College Preview

2006 Big 12 Conference Preview




HOW THEY'LL FINISH




Conference

Overall




W

L

W

L


1.

Texas (1)

16

10

56

15


2.

Missouri (10)

16

11

40

23


3.

+Nebraska

19

8

57

15


4.

Baylor

19

8

46

24


5.

Oklahoma State

12

15

34

25


6.

Kansas

11

15

36

28


7.

Oklahoma

14

13

35

26


8.

Texas A&M

9

18

30

25


9.

Texas Tech

9

16

34

25


10.

Kansas State

8

19

30

25

(2005 records listed; 2006 national ranking in parentheses)
+ 2005 conference tournament champion; NCAA regional participants in boldface

Projected NCAA Teams (6): Baylor, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Texas.
Conference Schedule: 27 games. Schedule begins March 17.
Conference Tournament: Eight teams, May 24-29 at Oklahoma City (SBC Bricktown Ballpark).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
* 2005 conference leader

C—Jacob Priday, So., Missouri (.305-9-67). 1B—Chance Wheeless, Jr., Texas (.314-6-45). 2B—Kevin Russo, Sr., Baylor (.286-3-36). 3B—Ryan Rohlinger, Sr., Oklahoma (.345-11-53). SS—Shelby Ford, Jr., Oklahoma State (.370-7-39 at Texas Christian). OF—Corey Brown, So., Oklahoma State (.360-13-46); Hunter Mense, Jr., Missouri (.327-3-43); Drew Stubbs, Jr., Texas (.311-11-46, 32 SB). DH—Adam Carr, Sr., Oklahoma State (.336-*22-*86). P—Joba Chamberlain, Jr., Nebraska (10-2, 2.81, 119 IP/130 SO); Kyle McCulloch, Jr., Texas (*12-4, 2.92); Max Scherzer, Jr., Missouri (9-4, 1.86, 106 IP/*131 SO). RP—Brett Jensen, Sr., Nebraska (3-5, 1.96, 16 SV, 46 IP/46 SO).

Player of the Year: Drew Stubbs, of, Texas.
Pitcher of the Year: Max Scherzer, rhp, Missouri.
Freshman of the Year: Jordan Danks, of, Texas (19th-round/White Sox ’05).

Top Newcomers: 1. Jordan Danks, of, Texas. 2. Shelby Ford, ss, Oklahoma State. 3. Brad Suttle, 3b, Texas (Fr., 21st round/Angels ‘05). 4. Kyle Thebeau, rhp, Texas A&M (Fr., HS—Corpus Christi, Texas). 5. Ryan Lollis, of, Missouri (20th round/Pirates ’05).

PROJECTED TOP PROSPECTS, 2006 Draft

1. Drew Stubbs, of, Texas.
2. Max Scherzer, rhp, Missouri.
3. Kyle McCulloch, rhp, Texas.
4. Joba Chamberlain, rhp, Nebraska.
5. Hunter Mense, of, Missouri.
6. Nate Culp, lhp, Missouri.
7. Cory VanAllen, lhp, Baylor.
8. Carson Kainer, of, Texas.
9. Daniel McCutchen, rhp, Oklahoma.
10. Shelby Ford, 3b/ss, Oklahoma State.

PROJECTED TOP PROSPECTS, 2007 Draft

1. Corey Brown, of, Oklahoma State.
2. Kenn Kasparek, rhp, Texas.
3. Jordan Chambless, rhp, Texas A&M.
4. Preston Clark, c, Texas.
5. Brad Burns, rhp, Oklahoma.

BEST TOOLS

Best Pure Hitter—Corey Brown, Oklahoma State. Best Raw Power—Drew Stubbs, Texas. Best Strike-Zone Discipline—Hunter Mense, Missouri. Best Athlete--Drew Stubbs, Texas. Fastest Runner--Drew Stubbs, Texas. Best Baserunner—Drew Stubbs, Texas. Best Defensive Catcher—Jeff Christy, Nebraska. Catcher/Best Arm—Jackson Williams, Oklahoma. Best Defensive First Baseman—Chance Wheeless, Texas. Best Defensive Second Baseman—Russell Raley, Oklahoma. Best Defensive Third Baseman—Ryan Rohlinger, Oklahoma. Best Defensive Shortstop—Gary Arndt, Missouri. Infielder/Best Arm—Ryan Rohlinger, Oklahoma. Best Defensive Outfielder--Drew Stubbs, Texas. Outfielder/Best Arm—Kody Kaiser, Oklahoma. Best Fastball—Max Scherzer, Missouri. Best Breaking Ball—Joba Chamberlain, Nebraska. Best Control—Kyle McCulloch, Texas.

SHORT HOPS

• Texas had a major hole to fill at shortstop anyway with the departure of conference batting champion Seth Johnston (.378-9-66), a fifth-round pick of the Padres. Sophomore Steve Clevenger, a transfer from Southeastern Louisiana who had a big summer for the All-American Amateur Baseball Association champion Maryland Orioles, was slated to fill the hole, but he left school in December. The Longhorns will now look to Chais Fuller, a transfer from Sacramento (Calif.) City College, to play that crucial role.

• Many Big 12 teams have similar questions at shortstop. Texas A&M must replace Cliff Pennington (.363-7-39, 29 SB), a first-round pick of the Athletics. The Aggies planned to slide junior Parker Dalton (.259-2-21) into that spot. Texas Tech’s Cameron Blair (.350-17-60, 21 SB), Oklahoma State’s Chris Gutierrez (.343-5-33), Nebraska’s Joe Simokaitis (.310-3-37) and Baylor’s Paul Witt (.251-1-29) also departed as graduating seniors. Oklahoma State, meanwhile, enjoys an upgrade as Texas Christian transfer Shelby Ford (.370-7-39) moves in at shortstop.

• Missouri has made three straight trips to the NCAA tournament, the only Big 12 team other than defending national champion Texas that can make that claim. With three players projected to be among the first 100 college players drafted this year, led by junior RHP Max Scherzer (9-4, 1.86, 106 IP/131 SO), the Tigers could field their best team ever this season. Missouri’s school record for wins, 46, was set 30 years ago. “We return our most talented team since I have been the head coach here,” said Tigers coach Tim Jamieson, 364-252 in 11 years. “We return nine position starters, our top two starting pitchers, our closer and a ton of confidence.” On Scherzer, Jamieson says: “He’s the best pitching prospect I have witnessed in the Big 12. He has all the physical tools to go with all the intangibles.”

• No college player in the country possesses more physical tools than Texas OF Drew Stubbs, who earned the nod from Big 12 coaches for being the conference’s best athlete. He was also saluted for having the most raw power, the most speed and best defensive ability among outfielders. “He has all the skills to be successful on both sides of the ball,” Texas coach Augie Garrido said. “He only needs to become more consistent offensively in order to take the next step in his development.” Stubbs, a third-round pick of the Astros out of high school, hit .311-11-46 with 32 stolen bases a year ago but also struck out 71 times in 72 games.

• Former Nebraska assistant Rob Childress takes over as coach at Texas A&M, replacing Mark Johnson, who was let go after 20 years when his team slipped from 42-22 in 2004 to 30-25 (9-18 in conference play). Childress is hoping the return of junior C Craig Stinson, who hit .287-3-45 in 2004 but missed last season with shoulder surgery, and the return to form of junior LHP Jason Meyer and junior 3B Austin Boggs will give his team a big lift. Meyer went 8-2, 2.89 with 111 strikeouts in 106 innings two years ago, but slipped to 5-5, 3.04 with just 49 strikeouts in 77 innings in 2005. Boggs, the son of ex-big leaguer Tommy Boggs, hit .331-5-52 as a freshman but just .241-4-29 last year.

• The Aggies are hoping a change of scenery might bring the best out in junior RHP/OF Adam Hale, who transferred to Texas A&M after hitting just .242-9-40 while going 1-3, 6.94 on the mound at Rice in 2005. Hale was one of the nation’s top draft prospects three year ago when he was a teammate of Kyle McCulloch at Houston’s Bellaire High. While McCulloch’s career has surged in two years at Texas, Hale’s career has stalled. Texas A&M also picked up senior LHP Matt Ueckert from Rice, sophomore 1B Spencer Jackson (.281-1-12) from Texas Christian and freshman LHP Scooter Hicks, the only player to leave Tulane in the fall in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

• Two years after Huston Street left Texas as one of the greatest closers in college baseball history, his younger brother Juston will assume that role for Texas after redshirting last year. His twin Jordon, a lefty, went 0-1, 2.87 in nine relief appearances for the Longhorns last year as an understudy to J. Brent Cox (8-3, 1.73, 19 SV), who proved to be more than a worthy successor to Huston Street, who went on to become the American League rookie of the year.

• In the wake of the dismissal of Larry Cochell for racially insensitive remarks and the sudden resignation of Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson, Cochell’s intended replacement, new coach Sunny Golloway hopes to lend some stability to Oklahoma’s beleaguered baseball program. Golloway, an assistant to Cochell who took over the head coaching duties on an interim basis before getting the job full-time when Stephenson had a change of heart, inherits a number of key holdovers. Sophomore C Jackson Williams (.263-4-28); the team’s entire infield, led by senior 3B Ryan Rohlinger (.345-11-53); sophomore OF Kody Kaiser (.305-10-34); and the Sooners No. 1 pitcher, RHP Daniel McCutchen (4-5, 4.18, 84 IP/84 SO), who returned for his senior year after being drafted in the 12th round last June by the Cardinals, are all back.

• Led by the double-play tandem of sophomore 2B Ryne Price (.256-5-40) and senior SS Ritchie Price (.281-2-35), the sons of Kansas head coach Ritch Price, the Jayhawks have three sets of brothers on their roster. Senior RHP Don Czyz (3-4, 3.47, 10 SV), the team’s closer, is the older brother of freshman LHP Nick Czyz. Junior LHP Sean Land (5-5, 4.62), the No. 2 starter, is the older brother of freshman RHP Preston Land. The likelihood of a Price brother act continuing beyond this season is strong as SS Robby Price, a senior at Lawrence Free State High, is one of Kansas’ top high school players.

• Texas A&M closer Jordan Chambless, who went 1-2, 2.25 with 42 strikeouts in 32 innings as a freshman, was expected to miss at least the first month of the season with a torn right ACL. Chambliss, a promising safety and kick returner on the Aggies football team, hurt his knee in the A&M’s sixth game and missed the balance of the football season. Chambless, whose fastball has been reached 96 mph, was drafted out of high school by the Indians and projects as a top pick in the 2006 draft.