ASU Baseball: Outfield looks to lead Sun Devils’ turnaround season

OMAHA, NE - JUNE 23: Travis Buck
OMAHA, NE - JUNE 23: Travis Buck /

The outfield was one of the lone bright spots in ASU baseball‘s tough season last year, and looks to be just as strong heading into the 2018 season.

Arizona State’s outfield for 2018 is headed by junior Gage Canning, who started all 55 games in 2017 and earned a First-Team All-Pac-12 selection.

Canning was undoubtedly the Sun Devils’ best everyday player last season, hitting .332 with six home runs and 29 runs batted in at the top of the lineup.

He also stole nine bases and did not commit a single error in the field, a true testament to his well-rounded skill set.

Canning is starting to gain notoriety on a national scale as a result of his stellar sophomore season as he was named to Perfect Game’s Preseason All Pac-12 Team.

The Sun Devils are definitely looking for Canning to build upon last year’s breakout performance, as his success will be a major key in ASU’s quest for a bounce-back season.

Sophomore Hunter Bishop will also factor into the Sun Devils’ outfield equation following a very successful start to his college career last year.

Bishop hit .301 with five home runs and 25 runs batted in last season and earned an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention selection despite not being in the starting lineup to begin the year.

He has locked down a starting spot this year, however, and this fact alone has Bishop confident that he can improve on his strong 2017 campaign.

“It’s a lot better of a feeling going out there knowing that I earned a spot,” Bishop said.

The 19-year-old played mostly right field and designated hitter last year, but will switch positions with Gage Canning and take over center field this season. Bishop will most likely slot into the middle of ASU’s lineup, and his presence will only help deepen the Sun Devils’ lineup in 2018.

While center field and right field are filled by a couple of reliable returners, left field has a much less clear outlook.

Manager Tracy Smith has yet to commit to one player, and has openly stated that the position is up for grabs.

“I anticipate that we’re going to give multiple opportunities based on performance or lack of performance and let someone win that position,” said Smith.

Many players are in consideration for the vacant position, including senior Taylor Lane, sophomore Myles Denson, and freshmen Gage Workman and Trevor Hauver.

Denson got the majority of the playing time in left field last year as a freshman and looks to be the favorite, but does not have a starting spot locked up by any means.  Smith has also not ruled out the possibility of a platoon situation.

“Right now we could play matchup stuff, righty or lefty, if we want to,” Smith said.  “We think we’re deep enough there.”

Smith is not worried about the left field dilemma, however, calling it “a great problem to have”, and hopes to have a solution by the start of conference play.

Overall, the outfield projects to be one of the Sun Devils’ strongest units headed into the 2018 season.

Next: ASU Baseball: 2017 recruiting class ranked fourth in nation

Canning and Bishop are expected to be major players both offensively and defensively, and the team has options in regards to the left field spot.  If Arizona State does indeed turn things around this season, the outfield may very well be one of the main reasons why.