FAYETTEVILLE – For Arkansas’ abbreviated by the coronavirus 2020 baseball season, 17-year freshman December high school graduate Robert Moore neatly filled the Razorbacks second base shoes of his College World Series predecessors.
Carson Shaddy, since retired from pro ball, played second for Coach Dave Van Horn’s 2018 national runner-ups.
Detroit Tigers draftee Jack Kenley hit .311 for the 2019 Razorbacks that returned to the CWS in Omaha.
Committing but one error while making some spectacular defensive plays, Moore hit .317 with two doubles and two home runs and 17 RBI and stole three bases in three attempts.
Come February, 2021 Moore should start the season as an All-SEC second baseman candidate.
Except that he might play shortstop.
Junior 3-year letterman 2020 Preseason All-American Casey Martin moves from Razorbacks shortstop on to the pros as the Philadelphia Phillies’ third round draft choice.
Even while Van Horn added a nationally renowned recruiting class full of infielders, Moore seems set for a long look at short.
“I think Robert will work out at short a lot in the fall,” Van Horn confirmed. “We’ve got some other guys that play short as well. Robert’s an awfully good second baseman and turns the double play really well. We’ll just experiment with it and we’ll figure it out. Most of the time when we recruit infielders, especially the young ones, they’re going to be shortstops at their high schools and summer ball a lot of times, so there’s definitely going to be some competition there. But Robert will be over there a lot as well and we’ll see how it turns out.”
Martin can see his 2020 doubleplay buddy switching to the position Martin played in 2019 and 2020. Martin debuted as Arkansas’ 2018 freshman third baseman while Jax Biggers, signed by the Texas Rangers, played short.
“The dude is super athletic,” Martin said. “He’s extremely talented.”
And while still classified a freshman since the NCAA restored all 2020 baseball eligibility for 2021, already college baseball aged.
Moore learned baseball from babyhood as the son of Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore.
“I know Coach likes to put older guys at shortstop because you’re basically a leader,” Martin said. “You’re the quarterback of the field – you and the catcher.”
So does he foresee Van Horn moving Moore permanently to short? “I don’t know what he (Van Horn) will do,” Martin said. “But I don’t think Robert would be a bad move at all to slide over there. He can handle the position well, I think.”
Hard for any player to project replacing the impact lost from junior All-American outfielder Heston Kjerstad turned pro. Baltimore Orioles’ first-round draft choice Kjerstad was the second player chosen in the entire 2020 Major League draft hitting after his a torrid .448 (30 for 67) in 2020 including six home runs, five doubles and 20 RBI after hitting .332 with 14 home runs and 58 RBI as a 2018 freshman and .331 with 15 home runs and 46 RBI as a 2019 sophomore.
However Christian Franklin amply succeeded one Razorbacks icon. He seems capable of succeeding another. Earning All-SEC Freshman team honors as Arkansas’ 2019 left fielder batting .274 eight doubles, one triple, six home runs and 34 RBIs, Franklin in 2020 succeeded 3-year Razorbacks center field defensive whiz and Arizona Diamondbacks draftee Dominic Fletcher. Franklin for 2020 not only played a superb center field but jumped his average over 100 points. He hit .381 with four doubles, a triple, three home runs and 11 RBI in 63 at bats.
Van Horn had high expectations for Franklin in 2020 and said, “I thought he exceeded them with how much better he got.”
The Second Team All-SEC designated hitter as a sophomore junior transfer batting .348 for the Razorbacks 2019 College World Series and hitting .302 as the DH when the 2020 season ended abruptly, Matt Goodheart of Magnolia strives to do more than just swing a big stick in 2021.
Goodheart has a shot to play first base if his surgically repaired throwing shoulder proves fit.
With Van Horn’s hearty approval, Goodheart presently tests his arm and shoulder playing first base in the Perfect Timing amateur league in Northwest Arkansas that has featured several Razorbacks including Moore and Franklin.
“He’s going to try to play first base here,” Van Horn said. “It’s going to be up to his health. He’s a good enough fielder. He’s a good target over there. He picks the ball well out of the dirt. But he’s got to be able to throw. I think fall ball is going to be a big proving ground there.”
Photos courtesy of Craven Whitlow, CW3 Sports Action