UCF Baseball Season Preview Part Three - Catcher and First Base

Feb. 10, 2010

By Brian Ormiston

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Now that we have taken a look at the pitching staff in 2010, part three of the season preview runs down UCF's catchers and first basemen.

Part One - Initial Outlook & Starting Pitchers

Part Two - The Bullpen

UCF has always been known for quality backstops, and the 2009 season proved that yet again when Beau Taylor began his collegiate career. The freshman from Rockledge proceeded to hit .335 at the plate, bang out 15 doubles and throw out a C-USA-high 26 runners on the bases.

That would be a great season for a junior let alone a catcher right out of high school. And for his performance he was easily named a Collegiate Baseball Newspaper/Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American, becoming the first UCF catcher in program history to earn the honor. And some of the Knights' previous catchers include MLB Draft picks Jeremy Frost and Drew Butera, who just finished a full season with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings.

Ryan Breen - Fr. - S/R - 2009 Florida Class 5A All-State Third Team member
Keith Simon - RS Jr. - R/R - UCF's primary bullpen catcher
Chris Taladay - Fr. - L/R - 2009 Orlando Sentinel All-Central Florida Second Team honoree
Beau Taylor - So. - L/R - .335, 15 2B, 4 HR, 23 RBI, 26 runners caught stealing

"Behind the plate I feel very good," acknowledged Rooney. "Beau Taylor had a great season and was a Freshman All-American. But this year we are counting on him even more. Last year he was a freshman who a lot of people weren't expecting a lot out of, and he exceeded everybody's expectations and earned the starting catching job. Yet now there is a new responsibility placed on Beau, and as a catcher who has an outstanding skill level, he needs to keep improving in all areas including leadership. So going into the year Beau Taylor is our starting catcher. And we have very talented backups behind him in Ryan Breen, Chris Taladay and Keith Simon."

Losing arguably the best defensive first baseman in Kiko Vazquez certainly affects the UCF lineup. Vazquez not only had a .996 fielding percentage in 2009, but the four-year starter finished his career ranked in the top 10 at UCF in home runs and doubles.

Yet with the return of two-way player D.J. Hicks and the addition of Jonathan Griffin out of the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, Rooney admits first base is stocked with power.

First Base
Jonathan Griffin - Jr. - R/R - 2007 and 2008 draft pick in junior college
D.J. Hicks - So. - L/R - .301, 9 2B, 8 HR, 32 RBI

"I think first base is one of the strengths of our team in that we have two legitimate power hitters at that spot with left-handed hitting D.J. Hicks and right-handed hitting Jonathan Griffin," said Rooney. "I've stated before that I want big, strong, physical guys who can drive the ball out of the yard. That will be the makeup of the majority of our offense, and D.J. and Jonathan both fit that mold and should hit in the middle of our lineup. D.J. had a great second half of the season last year, and Jonathan is a two-time draft pick who led the state of Florida in homers while in junior college.

"However D.J. is on his way back from a non-baseball related injury. We hope to have him back by the first few weekends of the year, and we would ease him into the designated hitter spot or on the infield before he's ready to pitch for us."

Season tickets the 2010 campaign are already on sale. The Knights will play 36 games at home this year including Opening Day Feb. 19, and reserved chairbacks are just $199, while reserved bleacher seats are only $150. Faculty/staff, youth and senior season tickets are $99. To purchase tickets, call 407-823-1000 or visit UCFAthletics.com.