Next season, the Texas Longhorns will have to replace starters at catcher, first base, shortstop, and likely third base, center field, and right field. It’s possible that head coach David Pierce could get David Hamilton back for a second attempt at his junior season, and DJ Petrinsky is expected back as well, but Ryan Reynolds, Duke Ellis, and Austin Todd are likely to move on to the professional ranks. Designed hitter Zach Zubia is also draft eligible.
So expect Pierce to lean heavily on a group of incoming recruits to fill those openings and possible openings. After the season ended last week against Oklahoma, Pierce mentioned five players by name:
Among UT’s incoming freshmen, Pierce is high on infielder Brenden Dixon, utility players André Duplantier II and Sanson “Trey” Faltine III and catcher Silas Ardoin. The Longhorns also received a verbal commitment from San Jacinto College infielder Camryn Williams on Friday.
Let’s look at what those players will bring to the program.
Brenden Dixon | INF | 6’1 | 1956’ | Argyle HS
Infielder Brenden Dixon continues the trend of Pierce landing talented football players who also excel on the diamond — Dixon was an All-District defensive back in each of his first three seasons at Argyle.
“Brenden is a very polished player and has done nothing but win while at Argyle High School,” Texas assistant Phillip Allen said when Dixon signed. “An All-State player in two sports, Brenden brings that competitive nature that we are always looking for. He is a very good offensive player that should end up in the middle of our lineup very soon.”
Pierce believes that Dixon can help anchor the infield in future years thanks to his athleticism and leadership abilities. The 6’1, 195-pounder hit .400 as a sophomore and .417 as a junior with nine triples and three home runs for an Argyle team that went undefeated on its way to a state championship.
Committed to the University of Texas, Brenden plays beyond his years. He commands attention immediately thanks to his confident body language, live body and passion for the game that shows through in his actions. He has very good eye/hand coordination and combines that with a clean move through contact to square up balls with some authority at the plate. He doubled and tripled in game play, both to the middle of the field. Defensively he anticipates well, has a good first step and shows dependable hands. Profiling now as an offensive second baseman, it will be interesting to see this impact prospect develop.
The question is where Dixon fits — Lance Ford looks like the future at second base and it’s still possible, though perhaps unlikely, that Hamilton returns for that second chance at his junior season. And there’s also Bryce Reagan, though he struggled so much in the field and at the plate that it’s difficult to feel confident about his future at Texas.
So Ford and Dixon could end up competing for the two middle infield spots if Hamilton doesn’t return, with the better fielder ending up at shortstop. Several other players on this list could be in that mix, too.
Silas Ardoin | C | 5’11 | 190 | Lake Charles (La.) Sam Houston
Silas Ardoin’s father, Danny, spent 15 years playing professional baseball, including playing 80 games for the Colorado Rockies in 2005. Now his son already has a reputation as an excellent defensive catcher as he prepares to begin his college baseball career.
“Silas is a very polished catch-and-throw type catcher that really understands the position,” Allen said. “His father was a big-league catcher and you can tell Silas has grown up around the game. With his advanced approach to the game we look forward to getting Silas on campus.”
Pierce views the 5’11, 190-pounder as a player who could become “a very good gap-to-gap hitter” at Texas. This spring, Ardoin showed some of that potential in earning Louisiana Prep Baseball Player of the Week honors after hitting three home runs and three doubles in 13 at bats.
The most important contribution he could make is behind the plate, where the Longhorns struggled in 2019 following the injury to Petrinsky. If Ardoin does end up as the team’s best defensive catcher — a strong possibility given that his high-end pop times are around the Major League average — his rise would allow Pierce to move Petrinsky to first base, where Texas has a need.
André Duplantier II | RHP/INF | 6’2 | 198 | Humble Summer Creek
Duplantier comes to Texas as a strong-armed infielder who is also expected to pitch for the Longhorns.
“Dré is a very physical kid that has the ability to pitch and hit for us,” Allen said. “His pro future is probably on the mound but we are looking forward to seeing if he can do both for us. He is an upper 80s low 90s pitcher that has a plus slider right now. We feel like he is just scratching the surface with how good he could be on the mound.”
In fact, for as much upside as Duplantier has as a pitcher, the looming departure of Reynolds leaves Texas a little thin at that position, though it’s possible Sam Bertelson could emerge there as a junior.
Andre is a SS/RHP who is a prospect at both positions. At the plate - he has strong/centered balance with fluid rhythm to load. He takes an absolute hack - crushing the ball to the deep parts of the park. In the MIF, he has plus lateral range, working from the ground-up with smooth actions. Transfer is quick as he fires strong throws (93 mph velocity) zipping across the diamond. He continues to show as an upside on the bump. This righty has a 3 pitch arsenal in which to keep hitters guessing. Arm strength has improved as he threw his top velocity to date at 90 mph. FB jumps out of his hand and shows with arm side run. Breaking ball displays 11/5 shape with late break. He maintains arm speed on his changeup with sinking action. He works tall and drives downhill, repeating well. Control is solid as he throws strikes with all his pitches. Andre will play at a very high level and make an immediate impact, possibly as a two-way guy.
Sanson “Trey” Faltine III | RHP/UTIL | 6’2 | 195 | Fort Bend Travis
Like Jake McKenzie did at Texas in 2018, Faltine is capable of playing all nine positions and did so at Travis during his high school career.
“I would argue that Trey is the most versatile player in the country,” Allen said. “He has represented Team USA on several occasions and plays all over the field for them. He is very, very athletic and can really run. The great thing about him along with all his tools is how well he knows the game and much he loves to play. He is a very polished pitcher that is only going to improve his stuff as he continues to grow and add weight. He legitimately can play any position on the field, but I’m looking forward to see how well he does at shortstop when he shows up on campus.”
So consider Faltine another candidate to compete for the starting shortstop job with the potential to play third base and pitch, as well. Or he could fill an outfield spot if necessary. When someone can play all nine positions, there are a lot of possibilities.
Strong two-way talent who hasn’t defined himself positionally yet. 6.53 runner, has very athletic actions in the middle infield with soft hands out front and plenty of arm strength across the diamond, light on his feet and very balanced. Right handed hitter, hits from narrow base with a static load in back, rotational swing with a middle of the field contact approach, has the athleticism to improve as a hitter. Up tempo delivery on the mound, long arm action with good arm speed, stays on line well. Fastball topped out at 92 mph with good cutting action at times. Very good feel for spinning the ball, threw just a curveball this outing but has shown slider potential in the past, nice sinking change up, has a feel for spotting and changing speeds.
Camryn Williams | INF/OF | 6’2 | 190 | San Jacinto College
The most recent addition to this list, Williams pledged to Texas last week. A Florida native who was drafted in the 39th round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners, Williams hit .262 in 26 games, including 14 starts, with Dallas Baptist in 2017, then appeared in seven games last season, hitting .333. At San Jacinto this year, he hit .331 with eight home runs, 12 stolen bases, and drew quite a few walks, so he’ll bring a nice combination of power, patience, and speed to the Texas lineup, though he is draft eligible again.
With so much competition at the shortstop position, the best fit for Williams is likely in center field, where he’ll be the favorite to take over for Ellis.
What stands out about this group overall is the amount of athleticism and versatility that is available. Texas will get bigger, stronger, and faster with this group of talented players. And if guys like Duplantier and Faltine struggle at the plate, as Kamron Fields has during his time at Texas, they will still have opportunities to make a difference for the program. In total, the class has four two-way players, which should reduce the bust potential in the class overall.
The best player in the Texas class is Lake Travis third baseman Brett Baty, but he’s projected as a first-round pick in several weeks. His stock may take a bit of a hit because he’ll turn 20 in November, but that also provides him more incentive to turn professional this summer, even if he slips into the back half of the first round. Even in the unlikely event that Baty does choose Texas, he’ll be draft eligible again next year anyway.
Another aspect of the 2019 recruiting class that deserves some discussion is the group of pitchers — in addition to a number of right-handed pitchers, some of whom can also hit and play in the field, Pierce and his staff signed four left-handed pitchers.
During the 2019 season, senior left-hander Brandon Ivey was one of two left-handers on the roster and the only one to make any appearances. Because Ivey had such average stuff, he wasn’t particularly effective against right-handed hitters, leaving Pierce with limited options late in games. In fact, not having a quality option or two from the left side out of the bullpen helps explain some of the late-game meltdowns.
Next season, however, Peter Hansen, Chase Lummus, Sam Walbridge, and Austin Wallace will all join the fold, with Lummus possessing a strong changeup and Walbrdige intriguing “angle and stuff” aided by his 6’5 frame and long arms.