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Baylor Baseball

Baylor Baseball's Offseason Notebook: Hitting & Defense

May 25, 2023

Exit meetings have all but wrapped up, and it’s officially the offseason for the Baylor baseball program. 

I’m expecting around a third of the 2023 roster to enter the transfer portal, which will officially open Tuesday, May 30. 

Today, I’ll focus on the offseason plan for the lineup and position players, and on Monday, I’ll discuss the pitching staff.

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As a true freshman, Branch led the #Bears in batting average (.325), runs (49), hits (69), doubles (17), home runs (6), RBIs (41) and on-base percentage (.430).

Offensively, Baylor is in a much better position moving forward.

And to quell any fears about potential exits, coach Mitch Thompson said in an interview Monday with John Morris that SS Kolby Branch (Fr.), 3B Hunter Teplanszky (So.), OF Hunter Simmons (Jr.), UTL Cole Posey (Jr.) and C Cort Castle (So.) will all be returning, which is great news.

Starting with Branch (Fr.) and Teplanszky (So.) at the top of the lineup. They are both All-Big 12 caliber players and proved to be the best bats on the team in their first season as full-time starters.

Defensively, Branch handled shortstop about as well as you could for a true freshman, but he’s probably better slotted at second base long-term. 

It would be optimal if Branch could move back to second and Western Oklahoma State transfer Tyriq Kemp could take over the reins of the shortstop position. Kemp will give the lineup a much-needed jolt of speed while also being able to hit for average.

Teplanszky on the other hand, struggled for much of the season at third base but registered only one of his 13 errors over the final month of the season.

If the last couple of weeks were a sign of what’s to come, he’d be more than adequate at the hot corner. It’s been teased Teplanszky could potentially try and play first base, a position of need for Baylor, but with his arm talent, he could also slot into a corner outfield position.

Simmons (Jr.) was solid in his first season in Waco and was fourth on the team in batting average (.297) and hits (47) and tied for second in RBIs (34).

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Posey is capable of playing multiple positions and can be used in a super-utility role next season for the Bears.

The issue with Simmons, however, is that he struggled to play an above-average left field. It’s not that he can’t play outfield, but he’s probably best suited for DHing. If he’s reserved to only designated hitter, it could potentially create a log jam at the position.

Moving forward, I see INF Cole Posey (Jr.) as the super-utility guy on next year’s roster. He can play each outfield position but played second base for the majority of 2023. The Georgetown native was third on the team in on-base percentage (.397) and was hitting .306 on April 25 before dropping to .279 to finish the season.

Then you have two younger guys who really came on later in the year in Castle (So.) and OF Gavin Brzozowski (R-Fr.). 

Castle finished on a torrid pace, going 19-for-56 at the plate, and finished third on the team in batting average (.299). The Waco Midway product earned Honorable Mention All-Big 12 and hit .393 in conference play.

Brzozowski picked up nine base knocks in his final 17 plate appearances and ended the year with a .247 batting average and a .367 on-base percentage.

While Castle has firmly established himself as a solid player moving forward, there is a lot of excitement about incoming freshman C Brayden Buchanan from Austin Vandergrift. Many view him as a “can’t miss” talent and believe he can make an impact from the moment he steps on campus.

Veteran guys Daniel Altman (Jr.) and Will Pendergrass (Jr.) can also be valuable players next season.

Jack Mackenzie - SicEm365
Altman picked up six hits in his final 14 plate appearances.

Altman played well to finish the season, and Pendergrass appeared to lock down the 1B role in March before being lost for the season with an injury. Pendergrass should be returning, and it’ll be interesting to see where he slots in.

Ty Johnson, an incoming transfer from MCC, will likely be Baylor’s starting center fielder next season. Johnson earned second-team all-conference honors for the Highlanders and hit .364 and had a stellar .488 on-base percentage in 2023.

Then you have three other incoming JUCO guys that you don’t know what to expect from: Wesley Jordan (OF, Navarro), Luke Nail (OF/1B, San Jacinto) and Brayden Evans (1B, Wharton). As well as four other freshmen: Dillon Lester (C/INF), Chase Womack (INF), John Youens (OF/LHP) and Michael Herndon (OF/LHP).

I would imagine more than a few of those guys will be impactful players and it’ll be interesting to monitor them throughout fall ball.

Even though you can never have enough depth, I don’t feel like Thompson will have to endlessly scour the portal for offensive talent this summer. I believe the offense will be the team's strength as long as the core remains intact, which all signs point to that being the case.

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