Baseball season, the part of the year that brings great hope, is upon us. As the Razorbacks gear up for a trip to Globe Life Field in Arlington, fans will be preparing their beer hats. Tons of fresh faces have joined the roster since last season’s trip to Omaha. Preseason predictions have been all over the place as a result, but coach Dave Van Horn is primed and reloaded.
Going into the offseason, DVH was faced with a proposition: adapt or be left behind. Referring to the transfer portal of course, adapting to the modernization of college baseball is exactly what he did. Teams such as the SEC West favorite LSU Tigers were nearing an arrest warrant for how many players they stole. As an answer, Van Horn brought in 15 total transfers to go alongside 11 true freshmen. Going by the numbers, the 15 players break down to three pitchers and 12 position players. Roster turnover may be taking it lightly.
The only two returning starters not named a pitcher are Jace Bohrofen and Peyton Stovall with Brady Slavens’ name getting some credit. Aforementioned preseason projections are always based around returning production and returning players in general. There’s no need to argue over which means more because in Arkansas’ case, they have neither. That means it’s time to turn to what the transfers have done… and there’s a lot.
Buckle in for a long ride to not only learn about Arkansas’ new faces, but get the names down before first pitch (that’s a shot at myself). With pitchers and the men they throw too covered in part one, let’s dive into the position players starting with the infield.
Harold Coll – Shortstop – Junior – San Jacinto Junior College
Part of the duo that traveled over from Pasadena, TX, Coll looks to be Van Horn’s guy at shortstop. A very productive freshman season was followed up by another in 2022 where he played in 64 games. At the plate, a .357 batting average was joined with a .604 slugging percentage. 84 hits headlined his stats as they translated into 64 runs and 65 RBIs. Finally getting into some more power, he sent ten balls over the fence. Coll was also walked 30 times and stole 15 bases.
Another position that has been in constant battle during the offseason is shortstop. Losing Jalen Battles to the MLB required action at the position. Being one of two shortstop-capable players, Coll looks to be the man after not holding that title a meager three months ago. It may come down to who can be better defensively with both players in the fight being moderately consistent at the plate.
John Bolton – Shortstop/INF – Grad. – Austin Peay
The other side of the coin at shortstop is the experienced John Bolton. During the 2022 season for the Governors, he would start 54 games at short and two games at second base. As mentioned with Coll, Bolton is also a model of consistency when it comes to getting on base. A batting average of .287 was conjoined with .399 slugging. While not stacking up stats like his opposition, Bolton pulled off 54 hits which encompassed 39 runs and 22 RBIs. He would also be walked 27 times. It’s notable that during OVC play, he bumped his batting average up to .341.
One thing Bolton does have his leg up on, which wouldn’t be by much, is his speed and base stealing ability. He’s pretty twitchy once he gets on base, which compliments his 5-10 frame. Momentum seems to seed Coll as the starter, but a guy like Bolton will be very reliable out of the dugout. He may even get some early mid-week starts for what could be a season-long battle at the position.
Isaac Webb – INF/OUT – Junior – Eastern Oklahoma State College
A part of another transfer duo, that’s an odd commonality this class brings. Partnered with Rowland in 2022, Webb played in 55 games. Having total success at the plate like his teammate, a .414 average was partnered with .581 slugging. Webb ripped off 89 hits that translated into 73 runs and just 45 RBIs. While not profiled as a power hitter, six homers were tagged to his name along with 30 walks. As the smallest transfer of the bunch, he is a lightning bolt who stole 33 bases in 2022.
Maybe the stat that stands out the most regarding Webb is that he only struck out 18 times in 256 plate appearances. In short, he’s good at the whole getting-on-base thing. While his name isn’t one popping up as a potential starter, he will hold a role on this team. Likely the number one candidate to be a pinch runner, he’s a great option anywhere on the field.
Ben McLaughlin – 3B/INF – Junior – Hutchinson CC.
One of the many big time bats that are walking through the door starts with McLaughlin. During last season the third baseman appeared in 60 games. Plastering balls at the JUCO level, he carried a .411 average with an .804 slugging percentage. While another transfer to be named later is known as the tank of the class, Ben snagged 19 home runs – the most in the transfer class. 88 hits were also earned which led to 69 runs and 83 RBIs. Nearly half of his game appearances were declared multi-hit games (29). He would reach base via walks 33 times.
One of the most decorated from the JUCO ranks, McLaughlin won the NJCAA Gold Glove Award for his play at third base. He was also 2nd-team All-NJCAA and added four other awards to his name. Totalling 172 bases, he ranked eighth in the entire nation in total bases. A fight for third base is also in play and McLaughlin could very well be that guy. Even if he doesn’t win that spot, he will be unbelievably hard to keep off the field in both facets. DH could also be where he lands.
Caleb Cali – 3B/INF – Redshirt Junior – Florida State/College of Central Florida
Standing in the way of McLaughlin’s impressive stuff is possibly the biggest sleeper among all of college baseball. Caleb Cali by way of JUCO played in 61 games during the 2022 season. Not only is Cali built like a human tank, but he backs it up on the stat sheet. A transfer-high batting average of .438 was joined by a slugging percent of .826. That would create the highest OPS also, sitting at 1.264. An impressive 96 hits led to 74 runs and 77 RBIs. If those numbers aren’t enough, he piled on 17 home runs and got on base with 43 walks.
During one of the recent scrimmages at Baum-Walker, Cali stole the show with a 443-foot missile noted over 110 MPH off the bat. If he isn’t your guy at third base, DH has his name cemented. His off the charts sophomore season carried seven awards with it which included the FCSAA Player of the Year. Caleb was also a first-team All-NJCAA member thanks to hit stats in conference play being even higher than his final numbers. The hype is there and has been for a while, it will be one of the biggest stories early on to see if he can answer the call.
Hunter Grimes – INF/OUT – Redshirt Junior – UTSA/McLennan CC
What has been a pathway of chaos for Grimes, the 2022 season brought 50 game appearances. Shifting into a role as a position player he had a batting average of .366 and a slugging percent of .749. He reeled off 70 hits which were complemented by 62 runs and 66 RBIs. With his bat in question transferring down to McLennan, 17 home runs put the doubts to bed. Of his 70 hits, seven of them were triples.
The position shift in question occurred when pitching for UTSA didn’t produce hardly anything in 2021. Transferring with a desire to get shots at the plate, it’s safe to say his decision paid off. His offensive explosion earned him a spot as a 1st Team All-American at the NTJCAC level. One season of experience behind the plate was enough to get Arkansas calling, but Grimes will need to prove he can hit with the big boys. He will likely provide huge value off the bench as a lively bat and even a pitcher in the unlikely, yet possible dire situations.
Peyton Holt – SS/INF – Junior – Crowder College
Completing what is the third duo of transfers, Holt comes over with Cody Adcock from Crowder College. The 2022 season brought him 59 game appearances which backed up a stellar freshman season the year prior. He pulled off a .425 batting average and .668 slugging percentage thanks to 96 hits. Holt drove in 70 runs and 77 baserunners on top of his ten homers. He would be walked 31 times, which only increased his already boastful on base percentage.
In three seasons playing for Crowder (including the forgiven COVID season), he totaled 185 hits and drove in 163 runs. Every season has proven his contact and power build that was put on display in high school. Ranked the number 74 shortstop by Perfect Game out of Greenbrier High, things didn’t work out for him to land in Fayetteville. Once the opportunity came calling, he jumped on board quickly and has been the longest transfer commit of the class. He can be classified as uber reliable with three years to back that up. Holt likely won’t be a starter, but he joins the growing list of great options in the dugout.
Jared Wegner – LF/OF – Grad. – Creighton
One of two outfielders brought in, Wegner has checked a lot of boxes to this point. During 2022, he started and played in 49 games. At the plate, he racked up a .343 batting average and a slugging percent of .635. An active bat led to 63 hits which brought 42 runs and flocked in 53 batters. 11 home runs were crushed while Jared was walked 30 times. Success at the plate led to 115 total bases, leading the Bluejays. On defense, a .969 fielding percent was huge for his namesake.
Combining his all-around year, he earned 1st team All-Big East. Backtracking a bit, the 2021 season was not what Wegner had in mind. A batting average slightly lower at .277 would be cut short with a season-ending injury. Being able to come back and put together the season he did brought the attention from many high level schools. Ultimately, the appeal to start for the Razorbacks won him over as he looks to continue what he started in 2022.
Tavion Josenberger – CF/2B – Junior – Kansas
Maybe a name that got a lot of national attention when he transferred to Arkansas, Josenberger has been the model of consistency. His 2022 season in Lawrence included 52 starts at second base. Looking to play in the outfield as a Hog, his bat will remain a potential threat. While hitting for a .276 average and .386 slugging power wasn’t the name of his game. Only two homers came out of last season and they both occurred in the same game. Josenberger did compile 58 hits with 43 runs and 23 RBIs. While the RBI number is a little down, he did accept 25 walks.
Tavion’s play in both facets of the game earned him a spot as a All-Big XII Honorable Mention in 2021 and 2022. Coming into the 2023 season, he carries some solid national attention. He is rated as the 44th best college draft prospect by Baseball America and 99th overall prospect by D1 Baseball. His slightly better year in 2021 included a 24-game hit streak which tied a school record. If he can piece together another solid season, this time in the outfield, the MLB will come calling.