College Preview

2012 Big 12 Conference Preview




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See also: Preseason Top 25 Capsules

*2011 automatic qualifier. 2011 NCAA regional participants in bold (2011 records listed; 2012 national rankings in parentheses)
BIG 12 CONFERENCE
HOW THEY'LL FINISH

Conf. Overall

W L W L
*Texas A&M (7) 19 8 47 22
Texas (13) 19 8 49 19
Oklahoma (19) 14 11 41 19
Baylor 13 14 31 28
Missouri 11 15 27 32
Oklahoma State 14 12 35 25
Texas Tech 12 15 33 25
Kansas State 12 14 36 25
Kansas 9 18 26 30
Projected NCAA Teams (5): Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma, Baylor, Missouri.
Conference Schedule: 24 games, begins March 16.
Conference Tournament: Eight teams, May 23-27 at Oklahoma City.
Player of the Year: Tyler Naquin, of, Texas A&M.
Pitcher of the Year: Michael Wacha, rhp, Texas A&M.
 
TOP PROSPECTS, 2012 DRAFT
1. Michael Wacha, rhp, Texas A&M
2. Tyler Naquin, of, Texas A&M
3. Andrew Heaney, lhp, Oklahoma State
4. Hoby Milner, lhp, Texas
5. Sam Stafford, lhp, Texas
6. Barrett Barnes, of/1b, Texas Tech
7. Damien Magnifico, rhp, Oklahoma
8. Max Muncy, 1b, Baylor
9. Ross Stripling, rhp, Texas A&M
10. Krey Bratsen, of, Texas A&M
11. Logan Vick, of, Baylor
12. Blake Brown, of, Missouri
13. Mark Ginther, 3b/rhp, Oklahoma State
14. Max White, 1b, Oklahoma
15. Eric Anderson, rhp, Missouri
 
TOP PROSPECTS, 2013 DRAFT
1. Jonathan Gray, rhp, Oklahoma
2. Corey Knebel, rhp, Texas
3. Erich Weiss, 3b, Texas
4. Dillon Overton, lhp, Oklahoma
5. Jared King, of, Kansas State
6. Jason Hursh, lhp, Oklahoma State
7. Rob Zastryzny, lhp, Missouri
8. Christian Summers, ss, Texas
9. Trae Davis, rhp, Baylor
10. Mark Payton, of, Texas
 
TOP NEWCOMERS
1. John Curtiss, rhp, Texas (HS—Southlake, Texas)
2. Jonathan Gray, rhp, Oklahoma (Tr.—Eastern Oklahoma State JC)
3. Damien Magnifico, rhp, Oklahoma (Tr.—Howard, Texas, JC)
4. Dillon Peters, lhp, Texas (HS—Fishers, Ind.)
5. Hunter Lockwood, c, Oklahoma (HS—Hurst, Texas)
6. Gandy Stubblefield, rhp, Texas A&M (HS—Lufkin, Texas)
7. Ricky Jacquez, rhp, Texas (HS—El Paso)
8. Parker French, rhp, Texas (HS—Dripping Springs, Texas)
9. Michael Howard, of/lhp, Baylor (HS—Prescott, Ariz.)
10. Matt Oberste, of, Oklahoma (Tr.—Connors State, Okla., JC)
11. Connor McKay, of, Kansas (HS—Aurora, Colo.)
12. Brandon Platts, rhp, Missouri (HS—Mason City, Iowa)
13. Steven Okert, lhp, Oklahoma (Tr.—Grayson County, Texas, CC)
14. Adam Choplick, lhp, Oklahoma (HS—Denton, Texas)
15. Brett Graves, rhp, Missouri (HS—St. Charles, Mo.)
 
BEST TOOLS
Michael Wacha (Photo by John Williamson)
Best Pure Hitter—Tyler Naquin, Texas A&M. Best Raw Power—Barrett Barnes, Texas Tech. Best Strike-Zone Discipline—Erich Weiss, Texas. Best Athlete—Naquin. Fastest Runner—Krey Bratsen, Texas A&M. Best Baserunner—Jamodrick McGruder, Texas Tech. Best Defensive C—Jacob Felts, Texas. C/Best Arm—Felts. Best Defensive 1B—Max Muncy, Baylor. Best Defensive 2B—Steve DalPorto, Baylor. Best Defensive 3B—Weiss. Best Defensive SS—Caleb Bushyhead, Oklahoma. Best Infield Arm—Jake Miller, Baylor. Best Defensive OF—Naquin. Best OF Arm—Naquin. Best Fastball—Corey Knebel, Texas. Best Breaking Ball—Ross Stripling, Texas A&M. Best Changeup—Michael Wacha, Texas A&M. Best Control—Stripling.

QUICK HITS

• Baylor is coming off a 31-28 season and lost RHP Logan Verrett and RHP/OF Brooks Pinckard in the first 10 rounds of the 2011 draft, but the Bears just narrowly missed making our preseason Top 25. They have a team loaded with experienced upperclassmen, starting with sweet-swinging Jr. 1B Max Muncy (.322/.428/.511, 10 2B) and polished Jr. LHP Josh Turley (4-5, 3.39, 96 IP/63 SO). The keys to Baylor's season may be how well Jr. RHP Max Garner (2-4, 3.12, 49 IP/42 SO, 8 SV) makes the transition from closer to No. 2 starter, and how much improvement physical Jr. 3B Cal Towey (.244/.404/.397) and athletic Jr. OF Logan Vick (.213/.329/.305) can make.

• After making seven straight NCAA regionals from 2003-09, Missouri missed the tournament the last two seasons. Pitching could lead the Tigers back to the regionals, as they have a nice mix of veterans and newcomers on the mound. Jr. RHP Eric Anderson (3-0, 4.93, 46 IP/26 SO) is fully recovered from shoulder surgery in 2010, and he'll form a strong weekend rotation with So. LHP Rob Zastryzny (2-5, 4.33, 87 IP/70 SO) and Jr. RHP Blake Holovach (4-3, 6.06, 68 IP/47 SO at Coffeyville, Kan., CC). The bullpen will be in the hands of freshmen Brett Graves and Brandon Platts, both of whom were drafted last June.

• Jr. LHP Andrew Heaney (7-4, 4.03, 67 IP/51 SO) gives Oklahoma State the best southpaw in the Big 12, but the Cowboys' pitching took a hit when hard-throwing So. RHP Jason Hursh (1-1, 2.73, 30 IP/10 SO) had Tommy John surgery last summer. He'll miss the entire season, so Oklahoma State will need more production from Sr. RHP Blake Barnes (3-1, 3.38, 45 IP/30 SO). The Cowboys lost three of their top four hitters from a year ago, leaving Sr. 3B Mark Ginther (.292/.337/.517, 17 2B, 10 HR) to carry the offense.

• The Big 12 figures to be very competitive throughout the league. Texas Tech should be plenty offensive, led by two of the conference's most talented players, Jr. OFs Barrett Barnes (.290/.414/.509, 10 HR) and Jamodrick McGruder (.293/.470/.391, 28 SB). Kansas State is led by another of the Big 12's best athletes—So. OF Jared King (.307/.365/.534, 8 HR, 13 SB) and a decent group of senior position players, but the pitching staff must replace its top three arms. Kansas is similarly inexperienced but talented on the mound, led by Jr. RHP Thomas Taylor (5-3, 4.74, 57 IP/54 SO), who can reach 92 and has improved his breaking ball. The pick to click is Jr. RHP Tanner Poppe, who moves from the rotation to the back of the bullpen, where his 90-94 mph fastball could be dominant. The centerpiece of the lineup is Sr. 3B Zac Elgie (.297/.339/.520, 7 HR), a seasoned gap-to-gap hitter who will make better use of his strong arm this spring, moving from first base to third.

• Nebraska left the Big 12 for the Big Ten this year, and that's just the start. Missouri and Texas A&M will bolt for the Southeastern Conference next season, while West Virginia (Big East) and Texas Christian (Mountain West) will arrive in 2012. Along with current Big 12 members Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech, the Horned Frogs were part of the old Southwest Conference, which disbanded after the 1996 season.