Mississippi State’s outfield features three seniors all with starting experience.
But the one missing senior leaves a lot of production to fill. San Diego Padres 1st round draft pick Hunter Renfroe is gone in right field along with his .345 batting average, 16 home runs, 65 runs batted and eight outfield assists.
Senior Demarcus Henderson is expected to shift over to right field to replace that void. Henderson made 51 starts last season including nine in right field. He finished with his best statistical season so far hitting .274 with three doubles and 23 RBI.
“Demarcus has come so far and has really gravitated to the opportunity to play right field,” said MSU coach John Cohen. “Playing right field at Dudy Noble Field is tough. I should know. I think Demarcus has worked very hard to become good out there.”
Fellow senior C.T. Bradford has been a three-year starter in centerfield for the Bulldogs. Bradford made 68 starts out there a year ago batting .281 with four doubles, an opening day homer and drove in 27. He also finished second on the team with eight steals while also making nine relief appearances.
Derrick Armstrong rounds out the senior class of outfielders. The Columbia State (Tenn.) Community College transfer appeared in 39 games for MSU last season including 16 starts. Five of his starts came in left field. Armstrong finished the year with a .266 average with a double and eight RBI. He also swiped four bases in five attempts.
“Derrick might be one of our most improved players,” Cohen said. “He’s really come a long ways as a defender in the outfield. We’re very comfortable with him out there. His arm’s gotten better He might be the fastest player in our league but his base stealing has improved and has honed that ability.”
Cohen has recruited well as evidenced by his No. 2 class from last year leaving plenty of other outfield options as well.
“I think our outfield is as competitive as any outfield in the country,” Cohen said. “When you look at the speed, arm strength and offensive capabilities of all those kids in the outfield it’s pretty remarkable. I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a collection of outfielders that are as skilled as this group. But you can only put three guys out there and we’re going to have to have team-first guys who understand we have a tremendous amount of talent in our outfield.”
One of the new additions comes with a familiar name. Jake Vickerson is the younger brother of former MSU infielder and current minor leaguer Nick Vickerson. Jake Vickerson is a junior transferring in from Shelton State (Ala.) Community College as his older brother did.
Last season at Shelton State, Vickerson earned all-region and all-state honors hitting .371 with 45 runs scored. He also swiped 24 bases in 25 attempts and makes the transition to the outfield after playing second base in the JUCO ranks.
Canadian Jacob Robson is back for his sophomore season. The lefty appeared in 47 games and drew 25 starts as a true freshman batting just over the Mendoza line at.206 with a pair of doubles and 16 RBI. Robson stole three bases in four attempts and spelled Bradford in centerfield whenever he was brought to the mound.
Cody Brown is also back with the Bulldogs after redshirting last season. The Biloxi standout and Dandy Dozen selection hit .324 with five doubles, two triples and two homers as a senior in 2012 while also adding 21 stolen bases. Brown spent the summer playing in the Ohio Valley League for the Marion Bobcats.
Orlando, Fla., native Joey Swinarski is supposed to be a senior in high school this year but finished a year early and has already enrolled at State. Swinarski was expected to be selected in the Top 10 rounds of the upcoming MLB Draft but opted to play for the Diamond Dogs. He was a second team All-American as a junior last season batting .405 with seven home runs in just 23 games for The First Academy. Swinarski hit .380 or higher in his three seasons at the prep level hitting seven bombs each season.