Like many of you, I have been extremely busy juggling new responsibilities and changes due to the current state of affairs in our country. I haven’t really had much time to write, much less just wrap my head around the new normal and a lost college baseball season. However, last Friday the below tweet from Double T 97.3 caught my eye, and I was immediately sparked with the sudden wince to spill my opinion on an internet website.
You've got to fill out the lineup with it all on the line. Who are you going with?? pic.twitter.com/oIz7vWEZgA— Double T 97-3 (@DoubleT973) May 1, 2020
At the onset, the task seemed simple; however, Tim Tadlock and company have brought a tremendous amount of talent with some of the best teams to ever grace the uniform, which gives us quite a challenge to just pick 11.
That being said, as someone who describes himself as an uber competitive and argumentative person, my lineup was 100% the best and it wasn’t even really close.
In order to defend my position, I thought I’d give you my take on each position and provide accurate backup to support that selection and allow you to tell me where I’m right or wrong, if you feel so inclined.
Without further ado, my starters in a one game playoff for the first national championship in the history of Texas Tech Baseball, using only players from the Tim Tadlock era, are as follows:
Catcher: Braxton Fulford (2018-present)
While most might think this is a weak spot in my lineup, I submit to you that Braxton Fulford could be the most underrated player in the Tim Tadlock era.
2019 saw Fulford’s best season (since 2020 was cut short), where he started nearly every game behind the plate, and he began to show sparks of possessing the ability to hit as a catcher. He hit for a .298 average with 34 RBI and a slugging percentage of .419, and was good for sixth on the team in hits, doubles and RBI.
Sure, he only threw out 16 of 72 potential base stealers and had eight errors. I’ll take all of that for one of the best hitting catchers in the nation to be in the lineup.
First Base: Eric Gutierrez (2013-2016)
When you talk about the absolute studs we have seen play first base in the Tadlock era (Hargrove, Warren, Stillwell, Rumfield), it was all started by the man we call “Gute”.
Defensively, Gute could hold his own at first base, with a .995 career fielding percentage and only 10 errors to his name in 188 games, he’s as rock solid as they come. Offensively, Gute is a major presence in the lineup, with a career batting average of .317, 29 home runs, 193 RBI and a .525 slugging percentage.
His prolific career at Texas Tech was capped off in 2016, where he was the 12th First Team All-American in program history, Baseball America’s First Team, Big 12 Player of the Year and unanimous first team All-Big 12. He ranks third all-time in school history in career hits (264), doubles (59) and RBI (193).
Second Base: Brian Klein (2017-present)
In his time at Texas Tech, Klein was as solid as they come defensively (a career .990 fielding percentage with only 5 career errors in 170 games), and a steady presence at the top of the lineup (career .320 average, with 193 hits, 49 doubles, and 124 RBI).
In his last full season (2019), Klein finished fourth on the time in hits, second in doubles, and third in RBI. He also collected 24 multi-hit games and is the only Red Raider to hit multiple home runs in Omaha.
Third Base: Josh Jung (2017-2019)
Do I even really need to explain myself? Honestly, if you put anyone else here, you’re the one that needs to explain yourself.
Josh Jung is without a doubt the best player in the Tadlock era, and possibly even school history. With a career that saw him collect 15 All-America awards in three years, D1 Baseball’s Big 12 Player of the Decade…oh, and that whole number 8 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. He ranks fourth in school history with 260 hits, sixth in doubles with 54 and 10th all-time in home runs with 33.
In a stellar three year career, 2018 stands as his best offensively, which saw him hit for a .392 average, with 103 hits, 12 home runs, 80 RBI and a .639 slugging percentage.
Shortstop: Orlando Garcia (2015-2017)
I think this one might take folks by surprise. You could certainly make the case for Tim Proudfoot, or even Michael Davis, and you’d be justified. But I’ve got OG here for one particular reason: My dude could smash the baseball out of the ballpark.
2017 saw Garcia hit for a .305 average, a .550 slugging average with 13 home runs and 62 RBI. In a world where the game of the shortstop has become less offensive and more defensive, I’m rolling the dice and taking the offensive production and big fly potential of Garcia.
Left Field: Tyler Neslony (2013-2016)
One play made this decision:
Make no mistake about it, Neslony wasn’t a slouch offensively during his career with Tech. With career offensive numbers such as a .317 average with 196 hits, including 60 for extra bases and 20 home runs paired an obvious strong and accurate arm? I’m definitely more than okay with Neslony in my lineup.
Also, I can’t help but imagine what kind of environment hearing “Tip Toe Wing In My Jawwwdinz” over the speakers when he comes up to the plate would do for our swagger.
Center Field: Gabe Holt (2018-2019)
Okay, admittedly, this one may be a bit of a stretch, because he technically should be considered a Right fielder, but I’m operating under the idea of collecting the three of the absolute best outfielders in the Tim Tadlock era, regardless of true position. With that logic applied, I cannot pass up having Gabe Holt leadoff in my lineup.
Holt provides more than just a spark at the top of the lineup, but he also provides tremendous defense and elite speed on the base paths. Holt finished his career at Tech as one of the top leadoff hitters in program history reaching base safely in 188 games of 125 played, including hitting safely in 104 of 125, while also hitting for a career .313 average and a .425 On-base percentage, and ranks eighth on the school’s record book for stolen bases with 57.
Right Field: Stephen Smith (2014-2016)
Yet another hard decision, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a player that personifies West Texas than “The Bull”. Stephen Smith provides excellent defense in the outfield, while also a proven offensive talent to get on base.
In three years, Smith hit for a career .297 average in 649 plate appearances with 193 hits, 21 home runs and 94 RBI. While the offensive stats are certainly impressive, defensively, Smith was clearly head and shoulder above everyone else, with a career fielding percentage of .989 and only committed three errors in 173 total games.
Designated Hitter: Nate Rombach (present)
Is 18 games a large enough of sample size to put a freshman in a lineup of the best in the Tadlock Era? Well, let the video speak for itself:
Uh, yeah. I’ve seen enough.
To put it lightly, Rombach busted on the scene in 2020 before the season was cut short hitting for a .323 average, with 20 hits, six home runs and 27 RBI. I believe I joked on Twitter that it seemed like every other at-bat Rombach was smashing a ball to Canton Ave with absolute ease.
Starting Pitcher: Clayton Beeter (2018-present)
This was the absolute toughest decision. It’s arguably the most important decision in the proposition. Who is getting the ball to start the game, put zeros on the board and keep the other team at bay for at least five innings?
I think most people had Steven Gingery here, and I can’t really argue with that pick. Gingery is probably the most decorated pitcher in the Tadlock era, but I’d argue that’s because Beeter’s season was cut short.
Beeter only had 25 appearances with 41.2 innings, but I’m going off pure talent here. While I agree, to give him the ball above the likes of Gingery, Ryan Shetter, Ryan Moseley, Dylan Dusek, and Caleb Killian based on just a pure hunch by me, I don’t think we’ve seen a combination of pure firepower and elite secondary stuff on the mound, like Beeter flashed in 2020.
I’m 100% comfortable giving him the ball with what I saw in his limited time here, and I’m most likely not alone, as he was projected to be taken in the first round of the 2020 MLB draft before it was postponed.
Relief Pitcher: John McMillon (2017-2020)
When I started filling this thing out, I put two names on the pad immediately, without thinking. Josh Jung and John McMillon.
Sure, another argument could be made that there are legitimately an absurd amount of names you could put here that you’d feel extremely good in a potential game-on-the-line scenario. Names like Taylor Floyd, Connor Queen, Jonny Drozd, Parker Mushinski, and Dane Haveman could easily be in this same spot.
But, if you think I’m passing up the luxury of having a power arm in the bullpen that can hum a triple digit fastball consistently, and who turned down MLB money to come back and for this exact scenario to win a national championship his senior season..buddy, you’ve got another thing comin’.
I knew John McMillon threw absolute gas, but what happened in the ninth inning today was something I've never seen in my life.— Eric Kelly (@EricKellyTV) June 8, 2019
OSU's Christian Funk fouled off a fast ball that broke an aluminum bat....at the handle. pic.twitter.com/a8LIMB8bNp
That’s it, ladies and gents. This is the squad of Tim Tadlock era players I’m rolling with in a winner-take-all scenario.
Now, it’s your turn. Who you got?