It is officially February and one thing is on the minds of Red Raider Nation: baseball is back. As we get closer to the Valentine’s Day match-up against Houston Baptist, we predict Coach Tadlock’s lineup for Opening Day. I predicted the lineup in my 2020 season preview, but because practices have been in full swing, we’re definitely due for another prediction. Besides, predictions are fun.
1. Easton Murrell, Junior, 3B, Last Season: .262 AVG, 3 RBI, 1 HR
In my first prediction, I had Murrell in the 1 slot and that didn’t change here. The transfer from Arkansas started in just 12 games last season and showed a lot of patience at the plate with a 10:12 ball-strike ratio. Murrell also had an on-base percentage of .436 and a slugging percentage of .381. Keeping Murrell in the #1 spot in the lineup will allow the Red Raiders to start comfortably in their first at-bat and in turn, give the rest of the lineup a chance to see how opposing pitchers operate.
2. Cody Masters, Junior, OF, Last Season: .290 AVG, 28 RBI, 5 HR
Masters was initially slotted in the #4 spot but I decided to move him up. Masters was incredible in his sophomore season in 2019, being a very important part in a team who won their third Big 12 title in four years and made their fourth run into the CWS in six years. The junior made 40 starts with 25 in the DH spot and then 14 in left field. Moving up in the lineup allows Tech to catch opposing pitchers off guard with the patience of Easton Murrell, then seeing the often hot bat of Cody Masters.
3. Dru Baker, Sophomore, DH, Last Season: .321 AVG, 25 RBI, 3 HR
All I did here was move Baker down 1 spot from his initial spot at #2. The sophomore’s bat was consistent all throughout last season. As a freshman, Baker started in 32 games with a .445 slugging percentage and an on-base percentage of .395. I figured giving the Red Raiders a one-two punch with the bats of Baker and Masters early will allow Tech to get the rest of the lineup swinging.
4. Brian Klein, Senior, 2B, Last Season: .315 AVG, 57 RBI, 3 HR
The senior has had quite the preseason, being named an All-American a number of times and rightfully so. Klein had a solid junior campaign in 2019, being the only Red Raider to start in all 66 games and having 24 multi-hit games which had him fourth on the team in that category. Klein’s ability to pick his pitches is unlike anything I’ve personally ever seen. He also obtains an incredible ability to steal, making clutch runs during the CWS to keep Tech in the game and put themselves into scoring position. Putting the only other senior on the roster in the cleanup spot is undoubtedly the right thing to do based on his 2019 campaign.
5. Cal Conley, Redshirt Freshman, SS, HS Senior Year: .475 AVG, 22 RBI, 2 HR
The anticipation for Conley coming into this season is very high. The transfer from Miami sat out last season per NCAA transfer rules but is ready to go in 2020. In his senior season at West Clermont High in Ohio, Conley was virtually unstoppable when on base as he scored 24 runs and went 11-13 in stolen bases. Placing Conley in the #5 spot gives him the ability to sit in the middle of the lineup and give the Red Raiders a boost as needed.
6. Dylan Neuse, Junior, OF, Last Season: .298 AVG, 51 RBI, 8 HR
Neuse’s 2019 was among the best in the Big 12. Being one of three unanimous selections to the preseason All-Big 12 roster coming into 2020 is just the first of many nominations to come to the junior this year. Neuse started in 63 games and recorded six RBI’s in his first seven games on the roster along with two grand slams. Placing Neuse along with Conley gives Tech an unprecedented chance to get runs on the board.
7. Dillon Carter, Freshman, OF, HS Senior Year: .417 AVG, 21 RBI, 4 HR
Coming out of high school, Dillon Carter was one of the highest rated recruits in the 2019 class. Carter was incredible during his senior year at Argyle High School, being named MVP of the state championships along with being named to the TBCA All-State first team. Carter also led his team to a 77-1-1 record in his last two seasons at Argyle. Placing Carter in the 7 slot not only gives him time to adjust to division 1 pitchers, but it can also be a surprise to opposing teams who haven’t seen just how good he is.
8. Nate Rombach, Freshman, C, HS Senior Year: .442 AVG, 46 RBI, 9 HR
The 6’4 catcher from Mansfield Legacy High is another big-time recruit for the Red Raiders in the 2019 class. Rombach was listed as the #1 catcher in Texas by Perfect Game and the #29 catcher in the country. Along with the #23 overall prospect in Texas. Rombach was also selected in the 19th round of the 2019 MLB Draft by the Miami Marlins but decided to follow through with his commitment to Tech. Rombach possesses a great ability to put the bat on the ball and his tall frame could make him a force to be reckoned with. But, I believe placing him in the #8 position will be beneficial as catchers typically aren’t the strongest hitters on the roster.
9. Parker Kelly, Junior, 1B, Last Season: .200 AVG, 4 RBI, 1 HR
Typically a third baseman, I decided it’d be best to move Kelly to first as he was a better fielder than hitter. Kelly posted a .953 fielding percentage, along with 64 catches, 17 putouts and 44 assists to just 3 errors. Placing Kelly in the 9 slot gives him the ability to end the lineup on a solid note.
Starting Pitcher: Micah Dallas, Sophomore, RHP, Last Season: 4.03 ERA, 84 SO, 7-2 W/L
Arguably the best pitcher in the Big 12 last season, Dallas was the lone Power Five freshman to enter the CWS with a 7-0 record. Dallas also led all Big 12 freshmen in wins, along with being named to D1 Baseball’s Freshman All-America second team, All-Big 12 freshman team and the All-Lubbock regional team. While the sophomore grew into his spot as the Friday night starter in 2019, I believe Micah Dallas could contribute on a larger level as the #1 starter on the roster in 2020.
The Texas Tech Red Raiders will take on the Houston Baptist Huskies at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park on Valentine’s Day at 1:00 pm.