Preseason Top 25 Capsules: No. 7 TCU

2017 Record: 50-18 (16-8 in Big 12); reached CWS.  Final ranking: No. 4. Coach (Record at school): Jim Schlossnagle (615-272, 14 years). Top 200 2018 Draft Prospects: 1B Luken Baker (35), RHP Sean Wymer (82).

The good news: TCU has become an Omaha regular, advancing to the College World Series for four straight years. Winning big has become the expectation in Fort Worth and the Horned Frogs have the talent to keep the run going. TCU returns much of its pitching staff, including starters Jared Janczak and Nick Lodolo, closer Durbin Feltman and bullpen ace Sean Wymer, who will likely move to the rotation. The Horned Frogs’ rotation has a chance to be one of the best in the country and they have a bevy of exciting arms to put together a deep staff. Offensively, first baseman Luken Baker returns fully healthy to anchor the lineup after being sidelined by a left arm injury down the stretch last season.

The bad news: TCU was an older team last year and lost several key pieces to the draft and graduation. The losses are especially acute in the lineup, as six of the eight Horned Frogs to accumulate 150 at bats are now gone. Catcher Evan Skoug, the Big 12 Conference co-player of the year, is perhaps the biggest loss, but TCU must also replace three-quarters of its infield. Additionally, righthanders Brian Howard and Mitchell Traver, mainstays on the pitching staff, graduated. TCU has the talent to cover its losses – it’s landed the top recruiting class in the Big 12 for three years in a row – but the Horned Frogs will have a much different look this spring. Among the newcomers, freshman shortstop Adam Oviedo and junior center fielder Johnny Rizer, a junior college transfer, are two of the most exciting. Oviedo is a solid defender with impressive offensive upside, and Rizer is a strong, toolsy player with the ability to impact the game in multiple ways.

Returner to know: Zach Humphreys, C: Skoug played a critical role for TCU in 2017, as he started every game and hit .272/.378/.544 with a team-high 20 home runs while also handling a strong pitching staff. Humphreys served as his backup as a freshman and is now ready to take over for him behind the plate. He won’t provide as much power as Skoug, but he is a steady, disciplined hitter and has good catch-and-throw skills.

Path to Omaha: No team has reached the CWS five years in a row since Stanford did so from 1999-2003. TCU has the talent to make a fifth straight Omaha trip, but will need some of its younger players and newcomers to take on key roles. The Horned Frogs’ pitching staff should be one of the best in the country and, with Baker back in the lineup, they will again be dangerous offensively. After so much turnover it will be crucial for TCU to play steady defense and gel as a team to allow it to reach its lofty ceiling.

2018 lineup:

C Zach Humphreys, So. .267/.379/.396 | 101 AB | 2 HR | 19 RBI
1B Luken Baker, Jr. .317/.454/.528 | 161 AB | 8 HR | 41 RBI
2B Coby Boulware, Fr. (HS – Anthem, Ariz.)
3B Conner Shepherd, R-So. (Transfer – Mount San Antonio (Calif.) JC)
SS Adam Oviedo, Fr. (HS – Grandview, Texas)
LF Josh Watson, Jr. .239/.370/.309 | 230 AB | 1 HR | 38 RBI
CF Johnny Rizer, Jr. (Transfer – Blinn (Texas) JC)
RF Connor Wanhanen, Sr. .281/.430/.341 | 135 AB | 0 HR | 16 RBI
DH A.J. Balta, Sr. (Transfer – Oregon)
RHP Jared Janczak, R-Jr. 9-2 | 2.31 ERA | 93 IP | 102 SO | 0 SV
LHP Nick Lodolo, So. 5-1 | 4.35 ERA | 79 IP | 72 SO | 0 SV
RHP Sean Wymer, Jr. 6-4 | 2.10 ERA | 56 IP | 66 SO | 2 SV
RP Durbin Feltman, Jr. 2-2 | 3.64 ERA | 30 IP | 37 SO | 17 SV
RP Cal Coughlin, So. 1-0 | 1.59 ERA | 23 IP | 22 SO | 0 SV

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