No single factor has motivated me to write these Back in the Swing of Things pieces more than the knowledge that, when I got around to publishing my third base preview, I would apparently get to be the first person on the internet to utter the phrase "Hold me closer, L.B. Dantzler."
So there's that.
Oh yeah. There's also the business of the JUCO transfer being tasked with the responsibility of manning the hot corner, erstwhile occupied by the stalwart Adrian Morales. Adrian's offensive production was rather severely impacted by the new bats, as his isolated power (SLG minus AVG) dropped a whopping 71 points in 2011. Still, he was decent enough at getting on base (.348 OBP in '11, .378 in '12), and was a vital cog in the stellar infield defense backing the Gamecock pitching staff on consecutive national title runs.
After Morales, Dantlzler is the second consecutive JUCO transfer to play third base for the Gamecocks. If the returns from winter practice are any indication, it looks like he could hold that spot down for the next two seasons, just as Morales did. During preseason workouts, Dantzler insisted that he was more of a "doubles power" guy at the junior college level. If that was the case, he appears to have taken it up a notch. L.B. (shorthand for "Little Brad") has absolutely mashed during the preseason scrimmages, showing enough pop to earn dibs on the cleanup spot for opening weekend.
Dantzler had the inside track at third base from the moment he signed, and no one else has really come close to competing with him for starting job. L.B. has put so much distance between himself and all backups that the coaching staff is even considering moving backup Erik Payne behind home plate.
Freshman Connor Bright (another welcome addition to #TeamConnor) is a guy who could factor in at a lot of positions, including third base. We'll see how Dantzler's glove holds up (he's been better than expected this winter), but Bright has the range and arm to play just about anywhere on the diamond if a late-inning defensive replacement is needed.
Click here to browse previous entries in the Back in the Swing of Things series. Also, be thankful I didn't use a cheesier pun (e.g., Puttin' on the Hitz!).