The Mississippi State baseball team made a crucial decision in 2016. Gavin Collins had a cannon for an arm and was one of the best power hitters on the team, but he had a difficult time keeping balls in front of him. So John Cohen made the decision to move Collins to third base and let Jack Kruger and Elih Marrero take over the catching duties.
Departing Bulldog Catchers
- Jack Kruger - .344 BA, .550 SLG% 8 HR, 40 RBIs, 19 2B
Jack Kruger ended up having an incredible season. He crushed non-conference competition before cooling off at the start of SEC play. But he finished the season on a tear which resulted in Kruger getting drafted in the 20th round. Fans were hopeful Kruger would return, but a late offer from the Angels on the last day Kruger could still sign was enough to convince him to pass up his last year of eligibility.
Returning Bulldog Catchers
- Elih Marrero - .233 BA, .286 OBP, 15 Runs scored
- Hunter Stovall - .241 BA, .313 OBP, 16 Runs scored
- Josh Lovelady - Only appeared in 4 games before suffering a season ending injury.
Elih Marrero will likely be the leader for the full time job as catcher. He was drafted out of high school primarily for his defensive prowess, but he elected to come to Starkville and see if he could improve offensively, and in return, his draft position. He had moments where he swung the bat well, but overall, his hitting struggled. He struggled in summer league play as well, so it would be nice to see him correct his offensive woes.
I put Hunter Stovall here with the catchers, but it is far more likely he seems time at short or second. If Marrero doesn't get better with the the bat, he could conceivably be put back behind the plate
Josh Lovelady was injured very early on in 2016, and early signs are he looks good. Could he buy Marrero some more time to develop and let Lovelady be the catcher this season? It's very possible.
Incoming Bulldog Catchers
- Dustin Skelton - Magnolia Heights (Senatobia, MS)
Skelton is the most likely true freshman to see playing time. He was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays for his defensive skills much like Marrero. If Marrero’s bat is too much of a liability, the coaching staff could turn the position over to Skelton and see if he is any more productive. Skelton could also see time at third base if Harrison Bragg struggles. He's been better with the bat than most thought he would be, so look for the coaches to try to find him a place to play somewhere.
Much like second base and shortstop, catcher isn’t a position where you expect a lot of offense. But the position doesn’t need to be an automatic out either. Expect whoever catches to hit toward the bottom of the order and make defense their priority.