#30 Arkansas Baseball 2016 Preview

Arkansas Razorbacks
Overall Rank: #30
Conference Rank: #9 SEC
 Arkansas Logo
Fresh off a trip to the College World Series, Arkansas is looking forward to another big season in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks went just 17-12 in the always tough SEC, but that prepared them well for the NCAA Tournament. Arkansas went to the Stillwater Regional and squeezed out three victories to sweep the regional. The Super Regional matchup against Missouri State proved to be more interesting. After crushing Missouri State 18-4 in game one, the Bears took game two. In the deciding matchup, Arkansas scored three runs in the top of the first and had to hang on to win 3-2. At the CWS, Arkansas was competitive, but lost to both Virginia and Miami to make their trip to Omaha a short one.
2015: 40-25, 17-12
2015 Postseason: CWS
Coach: David Van Horn
Field Players:
Arkansas boasted a very potent offense last season, but much of that was due to Andrew Benintendi. He is gone after batting .376 and leading the team with 20 homeruns and 57 RBIs. Tyler Spoon, who was second only to Benintendi with six homeruns and 54 RBIs, also needs to be replaced. But there is certainly talent returning. Rick Nomura belted four homeruns and batted .298 during his junior year. He was also one of the lone bright spots during the team’s trip to the CWS. Michael Bernal has some power to his bat too. The shortstop knocked four shots out of the park, two of which were grand slams. Clark Eagan though should emerge as the catalyst of the offense. He batted .288 on the year with 13 doubles, four triples and a couple homeruns. This group may not be as explosive without Benintendi, but they will still be very dangerous.
The Razorbacks return three players who started at least ten games last season. Keaton McKinney was the most effective of the bunch, going 6-2 with a 3.21 ERA. He is not a strikeout pitcher, but he has a big 6-5 frame and the potential is very high for the sophomore. Dominic Taccolini made 13 starts and finished with a 6-4 record and 67 strikeouts in 77.0 innings pitched. James Teague made 23 appearances and ten starts last season, but pitched just 59.0 innings. He has steadily been working his way up the Arkansas pecking order and could be in for a big junior season. However, the star of the Arkansas pitching staff is closer Zach Jackson. He is one of the top MLB prospects playing at the collegiate level right now. The 6-3 junior made a team high 27 appearances and, while largely used as a closer with his nine saves, Jackson also started three games. Overall, he pitched 60.0 innings and tallied 89 strikeouts with a 2.10 ERA.
Who to Watch:
Replacing Benintendi and Spoon will be difficult, but there are a couple players who have shown potential. Most notable is sophomore Carson Shaddy. He started just 14 games as a freshman, but tallied 30 hits in just 89 at-bats, including five doubles and three homeruns. He still may be a spot starter at catcher behind Tucker Pennell, but Shaddy should get more action in the outfield and could emerge as a key hitter for the team this year.
Final Projection:
Arkansas is building off of some great momentum and they should be able to keep that going. They are not going to dominate the SEC, but they will get tested plenty in conference play. Outside of a trip to Minute Maid Park to take on Rice, Houston and Texas Tech, the early part of the schedule will give Arkansas some time to sort things out for SEC action. While the SEC is tough, both Florida and Texas A&M come to Baum Stadium and the Razorbacks avoid Vanderbilt altogether. That means this is a group that should be able to stay above .500 in conference play and look to make another impressive tournament run.   
Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Clark Eagan, IF/OF, 229
Hits: Clark Eagan, IF/OF, 45
Home Runs: Rick Nomura, IF, 4; Michael Bernal, IF, 4
RBIs: Clark Eagan, IF/OF, 31
Runs: Clark Eagan, IF/OF, 45
Stolen Bases: Rick Nomura, IF, 3
Wins: Keaton McKinney, P, 6; Dominic Taccolini, P, 6
Innings Pitched: Keaton McKinney, P, 87.0
Strikeouts: Zach Jackson, P, 89
Saves: Zach Jackson, P, 9

Madness 2016 Draft Rankings:
#55 Zach Jackson