Big XII Preview
College Baseball Preview Week heads east today, as we move on from the Pac-10 to the Big 12. We will be sure to catch you up on the Big West later, but in 2006, it only seems natural to segue from USC to Texas. Sorry, Rich.
Howdy, my name is Ryan and I been running a website called Texas A&M & Baseball In No Particular Order for about 3 years now. I won't bore you with my life story so I'll catch you up to speed really quickly....I love Aggie baseball and Bryan and Rich have kindly invited me to say a few words about the Big XII and the fast approaching season.
One last thing before I get into it....keep supporting collegiate baseball. It's a great thing and I'd love to see it continue to grow, so get out to the ballparks near you and watch it on TV (you can even play the video game now). Bryan & Rich do a great job keeping the college game on their minds and in their writing and I tip my cap to them for that.
In the words of my boy, Pat Green, "Here we go"....
2005 Season: 58-15; National Champions (def. Florida)
Preseason Rankings: #1 Baseball America, #1 Collegiate Baseball, #1 NCBWA
Preseason All-Americans: Adrian Aleniz-SP (CB-2, NCBWA-1), Jordan Danks-OF (BA-3) Kenn Kasparek-SP (CB-3), Kyle McCulloch-SP (BA-2, CB-1, NCBWA-1), Drew Stubbs-OF (BA-1, CB-1, NCBWA-1)
Coming off of their second National Championship in 4 years, Texas is only losing 3 arms from a pitching staff that was one of the elite in the nation last season. They're returning a weekend rotation of Kyle McCulloch (138.2 IP, 2.92 ERA, .267 BAA, 99 SO, 45 BB), Adrian Alaniz (108.0/2.67/.235/94/32), & Kenn Kasparek (73.0/2.10/.214/46/31) which is just scary. They only had 3 pitchers with ERAs over 3.00 and two of them aren't returning. As an Aggie, it hurts me to type that out.
Offensively, they're only returning 6 of 14 players with >10 ABs from last season but this wasn't a team that relied on hitting the tar out of the ball. They're also bringing in OFer Jordan Danks who is one of 9 true freshmen to be named to Baseball America's Preseason All-American team since 1983 (which was 3 years before Danks was even born).
Drew Stubbs is getting the most preseason hype but he got the same thing last preseason. He really reminds me of Vince Young heading into this past football season ... a freak of an athlete with a huge upside who has had a couple pretty good seasons but has yet to put it all together and earn his All-American hype. Head coach Augie Garrido has it right when he says that Stubbs is the best athlete he's ever coached but won't say he's the best baseball player he's ever coached. Stubbs hit .301/.372/.474 as a freshman & .311/.384/.527 as a sophomore with 8 & 11 HRs, respectively, in his career. Like I said, good but not Golden Spikes good.
One thing that always impresses me is that Texas has no problem scheduling strong opponents in non-conference play. They start the season in the Astros College Classic with games against Rice & Tulane. They have 3 game series with both Stanford and Long Beach State plus 2 more weeknight games with Rice and a single game against Arizona State.
After coming away with two rings on three consecutive trips to the championship game Garrido continues to build his legacy as one of the greatest collegiate baseball coaches ever. Looking into the future it doesn't appear things will drop off too terribly much. The horns continue to restock with talent and win with great fundamentals and great coaching.
2005 Season: 57-15 (19-8; T-1st), Big XII Tournament Champions, CWS Appearance
Preseason Rankings: n/a Baseball America, #4 Collegiate Baseball, #5 NCBWA
Preseason All-Americans: Joba Chamberlain-SP (BA-2, CB-1, NCBWA-2), Johnny Dorn-SP (CB-2, NCBWA-2), Brett Jensen-RP (CB-1, NCBWA-2)
I can't believe that Baseball America doesn't have Nebraska in their Top 25. The Huskers are going to field a good ball club even after losing the 3/4 of their infield in Alex Gordon (2005 Golden Spikes winner), Joe Simokitis, & Curtis Ledbedder as well as OFer Daniel Bruce (OF). Those 4 made up all of Nebraska's offensive 1st or 2nd team All-Conference players. They do return 2Bman, Ryan Wehrle (.275/.377/.329), who was named All-Big XII Honorable Mention last season as a freshman.
Their pitching staff was phenomenal in 2005 and they're returning 9 of their 11 pitchers with 10+ IP led by their All-Americans Joba Chamberlain (118.2 IP, 2.81 ERA, .218 BAA, 130 SO, 33 BB), Johnny Dorn (104.0/2.16/.199/75/21) & Brett Jensen (46.0/1.96/.207/46/9). Of the 9, only two had an ERA over 3.00 and only one was higher than 3.35. That's sickening.
In the end, pitching takes you to the postseason and this team certainly has that. On a side note, it will be interesting to keep an eye on their pitching staff after losing pitching coach Rob Childress who took over the head coach job for my Texas A&M Aggies.
2005 Season: 46-24 (19-8; T-1st), CWS Appearance
Preseason Rankings: n/a Baseball America, #23 Collegiate Baseball, n/a NCBWA
Preseason All-Americans: n/a
Even coming off of an exciting College World Series season I would be surprised to see Baylor make it through the Regionals in 2006. The Bears lost 2 of their top 3 hitters (Michael Griffin & Josh Ford) from a lineup that was, to put it quite simply, bad. The Bears hit .269/.341/.398 as a team in 2005. They do return All-Big XII DH, Zach Dillon (.304/.379/.417), who will probably suit up behind the plate fulltime now that Ford is gone.
In 2005 the Bears got by on their good pitching, even more than Texas did, but only Cory VanAllen (107.1 IP, 4.02 ERA, .286 BAA, 68 SO, 38 BB) will return to their starting rotation along with relievers Ryan LaMotta (79.2/.221/27/23), & Jeff Mandel (66.0/1.91/.221/27/23). But man, they lost so much pitching ... 49% of the team's innings will not return including the staff's 3rd, 4th, 5th, & 6th lowest ERAs, respectively (only relievers LaMotta & Mandel were better).
2005 Season: 40-23 (16-11; 4th), Regional Appearance
Preseason Rankings: #10 Baseball America, #14 Collegiate Baseball, #16 NCBWA
Preseason All-Americans: Max Scherzer-SP (BA-1, CB-1, NCBWA-1), Hunter Mense-OF (BA-3, NCBWA-2)
It was unfortunate that Mizzou had to travel to Cal-State Fullerton for Regionals in '05 because they had a pretty good little team last year. The Tigers are returning All-American Max Scherzer (106.1 IP, 1.86 ERA, .163 BAA, 131 SO, 41 BB) as their Friday starter as well as 3 other 1st or 2nd team All-Conference players -- OF-Hunter Mense (.327/.440/.473), SP-Nathan Culp (92.2/3.50/.287/63/31), & RP-Taylor Parker (50.0/2.88/.193/42/23).
On the offensive side of the ball, they're returning 10 of their 13 offensive players with 50 or more ABs but did lose their hands-down top offensive player, James Boone, who led the team in BA, RBIs, OBP, SLG, & SB. While the Tigers return Scherzer, Culp and Parker they only return two other arms from their 13 pitchers from last season. Regardless, starting pitching is king in college baseball and Scherzer/Culp should carry them through conference play and into the postseason. If another arm or two step forward this could be another great season for Tiger fans.
2005 Season: 35-26 (14-13; 5th), Regional Appearance
Preseason Rankings: n/a Baseball America, #29 Collegiate Baseball, #28 NCBWA
Preseason All-Americans: n/a
New head coach, Sunny Golloway, emerges as one of two new head coaches in the Big XII this season. Golloway was promoted from within after a messy "resignation" from head coach Larry Cochell and a confusing soap opera with Wichita State's longtime head man, Gene Stephenson (funny). Golloway takes over an incredibly experienced roster as the Sooners are returning 10 of their 13 players who had 20+ ABs and 7 of their 9 pitchers who threw more than 10 innings in 2005.
Their top returning offensive players are 3Bman, Ryan Rohlinger (.345/.449/.563) who led last year's squad with 11 HRs & 53 RBIs and Freshman All-American OFer, Kody Kaiser (.305/.376/.520) who was the only other Sooner to reach double digit HR numbers with 10 ... the next closest was 6.
Out on the bump they do return a very sizable portion of their pitching staff but it isn't a great staff. Of the 7 returning arms mentioned the lowest ERA of the bunch came from Will Savage (97.1 IP, 3.98 ERA, .292 BAA, 53 SO, 19 BB), who threw mostly out of the bullpen. Their most experienced starters are Brad Burns (66.0/4.50/.288/48/37) & Steven Guerra (85.2/5.91/.298/53/24).
2005 Season: 30-25-1 (9-18; 5th)
Preseason Rankings: n/a Baseball America, n/a Collegiate Baseball, n/a NCBWA
Preseason All-Americans: n/a
Finally, I am including my Aggies. Coming off of a Super Regional performance in 2004 the Ags suffered through a disapointing season in 2005 and are looking for a big improvement with new head coach Rob Childress. Childress was snatched up from Nebraska where he was the recruiting coordinator and the pitching coach. His arrival in Aggieland, quite simply, makes me giddy as I think about our future. Why shouldn't it? As the recruiting coordinator he brought the Huskers 4 of the last 5 Big XII Players of the Year in addition to 6 Freshmen All-American pitchers over the last 7 seasons.
Unlike OU, our coaching change resulted in a slight bit of attrition but I think we gained more than we lost. Childress will be picking up an offense that at .274/.347/.380 was almost as poor as Baylor's. Add to that the loss of our top two bats (including Cliff Pennington) and you get the feeling that the offense won't be the strong suit of this squad. However, we return 1B/DH Ryan Hill (.317/.386/.399) and catcher Craig Stinson (from a medical redshirt) and have brought in 4 D-I transfers to combine with a group of youngster who were wetting their feet last season. I think things will turn out better than many will expect.
The pitching staff, which has a good mix of experience and youth, should be solid. We return junior Jason Meyer (77.0 IP, 3.04 ERA, .230 BAA, 49 SO, 41 BB) and sophomore Chance Corgan (58.2/4.45/.251/50/28) to our weekend rotation as well as a bullpen led by super-soph (and defensive back for Coach Fran) Jordan Chambless (32.0/2.25/.209/42/19), junior Kyle Nicholson (40.1/3.35/.253/31/8), & junior Austin Creps (40.0/4.28/.263/28/14). Creps, who was a Summer All-American this past summer, will probably get the first look at the third starting spot. Also, keep an eye out for freshman righty Kyle Thebeau.
Looking at the schedule we have games against 4 of the top 5 ranked preseason teams including a huge non-conference trip to Gainesville to take on the Gators in a 3 game set. We also have single non-conference games against Notre Dame & Rice.
I'm really anxious to see what immediate impact Childress will have on the pitching staff. Overall, I would conservatively say that this is a team that should finish in the middle of the pack and should be even fun to watch in 2007 & 2008.
You can read more about the Ags at my website next week as I start my annual week long Aggie Baseball Preview in preparation for the season opener.
The Rest of the League
Kansas (36-28; 11-15; 7th) will be interesting to follow. They return former-Stanford arm, Kodiak Quick
(121.1 IP, 3.41 ERA, .243 BAA, 91 SO, 42 BB), who was their only legit starter last season and closer Don Czyz
(62.1/3.47/.216/60/26). Their offense should at least have a solid middle with Jared Schweitzer
(.366/.466/.585) & John Allman
(.350/.477/.437) both back after lighting up the Big XII (both hit well above their season average in conference play).
Oklahoma State (34-25; 12-15; 6th) finished last season amidst a downward spiral losing 11 of their last 17 games. They bring back a good portion of their offense which is lead by NCBWA 3rd Team All-American, Adam Carr (.336/.377/.702), and OFers Ty Wright (.342/.430/.510) & Corey Brown (.360/.496/.691). I should point out that Wright & Carr both hit ~65-70 points below their overall season batting averages in conference play (and that Carr hit only 5 of his 22 HRs against Big XII opponents). Brown hit 30 points higher. On the mound they lost their top two starters and bring back Brett McDonald (17.0/1.59/.169/12/7) as their best returning arm.
Barring the arrival of some incredible transfers or freshmen, Texas Tech (34-25; 9-16; 8th) fans need to prepare for a long season in Lubbock. The Red Raiders lost a ton of players on both sides of the ball. They return 6 offensive players who accounted for less than 40% of last season's at bats and only two of those 6 hit over .300, Joseph Callender (.362/.410/.439) & Matt Smith (.321/.473/.429). On the mound they return 5 pitchers whose collective 2005 ERA was 5.87 and only two of those five had individual sub-5.00 ERAs (and none were below 4.00).
Kansas State (30-25; 8-19; 10th) is returning a bunch of guys but according to head coach, Brad Hill, will be filling holes at SS and OF with 3-4 freshmen. They do return 2/3 of their weekend rotation in Adam Cowart (100.2/3.93/.267/70/15) & Chase Mitchell (87.0/4.45/.264/61/32). In addition to those two, and in paying homage to The Three Amigos, they have a plethora of bullpen guys coming back. The plethora really isn't as bad as I thought they'd be as they posted a 3.91 ERA in 165.1 IP last season.
Big thanks go out to Ryan for this fantastic preview. As with all our Designated Hitters, we urge you to support Ryan by reading his site, Texas A&M & Baseball In No Particular Order. You won't be disappointed.