This is the second in a series of short profiles of the projected starters for the 2007 Nebraska Baseball team. Through the magic of words, I’ll swing around the horn, touch home, run around the outfield, check in with the starters, stop in the bullpen, and the finish up on the bench with the DH.
2B: Jake Opitz
2005 - .256 avg, .351 obp, .372 slg, 3 home runs, 17:24 BB:SO
2006 - .293 avg, .385 obp, .395 slg, 2 home runs, 25:33 BB:SO
Opitz is a slick fielder, and can turn two like few others I've seen at the collegiate level recently. He's half of a very solid defense up the middle (See Wehrle, Ryan). Having said that, though, I'm not sure he can contribute much on offense. He's a slap hitter, albeit one with with an above average on-base percentage.
The 2004 Colorado Player of the Year hit only 23 extra-base hits thus far in his time spent as a Husker, and he's not a great base-thief either, going only 11-for-20 in stolen bases in his career. What Jake Optiz lacks in offense, though, can made up by his double-play partner. Of course, Opitz has been on track to improve, raising his average, on-base and slugging from his freshman to sophomore year. He's just entering his junior year, and if he keeps up this pace of improvement, he could very well hit .320/.410/.420 this season, which would be more than acceptable from a defensive second baseman.
SS: Ryan Wehrle
2005 - .275 avg, .377 obp, .329 slg, 0 home runs, 21:17 BB:SO
2006 - .367 avg, .447 obp, .580 slg, 8 home runs, 28:35 BB:SO
After a promising rookie season that saw him start cold but hit .308 in conference play, Ryan Wehrle absolutely broke out in 2006. Last season, Wehrle was 10th in the Big 12 in slugging, seventh in on-base percentage and sixth in batting average. That's a good combination for any position, let alone a premium defensive spot. Wehrle is the complete package, though, playing a very solid shortstop.
The Papillion, Neb. native was drafted by the Reds in the 18th round in 2006 as a draft-eligible sophomore, and his return to the scarlet and cream could likely be the difference between the Huskers being an also-ran in the Big 12 and taking the conference. He's the offensive and defensive linchpin for Nebraska. As Wehrle goes, so will NU.
[National Polls Update]
Nebraska seems to be a consensus top 15 team so far in the pre-season polls. The USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll came out with the 'Skers ranked No. 12, trailing only Texas (No. 6) in the Big 12.
With rankings of 17/12/9/12 so far Nebraska is placed at an average of 12.5 in the polls.