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Nebraska Baseball Preview: Outfielders

We’ve taken a look at the infield, now lets turn our attention to the outfield.

Welcome to part 2 of our preview series, the outfield. (See part 1 on the Infield here) Let’s not waste time or pull any punches, the 2022 Nebraska outfield was a defensive disaster. It looked even worse than it probably was, because the previous year the Huskers had 3 centerfield caliber instinctive outfielders roaming the green Haymarket Park grass. It wasn’t just the errors, but the being a step slow reading a ball and not making what should be routine plays by players that are either faster or more instinctive than what we had.

While the guys like Cam Chick, and Leighton Banjoff are good guys to have on a team, players that can jump in to multiple positions when needed, counting on them out of position for an entire season is a big ask. Other players like Garrett Anglim and Luke Jessen were more natural out there, just lacking in experience to be true defensive assets. So the coaches made the decision to get older and faster and more natural outfielders added to the mix.

The staff has been playing around with the different fields, having guys practice at both center and corner outfield positions, so while the position is still up in the air, lets take a gander at just who looks to be in line for early playing time.

Projected Starters

Gone: Cam Chick, Leighton Banjoff

New Faces: Caden Brumbaugh (Soph.), Casey Burnham (Gr.)

All Garrett Anglim did in his redshirt Freshman season was lead the team in batting average at .303, become the 4th Husker ever to hit a school record 3 home runs in a game (a 12-1 run rule win vs Iowa), and get himself on the All-B1G Freshman team. That along with only 1 error in the field shows why when he was given the opportunity for playing time early on and never let go. I expect him to be locked into a corner outfield spot come opening day.

Caden Brumbaugh was one of the best middle infielders coming out of high school, not just in Oklahoma, but in the United States. He was little used at Oklahoma State as a freshman second baseman, but much in the way Will Bolt saw Jaxon Hallmark as the stellar center fielder he ended up being after being a career infielder, he sees the same in Brumbaugh. If you check the picture above though, Caden has his throwing arm in a sling. So the projected CF and lead off hitter will probably be absent for the near future.

In a move I expect to be more about defense than offense, Casey Burnham should occupy the 3rd outfield position to start the season. While I originally thought he would start in a corner, with the possible Brumbaugh situation, Burnham will step right into center field and that position wont miss a beat. He made the defensive play of the day in the fall 14-inning game against the Omaha Mavericks. Burnham ran full speed to track down a ball 1 step before crashing into the wall. His speed and instincts were on full display, and a welcome sight at that.


Gone: Tyler Martin, Matt Guthmiller

New Faces: Daniel Young (R-Jr.), Cole Evans (Jr.), Hayden Lewis (Fr.)

With Brumbaugh’s arm in a sling, that brings up the immediate question of ‘Who would potentially take his place, and end up manning one of the corner spots as Burnham takes over CF?’ There are a number of ways the team could turn if a replacement is needed.

Of the returning primary outfielders, Senior Luke Sartori brings the most experience, and perhaps the best defense, having appeared in 41 games with 20 starts, all in CF with no errors. If they are looking for speed and a little better handler of the bat, Sophomore Luke Jessen could get the nod. He cooled off after a hot start, and ended up hitting .257 in 26 games, with 19 starts. Fellow Sophomore Gabe Swanson struggled in limited opportunities in 2022, but can provide a little more power when he squares the ball up.

Nebraska also brought in 3 more outfielders in the last class. The biggest bat belongs to Cole Evans. In his last year at Parkland College, he had an OPS of 1.100, and in his total time in JuCo he hit 19 HRs and 94 RBIs in 90 games. Daniel Young (Tyler JC) brings versatility and a good bat as well. He had 12 HRs and 56 RBI last year with an OPS of .930. And while Evans is a right-handed batter, Young swings lefty, setting up a possibility of platooning them based on the opposing pitcher.

Rounding out the new crop of outfielders is Hayden Lewis, a freshman out of Yutan, Nebraska. He’s actually the 3rd Husker of recent memory to hail from the small town, joining Dusty Timm and Nate Fisher. The lefty has had a batting average somewhere between .411 and .500 for most of his high school career. While the promise is definitely there, I wouldn’t expect to see much of him early, with all the able bodies in front of him.

Outlook for the Outfield

As for some other names that could show up in the outfield, one is Zach Johnson. As mentioned in the infield preview, Johnson has too good of a bat to hide as a backup catcher, and has been working in the outfield to provide multiple options for the lineup. Charlie Fischer, the DH from Southern Miss, says he’s been working in both the infield and outfield. I honestly wouldn’t be shocked if he ends up taking a spot right away with the Brumbaugh situation.

Another name who is listed purely as a pitcher on the roster, but had a lot of success in JuCo as both a pitcher and outfielder, is Trey Frahm. He has been rarely mentioned or seen in covered practices thus far, so his role is not all that well known, beyond being a hard throwing bullpen arm.

Check back with us Wednesday as we take a look at the pitchers, (and boy there are a lot of new ones!) and see how they are expected to fit on the team.