#4 Texas A&M Baseball 2016 Preview

Texas A&M Aggies
Overall Rank: #4
Conference Rank: #2 SEC
Texas A&M Logo 
Texas A&M was involved in some of the most exciting postseason baseball games last season…and they didn’t even make it to the College World Series. The Aggies hosted a regional and got off to a good start with a 5-0 win over Texas Southern. But then they lost a 14 inning pitcher’s duel 2-1 to Cal. After beating Coastal Carolina, the Aggies had to beat Cal twice to advance to the Super Regionals. In the first game, it was another extra inning thriller, but this time the Aggies landed on top, winning 4-3 in 12 innings. They won the deciding game 3-1 and were off to Fort Worth to play TCU in the Super Regionals. Following a 13-4 loss in game one, it looked bad for the Aggies, but they battled back, beating the Horned Frogs 2-1 in ten innings, forcing a third and deciding game. As if there were not enough extra innings, the A&M pitching staff was pushed to the limit with a trip to the CWS on the line in game three. But, unfortunately for the Aggies, they were on the losing end of a 16 inning 5-4 marathon.
2015: 50-14, 18-10
2015 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Rob Childress
Field Players:
The offense returns plenty of firepower, led by Nick Banks, Ryne Bird, Ronnie Gideon and Hunter Melton. Banks, a junior outfielder, is an SEC player of the year candidate after batting .364 with eight homeruns, 11 doubles and 48 RBIs. Birk is more of a pure power hitter. He batted just .275, which is not bad at all in the SEC, but pretty low for the Aggies who hit nearly .300 as a team. But Birk knocked ten balls out of the park and added 11 doubles and 35 RBIs. The team as a whole ranked third in the country with 70 homeruns last season and Gideon, with seven, and Melton, with eight, certainly helped in that regard. Losing Blake Allemand and Logan Taylor may mean this team will not reach 70 homeruns again, yet there is still a lot of power on this team.
Coach Rob Childress returns a lot of pitchers, but none of them are Matt Kent or Grayson Long. Those two both went 9-1 last season and easily led the team in innings pitched. Turner Larkins has the most starting experience, earning a dozen starts during his freshman campaign. He was inconsistent at times, but has plenty of potential. The expectations are higher for Kyle Simonds and Ryan Hendrix since they are upperclassmen. Simonds made five starts in 2015, going 3-2 with a 2.39 ERA. Hendrix made 23 appearances, with five starts, and posted a 3.66 ERA. Unlike Simonds, Hendrix can overpower opposing hitters. Junior college transfer Jace Vines could step into a starting role as well.
Who to Watch:
With plenty of options for the weekend rotation, Coach Childress will have a deep bullpen to work with. Andrew Vinson is a veteran senior who struck out 64 batters in 63.2 innings of work with a 2.12 ERA. He also tallied five saves. But the saves leader on the team was Mark Ecker. Now a junior, Ecker made 25 appearances last season and tallied eight saves. And then there is a player like Ty Schlottmann who is often overlooked. The lefty reliever made a team high 32 appearances, averaging less than one inning per appearance. But he has nice control and Coach Childress will use the depth he has in his bullpen to get the right matchup.
Final Projection:
The Aggies schedule, like any team in the SEC, is going to be tough. They do get LSU and Vanderbilt at Blue Bell Park, but they have to go to Gainesville to take on the Gators. That early April series against Florida could be the deciding factor in the SEC race. But Texas A&M could be reeling a little bit after that series too. SEC play starts at Auburn before LSU comes to town. And then it is off to face Florida. That is pretty brutal and it would be very understandable if Texas A&M started SEC play with a 4-5 record or worse. But they could also be 6-3 or better and be in great shape to make a run for an SEC title.
Projected Postseason: College World Series
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Nick Banks, OF, 239
Hits: Nick Banks, OF, 87
Home Runs: Ryne Birk, IF, 10
RBIs: Nick Banks, OF, 48
Runs: Nick Banks, OF, 51
Stolen Bases: Nick Banks, OF, 9
Wins: Ryan Hendrix, P, 6
Innings Pitched: Andrew Vinson, P, 63.2
Strikeouts: Ryan Hendrix, P, 69
Saves: Mark Ecker, P, 8
Madness 2016 Baseball Draft Rankings:

#7 Nicholas Banks