UConn Baseball’s outfield took some lumps last season. Troy Stefanski, who hit a respectable .258/.324/.348 in 23 games, forced Joe DeRoche-Duffin to move from his designated hitter spot after suffering a broken leg.
An already thin bench got thinner when Keith Krueger broke a bone in his wrist. As a result, three pitchers played in the outfield late in games for the Huskies, especially towards the end of the season.
This season, despite losing senior captain Jack Sundberg to the MLB Draft, there will not be as much of a depth problem. There are four guys in the mix to get most of the playing time: Stefanski, John Toppa, junior college transfer Isaac Feldstein, and freshman Chris Winkel.
Stefanski, now a junior, has recovered from his injury and will be an integral part of the outfield.
“He’s a good defensive outfielder,” head coach Jim Penders said. “He’d be a guy who could play center field for us. I’m sure that he has confidence to do that. Troy isn’t short on confidence and that’s how he has to play.”
Toppa, who was third on the team in batting average as a freshman last season after hitting .303/.383/.374, will also play a big role.
“Toppa is banged up right now with a little bit of a shoulder issue but his bat is pretty much solidified in the middle of our order somewhere,” Penders said. “I would expect him to return to left field and be ready to go opening weekend.”
Feldstein is a junior college transfer in the mold of Joe DeRoche-Duffin, an outfielder who can hit for power. He is a candidate to serve as DH as well.
“[He’s] been getting reps [in center field] but he’s most likely a right fielder for us,” Penders said. “Isaac is a guy who has real power. He’s another guy from a California junior college that we brought in, it seems like we’re getting some guys with power from California.”
Winkel has been seeing time at outfield as well as first base, but Penders prefers he use his athleticism as an outfielder.
“Chris Winkel is a guy who could play center field,” Penders said. “That’s where we’d like to see him.”
The Huskies are also not short on depth options.
“We have a couple of freshmen who will provide some depth in Anthony Nucerino and Josh Loeffler,” Penders said. “Conor Moriarty has been taking a lot of reps in center field. He can go get it too and he’s a guy that’s going to, come hell or high water, try to find a way to get in the lineup.
“So if it’s not in the infield, if he can’t beat out Anthony Prato at shortstop, I would expect to see his bat in there, too.”
Projected Opening Day Starters:
LF) John Toppa
CF) Chris Winkel
RF) Troy Stefanski
You can find our preview for the Huskies’ infield HERE.