I think it’s important to explain how I like my team’s lineups.
Leading off is relatively simple. Get on base. There is no better option if a leadoff hitter can get on base and has speed. However, that may or may not be the case for the Ducks. Power and the ability to drive in runs is a luxury that not all leadoff hitters have, so I don’t take that into account for my leadoff hitter. As long as they get on base by any means, I’ll take it.
Batters two through five are preferably the best hitters on the roster. Ideally, they would alternate between right and left-handed to give equal protection to each player. If that means running a platoon of all righties against a lefty pitcher, and vice versa, so be it.
My one caveat is batting second must be your best overall hitter. The player excels at getting on base, driving runs in, hitting for power, and average. Whoever that should bat second in my eyes. Second in the order sees the most plate appearances with runners on base and runners in scoring position. Those are opportunities you cannot let go to waste.
Six and seven should be boom or bust candidates. Players who can drive home all the runners with one swing or end the inning on three swings and misses.
The bottom third of the order is up for grabs. I don’t particularly have a preference. I’d prefer the ninth batter to be a “second leadoff” hitter, someone who gets on base by any means in front of the heart of the order.
Now that you know my preferences let’s begin.
1. Sam Novitske – 3B – RHB
Novitske batted toward the bottom half in the lineup last year, but Oregon’s lineup was deep. I like Novitske’s speed, contact-first approach, and ability to get on base. He will need to improve his discipline, striking out 30 times in 21, but the leadoff hitter will get more first-pitch strike opportunities to offset his aggressive approach. Novitske was also 10-for-10 on stolen bases last season.
2. Josh Kasevich – SS – RHB
Kasevich was Oregon’s biggest surprise last year, tying Smith with a .324 average, getting on base at almost a .400 clip, and driving in 50 runs. Kasevich, if he improves on discipline and power/lifting the ball (13 hits into double plays in ’21), can become Oregon’s best overall hitter. He has a lot of potentials, a reason why he’s been among the top-100 draft prospects.
3. Anthony Hall – CF – LHB
This stage of the lineup is where things get murky. Oregon lost their best power bats to the professionals last year, but Hall returns as the leading power threat. I can see Hall flipping with Kasevich here, but against right-handed pitchers, Hall should hit third or fourth. He possesses effortless home run power to his pull side and can drive the ball to all gaps. He’ll need to improve his discipline, but with his success in the Cape Cod league (.283 avg, 4 HR, .382 OBP with wood bats), I see no reason he can’t slot in at third.
4. Tanner Smith – LF – LHB
Smith was Oregon’s leadoff hitter for most of last year, but he’s going to move to cleanup in my projections. Smith finished the 2021 season with an OPS of .417. It’s not elite but it’s very good. Smith struck out 32 times and walked 31 times. He has a disciplined approach, power to all fields, and enough speed to make life on the base paths dangerous for opposing teams.
5. Brennan Milone – DH – RHB
Milone, a South Carolina transfer, was once a consensus top-100 prospect. Milone possesses a lot of experience compared to most of this Oregon roster and slots in fifth thanks to his high OPS (.378 in 2021) and power potential.
6. Jacob Walsh – 1B – LHB
This spot is murky again. I’m slotting Walsh here due to his potential with the bat. I’m very high on Walsh’s offensive game. He’s a strong left-handed swinging freshman who could see some success early on at Oregon. In the sixth spot, he’s likely to see more fastballs which should be an easier adjustment for a first-year student to make. I can see him moving up the order with ease if he lights it up.
7. Gavin Grant – 2B – RHB
Grant is your everyday second baseman to start the season. His offensive game has room for growth, so he’s seventh in the order. He’s coming off a less than a stellar season at the plate (.230 avg, 2 HR, 16 RBI), but his defense up the middle with Kasevich is why he’ll play nearly every game.
8. Jack Scanlon – C – LHB
Scanlon, similar to Walsh, is a wild card. In his first year, Scanlon performed well in the 15 game season. Last year, he struggled, hitting .196 and striking out 43 times in 56 games. Scanlon has some tremendous pop from the left side, and his defense is just good enough to keep him in the lineup every day. Scanlon will start with some added catching depth of Anson Arroz and a healthy Josiah Cromwick but has to perform to keep his spot.
9. Bryce Boettcher – RF – LHB
Ashford would slide into this spot if he were still on the team, but the other leading backup outfielder option from 2021 was Boettcher. Boettcher played very sparingly but impressed at points. He drew five walks in just over 30 PAs and can fly. He and Hall may rotate between center and right field throughout the season.