#26 Texas Baseball Preview

Texas Longhorns

Overall Rank: #26
Conference Rank: #2 Big 12
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It was a season of mixed results for Texas, which reached 30 victories for the season but didn’t quite get to the promised land known as the NCAA tournament. That was because Kansas, a team that was 12 games under .500 entering its matchup with the Longhorns, knocked out Texas in a Big 12 tournament elimination game. That sent the Longhorns back to the drawing board to plan for a 2013 season in which Texas hopes to do much better both overall and in the conference.

2012: 30-22, 14-10
2012 Postseason: None
Coach: Augie Garrido

Field Players:
The good news for Texas is four of the top five hitters return to the lineup. Erich Weiss was the only Texas player to hit over .350 during 2012, and Weiss finished with a .352-5-38 line and 10 stolen bases. Mark Payton, also a junior, batted .322-5-29 with eight steals, so some power returns to the lineup. Also back for more are Jacob Felts (.282-0-21) and Alex Silver (.262-0-19). Both Felts and Silver are average hitters rather than power sluggers, but it at least gives the Longhorns the chance to rely on a lineup with some average, power and speed attached to it. Jonathan Walsh is gone with his 11 stolen bases also having flown the Longhorn coop, so the team loses some speed and some power (.280-6-31).

Like with the hitting, four of the top five pitchers are back in the lineup. The one exception is Hoby Milner, who graduated in 2012 and took with him last year’s 7-4 record and 2.64 earned run average. Top pitcher Cory Knebel (4-5, 2.08, nine saves in 2012) returns for more, meaning two pitchers with sub-3.00 ERA’s will get their chance to work magic in the rotation. John Curtiss (2-3, 3.50) and Nathan Thornhill (4-5, 3.87) are also back. It should be noted none of the Texas pitchers are magical in terms of high strikeout totals, but the four returning top pitchers all have decent walk/strikeout ratios and should help the Longhorns stay in games more often than not.

Who to Watch:
A pair of sophomores may be an indicator of how well Texas does this season. On the hitting side Taylor Stell batted .333 in 25 games of action, but he stole six bases. Stell struck out 19 times in 60 at bats, a number Texas would love to see drop. Still, Stell is a decent bet to see more action in 2013. Pitcher Dillon Peters (4-1, 3.18) struck out 43 in just over 39 innings of work, and he had a decent walk/strikeout ratio. These players are apt to see more action as the season progresses.

Final Projection:
Things should get better for Texas this season. The team is a good bet to reach 30 victories and go a little longer in the Big 12 tournament, likely long enough to get that coveted NCAA bid. The difference between last year’s Longhorn team and a team that wins 35-40 games has to do with how well Texas replaces its graduates and fills in the blanks. Stell and Peters will go a long way, but some of the returning hitters need to ramp up the hitting and the pitchers need to get better quickly.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Mark Payton, OF, 208
Hits: Erich Weiss, IF, 71
Home Runs: Erich Weiss, IF, 5; Mark Payton, OF, 5
RBIs: Erich Weiss, IF, 38
Runs: Mark Payton, OF, 40
Stolen Bases: Erich Weiss, IF, 10

Wins: Hoby Milner, P, 7
Innings Pitched: Corey Knebel, P, 73.2
Strikeouts: Corey Knebel, P, 68; Hoby Milner, P, 68
Saves: Corey Knebel, P, 9

Madness 2013 MLB Draft Rankings:
#70 Corey Knebel
#95 Erich Weiss
#107 Mark Payton

Madness 2013 Baseball Recruit Rankings:
#41 C.J. Hinojosa


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