2010 Big 12 Baseball Preview -- Return to the Promised Land

Baseball is around the corner for the University of Texas Longhorns, and that means we can start packing our bags and booking flights to Omaha for late June.  We are roughly only 120 days away from The University of Texas officially annexing Rosenblatt Stadium into our athletic department and facility.  Ladies and Gentlemen, we will return to the Promised Land soon.


The Big 12 is not going to be nearly as strong in recent years and with Texas' recent topping of the preseason polls, we can expect to see not much resistance from our conference in our quest to be just 1 game better than 2009.  With that being said, keep in mind that this is baseball.  Anything can happen.  We all know that from last years postseason with games that took 25 innings and the best pitching performance by anyone to wear burnt orange, and also games that needed to be walked in in grand-style.  So lets take a look into an early preview of the Big 12 teams for 2010 and we'll see who poses the best chance to take away our title of Big 12 Champions.  Preview after the jump.

NOTE: This really is a down year for the Big 12 in terms of quality teams, so for this posts' sake, I'm going to assume that Texas is going to win the Big 12, as I see no other teams out there who can challenge us.  Especially against Augie Ball.  Lets just pray we dont pull Keyes for Ta(i)nt Sheppard anymore.  I'm going to list and preview each of the 9 remaining teams in the Big 12 in order of expected finish.  (Yes, only 10 teams play baseball)

----2nd in Big 12: The Texas A&M Aggies

In my opinion, the team that poses the greatest threat to take away our spot on top of the Big 12 mountain in 2010 would be The Texas A&M Aggies.  Last year they started off 2009 much like we are this year--on top of the polls.  They had a great returning squad from 2008 backed behind an outstanding starting pitcher in Brooks Raley.  They did great in non-conference play last year, but as soon as they started playing in the Big 12 away from College Station, the wheels came off.  They ended up losing 11 road games and had a poor showing in the Ft. Worth Regional, effectively ending their season.  Their bright side?  They return alot of talent and expect to have enough hitting to help support their question marks on pitching. 

Key Returning Starters:
-SO, LHP, Ross Hales (the guy who destroyed us last season with a CG/SHO in May)
-SR, 2B, Brodie Green (Great offensive power)
-JR, 3B, Caleb Shofner (Great contact hitter with power)

Expectations:  The Aggies will have decent firepower, but outside of Hales, there are alot of question marks on their rotation.  They recruit well and will have a shot in the postseason, but chances are slim for them advancing past the regionals, unless they develop others to replace the loss of their top 2 starters on the mound.

----3rd in the Big 12: The Kansas Jayhawks

Two words: Tony. Thompson.  This kid is the real deal and quite possibly the best offensive player in college baseball this year.  After a decent season last year, the Jayhawks will bring back alot of firepower to the plate for 2010.  Thompson is joined by Brian Heere, and Robby Price, both JR's, and both expected to make great strides to compliment Thompson in the middle of the order.  Kansas loses a few pieces in pitching that they must replace starter Shaeffer Hall and closer Paul Smyth but the cupboard is far from bare in Lawrence this year.

Key Returning Starters:

-JR, 3B, Tony Thompson (Triple Crown Winner in the Big 12 in 2009, tops in preseason lists for 2010)
-JR, OF, Brian Heere
-JR, RHP, T.J. Waltz (Will be their Friday starter)

Expectations:  This depends on a few things.  First of all, Thompson cannot do it by himself.  He's a Kyle Russell in a nutshell, but with better offensive weapons around him.  Price and Heere need to be more selective and become more of a contact hitter, as their averages were low last year.  Also, KU needs to find others to help out Waltz on the mound.  If they can do this, they will be a scary team come late April and May.  They have a shot at Omaha, but pieces need to fall perfectly, and in baseball, that is a rarity in itself. 

Tony Thompson...pitch him outside

----4th in the Big 12: Oklahoma State Cowboys:

Yeah I can't believe I put that either.  After having a decent run in 2008, they absolutely imploded in 2009 finishing with a 9-16 record in the Big 12 and failing to even qualify for the tournament.  They were bad, very bad.  But they have a chance with some very good returning talent to vastly improve their shot at making the postseason this year.  They return about as much people as Texas does, the only difference is the fact that we're very very good and they don't have anyone that is proven yet.  Give them time.

Key Returning Starters:
-SO, RHP, Randy McCurry (One of the best closers in the Big 12)
-JR, 2B, Tom Belza (Great defender with deceiving power at the plate)
-JR, C, Kevin David (Honorable Mention All-Big 12 last year)

Expectations: Low.  That is why I have them so high.  This is tightly knit group and they will play very hard to keep their coach's job safe for at least another year until they become on of the best in the Big 12.  I have OSU ranked 4th because I believe they will surprise a few teams this year and they will find their way into the 64 Road to Omaha.  This is all a hunch, and for all I know, they could very well finish dead last.

----5th in the Big 12: Oklahoma Sooners

I'm sure a few folks north of the Red River who will not be happy about this prediction, but I feel that last years' success will be very hard for OU to replicate much less build on.  They lost as many as 10 players who contributed to alot of time on the field from last years 2nd place finishing squad in the Big 12.  Finding someone to replace a JT Wise, Jamie Johnston, and an Andrew Doyle will be too much for OU to muster and I see them falling behind this year.  This isnt to say that we should take them lightly.  Not the case one bit.  OU returns some decent talent and a few Junior College transfers who are expected to make a push in the lineup and could very affect the way the team plays in May.  I don't expect to see OU in the postseason, but it wouldn't be the craziest of things I've seen in baseball.  Talent is there, time isnt.

Key Returning Starters:
-SO, 3B, Garrett Buschele (Big 12 Freshman of the Year)
-JR, OF, Ryan Duke (16 saves last year)
-JR, RHP, Zach Neal (Helped lead Howard College to a 64-1 record last year)

Expectations: Not much optimism.   I think Neal isnt ready for the big stage yet, and OU just lost too many folks to recover.  This will be a rebuilding year for OU in just about every sport, so I really dont expect to see OU in contention come June.

----6th place in Big 12: Kansas State Wildcats

KSU takes a blow to the gut this offseason as they, unlike their friends in Lawrence, did NOT get to keep their best player in AJ Morris.  Not only losing Morris to the Nationals (congrats 40AS), but they ended up losing their other top starting pitchers Lance Hoge and Todd Vogel, which leaves the cats in hot water.  They're going the Snyder route on the diamond as well by picking up some JUCO kids (which is a very smart thing in college baseball, unlike football) and plug them into the holes that were left.  KSU will have a decent bullpen, which is a good thing because I'm sure they'll go to the early and often in the season until they find a real weekend rotation.  They've got a few guys like Martini and Meunster who can provide some pop at the plate.  I hear they go well with Olive and Pinot. 

Key Returning Starters:
-SO, OF, Nick Martini
-JR, 3B, Jason King
-JR, SS, Carter Jurica (2nd Team All Big 12)

Expectations: Meh.  They have too many voids left by last years team, and I fully expect this team to finish in the mid-bottom tier of the conference.  They have a plethora of JUCO kids to takeover but I don't expect them to have the pitching dominance they did a year ago after the losses of Morris, Hoge and Vogel. 

----7th place in the Big 12: Baylor Bears

Da Bears have too many holes to fill from a depleted roster, much like OU.  They lose their top 3 hitters from last season in Dustin Dickerson, Shaker Hanson, and Ben Booker, as well as losing two very good pitchers in Kendall Volz and Aaron Miller.  Baylor is going to have to find a bullpen outside of Logan Verrett unless they enjoy being at the cellar of the Big 12. 

Key Returning Starters:
-SO, RHP, Logan Verrett (Stellar Freshman year at 7-1 with 3 saves)
-SO, 2B, Joey Hainsfurther
-SR, 3B, Royne Campbell

Expectations: Very low.  The Bears have to replace 5 out of their 10 starters from a year ago, and it does help when only 1 is going to be an upperclassman.  Their schedule isn't that tough, but they still shouldn't expect to have an impact in the Big 12.  Watch out for Hainsfurter as he is clearly the bright spot on a below average team.

----8th place in the Big 12: Nebraska Cornhuskers

What the hell happened to the Children of the Corn in 2008?  It was an awful year by any standards and downright abysmal for Husker expectations.  The Huskers' main problem last year was pitching as their team ERA was well above 6.00.  The good thing for Nebraska is that they return a bulk of their players from last year.  The bad thing for Nebraska is that they return a bulk of their players from last year.

Key Returning Starters:
-SR, OF, Adam Bailey
-SR, 1B, Tyler Farst
-FR, RHP, Thomas Lemke

Expectations:  After finishing dead last, you cannot go anywhere else but up right?  Lets hope so.  The Big 12 isn't the Big 12 without UT and NU duking it out in May.  Adam Bailey will be an all conference player, but after that they have so many question marks across the board.  They need someone to step in and become a starting pitcher throughout the whole year.  Consistency is the key for NU and I expect them to find it, but it will be too late in the season to make an impact. 

Coach Anderson on the hot seat?

----9th place in the Big 12: Texas Tech Red Raiders

New Head Coach Dan Spencer did a decent job in Lubbock last year by adding on 3 more wins to Tech's Big 12 record than the previous year.  The bad news, 12-15 still isn't going to cut it.  Spencer has gone out and grabbed a few JUCO guys to fill the holes at right field and 1B, and they have a decent trio of power in the middle of the order, but they need to consistently improve across the board on the mound.  This takes time and it happen in the next couple of years but 2010 is not that time.

Key Returning Starters
-SR, RHP, Chad Bettis (Team USA pitcher, good stuff)
-SR, SS, Joey Kensworthy
-SO, DH, Scott Lejeune

Expectations:  A rebuilding year on the mound for Tech.  They have a solid foundation on offense and expect to be in alot of games, but I do not think they have the depth at pitching to be able to win most series.  They may take a Friday game, but they just dont have enough juice to stop teams with decent offenses for the rest of the weekend.  Kensworthy and LeJeune are good bats and will proved insurance for JUCO transfer Scott Hagan who had an NCAA best 29 HRs last season.  Watch out for him.

---10th place in the Big 12: The Missouri Tigers

The worst hitting team in the Big 12 last year lost all of their best hitters.  Thats about all I have to say about that.  Unlike in football, baseball rarely ever sees addition by subtraction.  Missouri lost way too many quality pitchers from a year ago, and it will be up to Nick Tepesche to keep his team afloat.  Its going to be difficult to try and replace two outstanding outfielders in Greg Foglia and Ryan Lollis.

Key Returning Starters:
-JR, RHP, Nick Tepesche
-SR, 1B, Aaron Senne
-SO, INF, Connor Mach

Expectations: Implosion.  The Tigers just will not have the stuff this year.  They have no pitching and their offense is much worse than they were a year ago which was pathetic.  They make us look like the Yankees on Offense.  Expect Tepesche to be overworked by April and the team to fall apart after that.  I feel Missouri will fall to the bottom of the Big 12 and stay there for a couple of years until they get a new hitting coach. 

I don't plan on doing an in depth preview of UT's team, because I feel that 40AS will have much more to say on it and most likely will do a much better job than I will.  Any comments/questions/complains....please let me know, and I hope you enjoy this break from the depressing UT basketball team.  Hook em!







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