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Baylor Baseball

Baylor Baseball Season Preview: Top Three Impactful Freshmen

February 8, 2024

As Baylor baseball’s Opening Day matchup against Nebraska (Feb. 16) at Globe Life Field approaches, it's time to start breaking down the roster, plus the biggest storylines and questions heading into the 2024 season. 

Today, we’ll assess the top three impactful freshmen. So far, we’ve looked at the top returners, the top newcomers, the top wildcards and the top questions surrounding head coach Mitch Thompson’s squad going into Year Two.

*Heights and weights are from Baylor’s fall roster.*

Brayden Buchanan | C | Austin, Texas | Vandergrift HS | R/R | 6-1 | 220

As one of the higher recruits in the 2023 class, freshman catcher Brayden Buchanan’s arrival at Baylor has been long anticipated. As the former starting quarterback at Vandergrift and sitting at 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, Buchanan has all the physical and intangible tools you’d want behind the dish. Throughout fall scrimmages, he exceeded my expectations with his defense and approach at the plate.

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Thompson has mentioned that catcher Brayden Buchanan and first baseman John Youens have impressed throughout the fall and early spring.

At some point, Buchanan will likely have the opportunity to be the Bears’ backstop of the future. For now, however, Buchanan will have to sit in line behind returning veteran catchers Cort Castle (Jr.) and Harrison Caley (Sr.). The positive for Buchanan is that the catching position requires more rest than playing left field, for example, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get some opportunities to show what he’s made of in midweek games this spring. There’s also the possibility he could get some time at first base or designated hitter.

As an aside, I do think Buchanan has a very high ceiling, but you can never really predict how each freshman will adjust to the Power Five level, and very rarely is it a seamless transition. The point is there’s no reason to worry or temper expectations if he’s not the starting backstop next Friday against Nebraska – these things take time.

As for other young position players, Thompson has also mentioned that local product John Youens from Bosqueville has had some strong moments throughout the fall and early spring. Youens has a powerful swing from the left side and could potentially see some time at either first base or designated hitter.

Jackson Elizondo | LHP | San Antonio, Texas | Smithson Valley HS | R/R | 5-10 | 210

As I’ve said ad nauseam throughout the offseason, Baylor will have to rely on its young pitching a ton this spring. I’m not aware of a clear pecking order between the freshman arms at this current moment, but I know that lefty Jackson Elizondo was one of the more reliable guys throughout the fall.

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Thompson has nine underclassmen pitchers that will likely see time on the mound this season, including six true freshmen.

Elizondo has a relatively easy delivery and won’t overwhelm you with velocity (88-90 mph), but he has good pitch ability and has some nice offspeed stuff. He strikes me as a guy who will be able to perform well in the middle innings this spring. After having just one scholarship lefty arm on the roster last season, Thompson will be able to pick his spots with Elizondo and fellow freshman left-handed pitcher Jackson Wilkerson.

Again, as a caveat, you can project things as much as you’d like, but once those lights turn on and you’re playing against a real team for wins and losses, it’ll be interesting to see how these guys perform. And with a much tougher schedule right out of the gate, the young arms will likely see some high-leverage situations almost instantly.

Stephen Sepulveda | RHP | El Paso, Texas | American HS | R/R | 5-11 | 185

Stephen Sepulveda was another freshman who had some good moments in the fall but also had some low lows. Pitching coach James Leverton mentioned that in Sepulveda’s last two outings in the fall, he looked like a completely different pitcher.

The El Paso native took that momentum into the spring, and his first outing after being back was “electric.” Sepulveda has one of the highest ceilings of any of the freshmen and would be a huge boost to Thompson’s squad if he can be a reliable guy from the get-go. He’s currently sitting in the low-to-mid 90s with his fastball and has touched 94 miles per hour.

Aside from Elizondo and Sepulveda, Wilkerson produced a strong fall and will likely get some opportunities early. Other names include Mason Green (LHP), Jack Surdey (RHP) and ​RJ Ruais (LHP).

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Baylor Baseball Season Preview: Top Three Impactful Freshmen

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