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February 11, 2013
Around the Horn: Part 1: Catcher
The 2013 USF baseball season is almost here. Leading up to the Bulls' opening game on February 16th against Louisville, we will be going previewing each position for USF. In the first installment of a five part series, let's take a look at the catchers on the roster.
For the first time in a long while, the Bulls are without an experienced catcher on their roster. Gone are the days of Trey Manz, Eric Sim, Daniel Rockhold and Eric Longley and here comes the era of the up-and-coming catcher. This season, the Bulls profile four catchers, all without substantial starting experience at the collegiate level. Blake Sydeski will, most likely, be the everyday starter behind the plate while freshman Levi Borders will be the primary backup. Lelo Prado has some depth behind the plate, with senior-transfer Chris Norton and local product, freshman Joe Altieri.
Blake Sydeski- 6-foot-3 215lbs Sophomore New Smyrna High School (Daytona Beach, Fla.)
Bulls fans got a chance to see Sydeski as a spot starter last season. The Daytona Beach backstop was the main option behind starter Andrew Longley, playing in 13 games, starting 10 of them. Sydeski missed a month of last season due to a concussion. In the limited action, Sydeski proved to be a reliable bat, hitting .289 (11-38) with six RBIs and two doubles. Although he had success at the plate, Sydeski struggled behind it defensively. The New Smyrna High School product allowed six passed balls and runners were a perfect seven-for-seven on the base paths against him.
Sydeski took the opportunity to play summer ball after the season for the Florida College Summer League, a collegiate, wood bat league in Central Florida. Whie playing for the Deland Suns, the backstop found some of his power, belting two home runs and two doubles in 19 games. The college sophomore-to-be got a chance for some seasoning behind the plate, playing 15 games there for the Suns.
Levi Borders- 6-foot-3 185lbs Freshman Winter Haven High School (Winter Haven, Fla.)
Borders was a big pick up for Lelo Prado's 2013 signing class. The first year Bull is expected to spend some time behind the plate when he isn't manning third base. Borders has a great deal of upside, posting a solid pop time (time it takes to receive a pitch and throw to second base) while batting .365 with five home runs and 18 driven in his senior year of high school. This season, expect for Borders to be a solid defender at either third or behind the plate. The Winter Haven native should be able to hold his own in the box, but don't be surprised if there isn't a learning curve for the freshman.
Chris Norton- 6-foot-0 215lbs Senior East Bay High School (Brandon, Fla.)
A transfer from Marshall University, Norton enters his second season with the Bulls. Norton didn't see much time last year, playing behind Andrew Longley and Blake Sydeski.. The senior played in just 12 games last year, starting five and 1-20 at the plate. This season, expect for Norton to perhaps get the odd, midweek start for the Bulls. In order to see playing time, Norton must improve his control of the run game. In 2012, Norton struggled throwing out base stealers, going 0-10.
Joe Altieri- 6-foot-0 215lbs Freshman Jesuit High School (Tampa, Fla.)
Altieri is a wildcard for the Bulls this season. A local product, Altieri batted .290 with 11 RBI his senior year at Jesuit High School. A well known recruit coming to USF, the Tampa native was a Perfect Game preseason All-American as a sophomore, junior and senior in high school. Ranked in Perfect Game's top 250 players, Altieri was named team captain his senior year and to the 2012 Florida All Region 2nd team. Going into 2013, Altieri is buried on the Bulls' depth chart, but has major upside. Expect for the local talent to try to force Lelo Prado's hand for playing time.
Nick Gryniewicz is the Managing Editor of Runningthebulls.com - he also serves as the student voice of the USF Bulls Football, Men's basketball and Baseball home games. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Nick on Twitter at @nickgryniewicz.