When the Illini open up the season in less than a week, head coach Dan Hartleb’s lineup will likely have some new faces in the outfield.
Last year’s center fielder and right fielder, Zac Taylor and Jack Yalowitz, have moved on to bigger and better things in the MLB. Taylor especially has been lighting it up in the Chicago Cubs’ minor league system, while Yalowitz is a member of the Colorado Rockies.
There will be some returning names that we will see play in the outfield this season, with Andrew Dyke expected to get a lot of time on either corner outfield position.
Dyke hit just .212 last year in 40 games. The senior was primarily used for defense last season and is expected to take a starting role on this year’s squad. For the purpose of this article, let’s slot Dyke in as the starting right fielder.
The other two positions could be filled by a slew of newcomers to the Illini. Center field is likely to be taken by Taylor Jackson, a transfer from Kirkwood Community College with two years of eligibility left. Jackson’s a speedster and is coming off a year in which he hit .361 with 54 RBIs, which will play for the Illini near the top or bottom of the lineup.
Left field is expected to be manned by Nathan Aide, another transfer the Illini snagged from Madison College. The junior hit for a .358 average and won a regional gold glove.
Andrew Kim, who was mentioned in the infield preview as a potential backup for middle infield is also expected to be a back up in the outfield. Cam McDonald is expected to start at third base, but could also see some time in the outfield as he did last year.
In addition, freshman Danny Doligale and junior transfer Nick Menken will be in the mix for the outfield.
However you look at it, Hartleb certainly has outfield depth this season. Whether the players are newcomers or veterans, offensive minded or defensive specialists, the Illini have plenty of options to roam the outfield when the season begins shortly.