Aztec Baseball Preview Part 2: Position Players

Credit: SDSU Athletics

Credit: Go Aztecs

The 2022 season will be an uphill battle for the SDSU Aztec baseball lineup.

Last year, they ranked second in batting average, eighth in on-base percentage, and third in average runs in the NCAA. Major contributors Wyatt Hendrie, Jaden Fein, Mike Jarvis, and Matt Rudick all heard their name called in last year’s draft. They are gone.

As mentioned in the first preview, coach Mark Martinez’s plan (with his new crop of players) will be to lean on their athleticism more. Expect the Aztecs to generate more runs using more steals, situational hitting, sacrifice flies, and even squeezes to move runners along the bases and score runs.

Below is the projected starting lineup with a few key reserves who will be tasked to implement Martinez’s vision for the offense in 2022.

They are listed by position and not batting order.

Catcher: 

Poncho Ruiz #24 R/R

2021 slash line: .300/.348/.500 in 21 games

Last season, Ruiz was blocked at catcher by Wyatt Hendrie. That forced him to find time as a backup or as a DH. In his limited time, he found a way to impress, posting a .848 OPS. It is easy to get excited about Ruiz. He is 6’2” 195 lbs and is a sophomore whose hometown is Tijuana, Mexico. He did grow up in the States. He possesses a smooth swing and never looked outmatched when facing some of the older pitchers in the conference. 

 

First Base:

Fisher Pyatt #5 1B (INF) S/R

2021 slash line: .240/.397/.280

This is a tough position to judge. Brian Leonhardt could fit here, but he is a two-way player and will hold the DH spot in this article. While Pyatt is slotted in at first base, he could play anywhere in the infield. Last year, he played in 19 games, mostly appearing at third base. His slugging numbers leave a lot to be desired but is talented. A near .400 on-base percentage is nothing to ignore. Reports out of the early scrimmages say he has impressed the coaching staff.

Credit: SDSU Athletics

Second Base:

Alex Rodriguez #13 R/R

No previous slash

With the same name as the player who belted 700 MLB home runs, the Aztecs’ Alex Rodriguez is a transfer from USC. Last season, he did not compete. Reports are that he has a solid glove. He will likely find himself in the middle infield with Caden Miller at some point.

Third Base:

Max Foxcroft # 12 L/R

2021 slash line: .067/.364/067 

Martinez stated that third base has a mix of contenders for the starting gig. As things stand, Max Foxcroft will get the bulk of time. In 12 games last year, Foxcroft was not a factor. He found some time playing third base when the Aztecs were looking for someone to lock down the position. The one positive from last year is he walked twice as many times, then he struck out. 

He is just a sophomore, and like Pyatt, has impressed since the 2021 season came to a close.

Credit: SDSU Athletics

Shortstop:

Caden Miller #1 S/R

2021 slash line: .345/.464/.426

Miller is one of the returning starters this season and the offense will depend on him. Last year, he batted in the nine spot, serving as a “second” leadoff hitter. He excelled in that role because he was one of the smartest players on the field. Miller always understood the situation and what he needed to do. This is the kind of mentality Martinez wants to see this season.

Left Field:

Johnny Giannola #48 R/R

No previous slash

All four players who consistently roamed the outfield in 2021 are no longer on the team. Giannola was a redshirt freshman last year, so he has not played on the collegiate level. Martinez had nothing but the highest praise for him. The coach said Giannola was the best hitter in the fall and could be hitting in the middle of the order. The only thing holding him back is a shoulder injury that will be something to watch early in the year.

 

Center Field:

Cole Carrigg #8 S/R

2021 slash line: .270/.406/.441

Cole Carrigg continues to be one of the most interesting players at SDSU. The initial plan was for him to be a catcher and compete with Ruiz to be the starter in 2021. When COVID caused Hendrie to return, there were then two catchers ahead of him in the depth chart. The coaching staff looked for creative ways to play the ultra-athletic Carrigg, who Martinez’ described as a “greyhound” instead of the traditional “bulldogs” that usually man the backstop position. 

Carrigg started at third base for much of the 2021 season. He got better as he had more reps, with nearly half of his extra-base hits coming in the last two series.

Martinez described him as one of the most athletic players on the team. The staff feels comfortable playing him at the catcher position, corner infield, or in the outfield. Carrigg’s catching days are not over. He will serve as the backup to Ruiz this season. 

(Credit: Derrick Tuskan/San Diego State)

Right Field:

Irvin Weems #14 R/R  OR 

Weems was the #4 outfielder among Nevada high schoolers, according to Perfect Game. Weems is described as an incredible fielder who has a ton of speed in the outfield. He led the team in home runs during their inter-squad scrimmage. 

 

Designated Hitter:

Brian Leonhardt #21 L/L

2021 slash line: .305/.374/.404

Leonhardt is one of the few familiar faces in this Aztec lineup. Last year, he was the first baseman until Jacob Cruse took that job and forced Leonhardt into the DH role. He might be better off as a DH. His role in the lineup may come down to his role on the mound. If remains a relief pitcher, Leonhardt may stay as a DH, ready for any opportunity. If he wins a spot in the rotation, then he may not bat in those games. There is some uncertainty here. 


Honorable mentions:

Evan Sipe- Catcher

Depending on how many innings Carrigg sees in the outfield, he might not be available to see much time at the catcher position. As the season goes along, Sipe should see some innings at catcher. Sipe is a local player from San Marcos. The freshman’s playing time will be determined by how quickly he adjusts to the college game.

Xavier Carter-  1B/DH

Carter didn’t play much in 2021, but in one of his few at-bats, he hit a monstrous home run to right field.

He may find time at first base or share the DH role with Leonhardt.

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Evan Anderson
Evan is a student finishing up a degree in Finance from Northern Arizona University. The ability to break down numbers and find the story behind them has lead to his first of writing for East Village times. He covers baseball which is the sport he grew up playing and has followed even after his playing years.
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