2019 Preseason Top 25 Preview: No. 18 Arkansas
Last Year: 48-21 (18-12 SEC); College World Series runner-up.
Final Ranking: No. 2.
Head Coach (record at school): Dave Van Horn (643-364, 16 years).
Top 100 Draft Prospects: LHP Matt Cronin (No. 52), RHP Isaiah Campbell (No. 65), OF Dominic Fletcher (No. 72).
The Good News: Arkansas last year had one of its best seasons in program history as it romped through the postseason and was a strike away from winning its first ever national championship. The Razorbacks dream ended with heartbreak, but they have a lot to look forward to this year. Dominic Fletcher, one of the best defensive center fielders in the country, is back patrolling the outfield, and the dynamic Freshmen All-American duo of Heston Kjerstad and Casey Martin return as well. That trio combined for 37 home runs and will form the heart of the Razorbacks' lineup. Arkansas got a boost when righthander Isaiah Campbell decided to return as a redshirt junior. He had an up-and-down 2018, but he can give the Razorbacks a true Friday starter to lead the rotation. With closer Matt Cronin again at the back of the bullpen, Arkansas has two cornerstones of its pitching staff in place.
The Bad News: The Razorbacks have some big holes to fill from last year’s team, starting with All-American righthander Blaine Knight. Campbell is set at the front of the rotation, but Arkansas will need others to step up. It has options, but sorting out the rotation will be critical. That task will be up in part to new pitching coach Matt Hobbs, who takes over from Wes Johnson, who jumped to the big leagues to become the Twins’ pitching coach. In the lineup, the Razorbacks will have a new look up the middle as catcher Grant Koch, second baseman Carson Shaddy and shortstop Jax Biggers all must be replaced. Martin will move from third base to shortstop and has the tools to excel at the position, but it’s still a challenge. Trevor Ezell figures to take over at second base after joining Arkansas as a graduate transfer from Southeast Missouri State, where he hit .377/.442/.558. The Razorbacks will look to the duo of Casey Opitz and Zack Plunkett behind the plate. The pieces are there for Arkansas, but there’s a lot less experience around the diamond then there was last year.
Player To Know: Dominic Fletcher, OF.
Fletcher hit 12 home runs as a freshman in 2017 and followed that up with 10 more last year, making him the first Razorback in 20 years to hit double-digit home runs in his first two seasons. He has a dynamic combination of power and speed to go with above-average defense in center field. As Fletcher enters his junior year, Arkansas will be looking for a big season from its center fielder.
Path To Omaha: Arkansas will be attempting to avoid a College World Series finals hangover. Only two of the last 10 runners-up have returned to Omaha the following season. The good news for the Razorbacks is that they have some serious star power in Campbell, Cronin, Fletcher, Kjerstad and Martin. That core can help them get back to the CWS if some of the less experienced players can perform in their new roles.
Friday MLB Notes: D-backs 2019 Draft Bonanza Paying Big Dividends
Teams with previous bonanzas rarely hit on more than 2-3 of their picks. The D-backs, at this early stage, appear to have hit on nearly all of theirs.
|2B||Trevor Ezell||R-Sr. (Transfer -- Southeast Missouri State)|
|LF||Christian Franklin||Fr.||HS -- Kansas City, Mo.|
|DH||Matt Goodheart||Jr. (Transfer -- San Jacinto (Texas) JC|
|RHP||Kevin Kopps||R-Jr. (Did not play -- injured)|
|LHP||Patrick Wicklander||Fr. (HS -- San Jose, Calif.)|