FAYETTEVILLE — Injuries have become almost expected at this time of year for Arkansas baseball, with the latest being a broken foot for Peyton Stovall.
Luckily for the Razorbacks, it’s not nearly as severe as those suffered by projected aces Peyton Pallette and Jaxon Wiggins prior to the last two seasons. Those two needed Tommy John surgery and missed the entire year.
Stovall’s injury doesn’t require surgery and will cause him to miss only 4-6 weeks. It happened when he took a pitch off his right foot twice during Monday’s scrimmage.
The first of those occurred during his first at bat of the day. As it always does in scrimmages, Arkansas sent a runner to first and gave Stovall a fresh count, which he used to hit an RBI double to right-center. It didn’t seem to bother him on the swing, as he hit the ball with a 100 mph exit velocity, but he came up limping as he rounded first and didn’t even finish running to second.
Stovall tried to remain in the scrimmage, even taking a glove out to his second base spot the next half inning, but came back to the dugout. Although he couldn’t play defense or run the bases, he did continue to hit and poked a single the other way in his next at bat.
The second time he was plunked came his final time up and it seemed to hit him in the same spot. Given a fresh count, Stovall popped out to finish the day 2 for 3.
The timing is terrible for Stovall, as he was just starting to get into a groove at the plate. He went 2 for 4 with two RBIs last Friday and had an RBI in Saturday’s indoor scrimmage before another two-hit day with a broken foot.
That came on the heels of an 0-for-4 showing the first weekend of preseason, which was his first live action inside Baum-Walker Stadium since his 2023 season ended early because of surgery to repair a torn labrum.
After a mostly disappointing freshman season that ended with him getting scorching hot in the postseason, it looked like Peyton Stovall was going to live up to the hype last year before that injury. He was hitting over .300 a couple weeks into SEC play, but it plummeted all the way to .253 before he finally shut things down. That likely led to him checking in at No. 48 on D1Baseball’s preseason ranking of the best second basemen in college baseball.
“It’s hard to swing the bat when your shoulder’s got a tear in it, and he fought through it,” Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn said Monday, a couple hours before he got hurt. “It’s a different swing now. It’s different. I’m sure he’s on a mission, let’s put it that way.”
Arkansas Baseball’s Options to Replace Peyton Stovall
Even though it’s not expected to keep him out long, losing Peyton Stovall for 4-6 weeks means Arkansas will have to find a new starting second baseman and leadoff man to start the season, as he was projected to fill both roles.
Defensively, the most likely option to fill the hole is Jared Sprague-Lott, a transfer from Richmond whom Dave Van Horn has praised for his glove since the fall.
“Honestly he’s maybe our best defender just fielding the ball,” Van Horn said last month. “I’m not saying he’s the best shortstop, but as far as just fielding the ball at third and all positions combined, he’s going to be an incredible utility guy and maybe an everyday starter.”
The question then becomes where he’ll go. He could just slot in at second base, especially since he’s roommates with shortstop Wehiwa Aloy and the pair have already developed some chemistry — an important aspect up the middle.
However, Van Horn has said Sprague-Lott is more of a natural third baseman and Peyton Holt, the current projected starter at third, is more of a natural second baseman, so it could make sense to put both players at their natural spots. After all, Holt filled in for Stovall last year and made several web gems.
One thing that may make Van Horn hesitant to do that, though, is the fact that it should only be temporary. Stovall should return around the start of SEC play, at which point he’d go back to second base. Third base is a relatively new position for Holt, so it may benefit him to get as much work at it during non-conference play as possible.
If something were to happen to Sprague-Lott or if the Razorbacks opt to go with more offense, there are several other options.
Freshman Ryder Helfrick is competing to win the starting job at catcher, but is athletic enough to play almost anywhere on the field and even played second base and center field in the California Collegiate League last summer.
Fellow freshman Nolan Souza is a natural middle infielder and came to Fayetteville as a heralded prospect, ranked No. 70 overall in his class by Perfect Game, but he hasn’t hit the ball consistently in fall and preseason scrimmages so far. It may benefit him to get his reps in midweek games.
If Holt slides over to second, it could open the door for second-year Razorbacks Jayson Jones or Reese Robinett at third base. However, Jones is also vying for the starting job in left field and is still adjusting to the new position, similar to Holt at third.
As for the leadoff spot, that appears to be wide open now. Holt would make sense, especially with Van Horn describing him as a “spark plug,” but it could also be someone like Kendall Diggs, who filled in there when Tavian Josenberger got hurt last season. Will Edmunson and Ty Wilmsmeyer have led off in the preseason scrimmages, as well.
Who is Jared Sprague-Lott?
Assuming he gets the first crack at filling the void created by Peyton Stovall’s injury, Jared Sprague-Lott will be stepping onto the national stage that is SEC baseball after three years in the A-10 at Richmond.
It won’t be the first time he’s played under the bright lights and on ESPN, though. In fact, a decade ago, he was a teammate of Mo’ne Davis on the team that took the country by storm in the 2014 Little League World Series.
A native of Philadelphia, Sprague-Lott signed with Richmond out of high school and made an immediate impact for the Spiders, landing on the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team despite playing in only 26 games.
As a sophomore, his production dipped some in his first year as a full-time starter, but he followed it up with a stellar junior campaign in which he slashed .314/.440/.582 with 13 home runs and 43 RBIs while starting games at second base, third base and shortstop. That earned him second-team all-conference honors.
For his final season of college baseball, Sprague-Lott hit the transfer portal and was a very late addition to the Razorbacks’ class of newcomers. He didn’t commit until Aug. 3.
With the Razorbacks, he’s expected to be a utility player capable of playing anywhere in the infield, with the exception of maybe first base. That’s what he’s done in Arkansas’ intrasquad scrimmages throughout the fall and preseason.
Offensively, he had a decent fall, slashing .281/.419/.438 in 32 at bats, according to unofficial stats compiled by the media. Sprague-Lott got off to a rough start in the preseason, though, going 1 for 7 with a double and six strikeouts over the first weekend, but he bounced back by going 4 for 8 this past weekend – including a 402-foot home run on Monday.
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