2014 College Preview: Big 12

Baseball America breaks down the Big 12, including our projections for regional teams, player of the year, pitcher of the year and top prospects.

Big 12 Conference

Baseball Members  (First Year): Baylor (1997), Kansas (1997), Kansas State (1997), Oklahoma (1997), Oklahoma State (1997), Texas Christian (2013), Texas (1997), Texas Tech (1997), West Virginia (2013).

TOP 20 PROSPECTS, 2014 DRAFT
1. Brandon Finnegan, lhp, Texas Christian
2. Dillon Peters, lhp, Texas
3. Ross Kivett, 2b, Kansas State
4. Parker French, rhp, Texas
5. Lukas Schiraldi, rhp, Texas
6. John Curtiss, rhp, Texas
7. Kevin Cron, 1b, Texas Christian
8. Zach Fish, of, Oklahoma State
9. Tyler Nurdin, lhp, Oklahoma State
10. Harrison Musgrave, rhp, West Virginia
11. Adam Choplick, lhp, Oklahoma
12. Wes Benjamin, lhp, Kansas
13. Brad Kuntz, lhp, Baylor
14. Austin Stone, rhp, Baylor
15. Mark Payton, of, Texas
16. Austin Fisher, ss, Kansas State
17. Shane Conlon, 1b, Kansas State
18. Nathan Thornhill, rhp, Texas
19. Jerrick Suiter, of, Texas Christian
20. Sean Carley, rhp, West Virginia
TOP 10 PROSPECTS, 2015 DRAFT
1. C.J. Hinojosa, ss, Texas
2. Riley Ferrell, rhp, Texas Christian
3. Mitchell Traver, rhp, Texas Christian
4. Alex Young, lhp, Texas Christian
5. Chad Hollingsworth, rhp, Texas
6. Matt Withrow, rhp, Texas Tech
7. Ben Johnson, of, Texas
8. Conor Costello, of/rhp, Oklahoma State
9. Collin Shaw, of, Texas
10. Donnie Walton, ss, Oklahoma State

Checking out: None.

Conference Tournament: Eight teams, double-elimination. May 21-25 at Oklahoma City.

Team to Beat: Texas.

A loaded freshman class should bolster an offense that lacked life last year, and an elite pitching staff will ensure Texas ends its two-year NCAA tourney drought.

Player of the Year: Ross Kivett, 2b, Kansas State.

The hard-nosed, high-energy Kivett is the heart and soul of the Big 12’s best offense and is coming off a stellar summer in the Cape Cod League.

Pitcher of the Year: Brandon Finnegan, lhp, Texas Christian.

Teammate Preston Morrison has the more impressive resume, but Finnegan is a potential top-10 pick who blossomed with Team USA last summer.

Freshman of the Year: Garrett Williams, lhp, Oklahoma State.

Athletic and loose, Williams attacks hitters with an 88-93 mph fastball, a plus curve and a promising change, and he should start on Saturdays.

Top 25 Teams: (18) Texas, (19) Texas Christian, (22) Kansas State.

Other Projected Regional Teams

Baylor: Like they were two years ago—when they went 20-4 in the Big 12 and won a regional—the Bears are well stocked with strike-throwing veterans who know how to pitch. Sr. RHP Dillon Newman has advanced feel for a four-pitch repertoire, and his plus changeup and good fastball command makes his 86-89 heater play up. Jr. LHP Brad Kuntz, who missed last year with a back injury, has an 89-91 fastball and two solid secondary pitches, while Jr. RHP Austin Stone showed more velocity this fall, reaching 94 mph. Baylor’s offense is much less physical than its 2012 group, but fleet-footed outfielders Adam Toth, Darryn Sheppard and Logan Brown should be good catalysts.

Oklahoma State: Coach Josh Holliday’s first season in Stillwater was a big success, as OSU won 41 games and reached the Louisville Regional final. After the Cowboys brought in the nation’s No. 4 recruiting class this fall, the future looks very bright. The crown jewel of that class, Fr. LHP Garrett Williams, should step right into the weekend rotation, where he’ll join Jr. LHP Tyler Nurdin and Jr. RHP Mark Robinette, who should both take steps forward now that they are another year removed from surgeries (shoulder and elbow, respectively). Nurdin commands three quality pitches, and Robinette mixes four. The offense is built around Jr. OF Zach Fish, who has power to all fields and has refined his approach in the box.

Notable Storylines: West Virginia played hard in 2013 for first-year coach Randy Mazey, finishing in fourth place (13-11) in their inaugural Big 12 season. Strong starting pitching should make the Mountaineers competitive again, as reigning Big 12 pitcher of the year Harrison Musgrave is joined in the rotation by hard-throwing fourth-year Jr. RHP Sean Carley, who sat out last season after transferring from Air Force. Jr. LHP John Means showed dramatic improvement in the fall after pitching in the Cape Cod League . . . Likewise, Kansas’ strength is its veteran pitching staff, led by three upperclassmen in the weekend rotation: Jr. LHP Wes Benjamin, Jr. RHP Robert Kahana and Sr. RHP Frank Duncan. Benjamin, the team’s top prospect, has an 88-92 fastball, an improved breaking ball and a good changeup.