2011 BASEBALL PREVIEW: INFIELD
Inarguably, VCU's biggest holes to fill will be on the infield, where the Rams look to replace third baseman Joe Van Meter, drafted by the Texas Rangers, and second baseman Richard Gonzalez, a duo that combined for 199 base hits, 113 RBI and 34 stolen bases and formed a rock-solid foundation of leadership.
Despite those losses, the cupboard is hardly bare. The Rams do return junior first baseman Brent Mikionis (.343 BA, 54 RBI) [pictured, right] and his big right-handed bat. Mikionis led VCU with 11 homers last year and ranked second on the team in RBI and batting average. Keyes expects even bigger things for Mikionis this season.
"Just his batting practices are better, his intrasquads have been solid, and you can sort of see him maturing, and his confidence is higher," Keyes said of his star first baseman.
Junior Paul Nice (.281, 30 RBI) [ pictured, left] who spent last season in left field, will replace Gonzalez at second base, where he'll be expected to provide leadership, as well as a solid bat.
"We need him to make that transition for the whole year," Keyes said. "I thought last year he got off to a good start and he ran out of gas. This year, he's going to have to sort of go from one of our support guys, to one of our main guys."
At shortstop, sophomore Nick Kime (.247 BA, 10 RBI) will look to pick up where he left off in 2010. Kime appeared in 39 games as a freshman, including 24 starts.
"We really felt really good about him at the end [of last year] because we felt he played really well at the end of the year," Keyes said. "He's probably at where Paul [Nice] was last year, so we need him to get off to a good start with the bat. He does have a lot of hitting potential. I think he's pretty important for us."
Taylor Perkins, who spent the majority of the 2010 season behind the plate, is expected to share time at third base with freshman Joey Cujas, a Midlothian native with outstanding offensive potential, but who Keyes would like to see make strides defensively.
"He's probably one of the purest hitters we've had come through the program in a while," the coach noted.
Freshman Landon Prentiss, who has the ability to play both second base and shortstop, will likely be one of the first Rams' off the bench. Redshirt freshman Robert Malan can also fill in along the infield.