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Baylor Baseball

Baseball Season Preview: Top Three Questions

February 2, 2023

With Baylor baseball’s season opener against Central Michigan being two weeks away, it's time to start breaking down some of the biggest storylines and questions heading into the 2023 season. 

Today, I’ll break down what I believe are the three biggest questions the Baylor team will face this season.

Where will the offense come from? 

It’s anyone’s best guess as to what the state of the Baylor lineup will be two months from now, much less two weeks from now. Mitch Thompson said the pitching staff was the strength of the team, and as for the lineup, it may be more of a wait-and-see approach.

It’s no secret that losing Jared McKenzie, Jack Pineda and Kyle Nevin to the MLB and Tre Richardson to the transfer portal is a massive blow to the Bears’ offense. 

Jack Mackenzie - SicEm365
JUCO transfer Hunter Simmons is the likeliest option to have a breakout season on offense. 

The only returning player with significant at-bats from 2022 is sophomore first basemen and designated hitter Casen Neumann. And in Neumann’s case, he only had 72 at-bats last season. 

The positive news is that while the 2023 lineup will lack the star power in the top four spots, the lineup one through nine should provide more depth.

For much of last season, Baylor’s starting left-fielder, starting third baseman and starting designated hitter combined for a .210 batting average, one home run, 46 RBIs and 45 runs. 

However, while this year’s lineup should be deeper on paper, virtually none of the projected starters on the 2023 squad are known commodities. It will be fascinating to watch this storyline throughout the season.

D1 Baseball’s Opening Day lineup:

C: Castle or Caley

INF: Pendergrass/Branch/Teplanskzy/Stracener

OF: Simmons/Posey/Brozowski/Altman

DH: Neumann

Will a consistent third starter emerge?

While this section contains a lot of what-ifs, there are two things that are clear.

Blake Helton will be the Friday starter this year and will be really good. Will Rigney will return at some point this season and will give the team “a big, big shot in the arm,” according to Mitch Thompson.

But until Rigney returns, likely sometime around the start of Big 12 play, there are two spots in the weekend rotation that need to be filled. 

Those two spots will likely be decided between Cam Caley, Mason Marriott, Kobe Andrade and Jared Matheson.

Baylor Athletics
Caley pitched three innings in Friday’s scrimmage and did not allow a hit or ER.

In last Friday’s intrasquad scrimmage, Caley started the game on the bump for the Green team. In only three innings of work, Caley outdueled Blake Helton and did not allow a hit or an earned run.

Marriott is another pitcher that the staff has praised throughout the fall and spring. However, throwing strikes consistently was an issue that plagued Marriott’s freshman season. The Houston native totaled 26 walks in 25.2 innings pitched. 

As I noted last week on Adrade, “When injuries and question marks began to pile up to the weekend rotation last March, Andrade valiantly stepped into the Saturday role and was fantastic for the first month. From March 19 to April 15, Andrade totaled 29.1 IP, 10 ER, 18 H, four BB, a 3.07 ERA and struck out 11. 

In his last three starts of the season against Texas, Texas Tech and Kansas State, Andrade allowed 20 ER, 22 H, eight BB and struck out five in 12 innings pitched.”

I only saw MCC transfer Jared Matheson pitch once in the fall, and he got hit around a little bit. However, Mitch Thompson thinks highly of him and included Matheson as one of the guys he can trust heading into the spring.

Personally, outside of Helton, I’m not exactly sure what to expect from the weekend rotation. Caley and Marriott appear to have taken steps forward throughout the fall and spring, but how will that translate into Big 12 games?

Andrade showed at times last season that he could be a more than capable starting pitcher, but can he replicate what made him so successful early on last season?

If any of those players can emerge as a consistent third starter, the ceiling of this Baylor team will be significantly raised. But this team will also desperately need Blake Helton to stay healthy and Will Rigney to return from injury and not suffer any type of setback health-wise.

Will the bullpen be better in 2023?

I don’t have near as many concerns about the bullpen as maybe a majority of you do after witnessing the disaster of last season. The reason for that is I have a lot of trust in pitching coach James Leverton, and the bullpen should have more depth this season. 

Veteran guys like Cole Stasio and Brett Garcia have seemed to take steps forward on the mound. And other veterans such as Chandler Freeman, Travis Hester, Hambleton Oliver and Anderson Needham have looked solid throughout the fall and spring.

Junior pitchers Adam Muirhead and Grant Golomb will return, and they were both arguably the best options out of the pen down the stretch last season. 

Jack Mackenzie - SicEm365
Junior RHP Chandler Freeman will look to bounce back after a disappointing 2022 season. 

Transfers Andrew Petrowski, Gabe Craig and Jared Matheson all remain wildcards heading into the season. Matheson has a funky arm angle from the right side that is sometimes difficult to hit. Craig has a nasty breaking ball but sometimes struggles to throw strikes. Petrowski’s fastball reaches up to 95-96 mph and is easily Baylor’s most powerful arm, but how consistent will he be throwing strikes?

Freshman Blake Rogers will have plenty of opportunities this season to show off his ability. I wrote that last week, “At 6-foot-6, Rogers has great command for a true freshman, can hit the strike zone consistently and has the ability to force a ton of ground balls. Under James Leverton’s pitching program, D1Baseball reported that Rogers touched anywhere from 88-91 mph on his fastball this fall.”

Unlike last year, there will be options and depth in this year’s bullpen. And I think that gives Baylor a strong advantage in Mitch Thompson’s first year.

Discussion from...

Baseball Season Preview: Top Three Questions

1,833 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 1 yr ago by STxBear81
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Unless something has drastically changed from fall to spring, Andrade moved to CF exclusively and won't be pitching this season.
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Maybe so Cameuax, I don't see how he doesn't pitch 3-4 innings a week at minimum. So he should be involved as a Pitcher more so than CF. He is a good defender so late inning replacement could be an option. No idea what this staff will actually do.
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