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Projecting the 2017 Mississippi State Lineup

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We’re just a few days away from Opening Day, and we take a look at what the fielding positions and lineup might look like.

Kelly Price: @HailStatePics

Andy Cannizaro will fill out his first lineup card as a head coach this Friday against Texas Tech. It’s not the easiest opponent to open up with, as Texas Tech made it to the College World Series in 2016, and most figure them to be one of the best outside TCU in the Big 12 in 2017.

How Cannizaro fills out that first lineup card will tell us a lot about the team and himself. It’ll be the first glimpse into how well he thinks all the players on the roster have performed, and it will also tell us the types of players he wants to give the most playing time.

I’m going to do my best to figure out what I think he might do. I’m going to give my fielding positions first, and in parentheses will be the confidence points on how confident I am in that prediction. 1 will be the most confident and 9 will be the least confident. Then, I’ll give you the batting order I think he employs as well.

Projected Fielding Positions

  • Right Field - Brent Rooker (2)
  • Center Field - Jake Mangum (1)
  • Left Field - Tanner Poole (8)
  • Third Base- Luke Alexander (5)
  • Short Stop - Ryan Gridley (3)
  • Second Base - Hunter Stovall (4)
  • First Base - Cole Gordon (6)
  • Catcher - Elih Marrero (7)
  • Designated Hitter - Cody Brown (9)

The top five positions I feel most confident about. I easily could have put a one beside each of them. At Baseball Media Day, Cannizaro announced Alexander had won the third base job and Stovall would play second. Mangum, Rooker, and Gridley were pretty much guaranteed to start before the season began.

Cole Gordon and Cody Brown are in a battle for first, and I'm leaning toward Gordon simply because he has played the position before. Marrero, Skelton, and Lovelady are in a dead heat for catcher. All three will likely play the first weekend. I went with Marrero, but it could be any of them.

The last outfield spot is the biggest mystery. I’m going with Poole, but it is strictly a guess. Vansau, Blaylock, and MacNamee could all easily be put there as well, and any of them could also see time at DH. For now, I lean with Poole starting in the outfield and Brown to DH if he doesn't get the first base job.

Projected Batting Order

If the positions work out the way I think they will, then here is the way I think Cannizaro will put them in the lineup.

  1. Jake Mangum
  2. Ryan Gridley
  3. Brent Rooker
  4. Cole Gordon
  5. Tyler Poole
  6. Cody Brown
  7. Luke Alexander
  8. Hunter Stovall
  9. Elih Marrero

The only two positions I am really confident on for the lineup are Jake Mangum and Brent Rooker. Mangum is the obvious choice for lead off and most coaches like their best RBI guy to be in the three hole, so that puts Rooker there. Cole Gordon feels like a pretty safe bet to hit cleanup.

Outside of that, it’s hard to say. I could see Alexander, Brown, and Poole hitting 5th or lower, and I could also see any of them hitting second. Gridley seems like a more natural fit in the two hole, so I'm guessing that is where he ends up.

Stovall, Gridley, and Marrero are either bottom of the order or number two type hitters. For now, just because of his experience, I’m giving Ridley the edge to hit second and sending Stovall and Marrero to the bottom.

There will likely be some tinkering with the lineup, especially in the early portion of the season. How much so, I’m not sure. I don’t think it will be as much as John Cohen did, but I also would expect to see four different lineups this weekend. There won't be a ton of movement in the lineups, but expect to see changes in left fielder, catcher, and DH. Gordon and Brown could be shuffled around at first base as well. Cannizaro needs to see what he has from these guys in real action as opposed to scrimmages.

Once Cannizaro gets the lineup figured out and starts to put the same guys out there consistently, this lineup can put up some runs. There is a nice blend of speed and power. It probably won’t come anywhere close to what the 2016 team did offensively, but the Bulldogs will score their share of runs in 2017.