AL HS Team Preview: Arab Knights
January 9, 2023
The 2023 high school baseball season is quickly approaching and as usual, excitement abounds throughout the state. Players and coaches have been working in preparation for the upcoming season and, as is the case each year, there are some very talented players and teams across Alabama.
Teams across the state have goals and aspirations to finish their seasons in the Jacksonville/Oxford/Montgomery area at the AISA or AHSAA state championships, but there is plenty of work to be done before that becomes reality. We hope to familiarize our readers with many of the teams across the state as we preview individual teams across Alabama. We will take you right up to first pitch this season with these team previews and by continuing our scheduled podcasts and releasing our preseason Top 10 in each AHSAA classification.
Please keep checking back throughout the season as we will be your one-stop shop for everything related to high school baseball across the state. Each week we will be releasing our players of the week, updating the Top 10 in each AHSAA classification as well as a Power 25. One thing that you especially don’t want to miss are our scheduled podcasts with guests from across the state as well as recaps and previews of big games across the state.
*Please note that all information is based on team preview questionnaires that were sent out and returned by the participating high school coaches.
High School Name: Arab Knights
Coach’s Name: Chad Hudson
Classification: AHSAA 5A
2022 Record: 18-16
Area Number: Class 5A, Area 15
No. of Returning Positional Starters: 7
No. of Returning Pitchers: 6
Team Strengths: Experienced, Pitching Depth, Leadership, Defense
Top Returning Players:
Top 2023 Prospects:
Top 2024 Prospects:
Top 2025 & 2026 Prospects:
The Arab Knights have a chance to be a real contender in Class 5A with tons of last year's production returning for the spring of 2023. The Knights move down from Class 6A and are placed in Area 15 with Scottsboro, Guntersville and Douglas. Hopes are high, and for good reason, that the Knights will have another successful season and prove to be a real threat to make deep run in the playoffs.
The Knights played some competition last year in hopes to be prepared for the most important time of the season, and they were, as they finished as the runner-up in Class 6A, Area 15 to Scottsboro and clinched their berth in the playoffs. Facing off against Chelsea and having to travel to their place in the 1st round, the Knights were ultimately eliminated in a tightly-contested series that saw both games finish with 1-0 scores in favor of Chelsea. In a new classification this spring, Arab looks to be strong once again with seven positional starters and six pitchers returning. RHP/OF Brody McCain (Northwest Shoals CC signee, 2023) will once again be the ace of this staff and has a chance to be one of the top pitchers in Class 5A this spring, McCain possesses a mid-80's fastball on the mound, but his calling card is a wipeout slider that creates a tough matchup for any-sided hitter. He's a team leader and a competitor on the mound, while also being a quality hitter in their order.
.@PBR_Uncommitted ‘23 RHP Brody McCain (@BrodyMcCain2; @ArabBaseball) labored w/ command at times, but worked into the 5th for @BlackSoxBBall.— PBR Alabama (@PBR_Alabama) June 12, 2022
Operated mostly @ 80-82 w/ sink, SLV is a potential plus offering w/ high spin & bite. Lean 6-2, 170, whippy 3/4 slot.#PBRTALOpen pic.twitter.com/sUkQzYlBn5
RHP Brody McCain (6/12/22)
Another big piece coming back for the Knights will be 3B/RHP Dakota NeSmith (Gadsden State CC signee, 2023), who returns to the heart of the order for his senior campaign. NeSmith can hit for both average and power and will once again be relied on as a primary run-producer. On the mound, NeSmith has a power arm and will be one of their top pitchers, as well. Like McCain, he will be another senior leader for the Knights.
Off and running this morning with a liner just past the diving infielder for a double down the LF line off the bat of @PBR_Uncommitted ‘23 3B/1B Dakota NeSmith (@DakotaNesmith; @ArabBaseball). Later comes around to score in the inning. #PBRTALOpen || @ExcelBaseball pic.twitter.com/Iq51cXmkSf— PBR Alabama (@PBR_Alabama) June 11, 2022
3B Dakota NeSmith (6/11/22)
Arab has a total of nine seniors and all of them will play some type of role this spring. 1B/LHP Blake Moon (2023) will look to make his impact this spring. He should hit in the middle of the order for the Knights while playing a quality 1st base defensively. C Weslee Staton (2023) is a three-year starter for the Knights that does an excellent job of handling their pitching staff while providing some much-needed offensive output at the plate. INF Owen Garrison (2023) is coming off a strong junior campaign and is looking for another breakout season in his senior season. Garrison played mostly 3rd base last year, but will be asked to move and play more 2nd base this spring. He is a solid player that helps in a lot of ways. DH JD Hall (2023) should provide big power for this lineup hitting from the left side of the plate, and has a chance to leave the yard each time he steps up to the plate, while UTL John Ray Wilks (2023) is super versatile defensively and will play all outfield positions while mixing in some time up the middle on the infield. He is an excellent base runner and team leader for the Knights.
.@PBR_Uncommitted ‘23 UTL John Ray Wilks (@JohnRayWilks1; @ArabBaseball) stays balanced & connected on this breaking ball & lines it into LF for a sharply-hit single.#PBRTALOpen || @BlackSoxBBall pic.twitter.com/mZz5uCv0KC— PBR Alabama (@PBR_Alabama) June 11, 2022
UTL John Ray Wilks (6/11/22)
Rounding out the heavy senior class, OF Spencer Strickland (2023) and LHP Aidan Cox (2023) are both stars on the gridiron, but will also play key roles on the diamond this spring, as well. Strickland is a three-sport athlete that is committed to play football at Culver-Stockton College who provides excellent defense playing in right field, while Cox is the Region MVP at QB and also serves as a quality arm in the Knights' rotation. He is an excellent competitor that fills the zone up with three pitches. C/RHP Andrew Carroll (2024) and UTL Hagan Stewart (2024) are both key juniors that will look to provide offensive production to their lineup while playing solid defense.
‘24 UTL/RHP Hagan Stewart (@ArabBaseball) is able to extend the hands and manages to get this one back up the middle for a base hit for @BlackSoxBBall 15U Silver. #PBRTALOpen pic.twitter.com/o5AwCFVm3M— PBR Alabama (@PBR_Alabama) June 11, 2022
UTL Hagan Stewart (6/11/22)
SS Drew Puccio (2025) returns as the team's starting shortstop from a year ago and is expecting another big season in his sophomore campaign. Puccio is an excellent defender who hits leadoff and simply finds a way to get it done with a high baseball IQ. With all of this returning talent for Arab, the Knights will be without a key piece, as OF/RHP Evan Brazelton (2025) will be out for the year due to an injury. He will be another young prospect the Knights will depend on in the next few years when he's back healthy.
It is pretty easy to see why the Knights have optimism about the 2023 season with so much returning talent coming back from last year's team. They are sure to be a real threat in Class 5A this spring after being a competitive program in Class 6A over the past couple of years. Keep an eye out for the Knights to be contenders in Class 5A once the end of the season rolls around in 2023.
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