Big 12 Conference Preview
SEE ALSO: College Preview Index
Baseball Members (First Year): Baylor (1997), Kansas (1997), Kansas State (1997), Oklahoma (1997), Oklahoma State (1997), Texas (1997), Texas Christian (2013), Texas Tech (1997), West Virginia (2013).
Checking out: None.
Team to Beat: Texas Christian The Horned Frogs are national title favorites thanks to their deep and talented lineup and pitching staff.
Player of the Year: Luken Baker, 1b, Texas Christian No longer pitching, Baker remains the anchor of TCU’s lineup thanks to his advanced feel for hitting to go with his light-tower power.
Pitcher of the Year: Tyler Buffett rhp, Oklahoma State Buffett starred in OSU’s run to Omaha last year and should move to the front of the rotation full-time as a senior this spring.
Freshman of the Year: Nick Lodolo lhp, Texas Christian The big-armed freshman has a chance to be TCU’s next pitching star and ought to make an immediate impact on the Frogs’ title chances.
Top 25 Teams: Texas Christian (1), Oklahoma State (18), Texas Tech (25)
|Best Pure Hitter: Luken Baker, TCU|
|Best Raw Power: Luken Baker, TCU|
|Best Strike-Zone Discipline: Luken Baker, TCU|
|Best Athlete: Darius Hill, West Virginia|
|Fastest Baserunner: Nolan Brown, TCU|
|Best Baserunner: Garrett McCain, Oklahoma State|
|Best Defensive Catcher: Evan Skoug, TCU|
|Catcher/Best Arm: Michael Cantu, Texas|
|Best Defensive 1B: Dustin Williams, Oklahoma State|
|Best Defensive 2B: Michael Davis, Texas Tech|
|Best Defensive 3B: Elliott Barzilli, TCU|
|Best Defensive SS: Orlando Garcia, Texas Tech|
|Infield/Best Arm: Ryan Merrill, TCU|
|Best Defensive Outfielder: Nolan Brown, TCU|
|Best Outfield Arm: Patrick Mathis, Texas|
|Best Fastball: Durbin Feltman, TCU|
|Best Breaking Ball: Morgan Cooper, Texas|
|Best Changeup: Jensen Elliott, Oklahoma State|
|Best Control: Tyler Buffett, Oklahoma State|
Other Projected Regional Teams
Texas: A new era is underway in Austin, as former Tulane coach and Texas native David Pierce takes over the program after 20 years under Augie Garrido, college baseball’s all-time winningest coach. Pierce inherits a team that went 25-32 last season but should have the talent to compete in the postseason in 2017. The rotation will be the biggest strength, with a trio of prospects in Jr. RHPs Morgan Cooper, Kyle Johnston and Connor Mayes.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers played as well as any team in the conference down the stretch last season and came tantalizingly close to ending a 20-year NCAA tournament drought, losing in the Big 12 tournament title game and then being one of the last teams passed over for an at-large berth. Fifth-year head coach Randy Mazey has steadily built up the program, and his crew will look to take that next step this season.
Notable Storylines: If it’s possible for a conference to collectively have a chip on its shoulder, the Big 12 does after getting just three teams into last year’s NCAA tournament and then having all three reach Omaha. The league has considered increasing the number of conference games each team plays, which would necessitate some teams playing each other twice, in an effort to reduce the number of potentially RPI damaging non-conference games, but it will continue with its current 24-game league schedule in 2017. Coaches around the conference also acknowledge that, as is the case across most Big 12 sports, the league’s perception suffers when Oklahoma and Texas struggle as they have the last couple of seasons . . . Speaking of Oklahoma, the Sooners will look to rebound after floundering to a fifth-place finish in 2016, a season they entered as a Top 25 team. With their two biggest stars of the last three years, shortstop/righthander Sheldon Neuse and righthander Alec Hansen, off to pro ball, the Sooners will count on a core of sophomores—a group that was the 13th ranked recruiting class nationally going into their freshman seasons—like catcher Domenic DeRenzo and outfielder Steele Walker to anchor the lineup, while righthanders Jake Irvin and Dylan Grove need to turn their impressive stuff into results in the rotation . . . Baylor was frisky at times last year in coach Steve Rodriguez’s first season, including its taking a series from TCU. If the Bears are going to take another step in 2017, they’ll need power hitting catcher Shea Langeliers, an unsigned 34th-round pick in last year’s draft, to give a boost to what was the Big 12’s lowest scoring offense last season. Junior college transfer righthander Montana Parsons, an unsigned 30th-round pick himself, will try to do the same in the rotation, along with freshman righthander Jimmy Winston.
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|2017 Top 20 Prospects||2018 Top 10 Prospects||Top 10 Newcomers|
|1. Evan Skoug c, Texas Christian||1. Luken Baker 1b, Texas Christian||1. Nick Lodolo, lhp, Texas Christian|
|2. Morgan Cooper rhp, Texas||2. Davis Martin rhp, Texas Tech||2. Charles King, rhp, Texas Christian|
|3. Kyle Johnston rhp, Texas||3. Jensen Elliott rhp, Oklahoma State||3. David Hamilton, ss, Texas|
|4. Patrick Mathis of, Texas||4. Josh Watson of, Texas Christian||4. John McMillon, rhp/of, Texas Tech|
|5. Tyler Buffett rhp, Oklahoma State||5. Jonathan Heasley rhp, Oklahoma State||5. Jonathan Heasley, rhp, Oklahoma State|
|6. Tanner Gardner of, Texas Tech||6. Durbin Feltman rhp, Texas Christian||6. Trey Morris, rhp, Texas Christian|
|7. Bret Boswell 3b, Texas||7. Domenic DeRenzo c, Oklahoma||7. Alek Manoah, rhp, West Virginia|
|8. Trey Cobb rhp, Oklahoma State||8. Jake Irvin rhp, Oklahoma||8. Cade Cabbiness, of, Oklahoma State|
|9. Elliott Barzilli 3b, Texas Christian||9. Jacob Chappell ss, Oklahoma State||9. Blair Henley, rhp, Texas|
|10. Montana Parsons rhp, Baylor||10. Darius Hill of, West Virginia||10. Michael Neustifter, c, Oklahoma State|
|11. Mitchell Traver rhp, Texas Christian|
|12. B.J. Myers rhp, West Virginia|
|13. Brian Howard rhp, Texas Christian|
|14. Sean Rackoski rhp, Kansas|
|15. Jon Littell of, Oklahoma State|
|16. Austen Wade of, Texas Christian|
|17. Matt McLaughlin ss, Kansas|
|18. Kameron Ethay of, Baylor|
|19. Jackson Cramer 1b, West Virginia|
|20. Garrett Benge 3b, Oklahoma State|