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Baylor Baseball

Baylor Baseball’s Offseason Notebook: Retaining Key Pieces to an Already Strong Lineup

June 7, 2024

After a disappointing second season for head coach Mitch Thompson’s Bears, it’s officially the offseason for Baylor baseball. Today, I’ll focus on the plan for the lineup and position players moving forward, and next week, I’ll discuss the plans for the pitching staff.

*all grade classifications after player names are what each of them will be next year*

On paper, Baylor has enough talent and experience to be an NCAA Tournament-caliber batting order next spring if everyone returns and stays healthy. As we saw with this past season, injuries decimated what could have been, at the least, a middle-of-the-pack lineup in the Big 12.

Jack Mackenzie - SicEm365
Baylor’s trio of outfielders – Enzo Apodaca (RSr.), Wesley Jordan (Sr.) and Ty Johnson (Sr.) – each finished in the top 50 in the Big 12 in batting average.

As of right now, I’m not expecting any attrition to key players in the transfer portal; however, there’s always the looming threat of star outfielders Enzo Apodaca (RSr.) and Wesley Jordan (Sr.) getting drafted and signing with a big-league club.

Assuming they both return, let’s start with the outfield, which will surely be the strength of Thompson’s 2025 squad.

Baylor’s trio of outfielders – Apodaca, Jordan and Ty Johnson (Sr.) – were all major bright spots throughout the spring. Each finished in the top 50 in the conference in batting average and on-base percentage.

At the top of the lineup, Apodaca was snubbed from All-Big 12 recognition but led the Bears in batting average (.333), runs (46), hits (70), extra-base hits (23) and RBIs (42).

Jordan earned Second-Team All-Conference honors and holds a team-long 34-game on-base streak going into the offseason. Had he not missed 10 games with a concussion, he likely would have finished the year with double-digit home runs instead of nine.

Johnson, the MCC transfer, put together a solid spring as well, notching the third-best batting average (.313) and on-base percentage (.393) on the Bears.

Jack Mackenzie - SicEm365
OF Hunter Simmons (Sr.) was 6-for-17 with four extra-base hits and 6 RBIs before being lost for the season with a leg injury.

Where things get interesting for next year is that outfielders Hunter Simmons (RSr.) and Gavin Brzozowski (RJr.) will be returning from injuries that forced them both to miss almost the entirety of the 2024 season.

Unlike Apodaca and Johnson, Simmons nor Jordan are above-average defenders, so the pairing will likely split time between left field and designated hitter. Before getting hurt, Simmons was on an absolute tear; he was 6-for-17 with four extra-base hits and 6 RBIs against four NCAA Tournament caliber teams – Nebraska, Oregon, No. 5 Tennessee and Lamar.

The path to clear playing time gets a little more complicated for Brzozowski, however. As a redshirt freshman in 2023, Brzozowski held a .247 batting average and was tied for second on the team in home runs (5). The Mansfield native appeared to figure things out offensively toward the end of the year, going 10-for-17 across his final five games.

Behind the plate, third-year starter Cortlan Castle (Sr.) will likely handle most of the catching duties. Castle has started over 30 games and notched a batting average above .270 in back-to-back seasons for the Bears. The coaching staff will also be relying on Brayden Buchanan (So.) to take a leap forward both behind and at the dish.

Jack Mackenzie - SicEm365
OF Gavin Brzozowski (RJr.) was practicing some at 1B last spring before being lost for the season with a knee injury.

Starting third baseman Hunter Teplanszky (Sr.) and shortstop Tyriq Kemp (Sr.) will be returning. Both had inconsistent seasons, but hopefully, they will be able to bounce back in 2025.

Coming off a strong sophomore season in Thompson’s first year as head coach, Teplanszky was viewed as a cornerstone to build around. In 2024, however, he hit .202 in conference play and led the team in strikeouts (58).

But at their best, Teplanszky and Kemp exhibited major flashes at the plate. During a 10-game stretch in late March, Teplanszky went 17-for-35 with 14 RBIs. Kemp, meanwhile, was 17-for-34 with seven extra-base hits across a 10-game stretch in April.

On the right side of the infield, second baseman Jack Little (RSo.) and first baseman Will Pendergrass (RSr.) will return from season-ending injuries. Little is an elite athlete who was slated to hit at the top of the lineup before getting hurt, and Pendergrass is a defensive specialist who can also hit for average.

3B Hunter Teplanszky (Sr.) had an up-and-down 2024 season offensively.

Little and Pendergrass have dealt with injuries across their collegiate careers and remain somewhat of a question mark. I anticipate the majority of the coaching staff’s time and resources going into bolstering the pitching staff this offseason. However, if a talented infielder falls into the staff’s lap and wants to play at Baylor, you adjust accordingly and take him.

It’s hard to imagine any of the freshmen making a major impact on a senior-laden team next spring, but if there were one or two names to keep an eye on, slugging first baseman John Youens (RFr.) could have an opportunity at a position of need and outfielder Hunter Snow (Fr.) is someone the coaching staff is very high on.

Other Reading: Baylor Baseball’s Biggest Needs in the Transfer Portal

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