#18 TCU Baseball Preview

TCU Horned Frogs

Overall Rank: #18
Conference Rank: #1 Big 12
TCU College Baseball Top 44 Team Preview
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This is a season where we see whether change is good for the TCU baseball team. One thing that changed this season is the team’s address. Physically, everything is the same. The Horned Frogs are still in the Fort Worth area, but the conference address has shifted from the Mountain West to the Big 12. Even with the switch in conferences, TCU figures to be among the elite teams once again, especially since the Horned Frogs made it within one game of a trip to the College World Series.

2012: 40-22, 18-6 (Mountain West)
2012 Postseason: NCAA Super-Regionals
Coach: Jim Schlossnagle

Field Players:
The three top hitters on TCU’s team from last season are all gone, taking with them a ton of talent, not to mention home runs and stolen bases. No doubt Jason Coats, Josh Elander and Kyle Von Tungeln will be missed dearly. That leaves Derek Odell (.276-4-26) as the team’s most experienced starting hitter that returns to the active roster. Keaton Jones only hit .166 last season with 17 runs batted in, but he did steal seven bases. That will be crucial to TCU’s recovery efforts. With so many starters gone, some of the other players that didn’t play a full season will play a big role, including Kevin Cron (.338-6-34 in 43 games), Jantzen Witte (.315-3-22 in 43 games) and Jerrick Suiter (.310-0-20 in 44 games, with four steals). More hitting returns to the team in 2013 than meets the eye, but the cupboard looks a little bare because the top three guys are gone.

Where the hitting will be more hit and miss thanks to graduation and other losses, the pitching will be the Horned Frogs’ bread and butter in 2013.  Preston Morrison (9-2, 2.08 ERA) had a very strong walk/strikeout ratio (12 walks, 72 K’s), and Stefan Crichton (9-2, 3.41) didn’t post a strong ratio but he still had a solid won-loss record. Brandon Finnegan (4-5, 3.47) also returns, as does Andrew Mitchell (5-3, 3.74, 101 strikeouts). Having all four top hurlers back solidifies the rotation overnight and the good news is these players have one or two years more eligibility remaining, barring entry into the MLB Draft. Two of the top relievers are gone in Kevin Allen and Kaleb Merck, but Justin Scharf (4-2, 3.23, four saves) returns for his final season. This is definitely not TCU’s weakness in 2013.

Who to Watch:
Twelve freshmen were on the TCU fall lineup, skewing the relative age of this team downward. All 12 bear watching, but it is Morrison who will gain the most notoriety as the season gets underway. Morrison was already voted as a preseason All-America candidate. He was also voted Freshman of the Year and Pitcher of the Year in the Mountain West. Sure, the Horned Frogs are switching conferences, but with strong pitching like this it bears repeating that TCU won’t be in trouble. Of the 12 freshmen, keep an eye on Colton Turner, who went 5-2 on the mound and hit .420 at the plate while at Round Rock High School in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Final Projection:
TCU has proven it belongs in the other Big 12 sports so far. This sport is no exception. A strong pitching staff, combined with just enough hitting, will put the Horned Frogs over the top in 2013. The team will have a rough start to its schedule with three-game sets against both Ole Miss and Cal State Fullerton, teams ranked similar to TCU in the College Sports Madness preseason poll. Its second Big 12 series of the season is against Oklahoma. The Horned Frogs should start strong and hit 40 wins once again if its early stretch proves less taxing.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Derek Odell, IF, 174
Hits: Kevin Cron, IF, 51; Jantzen Witte, IF, 51
Home Runs: Kevin Cron, IF, 6
RBIs: Kevin Cron, IF, 34
Runs: Derek Odell, IF, 30
Stolen Bases: Keaton Jones, IF, 7

Wins: Preston Morrison, P, 9; Stefan Crichton, P, 9
Innings Pitched: Preston Morrison, P, 112.2
Strikeouts: Andrew Mitchell, P, 101
Saves: Justin Scharf, P, 4

Madness 2013 MLB Draft Rankings:
#62 Andrew Mitchell
#124 Stefan Crichton

Madness 2013 Baseball Recruit Rankings:
#19 Mitchell Traver


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