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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

New faces set to replace Arizona baseball draftees in 2012

Arizona baseball is going to have a very different feel to it in 2012.

After a draft that claimed most of Arizona’s offensive production, a team that set its preseason sights on a trip to Omaha, Neb., a year ago may find itself struggling to hold its own in a loaded Pac-12 Conference.

Arizona fans and coaches were prepared for the departure of Bryce Ortega, who was the Wildcats’ lone senior starter in 2011. They were also probably prepared to say goodbye to Saturday pitcher Kyle Simon, whose low-90s sinker made him a surefire high-round draft pick.

But the additional departures of six of Arizona’s other drafted non-seniors­ could have the Wildcats staring a rough 2012 season right in the eyes.

Outfielder Steve Selsky is a perfect example of the gutting that the Arizona baseball team took following June’s MLB Draft.

Selsky, who was supposed to be a staple in the middle of Arizona’s lineup, missed nearly all of 2011 with two separate injuries. The Cincinnati Reds took Selsky in the 33rd round, 1,015th overall.

Had he elected to return to Arizona, Selsky could have had a huge 2012 season, especially considering that it appears likely that Arizona will play at the much more hitter-friendly Hi Corbett Field.

But Selsky opted to sign with the Reds instead of bringing a big bat to a lineup that has struggled with consistency at times, and having a chance to significantly raise his draft stock.

Still, it’s hard to blame anyone for taking a chance at a lifelong dream.

Selsky isn’t the only player leaving who people may have expected to stay in school. Three-year starting catcher Jett Bandy also elected to leave the UA after being chosen in the 31st round, 945th overall, by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Bandy was a career .308 hitter, hitting 11 home runs and driving in 121 RBIs during his time at Arizona.

He was also a voice of reason behind the plate for Arizona’s young pitching staff — something that may be harder to replace than his offensive numbers.

That’s a lot of production to replace from a team that wasn’t playing with an abundance of depth.

And that’s not all. Infielder Andy Burns, who hit .279 with 18 home runs combined in his freshman and sophomore seasons but had to sit out the 2011 season after transferring from Kentucky, would have been one of the top candidates to replace Ortega at second base.

Arizona’s bullpen is also decimated by departures. Oft-used left-handed flamethrower Bryce Bandilla, as expected, signed with the San Francisco Giants after being their third-round selection. The loss of closer Matt Chaffee was also expected, after Chaffee battled arm injuries for two seasons.

That’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a freshmen class — two catchers, five pitchers and two middle infielders — that is bound to see plenty of playing time.

And no one, head coach Andy Lopez included, likes seeing a team facing a crossroads with freshmen playing key roles.

Alex Williams is the sports editor of the Summer Wildcat. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

 

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