When Illinois rolls out its opening day lineup for Georgetown on Feb. 15, Illinois Head Coach Dan Hartleb will have to decide between six guys.
Two guys who will definitely get some playing time in Hartleb’s lineups are Jack Yalowitz and Zac Taylor. Yalowitz hit .216 last season, notched four home runs, and drove in another 30 runs. Defensively, the senior Yalowitz boasts a cannon of an arm in the outfield, tallying seven assists a year ago.
Taylor also did his fair share of damage from the plate, hitting .226 with 10 homers and knocking in 37 runs. He swiped another 10 bags on the bases and had a fielding percentage of .993.
These two players are not only candidates to breakout for the Illini in 2019, but are also the favorites to man the deepest parts of the ballpark when this season starts in two weeks.
One of Hartleb’s favorite and most versatile options for any lineup is Michael Michalak. Michalak hit .282 last year and showed value at first base, third base, and the outfield, despite primarily being a designated hitter. Another player who can prove to be valuable on defense — but may also get looks at DH — is redshirt sophomore Andrew Dyke. Tyler Engel is a useful asset, cycling through about six positions, but often being used as a pinch hitter. In a limited amount of at-bats last season, Engel hit .250.
The only newcomer of the outfield group is another multi-faceted weapon, Cam McDonald. McDonald comes in ranked as the No. 4 recruit in the state of Illinois. The freshman hit .250, during the team’s six-game foreign trip to Curaçao and Aruba.
Hartleb still has some decisions to make before the season gets underway. However, with a nice array of talent at his disposal, finding three guys to patrol the outfield while also providing at the plate shouldn’t be too difficult.