2022 College Top 25 Preview: No. 13 Arizona

Image credit: Daniel Susac (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Last season: 45-18 (21-9 in Pac-12); reached College World Series
Final Ranking: No. 9
Coach (record at school): Chip Hale (0-0, first season)

The good news: In sophomore catcher Daniel Susac, Arizona has one of the best players in the country. He’s a proven run producer, a solid defensive catcher with a big arm and he gives Arizona a very real preseason contender for Pac-12 player of the year. The Wildcats also have the makings of a good rotation. Sophomore righthander TJ Nichols has excellent stuff, including a fastball that may touch triple digits this season, and looks ready to make the jump from his swingman role last season to the Friday spot. Fifth-year senior lefthander Garrett Irvin is a steady hand with a ton of big-game experience. Third-year sophomore righthander Chandler Murphy doesn’t have quite the stuff of Nichols or the experience of Irvin, but has a good combination of both. Arizona might take a step back offensively this season, but those losses could reasonably be made up by improved performance from a talented weekend rotation. 

The bad news: There is a ton of offensive production to replace with the departure of Jacob Berry to Louisiana State and Branden Boissiere, Ryan Holgate, Kobe Kato and Donta’ Williams to professional baseball. Susac’s return is huge, but the Wildcats will need a number of other things to go their way in order to have the type of lineup they have had in the recent past. One would be fourth-year junior third baseman Tony Bullard being a consistent producer all season. He showed that he could be a lineup centerpiece with his performance in regionals and super regionals, going 9-for-20 with four homers in those five games. Third-year sophomore left fielder Mac Bingham could also be a real catalyst, especially if he begins to impact the baseball more. Junior college transfer first baseman Noah Turley, a 6-foot-4 physical presence, could be an answer in the middle of the order as well after hitting 22 home runs for Yavapai (Ariz.) College last season. The biggest key among position players might be sophomore center fielder Chase Davis. The top recruit in Arizona’s 2020 recruiting class, Davis struggled as a freshman in the few chances he got on a veteran club last season, but he has the tools to be one of the best players in the Pac-12. There is potential with this lineup, but it will have a lot to prove. 


Player to know: Daniel Susac, C

Susac was everything Arizona could have asked for as a freshman last season. He hit .335/.392/.591 with 24 doubles and 12 home runs, and he proved that he could handle the rigors of catching a full season at this level and remain productive at the plate. Defensively, he’s not a refined catcher yet, but his athleticism behind the plate stands out and he has a plus arm. As a catcher with a track record of success, plus raw power, plus arm strength, physicality and athleticism, Susac is not only one of the best players in college baseball but also an elite prospect for the 2022 draft. 

Path to Omaha: Last year, Arizona’s offense was the biggest reason for optimism that the team would return to the postseason and its pitching staff was a question mark that held the key to the Wildcats being able to make a deep postseason run. This year, that script might be flipped. If Nichols, Irvin and Murphy pitch anywhere close to the top of their potential, they give Arizona a rotation that will be tough to beat and should put it right on the doorstep of regionals again. But if the Wildcats are going to make back-to-back trips to Omaha for the first time since 1985-1986, when first-year coach Chip Hale was a player in Tucson, some combination of returning players taking steps forward and newcomers immediately becoming contributors will have to elevate the lineup to make it a unit that can pack a punch in the way that recent Arizona lineups have. 

2022 Lineup

C Daniel Susac So. .335 .392 .591 242 12 65
1B Noah Turley So.
Transfer—Yavapai (Ariz.) JC
2B Garen Caulfield R-Fr.
Transfer—San Joaquin Delta (Calif.) JC
3B Tony Bullard R-Jr. .298 .369 .546 141 7 30
SS Nik McClaughry R-Jr. .316 .412 .401 152 1 32
LF Mac Bingham R-So. .305 .417 .390 141 1 33
CF Chase Davis So. .233 .343 .400 30 0 4
RF Tyler Casagrande R-Jr. .244 .347 .366 41 1 7
DH Tanner O’Tremba R-Jr. .269 .405 .448 67 2 14
Pos. Name Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
RHP TJ Nichols So. 6 3 4.77 60 66 0
LHP Garrett Irvin R-Sr. 6 4 4.58 88 75 0
RHP Chandler Murphy R-So. 7 0 4.29 63 62 0
RP Chris Barraza R-Jr. 1 2 7.25 22 22 0
RP Holden Christian R-Sr. 3 1 0.97 37 56 4

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