“He’s by far —not even close — our most improved player,” Hall said. “He just matured, I think it’s just that more than anything. He was somewhat immature coming in as a freshman and I think he just got overwhelmed with baseball and with school, it just took him a year to get his feet under him. We placed him in the Northwoods League, and you know what that league’s like, you’d better like baseball when you go up there, it’s the closest thing to being a pro baseball player because they play every day. He got a lot of at-bats, made the all-star team, and he just came back honestly as a different person and a different player. He hits the ball in all directions, displayed more power this year than at any time last year. I don’t know exactly how many ABs he had in the fall, quite a few, but he only swung and missed two times, and it was back-to-back pitches against Luke Schmolke. He’s got a good eye, he’ll walk. He reminds me a lot of Justyn-Henry Malloy who’s now kind of on the fast track with the Braves. His defense has gotten better. That’s the one area this summer really helped him, he has gotten way better defensively. He’s got really good range, turned the double play well this fall. And the other thing he could do is go play in the outfield, even though he hasn’t played much out there, he’s got really good instincts out there.”
Campbell is likely to play second, but if necessary he could slide into the outfield, and sophomore Nicholas Romano could handle second, where he’s a sound defender. Romano is a strong-bodied switch-hitter who also showed competitive at-bats all fall, including in my visit, when he drew two walks and had two singles.
One wild card who could factor into the outfield mix is freshman Riley Stanford, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound Adonis who will see two-way duties. Like Finley, he’ll be counted upon to pitch significant innings, which could limit his offensive opportunities, but his raw power from the right side is undeniable, and he has a chance to take off if he gets a shot in a corner outfield spot.
The biggest hole for Georgia Tech to fill is behind the plate, where it must replace a bona fide superstar in Parada (.360/.452/.709, 26 HR). Parada’s heir apparent, Baltimore prep talent Lamar King, signed with the Padres in the fourth round out of high school, leaving sixth-year senior Jack Rubenstein to take over as the starting catcher, a year after transferring in from Emory. Rubenstein turned in some quality at-bats in limited action a year ago, and he brings some righthanded pop as well as veteran savvy and an adequate arm behind the plate.
“I don’t think Parada’s walking through the door anytime soon, big shoes to fill but Ruby caught some for us last year, went up to the Cape and caught for a month in Chatham, then just came back,” Hall said. “He’s in this new program here at Georgia Tech, Grad-X, so from 8 a.m. to noon every day he’s working in an internship that gives him some hands-on experience, then has to take a couple classes as part of this grad program. We were excited to get him back, he’s hit well through the fall, proven he’s definitely capable.”