2021 NCAA Top 25 Preview: No. 13 Texas Christian
Final ranking: NR
Coach (record at school): Jim Schlossnagle (693-327, 17 years)
Top 200 draft prospects: RHP Riley Cornelio (No. 133)
The good news: TCU might be the most experienced team in a power conference, but as experienced as the returning players are, they’ve also been pushed by newcomers, and that will give the Horned Frogs more good players deserving of playing time than they will have playing time to give. For every returning player like fifth-year senior catcher Zach Humphreys and fifth-year senior infielder Conner Shepherd who have been around the block, there are freshmen like outfielder Elijah Nunez and infielder Brayden Taylor who shined in the fall and earned the chance to knock off an incumbent starter in the spring. And on the mound, despite the return of all three members of the weekend rotation in fourth-year junior righthander Johnny Ray, third-year sophomore lefthander Russell Smith and fifth-year senior righthander Charles King, guys like third-year sophomore lefthander Austin Krob and second-year freshmen righthanders Riley Cornelio and Jacob Meador have elbowed their way into the conversation. Depth is going to be up across college baseball, but the depth TCU has accumulated is a standard deviation above what we’re seeing around most of the rest of the country.
The bad news: High-end potential clearly exists on the mound for the Horned Frogs with the return of Ray, Krob, Smith, Cornelio and Meador, but it’s unclear the extent to which that same potential exists in the lineup. Humphreys and Shepherd have been productive throughout their careers, but neither has consistently been the type of hitter who can carry a lineup. Sixth-year senior utilityman Gene Wood and fourth-year junior second baseman Gray Rodgers put up huge numbers in 2020, but can they do that over a full season? Fifth-year senior outfielder Hunter Wolfe has been excellent at various points in his career, but he’s had trouble staying healthy. Is fifth-year senior infielder Austin Henry more like the hitter who was one of the best in the TCU lineup in 2019 or the one who got off to a sluggish start in 2020? Third-year freshman outfielder Porter Brown is one of the better talents on the roster, but an injury in 2019 and the 2020 season cancellation have kept him from getting on the field much. With so many options, the Horned Frogs are a lock to put a productive lineup on the field every day, but we’ll have to wait until the season to know if it’s merely a productive one or if it can be one of the best in the conference.
Player to know: Austin Krob, LHP.
In theory, the return of all three weekend starters from 2020 should make it tough for anyone else to earn starts, but Krob did his best this fall to break through. Last season, he shined in a relief role, throwing 11.2 scoreless innings with 15 strikeouts and he’s now ready for much more. The lefthander’s fastball sits in the low 90s but can reach the mid 90s, and coach Jim Schlossnagle was not shy in the fall about comparing him to some of the great lefthanders who have come through the program in the last decade like Matt Purke, Brandon Finnegan and Nick Lodolo in terms of what he can bring to the TCU program in 2021 and his prospect profile moving forward.
Path to Omaha: The pitching staff is Omaha-quality as it is. All you need to know about the quality of the staff is that guys like Charles King, a pitcher with nearly 200 innings under his belt, Riley Cornelio, the top 2021 draft prospect on the team, third-year sophomore righthander Marcelo Perez, whose fastball can reach the high 90s, and second-year freshman righthander Jacob Meador, whose fastball was in the mid 90s in the fall, are all pitchers who would unquestionably start weekend games for hundreds of other college baseball teams, but instead might be deployed in a spot starter or relief role for the Frogs. A couple of standout weekends for that staff in the postseason and TCU is in Omaha. More realistically, though, the path to Omaha involves the lineup going from mature and opportunistic, as it was last season, to one that can help carry the team for stretches, especially given that it’s looking like 2021 will be a pitching-heavy season in the Big 12.
|C||Zach Humphrey,s R-Sr.||.295||.418||.477||44||0||7|
|1B||Austin Henry, R-Sr.||.133||.259||.267||45||1||13|
|2B||Gray Rodgers, R-Jr.||.373||.464||.559||55||2||11|
|3B||Braydon Taylor, Fr.||HS -- West Jordan, Utah|
|SS||Tommy Sacco, R-Jr.||.304||.437||.464||56||1||13|
|LF||Elijah Nunez, Fr.||HS -- Arlington, Texas|
|CF||Phillip Sikes, R-Jr.||.167||.298||.188||48||0||5|
|RF||Gene Wood, R-Sr.||.353||.514||.706||51||5||14|
|DH||Hunter Wolfe, R-Sr.||.341||.442||.477||44||1||12|
|RHP||Johnny Ray, R-So.||1||1||2.54||21||21||0|
|LHP||Austin Krob, R-So.||1||0||0.00||12||15||1|
|LHP||Russell Smith, R-So.||2||0||2.57||21||27||0|
|RP||Harrison Beethe, R-Jr.||0||0||1.50||6||5||1|
|RP||Haylen Green, R-Sr.||1||0||0.00||18||19||1|