2019 Preseason Top 25 Preview: No. 16 Baylor
Last Year: 37-21 (13-11 Big 12); reached regionals.
Final Ranking: NR.
Head Coach (record at school): Steve Rodriguez (95-73, three years).
Top 100 Draft Prospects: C Shea Langeliers (No. 6).
The Good News: Just about everybody is back from a 2018 team that finished with 37 wins, won the Big 12 Conference Tournament and earned the No. 2 seed in the Stanford Regional. Juniors Shea Langeliers and Davis Wendzel, as well as four-year starter Richard Cunningham, return to lead a lineup that boasts power, speed and athleticism. On the mound, they return Big 12 pitcher of the year Cody Bradford, along with his rotationmates Hayden Kettler and Tyler Thomas. The Bears have the talent and experience needed to enjoy success they haven’t had since winning the Big 12 regular season championship in 2012 and last getting to Omaha in 2005.
The Bad News: While they have a ton of returning players throughout the lineup and in the starting rotation, the Bears do have some rebuilding to do in the bullpen with the departures of Alex Phillips, Drew Robertson, Joe Heineman, and three-year closer Troy Montemayor. Senior righthander Kyle Hill, who has made 70 career appearances over the last three seasons, is back to anchor the rebuilt bullpen, but this will be Baylor’s biggest question mark heading into the season.
Player To Know: Shea Langeliers, C.
A jack-of-all-trades, Langeliers gives the Bears a veteran leader on the field, an elite defensive catcher, a top-notch athlete for his position and a power bat in the middle of the order. The Keller, Texas, native came to Baylor as a premium catching prospect, and he has lived up to every bit of the hype so far. He’s impressed not only during his two seasons in Waco, but also two summers ago in the Cape Cod League and last summer with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team, all setting him up to be a first-round pick in 2019.
Path To Omaha: Because they have three pitchers they trust in the weekend rotation, the Bears are set up to win in the best-of-three super regional format. But before you get there, you have to win a regional, and that’s where your pitching depth gets tested. That’s precisely why finding bullpen arms to replace the aforementioned four departing relievers is so important. That quartet combined for 125 innings last year and boasted the four lowest ERAs on the team. Replacing those innings will go a long way toward giving Baylor the type of pitching depth needed to win a regional.
Shea Langeliers Propels Baylor Back Into The National Conversation
Baylor enters the 2019 NCAA baseball season ranked No. 15 -- its highest preseason ranking since 2009. The rise of Shea Langeliers is a big reason why.