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2020 Baseball preseason position group grades

As we near the beginning of the 2020 campaign, we grade each position group headed into this season.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Florida State vs Texas Tech
Junior outfielders Kurt Wilson (8) and Dylan Neuse (9)
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 baseball season is just under a month away and with this season’s roster officially being posted, we will give each position group their grade going into the season.

Infield:

The Texas Tech infield was among the best in the country last season thanks to the tandem of Josh Jung, Cam Warren and Gabe Holt, the top three hitters for the Red Raiders in 2019. But, going into 2020, Tech could see a repeat of this success with rising star second baseman senior Brian Klein, who was a preseason All-America selection by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. Klein will also have the help of sophomore third baseman Dru Baker, who in his freshman season in 2019 had a batting average of .321, a slugging percentage of .445 along with bringing in 25 RBI’s and 3 home runs. The Red Raiders could also see the full potential of Miami transfer, sophomore shortstop Cal Conley, who hit for an incredible .475 average in 17 games during his senior year of high school.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Michigan vs Texas Tech
Sophomore Dru Baker (4)
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Tech also has a lot of promising freshmen coming into the 2020 season that could also drive up the production in the infield. But, the two most notable being the brother of Josh Jung, Jace, a shortstop and lengthy Nate Rombach at catcher. Jace could see himself in a position battle with Conley for the job in short but even if he’s not the everyday starter, he will still see some time in the field and in the batter’s box as the team sees fit. As far as Nate Rombach is concerned, the 6’4 catcher out of Mansfield, Texas shouldn’t have a problem breaking into the lineup, as Rombach hit for an average of .442 and 42 RBI’s his senior year and was also taken in the 19th round of the 2019 MLB Draft by the Miami Marlins.

The infield’s success also brought a total fielding percentage of .853 and could definitely see improvement over the course of this season.

However, the youth that this team has in the infield could also mean more mistakes being made in the field, bringing down production, but not by much.

Grade: A-

Outfield:

In 2019, the Texas Tech outfield was also very productive. The chemistry that juniors Dylan Neuse, Kurt Wilson and Cody Masters have makes them a lethal trio. Combining for a fielding percentage of .946 and 14 assists against just six errors. Sophomore counterparts Max Marusak and Tanner O’Tremba, who were both interchangeable in the outfield, should Neuse or Wilson be playing in the infield that game also proved themselves to be very productive. O’Tremba led the Red Raiders with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage, 34 catches, 32 putouts and 2 assists. Marusak also had success with a .979 fielding percentage, 47 catches, 44 putouts and 2 assists.

The outfield would also see plenty of success at the plate in 2019, with a combined batting average of .262, 20 home runs and 128 RBI’s. Now in 2020, the outfield could see a boost of production in the field and at the plate with freshman Dillon Carter, out of Argyle, Texas who hit for 4 home runs and 21 RBI’s with a .421 average his senior year. Along with fellow freshman Andrew Devine, who’s also a pitcher out of Simi Valley, California who would have an average of .443, with 12 home runs and would also record seven triples and 27 stolen bases during his senior campaign

I mentioned in my 2020 hot takes that the Texas Tech outfield could be the strongest unit on the team. I believe this will absolutely be the case if they’re consistent at the plate and develop better chemistry in the field. For me, I believe that the freshmen could have a hard time adjusting to division 1 hitters as they are exponentially better than the ones they faced in high school. Depth could also be an issue as there are just eight outfielders on this roster and it doesn’t seem like this unit could afford a couple guys going down due to injury.

Grade: B+

Pitchers:

Texas Tech has always been a force to be reckoned with when it comes to talking about pitching. Coach Tadlock has a knack for bringing in pitchers with high ceilings and making them among the best in not just the Big 12, but the country with the ability to compete on the highest stages of the NCAA Tournament and the College World Series. It was business as usual in 2019, the Red Raider pitching corps posting a total 4.01 ERA, a 46-20 win-loss record, and 632 combined strikeouts.

Sophomore Micah Dallas comes off an incredible 2019 campaign that could very well see him as the day one starter for the Red Raiders in 2020 with an ERA of 4.03, 84 strikeouts and a 7-2 record. Dallas would also receive Big 12 All-Freshman honors, All-Lubbock Regional team and would also become a member of D1 Baseball’s Freshman All-America Second team. Senior John McMillon is another returning right hander who would consistently hit 100 on the gun and would cement himself as a full-time reliever that went onto gain an honorable mention All-Big 12 and selected to the All-Lubbock Regional team. McMillon posted an ERA of 3.40, 67 strikeouts and a 4-3 record.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Michigan vs Texas Tech
Senior John McMillon (17)
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Freshmen pitchers will also be at a premium in 2020 with Tech reeling in seven pitching commits as part of the 2019 class. However, the most notable among the seven being previously mentioned Andrew Devine who would post an ERA of 0.48 with 98 strikeouts in 58 innings. Devine would also allow just four runs and would go 47 innings without allowing a run.

I believe that this Red Raider pitching corps will be among the best we’ve seen in recent years. The bullpen is very deep and with the leadership of Micah Dallas, it could help keep defensive momentum on the mound. However, the blow of losing senior Dane Haveman this past winter could leave a hole in the bullpen that could take a bit of the season to fill.

Grade: A