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2019 Position Preview: Shortstop (Travis Hlavinka)

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A week ago, this preview would have been cut and dry, saying how David Hamilton is the team’s most secure starter and maybe the most vital cog in the Texas baseball engine.

However after an incident with an e-scooter which resulted in a torn Achilles, Hamilton is out for at least the 2019 season. Since his arrival to the University of Texas in 2016, the junior has been the starter at baseball’s premier position. With him out, though, head coach David Pierce will have to do his best at replacing an elite defender, base runner and up-and-coming hitter.

The obvious replacement should and most likely will be senior outfielder Masen Hibbeler. An infielder by trade, Hibbeler’s move to the outfield occurred midway through the 2018 season and was possibly one of the sparks that catapulted the Longhorns all the way to the College World Series.

Hibbeler had an excellent 2018 campaign after arriving in Austin from Odessa College. Frequently a top-of-the-order hitter, Hibbeler started in 65 games. He hit .261 over the course of the year and had 21 extra base hits to go along with 30 RBI. Hibbeler has been a starter since Day 1, and do not expect that to change no matter what defensive position he plays in 2019.

While Pierce probably didn’t want to mess with a good thing, he’ll now have to, as the task of replacing Hamilton will be a major component of determining Texas’ success in the upcoming season.

If Pierce wants to go the untraditional route and implement a new face into the lineup, however, he’ll have his choice of two supremely gifted freshmen.

The first of the two was the player who more than likely was going to be Hamilton’s heir apparent if he declared for the MLB draft following the 2019 season. Freshman Bryce Reagan, who originally hails from Amherst, NH, played his high school ball at the prestigious IMG Academy. According to Max Preps, Reagan hit .338 over the course of his senior year and added 12 RBI into the fold.

At a long and lanky 6’2”, Reagan has the range to play at every position in the infield, but is most natural at playing shortstop. The nation’s 19th ranked high school shortstop according to Perfect Game, Reagan was highly regarded and sought after during the recruiting cycle. Reagan no doubt has the Texas pedigree and was seen as one of the cornerstone players to come out of Texas’ 2018 recruiting class.

The other option Pierce has to look at is freshman Alec Carr. Carr came to Texas by way of Sugar Land, where he attended Kempner High School. Far more stocky at 6’0” and 200 pounds, Carr packs much more power into his frame than Reagan. Though he missed almost the entirety of his senior year due to injury, Carr led the state of Texas in home runs as a junior. Like Reagan, Carr is seen as a player that should eventually step into an everyday position, whether it be at short, second base or third base.

While no locked down position has a seamless replacement, Pierce should feel confident in what he has stocked in the cupboard. If Texas can duplicate its success without one of its top players is a large question mark that is hovering over the program. One thing is for certain, though —  you won’t see any Texas baseball players riding around on e-scooters any time soon.

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