winning pedigree so that should help him as he learns the collegiate game."
Sophomore Ryan Turner should see ample opportunities as Navy's fifth outfielder during the spring season. A versatile athlete, Turner is transitioning to the outfield after finding himself listed on the infield depth chart as a freshman in 2013.
Sophomore Conner Adamski completes out Navy's outfield corps.