2021 NCAA Top 25 Preview: No. 25 Alabama
Last season: 16-1
Final ranking: NR
Coach (record at school): Brad Bohannon (73-56, three years)
The good news: After three straight last-place SEC West finishes from 2017-19, Alabama is clawing its way back to postseason contention under coach Brad Bohannon. The Crimson Tide in 2020 was the second-to-last undefeated team in the country and its 16-1 mark in the abbreviated season matched Florida and Mississippi for the best in the nation. While Alabama was not tested in the same way Florida and Ole Miss were, it has quietly built up a roster that can compete in the SEC and beyond with a series of strong recruiting classes. It starts on the mound, where lefthander Connor Prielipp established himself as an ace in 2020 as a freshman and put himself in the mix as the top prospect in the 2022 draft class. Alabama has plenty of depth on the mound behind him, as it can turn to Landon Green, Grayson Hitt, Antoine Jean, Jacob McNary, Connor Shamblin, Dylan Smith and Tyler Ras in the rotation or for multiple innings out of the bullpen. It also has experience at the back of the bullpen with closer Chase Lee and lefthander Brock Guffey. Alabama’s pitching is ahead of its offense, but it has two powerful bats in the middle of the lineup in third-year sophomore catcher Sam Praytor and second-year freshman Owen Diodati.
The bad news: While Praytor and Diodati are back to give Alabama some juice offensively, it must replace its top two hitters: outfielder Tyler Gentry, a third-round pick, and Brett Auerbach, who did a little bit of everything on the diamond. Auerbach and Gentry often both played in the outfield, and their spots will be filled by some combination of second-year freshmen William Hamiter, Peyton Wilson and Diodati, as well as fourth-year junior Jackson Tate. Filling their spots in the lineup will have to be a group effort as well. Third baseman Zane Denton impressed during fall ball and can take a step forward offensively as a second-year freshman and outfielder T.J. Reeves also has it in him to make a leap. If they, or someone else, can step up, Alabama should have a solid lineup. As a whole, Alabama still needs to prove itself in SEC play after not getting the opportunity to do so in 2020.
Player to know: Connor Prielipp, LHP.
Prielipp wasn’t regarded as a blue-chip recruit coming out of the Wisconsin prep ranks in 2019, but he’s quickly established himself as one of the top draft prospects in the 2022 class. He has premium stuff with a fastball that works in the mid 90s, an above-average breaking ball and a good changeup. He can go head-to-head with any pitcher in the conference, giving Alabama a critical piece of the puzzle as it looks to climb the standings.
Path to Omaha: For a team that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2014, the College World Series is a lofty goal. But the Tide has that upside if it can sort out its pitching between Prielipp and Lee, whether that means another starter or two emerging or Bohannon and pitching coach Jason Jackson deftly managing the staff to exploit matchups and their depth, much like the Rays. With a strong pitching staff, reliable defense and a young offense with upside, Alabama is primed to take a step forward. How big of a step it is depends on how quickly its young players settle into their roles.
2022 MLB Draft Stock Watch: A Depleted College Pitching Class
A confluence of factors has led the industry to view this as a down group for the 2022 collegiate arms.
|C||Sam Praytor, R-So.||.350||.452||.667||60||6||18|
|1B||Drew Williamson, R-So.||.340||.521||.480||50||1||6|
|2B||Caden Rose, Fr.||HS -- Madison, Ala.|
|3B||Zane Denton, R-Fr.||.220||.277||.341||41||0||9|
|SS||Jim Jarvis, R-Fr.||.267||.411||.311||45||0||8|
|LF||T.J. Reeves, R-So.||.246||.411||.333||57||1||6|
|CF||Peyton Wilson, R-Fr.||.333||.417||.433||30||0||8|
|RF||William Hamiltrer. R-Fr.||.333||.333||.333||3||0||0|
|DH||Owen Diodati, R-Fr.||.309||.431||.673||55||5||22|
|LHP||Connor Prielipp, R-Fr.||3||0||0.00||21||35||0|
|RHP||Tyler Ras, R-So.||0||0||0.00||11||8||0|
|LHP||Grayson Hitt, Fr.||HS -- Germantown, Tenn.|
|RP||Brock Guffey, R-Jr.||3||0||1.04||9||13||0|
|RP||Chase Lee, R-So.||1||0||1.64||11||19||2|