2024 Big 12 College Baseball Preview


Image credit: Anthony Silva (Photo by Eddie Kelly / ProLook Photos)

A thrilling race came down to the wire and ultimately saw Oklahoma State, Texas and West Virginia share the Big 12 regular-season title—the first time in conference history that three teams earned a share. The Mountaineers had sole possession going into the final weekend only to see the Longhorns sweep them on their home field to claim the top seed in the conference tournament. Just four games separated the top seven teams in the conference in what was a remarkably balanced title race.

The team of the year in the Big 12, however, was none of those three. It was Texas Christian, who got hot at the right time. The Horned Frogs caught fire late to win the Big 12 Tournament as the No. 4 seed and went on a run to the semifinals of the College World Series.

This season, the conference is marked by change. There are four new programs—the American’s Houston, UCF and Cincinnati as well as the West Coast Conference’s BYU. Further change is on the way after the season, as Oklahoma and Texas will leave for the SEC and Arizona, Arizona State and Utah will arrive from the Pac-12. How this year’s newcomers will fit in—and how the Longhorns (10 regular-season titles, five tournament tiles) and the Sooners (three tournament titles) fare in their final year—will be quite the storyline to watch in 2024.

Below, find the following as we dive deep into the Big 12 Conference…

  • Predicted order of finish
  • Player, Pitcher and Freshman of the Year predictions
  • Team-by-team breakdowns
  • Top draft prospects
  • Top newcomers
  • Best scouting tools

Predicted Order of Finish (2023 Record)

1. Texas Christian (44-24, 13-11)
2. Texas (42-22, 15-9)
3. Texas Tech (41-23, 12-12)
4. Oklahoma State (41-20, 15-9)
5. Kansas State (35-24, 13-11)
6. West Virginia (40-20, 15-9)
7. Oklahoma (32-28, 11-13)
8. Kansas (25-32, 8-16)
9. Houston (36-23, 17-6 AAC)
10.  UCF (33-26, 12-12 AAC)
11.  Baylor (20-35, 6-18)
12.  Cincinnati (24-33, 10-14 AAC)
13.  BYU (24-28, 13-14 WCC)

Player of the Year: JJ Wetherholt, SS, West Virginia

All Wetherholt did in 2023 was hit .449/.517/.787 with 16 home runs, 24 doubles and 36 stolen bases. The West Virginia spark plug led the country in batting and was the first player since 2002 with 40 or more extra-base hits and 35 or more stolen bases. An early candidate to be drafted No. 1 overall, he could be the first to repeat as Big 12 player of the year since Nebraska’s Alex Gordon in 2004 and ’05.

Pitcher of the Year: Lebarron Johnson Jr., RHP, Texas

Two specific games in 2023 give a sense as to why Johnson is the favorite to become yet another Texas pitcher to win the conference’s top honor. At the end of February, Johnson faced LSU and went five scoreless with nine strikeouts to just three hits and two walks. Then, against Miami in regionals, he turned in a complete-game effort, scattering one run on seven hits with eight strikeouts. When Johnson is at his best, he can be borderline unhittable, and the upward trajectory he was on to close 2023 points to big things this year. He went 8-4 with a 2.91 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 86.2 IP.

Freshman of the Year: Will Gasparino, OF, Texas

With the departures of Dylan Campbell and Eric Kennedy, Texas has room in its outfield. Gasparino figures to immediately step into a starting role. The 6-foot-6, 215-pound outfielder strikes an imposing presence and has plus bat speed and power. Add in an above-average arm and the ability to cover plenty of ground in the outfield, and you’ve got a dynamic player who should make an immediate impact. While it may take some time for Gasparino to settle in, his ceiling is sky high—and Texas doesn’t shy away from playing impact.

Big 12 Team-By-Team Breakdowns

1. TCU (44-24, 13-11)

Last season entering May, TCU was three games under .500 in Big 12 play and sat at 23-20 overall. The Horned Frogs responded by winning 10 of 12 to close the regular season, swept through the Big 12 Tournament, routed Arkansas on its home field in regionals, swept Indiana State in super regionals and reached the CWS semifinals before falling to Florida. It was a whirlwind final two months in which TCU went 21-4 and sets the stage for what should be another strong year under Kirk Saarloos. Some big names departed—a chunk of the team’s offense in Brayden Taylor, Cole Fontenelle, Tre Richardson, Austin Davis and Elijah Nunez as well as Cam Brown, Sam Stoutenborough and Garrett Wright on the mound—but there’s a strong core and the Frogs were busy in the portal.

Shortstop Anthony Silva (.330, 50 RBI, 17 SB) and Karson Bowen (.350, 6 HR) return after excellent freshman years alongside veteran Kurtis Byrne (.285, 10 HR) to anchor the lineup. Luke Boyers (.231, 7 HR) and Logan Maxwell (.300) bring a veteran presence to the outfield alongside freshman Chase Brunson, who was drafted in the 18th round but made it to campus. The team’s biggest offseason acquisition, two-way star Payton Tolle from Wichita State, figures to entrench himself at DH after slugging .311 with 13 HR and 46 RBIs for the Shockers. Another interesting addition is a CWS champion in Peyton Chataganier (Mississippi), who brings a lot of experience to the middle infield.

TCU lost less on the mound and will look for big seasons from a trio of rising sophomores—Kole Klecker (10-4, 3.72) enjoyed a breakout run during the postseason a season ago while Ben Abeldt (55 IP, 3.60 ERA) was a reliable reliever and Louis Rodriguez (2-1, 4.53) showed potential. Tolle (9-3, 4.62) piled up 97 strikeouts last year while the Frogs also landed prolific intra-conference transfer Ben Hampton (5-3, 4.45 ERA) out of West Virginia. Add in Houston’s Kyle Ayers (22 app, 5.74) and Arkansas’s Zack Morris (18 app, 7.64) and you have the makings of a strong staff.

2. Texas (42-22, 15-9)

Dreams of a third straight College World Series appearance evaporated on a pop-up lost in the twilight at Stanford in super regionals—but Texas still enjoyed another strong season after a slow start. The Longhorns swept aside a tough start to eventually log a 16-game winning streak, sweep their final three Big 12 series to claim a share of the regular-season title and win a road regional in Miami. Even with some big departures, the Texas roster has evolved nicely with two major returnees on the mound and a strong position-player core.

It’s hard to understate the significance of Tanner Witt and Lebarron Johnson Jr.’s return, the former opting for another year after a brief post-Tommy John cameo in 2023. A fully recovered Witt and Johnson—who fanned 98 across 20 appearances with a 2.91 ERA a season ago—form what should be one of the nation’s best one-two punches. Even with the loss of Notre Dame transfer Will Mercer to Tommy John surgery, the Longhorns have depth after that duo—Charlie Hurley (5-0, 4.42) slots into the Sunday spot while David Shaw (2-2, 3.09) anchors the bullpen. Luke Harrison, who led the team in appearances in 2022 before injury, is back while Gage Boehm is a well-regarded JUCO transfer.

Having lost a trio of double-digit home run hitters—Dylan Campbell, Eric Kennedy and Garrett Guillemette—the Longhorns’ run production will need to come from different places. Still, Peyton Powell (.339, 10 HR), Porter Brown (.323, 12 HR) and Jared Thomas (.321, 10 SB) were all excellent in 2023, and the addition of talented freshmen Will Gasparino, Tommy Farmer and Nik Sanders will be key. Perhaps the biggest impact on the lineup could come from returnee Jalin Flores (.175), who struggled as a freshman with high expectations but is an exciting talent that Texas hopes to see take a big second-year step.

3. Texas Tech (41-23, 12-12)

After four College World Series appearances in six years—a stretch that had five 45-plus win seasons—the Red Raiders have taken a step back by their lofty standards. A super regional loss in 2021 was followed by back-to-back regional exits, the latest coming despite starting 2-0 in Gainesville. Expectations are again sky-high for Texas Tech, though, as Omaha remains the ever-frequent ceiling of the club.

There are some big-name departures, most notably the Arkansas-bound duo of No. 1 starter Mason Molina and catcher Hudson White. Others include top reliever Brandon Beckel and the team’s leader in batting, Nolen Hester. The Red Raiders landed a top-25 recruiting class, though, and are well stocked in the lineup and on the mound.

Gavin Kash (.327, 26 HR) looks to build off a monster sophomore season while Kevin Bazzell (.348, 10 HR) makes the move behind the plate to replace White. Austin Green (.290, 12 HR), Gage Harrelson (.324, 45 RBI) and Tracer Lopez (.258, 31 RBI) return while Gonzaga’s Cade McGee (.293, 6 HR) slots in at third base. Add in some talented freshmen—TJ Pompey and Landon Stripling, notably—and you have a strong offensive core.

In the rotation, it’s the duo of Kyle Robinson (1-1, 5.36 ERA) and Zane Petty (3-2, 5.68) with quite a few options after them. Robinson was on Team USA this summer after a sophomore campaign in which he had 45 strikeouts in 45 innings and logged two saves. Freshman Mac Heuer was a 16th-round draft pick that made it to campus and is brimming with potential, while Trendan Parish (3-2, 6.00) and Taber Fast (1-0, 6.03) all could factor in there as well. Experience in the bullpen bodes well for improvement with the likes of Ryan Free (27 app, 4.11), Josh Sanders (19 app, 6.18) and Derek Bridges (11 app, 7.71).

4. Oklahoma State (41-20, 15-9)

Oklahoma State enters the 2024 season with 10 consecutive regional appearances under its belt—including back-to-back 40-win seasons that culminated in hosting opportunities—but haven’t advanced past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2019. It feels almost a certainty that Josh Holliday’s Cowboys’ club will reach the postseason, but improvements on the mound will be needed to see them advance further.

Lineup stalwarts Roc Riggio, David Mendham, Chase Adkison, Marcus Brown and Nolan McLean may be gone, but one should still expect a high-octane offense after ranking 20th in scoring (8.3 runs per game). Dynamic corner outfielders Nolan Schubart (.338, 17 HR) and Carson Benge (.345, 43 RBI) return alongside third baseman Tyler Wulfert (.327, 9 HR) and first baseman Colin Brueggemann (.333, 36 RBI). Schubart was co-Big 12 freshman of the year while Wulfert, a junior college transfer, earned Big 12 newcomer of the year. Mississippi State’s Lane Forsythe is an intriguing veteran pick-up to slot in at shortstop after posting a .755 OPS in 36 games last year.

More question marks are on the mound, where Oklahoma State posted a 5.48 ERA (105th) a season ago and saw five of their top six in innings pitched depart—including standout relievers Isaac Stebens and McLean as well as top starter Juaron Watts-Brown. How the Cowboys can mix-and-match newcomers and returnees to find success will be key. It’ll be a blend of new and old on the Cowboys’ staff, with Janzen Keisel (18.1 IP, 7.85 ERA) coming off a strong summer in the Cape Cod League and slotting into the rotation alongside junior college transfer Brian Holliday and High Point’s Sam Garcia (1-8, 7.57). Holliday went 10-0 with a 3.07 ERA and 141 strikeouts in 88 innings for the NJCAA champion JC of Central Florida. In the bullpen, expect familiar arms in Drew Blake (28 app, 5.46), Evan O’Toole (22 app, 4.99) and Gabe Davis (25 IP, 40 K) alongside Wichita State’s Robert Cranz (31.2 IP, 3.98).

5. Kansas State (35-24, 13-11)

Perhaps the biggest omission from the 2023 NCAA Tournament was Kansas State, landing instead in the “First Four Out” despite a strong season that saw the Wildcats finish fifth in the Big 12 and reach the conference tournament semifinals. Coach Pete Hughes had strong words for the selection committee, stating that they “failed” Kansas State while citing issues with RPI in a statement. Now, with a deliberately tougher 2024 schedule and a team peppered with talented returnees and star power, the Wildcats are set up to remove any doubt.

It starts on the mound, where Kansas State can confidently turn any close game over to All-American closer Tyson Neighbors (11 SV, 1.85 ERA) after he racked up 86 strikeouts in 48 innings. The rotation is headlined by veteran arm Owen Boerema (7-2, 5.06), reliever-converted-starter Ty Ruhl (4-4, 5.31) and junior college transfer Jacob Frost. Boerema fanned 95 in 85.1 IP last year, turning down a pro opportunity to return as the Friday night starter. Neighbors is joined in the bullpen by some key returnees—Mason Buss (50 IP, 3.78) and Andrew Evans (12 IP, 3.76)—while D-III transfer Josh Wintroub from Augustana (Ill.) put up gaudy numbers in 2023. He fanned 107 in 82 innings with a 2.52 ERA across 13 starts.

Offensively, the Wildcats do have to overcome a serious departure of power—Nick Goodwin, Cole Johnson, Cash Rugely and Roberto Pena combined for 43 home runs and 199 RBIs—but they have plenty of talented pieces. Kaelen Culpepper (.325, 10 HR) stands out and is joined in the infield by Brady Day (.356) and Wichita State transfer Chuck Ingram (.362, 9 HR). Culpepper thrived over the summer with Team USA and has skyrocketed up draft boards. Other key pieces are talented defensive catcher Raphael Pelletier (.257), outfielder Brendan Jones (.238), a Big 12 veteran in TCU transfer David Bishop (.214) and another D-III transfer in Southern New Hampshire’s Danniel Rivera (.365, 50 SB). Rivera will attempt to translate his power-speed combo at the next level after swiping 110 bags and hitting 22 home runs across 154 games.

6. West Virginia (40-20, 15-9)

This season will mark Randy Mazey’s final year at the reins of the Mountaineers, who are coming off what could be characterized as the program’s best year. Mazey, wrapping up 12 seasons in charge of West Virginia, built a team in 2023 that earned a share of the Big 12 regular-season title, tied the program record in wins (40) and saw 13 players receive all-Big 12 honors. There’s a lot to replace in Morgantown but reigning Big 12 player of the year JJ Wetherholt and an intriguing group around him figure to make it another strong year for the Mountaineers.

Wetherholt, the preseason favorite to be the No. 1 pick for the 2024 draft, slashed .449/.517/.787 with 16 home runs and 36 stolen bases in a fantastic sophomore campaign. Protection has thinned around the junior with Braden Barry, Caleb McNeely, Landon Wallace, Tevin Tucker and Dayne Leonard all gone. Still, the Mountaineers are expecting big things from first baseman Grant Hussey (.254, 14 HR) and Houston Christian transfer Reed Chumley (.392, 11 HR). Sophomores Logan Suave (.267) and Ellis Garcia (.260) are joined by junior college transfer Brodie Kresser and Texas-Arlington’s Ben Lumsden. As a freshman, Lumsden clubbed a team-high 11 home runs. It seems reasonable to expect a step back offensively from the club, but the potential of the group around Wetherholt is still high.

It’ll be life after workhorses Blaine Traxel and Ben Hampton—the duo combined for 190 innings a season ago—as well as the departure of closer Carlson Reed. The Mountaineers are optimistic about returnee Aidan Major (48 IP, 4.88 ERA) transitioning from the bullpen to the Friday night role, while newcomers Hayden Cooper (1-3, 5.06) and Tyler Switalski (8-5, 5.60) arrive from Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and Gardner-Webb, respectively. Switalski is in the mold of Traxel—a veteran, proven starter who can eat up innings after totaling 80 a season ago. Reed’s replacement is likely David Hagaman (38.1 IP, 3.52), who had success in Morgantown last year, while Maxx Yehl (28 IP, 3.54) and freshman Chase Meyer should have key roles. It’ll be interesting to see how West Virginia sorts its pitching staff out after the luxury of two workhorse starters.

7. Oklahoma (32-28, 11-13)

After a trip to the 2022 College World Series finals, the Sooners regressed in 2023. Despite finishing two games under .500 in Big 12 play, Oklahoma slipped into the NCAA Tournament before falling to East Carolina in the Charlottesville Regional. It was a disappointing encore, but one that bodes well for a bounce-back 2024 due to the talent returning.

Oklahoma’s starting nine will be formidable: Bryce Madron (.320, 12 HR), Kendall Pettis (.309, 17 SB) and John Spikerman (.270, 27 SB) form a talented outfield, while Anthony MacKenzie (.306, 21 SB), Easton Carmichael (.306, 48 RBI) and Jackson Nicklaus (.234) are other veterans. Madron has one of the best eyes in the conference, drawing 61 walks and posting a .468 on-base percentage in his first year with the Sooners. Newcomers include junior transfer Carter Frederick, who ranked fifth in the NJCAA with a .463 batting average, and freshman shortstop Jaxon Willits—the heir apparent to the departed Dakota Harris.

Improvements on the mound are needed after finishing 156th in ERA (5.97) and the Sooners will be replacing two-thirds of their weekend rotation. Sam Houston State transfer Braden Davis (5 SV, 2.78) is expected to shift into the rotation and has the makings of an ace, while Jamie Hitt (6-2, 4.89) saw his velocity jump. Texas Tech transfer Brendan Girton (2-2, 5.82) and junior college transfer Kyson Witherspoon (6-2, 3.10) are other arms to consider for the rotation, while freshman Jacob Gholston (No. 307 on BA 500) has high-quality stuff. Add in Wichita State’s Jace Miner (2-0, 2.05), Carter Campbell (6-4, 5.61) and Will Carsten (4 SV, 5.77) on the backend and you can see that Oklahoma has a lot of depth and experience to work with.

8. Kansas (25-32, 8-16)

Year one under Dan Fitzgerald was marked by change—the roster featured 26 newcomers—and a step forward, winning five more games and doubling the Jayhawks’ 2022 conference win total. Now, with another strong class of arrivals, Kansas is in prime shape to continue its rebuild. The Jayhawks could be characterized as a sleeper in the conference, particularly with a brand-new starting rotation, a strong lineup and confidence in the bullpen.

Four newcomers are in the starting rotation mix—two Division I veterans, a freshman and a promising junior college transfer. If they click, paired with an upperclassmen-heavy bullpen, the Jayhawks should improve mightily on last year’s 6.21 staff ERA. USC-Upstate’s Reese Dutton (10-3, 3.29 ERA) and Wichita State’s Grant Adler (5-4, 2.55) were excellent last year, while freshman Dominic Voegele has strong stuff and Evan Shaw posted a 13.1 K/9 and a sub-1.00 WHIP at Cochise (Ariz.) JC. St. Cloud State’s Ethan Lanthier aims to close—he fanned 25 in 18 innings during an all-star season in the Cape Cod League this summer—while Thaniel Trumper (30 app, 4.47) and Kolby Dougan (24 app, 5.40) are veteran arms back.

Offensively, it starts with Kodey Shojinaga—last year’s Big 12 co-freshman of the year. Shojinaga hit .418 in conference play and slashed .378/.421/.526 on the year with 17 extra-base hits. Other key returnees include Janson Reeder (.276, 12 HR), Chase Jans (.314, 10 HR) and Michael Brooks (.298, 8 HR)—who combined for 129 RBIs a season ago. The Jayhawks bolstered the group via transfers like St. Cloud State’s John Nett (.444, 20 SB), New Mexico’s Lenny Ashby (.381, 51 RBI) and junior college additions Chase Diggins (.434 at Odessa) and Ben Hartl (.420, 22 HR at Heartland). There’s a lot to like about Kansas—both on the mound and in the lineup—and if it translates in Big 12 play, the Jayhawks should be taking another big step forward under Fitzgerald.

9. Houston (36-23, 17-6 AAC)

A four-season regional drought after reaching three in four years belies the steady improvement in Houston—which will face a challenge as the Cougars make the jump to the Big 12. Houston has logged 37 and 36 wins in the last two seasons after a dismal 2021 and is aiming to continue a strong turnaround in what will be an unfamiliar conference.

While Tolle’s arrival in Fort Worth draws plenty of attention, Houston has a dynamic two-way player of its own in Justin Murray. The senior first baseman slashed .379/.422/.598  with 11 home runs and also logged 10 saves with a 49:10 K/BB and 3.07 ERA a season ago after transferring from Dartmouth. He’ll play a key part in the Cougars success this season. As will outfielder Cameron Nickens (.310, 38 RBI), catcher Anthony Tulimero (.258, 10 HR) and an array of newcomers. Maine shortstop Jake Rainess is the most intriguing after hitting .321 with 16 home runs and 38 stolen bases, while Arkansas’ Harold Coll (.232, 4 HR) and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s Tre Jones (.332, 6 HR) bring veteran experience.

Improvements on the mound are necessary after a 6.27 staff ERA, and the Cougars brought in some key arms to supplement the returnees in the backend. Murray and Owen Woodward (4 SV, 4.71 ERA) combined for 50 appearances a season ago and that experience will be pivotal. The rotation figures to be led by fresh faces—Alabama’s Antoine Jean (9.2 IP, 2.79 ERA on Cape) and 2023 14th-round pick Jaxon Jelkin out of South Mountain (Ariz.) CC. Jelkin could be a breakout prospect in Houston after an 11.7 K/9 across 75-plus innings last year. Other promising arms include returnee Paul Schmitz (1-3, 3.70), Presbyterian’s Duncan Howard (4-5, 5.68) and freshman Diego Luzardo.

10. UCF (33-26, 12-12 AAC)

Another newcomer to the conference and a new head coach. Greg Lovelady was let go after seven winning seasons—only making the NCAA Tournament in the first one—and the Knights tabbed UCF alumnus Rich Wallace to take over. Wallace, who’s no stranger to the Power Five after serving as an assistant under Link Jarrett at Notre Dame and Florida State, welcomed in quite a few newcomers for the program’s inaugural Big 12 campaign.

Four of the top six run producers have moved on, but the Knights should still have a strong offense. Catcher Andrew Sundean (.340, 16 HR) led the team with 54 RBIs a season ago, while first baseman Lex Boedicker (.266, 16 HR) and third baseman Andrew Brait (.286, 38 RBI) were reliable contributors. Wallace has built around that trio with transfers—West Georgia’s Anthony Calabro (.418, 14 HR at D-II level), Richmond’s Mikey Kluska (.325), Steton’s Andrew Estrella (.247, 8 HR) and Pittsburgh’s AJ Nessler (.293) are all experienced bats. The most intriguing addition is likely former Notre Dame slugger Jack Zyska, who clubbed 13 home runs back in 2022 for the CWS-bound Irish before an injury limited him to 17 games last year.

The bullpen is a familiar one for UCF fans with Kyler Kramer (8 SV, 3.96 ERA), Najer Victor (3-1, 2.88) and Chase Centala (2-2, 5.45) all back for another year. The rotation—with Ruddy Gomez and Cameron Leiter gone—will be led by Dominic Stagliano (4-5, 6.54), a junior with experience who fanned 70 in 64-plus innings. Wallace dipped into the portal to round out the rotation with two guys from high-profile programs—Florida’s Tyler Nesbitt (24.1 IP, 2.96) and Campbell’s Cade Boxrucker (42 IP, 4.50). Nesbitt missed a year due to injury with the Gators but showed plenty of potential, while Boxrucker would be making the move from the bullpen. There are several other intriguing additions on the staff, which should have enough depth to have a chance to compete in the Big 12.

11. Baylor (20-35, 6-18)

After three straight tournament appearances from 2017 to 2019, Baylor was among the first four out in 2021 and has only slid backwards from there. Rich Rodriguez’s era ended with the first sub-.500 season in five years and Mitch Thompson’s reworked roster finished with six Big 12 wins, the program’s fewest in a conference season. Series wins over Oklahoma and Kansas State were the highlights as Thompson begins to leave his mark on the program after being hired late in the recruiting cycle in 2023.

It’s expected to see the Bears improve offensively in 2023, but they’ll do so with another large group of new faces—and without dynamic shortstop Kolby Branch, an all-Big 12 freshman selection who led the team in a variety of categories and departed to Georgia. Baylor ranked 258th in scoring last season but returns a nice core of Hunter Teplanszky (.308, 6 HR), Gavin Brzozowski (.247, 5 HR) and Cortlan Castle (.299). The big addition is in the outfield, where Gonzaga’s Enzo Apodaca (.281) arrives after earning all-star honors on the Cape this summer. Wichita State’s Jack Little (.250, 10 SB) and Missouri State’s Mason Greer (.235) are useful pieces to slot into the infield. Branch’s replacement is Tyriq Kemp, a dynamic shortstop from Western Oklahoma State who hit .394 with 15 stolen bases last year, while other junior college additions potentially starting are Wesley Jordan (Navarro) and Ty Johnson (McLennan).

Bigger questions loom on the mound, where Lamar’s Patrick Hail (3-0, 3.38 ERA) is the lone Division I veteran addition. Thompson is trusting in steps forward for a lot of pitchers as well as freshman arms, but it wouldn’t be too difficult to improve on a 6.36 staff ERA. Mason Marriott (1-7, 7.52), Jared Matheson (1-1, 3.89) and two pitchers recovered from injury—Collin McKinney and Tanner Duke—figure to round out the rotation. Hail, Grant Golomb (37.1 IP, 4.34) and junior college transfer Will Glatch are the names to know in the ‘pen. Glatch could close after a great year at McLennan (Texas) JC, Thompson’s old haunts, as he had a 2.42 ERA over 26 IP with a 10.7 K/9.

12. Cincinnati (24-33, 10-14 AAC)

Jordan Bischel loves a rebuild: He took over Central Michigan in 2018—with the Chippewas last tournament appearance coming in 1995—and won 102 games across five years with three regional bids. Cincinnati, who won the AAC Tournament in 2019, is making the move to the Big 12 after back-to-back below-.500 seasons. But optimism is high that Bischel’s brand of baseball—high on-base percentages and frequent stolen bases—will translate quickly with the Bearcats.

It helps, of course, that unlike other instances of coach turnover, Cincinnati returns a solid core offensively. After Ryan Nicholson, the Bearcats retained the next nine hitters by at-bats in 2023. Kerrington Cross (.262, 9 HR) and Tommy O’Connor (.303, 8 HR) stand out, with the latter posting a 1.151 OPS in 70-plus at-bats last year. Alongside the group of returnees, Bischel brought in some veteran players in the portal that include Eastern Michigan slugger Josh Kross (.376, 15 HR), Indiana outfielder Hunter Jessee (.281) and a pair of his former middle infielders at Central Michigan—Christian Mitchelle (.307, 23 SB) and Luke Sefcik (.315, 13 SB). The offense (6.4 runs per game, 190th nationally) was below average a season ago but could be a strength this year.

Question marks abound on the other side of the ball, however. The Bearcats allowed over seven runs per game in 2023 and return less than 50 percent of innings pitched. Cincinnati will need to build a functional staff with a blend of newcomers and pitchers that’ll have to take a step forward. The weekend rotation figures to be Tommy Boba (2-1, 6.27), Kentucky transfer Seth Logue (0-0, 6.00) and Chase Horst (3-4, 4.99), while Chippewas’ transfers Ryan Insco (24 app, 4.22) and Michael Conte (3-1, 7.04) factor in the bullpen mix. The biggest question will be if Bischel and new pitching coach Josh Reynolds can develop a staff that can contain some of the conference’s potent lineups.

13. BYU (24-28, 13-14 WCC)

An injury-plagued 2023 campaign saw BYU’s swan song in the West Coast Conference end with a seventh-place finish and a sub-.500 record. The Cougars were top 60 in scoring, but a 7.47 staff ERA (254th nationally) sunk their chances. The biggest questions hanging over BYU are whether it can find enough improvement on the mound with a core group of returnees to handle its new surroundings in the Big 12—and if it can maintain those offensive heights after several key departures.

Bryce Robison (7-3, 6.64 ERA) returns to headline the weekend rotation alongside a pair of brothers: Ben Hansen (0-5, 6.71) and former Vanderbilt transfer Brett Hansen. The younger, Ben, had an up-and-down freshman campaign, while Brett returns from missionary work—making the rotation a bit unknown. There are several interesting pitchers after those three, though, most notably the team’s top reliever a year ago in Boston Mabeus (23 app, 3.25). Mabeus piled up a gaudy 49 strikeouts in just under 28 innings pitched and will be counted on out of the ‘pen with junior college transfer Stone Cushing, Cutter Clawson (19 app, 7.02) and Mason Olson (81.1 IP, 5.53).

2024 Top 100 Prospects

See the full Top 100 entering the 2024 season headlined by Orioles SS Jackson Holliday.

Top 20 2024 Draft Prospects:

1. JJ Wetherholt, 2B, West Virginia
2. Anthony Silva, SS, Texas Christian
3. Kaelen Culpepper, SS/3B, Kansas State
4. Kevin Bazzell, C/3B, Texas Tech
5. Carson Benge, OF, Oklahoma State
6. Kyle Robinson, RHP, Texas Tech
7. Tyson Neighbors, RHP, Kansas State
8. Janzen Keisel, RHP, Oklahoma State
9. Jared Thomas, OF, Texas
10.  Payton Tolle, 1B/RHP, Texas Christian
11.  Lebarron Johnson Jr., RHP, Texas
12.  Tanner Witt, RHP, Texas
13.  Ethan Lanthier, RHP, Kansas
14.  Gavin Kash, 1B, Texas Tech
15.  John Spikerman, OF, Oklahoma
16.  Kodey Shojinaga, 2B, Kansas
17.  Jalin Flores, 3B, Texas
18.  Carter Frederick, OF, Oklahoma
19.  Brady Day, 2B, Kansas State
20.  Braden Davis, LHP, Oklahoma

Top 10 2025 Draft Prospects:

1. Nolan Schubart, OF, Oklahoma State
2. Ben Abeldt, LHP, Texas Christian
3. Karson Bowen, C, Texas Christian
4. Gage Harrelson, OF, Texas Tech
5. Kyson Witherspoon, RHP, Oklahoma
6. Gabe Davis, RHP, Oklahoma State
7. Kole Klecker, RHP, Texas Christian
8. Logan Sauve, C, West Virginia
9. Easton Carmichael, C, Oklahoma
10.  Tommy Farmer, OF, Texas

Top 10 Newcomers

1. Payton Tolle, LHP/1B, TCU
2. Carter Frederick, OF, Oklahoma
3. Will Gasparino, OF, Texas
4. Tommy Farmer, OF, Texas
5. Chuck Ingram, OF, Kansas State
6. Josh Kross, 1B, Cincinnati
7. Brian Holliday, RHP, Oklahoma State
8. Enzo Apodaca, OF, Baylor
9. Grant Adler, RHP, Kansas
10. TJ Pompey, SS, Texas Tech

Best Tools

Best Pure Hitter: JJ Wetherholt, West Virginia
Best Raw Power: Gavin Kash, Texas Tech
Best Strike-Zone Discipline: Bryce Madron, Oklahoma
Best Athlete: Carson Benge, Oklahoma State
Fastest Runner: John Spikerman, Oklahoma
Best Baserunner: JJ Wetherholt, West Virginia
Best Defensive Catcher: Jake English, Kansas
Best Defensive Infielder: Anthony Silva, TCU
Infield Best Arm: Kaelen Culpepper, Kansas State
Best Defensive OF: Carson Benge, Oklahoma State
Outfield Best Arm: Porter Brown, Texas
Best Fastball: Tyson Neighbors, Kansas State
Best Breaking Ball: Tyson Neighbors, Kansas State
Best Changeup: Lebarron Johnson Jr., Texas
Best Control: Kole Klecker, TCU

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