In 2020, Texas Christian had a team with an extremely high floor and a roof that could have been made for the College World Series if things broke properly.
In 2021, the frogs will drive it back with basically the same group of players. This time the floor is even higher for the club. It is difficult to imagine a scenario, which excludes catastrophically bad injury happiness, where TCU is no better than a year ago, and with a couple of extremely talented recruitment classes that joined the fight in the last two years, the ceiling is also higher.
These are five urgent questions for TCU ahead of the upcoming season.
Who is the biggest breakout candidate on the pitch staff?
According to coach Jim Schlossnagle, we should look at third-year sophomore left-hander Austin Krob.
Last season, Krob excelled in a relief role, throwing 11.2 pointless rounds with 15 strikes compared to just four walks and a stroke average of 0.179 opponents. His best performance of the season came in TCU’s victory over UCLA, which also happened to be his last appearance in 2020. In that end, he threw 3.1 pointless rounds, giving up two hits and a walk of five strikes.
If the season were to start today, Krob would have a place in the tournament this weekend, which is not a small feat given the depth in beating Horned Frogs back in 2021. And in fact, had the 2020 season continued, Krob could have earned a spot on a time last season.
“(Krob) really gained confidence and was probably on his way to the rotation, and he has taken it and really run with it,” said Schlossnagle. “He’s definitely going to be in our rotation. Who he takes, I’m not sure yet. Austin Krob is a name you will really start to hear a lot about. ”
TCU has had a good period with left-handed throws in its recent history, from people like Matt Purke and Brandon Finnegan to Nick Lodolo recently, and Schlossnagle believes Krob has a chance to be as good as the guys.
If the left-hander ends up fulfilling that promise, he’s suddenly the kind of workhorse ace you want in front of an Omaha caliber rotation.
How will the rest of the rotation shake out?
We now know that Krob is in a good position to lock down one place in the tournament, and that already makes it a crowded competition given that the team also returns all three members of last season’s weekend trip in fourth year sophomore remnants Johnny Ray, fourth year on second-hand left-back Russell Smith and fifth-year seniors Charles King.
But Schlossnagle and pitch coach Kirk Saarloos have a number of other options beyond the four pitchers, and honestly, the planning format for the 2021 season can make it a requirement to have four or five starting options you feel really good about.
“A lot of this is going to be dictated by what the college baseball season looks like, not just in the number of games, but also how it’s structured,” Schlossnagle said. For example, you’re probably starting to hear a lot about conferences talking about four-game weekends, so playing four games in a weekend will surely either reveal how deep your pitching staff is or the lack of depth in it. So for us, shoot, I hope we get to play five games a week, because at least for the moment I’m not saying we’ll be perfect or that we’ll even be the best, but I like the number of boxes we have and how skilled they are, and I just want enough innings for them to keep shining and help us win games, and especially for the younger players, to help them develop. “
Two other pitfalls to look at in the competition are second-year novice licensees Riley Cornelio and Jacob Meador, who were both highly regarded recruits who arrived ahead of the 2020 season, pushing for time on the mound at this time last year.
Cornelio was one of the most talented players in the draft of 2019 to end up on a university campus. He worked primarily as a midfield starter for the Frogs last season, and despite some issues with trips, he ended up with a 0.87 ERA of 10.1 innings. Currently the 60th ranked college prospect for the 2021 draft, he has the talent to push for a bigger role in 2021.
Meador did not have much buzz on arrival at TCU, but he quickly established himself as a competitor for big rounds in the spring, and as the 2020 season approached, he was in the thick of the race for a weekend rotation spot. In the end, he struck off relief and appeared in three games outside the bullpen, but it would not be a shock to see him back in the mix to start games next season.
That is not to say about a recent group of newcomers from the country’s 13th ranked recruitment class that includes licensees Cam Brown, Storm Hierholzer and Braxton Pearson, who were all ranked in the BA 500 that went into the draft.
When it comes to starting pitching, TCU has opportunities. It is always a good problem to have, but especially to enter a 2021 season where there is some uncertainty about the season’s format.
Ranking 25 Bounce-back candidates in College Baseball for 2021
In our last top 25, we rank college baseball teams and players who will most likely enjoy the seasons in 2021.
Is there a power conference program more experienced than TCU?
It’s hard to imagine that there is a more experienced power conference program out there, as TCU welcomes a whole host of players who have been in college baseball for five or more years.
Right-wing King, Fellow Dalton Brown, left-hander Haylen Green, outfielder Hunter Wolfe, catcher Zach Humphreys and infielders Austin Henry, Conner Shepherd and Gene Wood have all played at least five seasons at the college level.
And beyond being simply experienced, every player in this group has been a big part of TCU’s club at some point in the past, and maybe everyone will play a big role in 2021. When it comes to winning at a CWS level, talent wins out, but when you have as much talent as TCU does, being extremely experienced can be a separator.
“Older players, they’ve been around the block, so nothing phases them,” Schlossnagle said. “If they have a bad day, it’s just the next day. They manage to get to the middle. They never get too high, they never get too low, but they also have a great hunger because we still have four players, I think, who were on our last (College) World Series team, so they are able to pass these on. messages, but many of the older players were boys who were signed with the intention of getting us back to Omaha. They know the standard here. ”
Will newcomers be able to break through?
On the one hand, with the level of experience TCU is returning, it seems unlikely that this would be a team of newcomers in the immediate lead role. On the other hand, Schlossnagle and his staff have now put a top five recruitment class and a top fifteen class on campus for the past two years, and it seems reasonable to expect that there will be breakout stars from these player groups.
Although he refused to mention which first-year students are the ones who have achieved the recognition, he mentioned that the competition for playing time has been such that if the season started today, there would be a couple of cases of newcomers starting over sitting players.
“The selflessness of some of our older players can be tested because we in a team that returns many older players have some young players who really push for not only playing time, but an opportunity to be in the lineup on opening day,” said Schlossnagle . “The opening day is not here, but if the opening day was today, we would definitely start two novice position players, and maybe three.”
Depth is already going to be a strong point for this TCU team, but having a couple of freshmen jump into big roles right away, and therefore pushing some returning veterans to part-time or utility roles, will take depth to the next level.
Who is a breakout returning player to look at in the lineup?
Third-year freshman Porter Brown stands out here. At this point in his career, he has had nothing but incredible bad luck. As a beginner, he was on a track that Schlossnagle thought at the time could end up being named this year’s Big 12 beginner, only to have the season shorter due to injury after 16 games.
In 2020 he got off to a slow start, but before he could get started again, the season was canceled, and he decided to hit .189 / .283 / .302 when everything was said and done. He was also set to play this summer in the Cape Cod League, but those plans were dropped when Cape canceled the season.
Brown’s potential has been clear from the moment he arrived at TCU, but injuries and general misfortune have prevented him from showing it. He and the rest of the Horned Frogs hope that 2021 will be his breakout season.