#23 Rice Baseball 2016 Preview

Rice Owls
Overall Rank: #23
Conference Rank: #1 Conference USA
 Rice Logo
As usual, Rice had a solid season and was a force in the NCAA Tournament. The Owls bowed out of the Conference USA tournament after two games, but were able to stay close to home and place against Houston, Houston Baptist and Louisiana in the regional round. However, the Owls lost their opener to the Ragin’ Cajuns and got another crack at Louisiana in the regional finals, but that was following a 20 inning marathon win over Houston. After that, the Owls just had nothing left in the tank to make a push for the Super Regionals. Once again Rice will be a tournament team, but it remains to be seen if this group can recapture some of the magic that Rice had back in the late 2000’s.
2015: 37-22, 22-8
2015 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Wayne Graham
Field Players:
Rice will reload on offense and Charlie Warren, Ryan Chandler and Connor Teykl will lead the way. Warren batted .311 as a sophomore and will help set the table for the more powerful bats in the lineup. He could stand to be a little more patient at the plate and look for more opportunities to boost his on-base percentage. Chandler is not a power hitter either, but he belted a team high 17 doubles during his freshman campaign. He batted .302 and started all 59 games last season. He is only going to get better with that year of experience under his belt and Chandler should be in for a big sophomore season. Teykl joined Chandler as the only player to start all 59 games last season. The senior batted .291 with 12 double and two homeruns in 2015.
Blake Fox could turn into Rice’s ace this season. In 15 starts last season, Fox went 8-2 with a 3.30 ERA. Fox is not going to strike out a ton of batters and the opposition batted .287 against him and hit 16 doubles and six homeruns, so there is some work to be done. Glenn Otto only threw 41.0 innings as a freshman and started just two games, but he was impressive. Otto struck out 65 batters in those 41.0 innings and allowed just seven earned runs. He is ready for a much bigger role. Ricardo Salinas is the only other returning pitcher who threw over 20 innings in 2015, but Coach Wayne Graham will reload.
Who to Watch:
Coach Graham, as usual, has a nice group of freshmen coming into the program that will make an immediate impact. There are seven pitchers who will battle for innings, but it is perhaps a pair of catchers who will make the biggest impact. Both Dominic DiCaprio and Gavin Johnson earned national All-American accolades as prep players. DiCaprio was an All-State player in Florida and batted .443 during his senior season. He has some power to his bat too and that is what this team needs. Johnson has some pop to his bat too and hit a couple homeruns and totaled 20 RBIs during his senior season when he earned All-Texas honors for the second straight year.
Final Projection:
Rice will be tested early with a series against Arizona and a trip to Minute Maid Park to play Arkansas, TCU and Louisiana. There may be some growing pains throughout that stretch, but Rice’s younger players will mature quickly. And by the time Conference USA action begins in the middle of May, this group will be ready to win the conference and look to make a serious run in the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Ryan Chandler, OF/IF, 248
Hits: Ryan Chandler, OF/IF, 75
Home Runs: Connor Teykl, IF, 2
RBIs: Ryan Chandler, OF/IF, 34
Runs: Ryan Chandler, OF/IF, 43
Stolen Bases: Ryan Chandler, OF/IF, 5
Wins: Blake Fox, P, 8
Innings Pitched: Blake Fox, P, 79.0
Strikeouts: Glenn Otto, P, 65
Saves: 3 tied with 1