FAYETTEVILLE – While respecting the arm injury that sidelined pitcher Peyton Pallette late last spring and the injuries that sent outfielder-third baseman Cayden Wallace home early from the Cape Cod League last summer, Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn expects plenty from both when the Razorbacks begins their baseball season in February.
He even likes what he sees from the pair during their limited fall ball participation as the Hogs commence their fall climax with their annual intrasquad World Series beginning Friday.
Third-year right-hander Pallette of Benton, the Hogs’ No. 1 starter when the Hogs began their 50-13 SEC Championship/SEC Tournament Champion 2021 season began, isn’t pitching during the fall scrimmages. But he has been pitching.
“We haven’t thrown Pallette but his bullpens have been incredible,” Van Horn said Thursday. “He’s going to throw a couple of more times off the mound and then we’re going to shut him down. But he seems to be 100 percent healthy, throwing the ball better than ever.”
The so skinny right-hander that arrived from Benton in 2020 is filling out nicely, Van Horn said.
“He’s gotten bigger and stronger and really starting to look the part,” Van Horn said.
And acting it, too.
“Peyton Pallette, just the way he’s walking around here, he looks different,” Van Horn said. “You can tell he thinks he can get anybody out. He’s matured a lot physically and mentally and we’re expecting good things out of him.”
Last playing some third base that he played at Greenbrier High School and a lot of left and right field that he didn’t play much at Greenbrier, Wallace was named a Freshman All-American last year while hitting .279 with 14 home runs, 11 doubles and 44 RBI.
In summer ball, he was tearing up the Cape Cod League until injuries, somewhat dogging him still, sent him home prematurely.
“Wallace at the Cape had a little problem with his wrist and his back was bothering him,” Van Horn said Thursday. “That’s why we pulled him out of there. The day he came home was the day they selected the All-Star team and his name was going to be on it. But we thought it was more important and so did he to come back and heal up.”
With center fielder Christian Franklin turned pro, Wallace and returning outfielder Braydon Webb have practiced in center with Wallace also working at third base.
He’s told to leash his arm at both, particularly those long throws from center.
“When he’s playing center field and there’s a single to center and there’s a runner on second he’s not throwing to home.” Van Horn said. “And (Brady) Slavens is the same way. We’re not letting him throw. We’re trying to get them ready for February.”
A first baseman last year, Slavens, .284 with 14 home runs and a team-leading 63 RBI, is playing outfield this fall.
If Webb, only batting .174 last season, hits this spring like he’s hitting this fall, look for him to be in center and Wallace back at third base he knows so well and 2021 grad transfer third baseman Cullen Smith moved on.
“Offensively some guys are having a really good fall,” Van Horn said. “The one that really jumps out has got to be Braydon Webb. Braydon has seven or eight home runs this fall and hitting over .350. And Braydon is one of the best athletes I’ve ever coached.”
Wallace fits that mold, too. Especially given how he adapted to the 2020 outfield with just the Fall World Series head start.
“ Last year we (first) played Wallace right field in the Red-White series,” Van Horn said, noting Wallace saw the outfield his immediate route to playing time and embraced it.
Shortstop Jalen Battles, the MVP of the SEC Tournament, rehabs the shoulder this fall that underwent summer surgery “will be ready in February,” Van Horn predicts.
Battles on Day Two of last summer’s Major League draft let it be known he intended returning to Arkansas.
“We’re just really excited that he’s back,” Van Horn said.
So excited that Battles will wear No. 2 on his jersey, Van Horn’s number when he played second base for Norm DeBriyn’s 1982 Razorbacks, was a Razorbacks assistant from 1985-87 and Arkansas head coach since 2003.