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Baylor Baseball

Baylor Baseball: Top Three Questions Heading into Fall Ball

October 5, 2023

With fall ball starting last Monday, Sept. 25, let’s look at some of the biggest questions facing the Bears heading into Year Two of the Mitch Thompson era.

Even without Kolby Branch, will the offense be improved?

On paper, the answer to this question is yes. Even after losing Freshman All-American Kolby Branch to the transfer portal, there are a lot of reasons to be excited about the lineup.

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Enzo Apodaca (RJr.), a transfer outfielder from Gonzaga, will be one of Baylor’s best players this upcoming season.

The incoming outfield transfers include Ty Johnson (MCC, Jr.), Enzo Apodaca (Gonzaga, RJr.) and Wesley Jordan (Navarro, Jr.). 

Johnson had a .364 batting average and a .488 on-base percentage at McLennan last season. Apodaca was a Freshman All-American at Gonzaga and an All-Star in the Cape Cod League this offseason, one of the premier summer ball leagues in the country. Jordan is a slugging corner outfielder and designated hitter who hit .333 with 16 home runs last season at Navarro.

The incoming infield transfers who will likely be starters are Tyriq Kemp (Western Oklahoma, Jr.) and Mason Greer (Missouri State, 5Sr.). Kemp is a hitting machine that has legit pop for his 5-foot-7, 150-pound frame. Greer is a slugging first baseman who played under Thompson at MCC in 2021 and hit .322 with 17 home runs and 66 RBIs across 62 games.

Third baseman Hunter Teplanszky (Jr.) will arguably be Baylor’s best player this season. Teplanszky was second on the team in runs (34), hits (53), doubles (11), RBIs (34), total bases (86) and on-base percentage (.406) behind Branch. If he takes his game to another level, he could be an All-Big 12 type player.

Utility player Cole Posey (Sr.) had the third-highest on-base percentage on last year’s team (.397) and will also be returning. Posey provides value with his ability to play multiple positions.

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Cort Castle (Jr.) earned All-Big 12 Honorable Mention in 2023.

Outfielders Gavin Brzozowski (RSo.) and Hunter Simmons (Sr.) are coming back, and both should be expected to take a step forward. Brzozowski finished the season with a .247 average but got on base at a .367 clip. Simmons had the fourth-highest batting average (.297) on the team and is a valuable piece in the lineup.

Behind the dish, Cort Castle (Jr.) is coming off a solid sophomore campaign in which he hit .299 and earned All-Big 12 Honorable Mention. Incoming freshman catcher Brayden Buchanan was one of the higher-rated recruits in the 2023 class and has so far lived up to the billing this fall.

Which newcomer pitchers will emerge?

The lack of proven arms has been my main concern all offseason, and I’ve reiterated it many times. This summer, Thompson only brought in one pitcher from the transfer portal – Patrick Hail (RJr.), a 6-foot-6 righty out of Lamar.

The lack of pitching additions surprised me, to say the least; however, this coaching staff genuinely feels confident in the fresh set of arms they added back from injury and from the incoming class – Collin McKinney (RFr.), Tanner Duke (RFr.), Sam Crain (Blinn, Jr.), Will Glatch (MCC, Jr.), Jackson Elizondo (Fr.), Mason Green (Fr.), Stephen Sepulveda (Fr.) and Jackson Wilkerson (Fr.).

Jack Mackenzie - SicEm365
Baylor’s 2023 pitching staff had the seventh-highest ERA (6.36) among Power Five schools. 

Ultimately, the ceiling or floor of this team will depend on where the young arms take them. On paper, it’s hard to imagine this year’s pitching staff being worse than the 2023 squad that had the seventh-highest ERA (6.36) among Power Five schools. 

For example, it’s crazy to think that, hypothetically, Sam Crain could have a 5.00 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP as a Sunday starter and be a significant upgrade over Blake Helton (8.35 ERA, 2.02 WHIP) or Cam Caley (8.63 ERA, 1.92 WHIP).

I would argue that there’s definitely more upside with this roster’s group of arms, but again, with so much unproven talent, there’s really no way of responsibly predicting anything this early on.

What’s your take on the current roster?

As mentioned previously, there’s a lot more upside with this team. The majority of players on this year’s roster are Thompson’s guys and not leftovers from the previous coaching staff. 

Jack Mackenzie - SicEm365
Baylor currently has 51 players on the fall roster that will have to be trimmed to 40 by the start of the season.

Thompson's impact on roster-building is starting to be felt. There’s size everywhere, which is far different from how former coach Steve Rodriguez built his teams.

When people see this squad, they’ll be impressed. Personally, I don't feel like Thompson or assistant coach Zach Dillon have to convince me that they are building something; I can see it with my own eyes now.

In addition to that, the momentum is also growing on the recruiting trail. Thompson just landed TJ Woodson, a “game-changer” shortstop prospect in the 2025 class. There’s a lot to be excited about moving forward for Baylor baseball.

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Baylor Baseball: Top Three Questions Heading into Fall Ball

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