2022 College Top 25 Preview: No. 21 Georgia Tech
Last season: 31-25 (21-15 in ACC); reached regionals
Final Ranking: NR
Coach (record at school): Danny Hall (1,104-576-1, 28 seasons)
The good news: It shouldn’t be any surprise at this point, but Georgia Tech is going to mash again. Sophomore catcher Kevin Parada is one of the best hitters (and best prospects) in college baseball this season, and the return of third-year sophomore first baseman Andrew Jenkins, third-year sophomore third baseman Drew Compton, third-year sophomore left fielder Tres Gonzalez, sophomore right fielder Jake DeLeo and third-year sophomore DH Stephen Reid means that the lineup will run extremely deep. Getting fifth-year senior center fielder Colin Hall back fully healthy this season will also give the lineup a catalyst and an outstanding defender at his position. Speaking of catalysts, third-year sophomore shortstop Chandler Simpson, a transfer from Alabama-Birmingham, will be one of the best in the conference if he proves capable of getting on base against ACC pitching. He was 24-for-27 in stolen bases at UAB last season and broke the Northwoods League record for stolen bases over the summer with 55. Sophomore second baseman John Anderson, who will be in a battle for playing time with Louisville transfer Tim Borden, hit four home runs in 47 at-bats last season. If he can extrapolate that production out over a full season, Georgia Tech will suddenly have yet another bopper in the order. The Yellow Jackets are blessed with more quality position players than they have positions at this point.
The bad news: Georgia Tech was shaky on the mound last season, and now it will have to replace its two steadiest starting pitchers in lefthander Brant Hurter, a seventh-round pick of the Tigers, and righthander Andy Archer, who transferred to Hawaii. The trio that the Yellow Jackets project to run out there in the rotation, third-year sophomore righthander Zach Maxwell, sophomore righthander Marquis Grissom, Jr. and fourth-year junior righthander Cort Roedig, is talented, there’s no doubt, but none of the three has been a full-season weekend starter at this level. If Maxwell ends up sticking in the rotation as hoped, it also means that Georgia Tech’s best reliever will no longer be in that role, and that makes it paramount that some other options emerge. Last season, just two relievers, Maxwell and Josiah Siegel, had ERAs better than 4.00, and several often-used relievers had ERAs of 5.50 or higher.
Player to know: Zach Maxwell, RHP
Parada is the most notable player on the Georgia Tech roster as an ACC player of the year candidate and first-round pick in 2022, but perhaps no single player is as important for Georgia Tech’s 2022 fortunes as Maxwell. The 6-foot-6, 280-pound righthander’s stuff is electric. His fastball sits 96-100 mph with spin exceeding 2,600 rpm, and his hammer curveball in the low 80s spins at nearly 3,000 rpm. But there are real questions about his control and consistency, which could be exacerbated with a move to the rotation. Last season, he struck out well more than a batter per inning—56 in 32 innings—but with 41 free passes, he also walked more than a batter per inning, and for every game where he commanded the zone, an outing where he walked three or four was always just around the corner. In the fall, the coaching staff was working with Maxwell to dial back the gas just a bit in order to be in the zone more and dominate in the mid 90s rather than spray the ball in the high 90s. How well those lessons take, and in turn, how well Maxwell takes to starting, will have a lot to do with how effective Georgia Tech is on the mound.
Path to Omaha: Run prevention is the name of the game for Georgia Tech in 2022 if it wants to get back to Omaha for the first time since 2006. Last season’s pitching staff had a 5.71 ERA and the team fielded the ball at a .965 clip. That’s a pretty tough combination to survive no matter how good your offense is, and in light of that, the Yellow Jackets deserve a lot of credit for advancing all the way to a regional final last season. The good news, of course, is that the offense should be excellent again, so it’s not as if Georgia Tech needs to see transformative change in this regard. Even moderate improvement in these areas could put the Yellow Jackets on the right path to Omaha if the offense hits as well as it’s expected to.
2023 Southeastern Conference College Baseball Preview
2023 is shaping up to be another exciting season in the SEC with plenty to watch around the conference.