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February 16, 2013

Around the Horn: Outfield

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Arguably the position of greatest strength, the Bulls return all of their starters to the outfield this season. Led by senior James Ramsay, the USF starting outfield was responsible for five home runs, 78 RBIs and 96 runs scored.

Returning this year for the Bulls, along with Ramsay, are seniors Chad Taylor and Alex Mendez. Right field is going to be a revolving door for the Bulls that could feature sophomore Buddy Putnam, senior Jimmy Falla and Taylor.

The outfield should be one of the largest producers offensively for the Bulls this season. Let's take a look at whom USF will feature in the outfield this season:

James Ramsay- 6-foot-0 190lbs Junior Brandon High School (Brandon, Fla.)

Bats: Left

Throws: Left

The Bulls saw increases in every offensive category from Ramsay last season. The Brandon native led the Bulls in average (.328), hits (78), total bases (93) and RBIs (32). The only Bull to play in 60 games last year; Ramsay was an above average defender, picking up three outfield assists while not committing an error. This season, after the departure of major run producers, the Bulls are going to rely even more on Ramsay's bat. Unlike the past two years, the Bulls' outfielder hasn't gone under the radar; Ramsay was selected preseason All-Big East by the coaches.

Alex Mendez- 5-foot-7 175lbs Senior Bishop Moore High School (Longwood, Fla.)

Bats: Left

Throws: Left

Mendez has been the definition of consistent for USF in his career. The Bulls' leadoff hitter increased his on-base percentage for the third straight season last year, getting on at a .382 clip. 2012 was the most successful offensive season of the Longwood native's career; Mendez led the team in runs (42), RBI's (32), triples (2), walks (26) and HBP (14). Although he isn't the biggest guy in the outfield, Mendez packs a cannon; the leftfielder threw out six base runners from the outfield last season. Going into this year, the Bulls need Mendez to do what he has done in years past; score runs. Expect for Mendez to once again sit atop the batting order and set the table for hitters in the middle of the order.

Chad Taylor- 6-foot-0 180lbs Senior Jefferson High School (Tampa, Fla.)

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

Taylor is one of the biggest mysteries of any returning player on the Bulls' roster. The senior from Jefferson High School is coming off a rough season that featured him batting a career-low .244 and drive in just 12 runs despite playing 45 games. Despite his struggles offensively, Taylor continues to be a topic of interest amongst scouts and coaches that watch the Bulls. Don't expect to see Taylor in the outfield quite as much as you did last year. The Tampa native will be returning to the infield in 2013, not as a defender, but instead as a pitcher. Taylor raised a lot of eyebrows after a debut on the mound in 2012, pitching two innings and retiring all six batters he faced. Going into this season, expect to see Taylor in the outfield, but only when he is not helping out the bullpen, perhaps as a bridge to closer Steven Leasure.

Jimmy Falla- 6-foot-2 215lbs Senior Jesuit High School (Tampa, Fla.)

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

Last season was a nice bounce back year from a sophomore slump for Falla. The then junior batted .286 in 2012 after hitting just .240 the season before. Falla finished the season strong, leading USF with a .375 batting average in the Bulls run to their first appearance in the Big East Championship in program history. The local product played both right field and first base for Lelo Prado in 2012, giving the Bulls some depth and flexibility. Going into this season, expect Falla to split time once again between the infield and outfield. Falla will be needed in the middle of the lineup this season, especially after the graduation of some of the Bulls bigger hitters like Todd Brazeal, Daniel Rockhold and Andrew Longley.

Buddy Putnam - 6-foot-3 185lbs Sophomore Bartow High School (Bartow, Fla.)

Bats: Left

Throws: Right

Putnam saw a great deal of action in 2012, playing in 36 games, second most of any freshman for the Bulls. Perhaps the starter at first base for the Bulls, Putnam profiles a tall 6'3" build and strong fielding ability, both traditional attributes for a first baseman, but he is a strong runner and could provide a better option to hunt down fly balls. This season, Putnam must be better at the plate; the freshman batted just .216 with 10 RBIs and a .292 on-base percentage last year. Going into 2013, if Putnam can produce at the plate, he should be able to cement himself as the guy at first base. If Putnam hits, he gives Lelo Prado a strong left-handed bat with extra base potential. One thing we do know, the sophomore isn't afraid of the big moment; Putnam had two game-winning hits last season for the Bulls.

Anthony Diaz- 5-foot-11 180lbs Junior Palm Harbor University High School (Palm Harbor, Fla.)

Bats: Switch

Throws: Left

Diaz played limited time in 2012, but did prove that he can reach base effectively, posting a .441 on-base percentage in 26 at-bats and 35 games. The Palm Harbor native spent most of last year as a pinch runner and defensive replacement for the Bulls. Going into this season, expect a similar year for Diaz. The Bulls' outfield is very crowded and opportunities are going to be tough to come by, but Diaz should see time late in games either on the base paths or defensively.

Note: Although they played limited time in 2012, do not rule out contributions from sophomores Jordan Strittmatter and Austin Lueck. Neither of the two played in more than eight games last season, but provide a great deal of upside for USF. The pair both played in the Florida Collegiate Summer League during the summer of 2012 and had successful seasons.



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