2020 NCAA Top 25 Preview: No. 19 Oklahoma
Last season: 33-23 (11-13 in Big 12); missed NCAA tournament
Final ranking: NR
Coach (record at school): Skip Johnson (71-48, two seasons)
The good news: Cavalli, who spent the summer pitching for Team USA and can run his fastball up into the high 90s, will go into the season as the favorite to win Big 12 pitcher of the year honors, and the combination of he and lefthander Levi Prater will give the Sooners a one-two punch as good as any in the conference. Returning righthander Ben Abram and junior college transfer Dane Acker, who began his career at Rice, should give the Sooners confidence that they will get extremely good starting pitching. The lineup returns all but one player—third baseman Brylie Ware—who played a major role last season. Shortstop Brandon Zaragoza, one of the best defensive shortstops in the country, gives the Sooners a steady hand at one of the most important positions on the field. Most of the key pieces of a bullpen that came into the 2019 season largely unproven will return in 2020, led by flamethrowing closer Jason Ruffcorn.
The bad news: The Sooners return just about all of their lineup, but that was a unit that really struggled for much of 2019 and ended the season with a .266 average and just 29 home runs as a team. Catcher Brady Lindsly and first baseman Tyler Hardman can be counted on as centerpieces of the offense, but if OU is going to live up to its potential in 2020, it will need several returners to take steps forward or newcomers to make an impact right away.
Player to know: Levi Prater, LHP.
Cavalli is the higher-profile prospect, and his stuff and Team USA credentials make him the focal point of the Oklahoma rotation, but Prater was the statistically better starter in many ways in 2019. His 3.26 ERA led all OU starters, as did his 97 strikeouts and .211 opponent average, and it’s not as if he’s a non-prospect. With another season like the last, Prater could hear his name called in the top five rounds of the draft in June. Another season like his last would also go a long way toward getting the Sooners back to playing baseball in June.
Path to Omaha: There is an expectation that Oklahoma’s pitching staff will be excellent in 2020 and it has a chance to be elite. But the key to this team getting back in a position to go to Omaha is offensive production. The rotation’s ability to limit run production is likely going to be such a strength that a trip to the CWS is plausible even with moderate offensive improvement. If the veteran lineup collectively makes a big jump, however, the Sooners could be a juggernaut.
2020 Big 12 Conference College Baseball Preview
Going into the 2020 season, it appears the Big 12 could be extremely jumbled, with teams tightly packed in the standings.
|C||Brady Lindsly, Sr.||.291||.364||.480||5||34||179|
|1B||Tyler Hardman, Jr.||.306||.394||.457||6||42||219|
|2B||Conor McKenna, Sr.||.255||.355||.361||3||31||208|
|3B||Peyton Graham, Fr.||HS -- Waxahachie, Texas|
|SS||Brandon Zaragoza, Sr.||.257||.372||.296||0||30||206|
|LF||Kendall Pettis, Fr.||HS -- Chicago|
|CF||Tanner Tredaway, Jr.||.260||.363||.308||0||10||146|
|RF||Brady Harlan, Sr.||.255||.377||.328||1||20||137|
|DH||Diego Muniz, So.||.220||.380||.366||2||19||123|
|RHP||Cade Cavalli. Jr.||5||3||3.28||60.1||59||0|
|LHP||Levi Prater, Jr.||7||4||3.26||80||97||0|
|RHP||Dane Acker. Jr.||Transfer -- San Jacinton (Texas) JC|
|RP||Jason Ruffcorn, Sr.||2||2||2.43||37||28||11|
|RP||Wyatt Olds, So.||0||2||4.23||27.2||37||0|