Unlike the infield, the outfield should have a pretty settled lineup, initially. The corner outfielders should be extremely recognizable to fans. While the man roaming centerfield is a new addition, he should quickly become a mainstay near the top of the lineup.
The outfield is the oldest, most experienced part of the team, with 1 true freshman and 1 redshirt freshman being the only two players younger than a Junior, the outfield should be a rock defensively and steady on offense.
Gone: Luke Jessen
New Faces: None
Back: Gabe Swansen (Jr.), Garrett Anglim (rJr.)
The strongest returning position in the outfield and maybe the entire lineup is left field. The biggest surprise of the 2023 season was the offensive explosion of Gabe Swansen. His 18 home runs combined with a 1.064 OPS lead the returning Huskers and were good enough to garner him 2nd team All Big Ten in 2023. Can he duplicate the production in 2024? It would be a huge boost to the team needing to find some power with Max Anderson and Brice Matthews gone.
Also returning is Garrett Anglim. It was Anglim’s early season injury that provided the way for Swanson’s emergence. Anglim was one of the Huskers’ best bats in 2022, but never truly got going with what he or anyone else expected after returning from injury. He still finished with 5 home runs and 13 RBIs despite having half the at bats of most of the regular starters.
I would look for the DH position to be filled by whichever player is not manning left field between Anglim and Swansen to start the season.
Gone: Casey Burnham, Luke Sartori
New Faces: Riley Silva (Jr.), Matt Evans (Fr.)
Back: Hayden Lewis (rFr.)
Casey Burnham took over the starting spot in 2023 after the preseason injury to Cayden Brumbaugh and brought back the stellar defense Husker fans have been used to roaming the Haymarket Park outfield.
Expect to see more of the same with JUCO transfer Riley Silva. Silva brings a lot of speed to defense, and maybe more importantly, to the offense. In 55 games last season, Silva stole 44 bases, including 9 games with 2+ steals. Combine that with hitting .368 with 11 doubles, 39 RBIs and 71 runs scored, and its easy to see why Lance Harvell is salivating in the third base coaching box with the 1-2 punch of Brumbaugh and Silva on the basepaths.
One of the fastest players thus far in Coach Bolt’s tenure, @RileySilva31 brings game changing speed to the top of the Huskers lineup. Silva stole 44 bags last year in JUCO. pic.twitter.com/erIF145wml— Nebraska Baseball (@HuskerBaseball) November 1, 2023
The lone true outfield recruit out of high school is Matt Evans. Evans can play all 3 spots in the outfield, and can use either his speed with a bunt base hot or use a little pop with his gap to gap power. The name Jaxon Hallmark has been brought up more than once when projecting his ability in a Husker uniform. By the way, former Husker Adam Stern is to thank for helping the Huskers land both Evans and Silva. They each came from his program up in Canada.
Hayden Lewis comes off a redshirt season in 2023. The freshman may have a hard time finding playing time in such an experienced outfield, but the coaching staff definitely sees something in him, as he survived the roster makeover. If he can find a opportunity in a mid week game to make an impact, we may see more of him, otherwise, it may be 2025 before we get a good look at the product of Yutan.
Gone: Charlie Fischer, Daniel Young
New Faces: Clay Bradford (Sr.)
Back: Cole Evans (Sr.)
After a hot streak that garnered him an early season Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, Cole Evans took hold of the right field spot in the Huskers’ lineup and rarely gave it up despite an up and down finish to the season in the batter box. He was dependable in the the field, however, and should get the early nod to try and solidify the right field position again.
New to the right field fold is Clay Bradford. Bradford was injured his final season in high school and never was able to display his power that year or in the DII ranks until last year. The lefty hit .419 with 14 home runs and 54 RBIs. As for his play in the field during the fall ball season, Bradford also displayed an arm that could be the best in a Husker uniform in quite some time. While a left/right platoon with Evans will probably be in the cards early on, Bradford may end up a full time starter before the year is done.
Well thats it for the position players. As you can see, the initial star power might not be what we saw last year on offense, but it seems the lineup 1-9 should be more capable of producing some baseball points, as Coach Bolt likes to say. Combine that with how well they come in with reputations defensively and this should end up being a much steadier year. Really the only thing in fall ball that clearly needed work was the defenses ability to track down the sky high pop flys in the infamous Haymarket Park winds.
That puts a lot of pressure on Coach Childress’s pitching staff to take the team to the next level. Check back tomorrow as we take a look at all the hard work coaches Childress and Sirianni have put into remaking the pitching staff.