By Dalton Ray —
The baseball program under coach Dan McDonnell churns out pro prospects year after year. McDonnell has another pair in waiting in junior Devin Mann and sophomore Tyler Fitzgerald.
Both right-handed infielders, expect the duo to live in headlines this season.
Mann, who is draft eligible this summer, started all 64 games at second base last season. Receiving preseason All-American honors from Baseball America, Mann returns as the most experienced infielder.
The junior must cut down his errors before taking the next step as a defender. Mann led U of L with 14 errors in 2017.
Nearly tripling his at bats from freshman to sophomore year, Mann bumped his RBIs from 17 to 44 in his first year as a starter. He also recorded all eight career home runs last season.
Baseball America listed Mann as a 2018 Top 200 MLB prospect. A 2016 member of the All-ACC Freshman Team, Mann will likely be an all-conference select and one of the ACC’s top middle infielders.
Fitzgerald’s stock is still growing after a solid freshman campaign with 36 starts and 48 appearances. At the plate, Fitzgerald batted .208 with 11 RBIs and 26 hits.
The sophomore filled the gap in the infield, mainly logging time at third base. With the departure of ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year Devin Hairston, Fitzgerald will step into the shortstop position.
Last season, McDonnell groomed Fitzgerald to replace Hairston. Fitzgerald played behind Hairston during practice, learned the nuances of the position and stepped over to third base for games when Brendan McKay pitched and Drew Ellis held first base.
Replacing Hairston won’t be easy, but Fitzgerald has had a year’s worth of prep to fill his shoes.
Both players’ stock is surging, leading Louisville to have a promising middle defense. The Cardinals are facing a lot of turnover after last season, but Mann and Fitzgerald will ease the transition for 2018.
You can follow Dalton Ray on Twitter @dray5477.
File photo / The Louisville Cardinal