#14 TCU Baseball 2016 Preview

TCU Horned Frogs
Overall Rank: #14
Conference Rank: #2 Big 12
TCU Logo

The Horned Frogs are fresh off of a College World Series appearance, but will be looking to replace several key members in all three categories. Can they overcome the loss of a special ace, dominant closer, and outstanding center fielder and reload, or will Jim Schlossnagle have a rebuild on his hands?
2015: 51-15, 15-5
2015 Postseason: CWS
Coach: Jim Schlossnagle
Field Players:
TCU graduated the entire middle of their defense, and one of the best leadoff men in the country. But there are some exciting young pieces in the pipeline that should be able to step in immediately and fill those shoes. Sophomore Connor Wanhanen is one of the most exciting young hitters in the country, and will likely take over first base as well as continue his role in the middle of the lineup. The reigning Big XII freshman of the year hit .329 a year ago, and will look to add more power to his game in 2016. Protecting him in the lineup is another sophomore, and one of the better catchers in the Big XII, the big swinging Evan Skoug. A year after mashing seven dingers, he should be even better in year two for the Frogs. Seniors Nolan Brown (who will miss the first month of the season due to injury) and Dane Steinhagen will be counted on to lock down the defense in the outfield, and build on promising seasons a year ago. Brown will likely take over for the departed Cody Jones at both center field and in the lead-off spot once he returns from injury.
Ace Preston Morrison and closer Riley Ferrell have both moved on to the pro game, but 6’7” junior Mitchell Traver and the very promising Preston Guillory both return. Two Brians - Trieglaff and Howard combined to go 7-0 in 2015, and will help to solidify the rotation. TCU also boasts a couple promising freshmen who could see quality mound time this spring - lefty Dalton Horton and righties Dalton Brown and Luken Baker have unlimited potential and should be stalwarts for years to come.
Who to Watch:
Skoug is a fun player to watch - he swings for the fences more often than not, and is pretty successful at it. Connor Wanhanen is another excellent young player that will likely slide over from full-time DH to everyday fielder, and his bat should only get better with an off-season to get physically stronger. But the name to watch is one of the top recruits in the nation and a kid that was a likely first round pick in last summer’s draft, had he not made it clear to MLB teams he was all in on TCU - true freshman two way player Luken Baker. The 6’5” standout was the Texas Player of the Year, and was equally adept on the mound as he was at the plate in high school. He will compete for a weekend starting role and Coach Schloss will find ways to work him into the everyday lineup as well, either at first or as a DH.
Final Projection:
TCU has shown the ability to retool on the fly, and while they lost a lot of production and some special arms from their World Series run a season ago, there’s no reason to believe that this team can’t make a second consecutive run to Omaha, if they find consistency at pitcher from the returning veterans. While they may not be one of the final eight, anything less than a long tournament run would be a disappointment for Jim Schlossnagle’s squad, regardless of who they are replacing.
Projected Postseason:  NCAA Baseball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Evan Skoug, C, 256
Hits: Connor Wanhanen, DH, 71
Home Runs: Evan Skoug, C, 7
RBIs: Evan Skoug, C, 46
Runs: Nolan Brown, OF, 46
Stolen Bases: Nolan Brown, OF, 19
Wins: Mitchell Traver, P, 9
Innings Pitched: Mitchell Traver, P, 76.1
Strikeouts: Mitchell Traver, P, 77
Saves: Preston Guillory, P, 2
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#3 Luken Baker
#6 Ryan Johnson