The Horned Frogs return a lot of experience from last season’s College World Series team, and it is experience in key positions — shortstop, center field, the starting rotation and the back of the bullpen.
They have to make up for the loss of catcher Kyle Bacak and their best power hitter, Kevin Cron, plus Major League postseason hero Brandon Finnegan, who logged more than 100 innings for the Frogs last year.
But coach Jim Schlossnagle is encouraged by the progress in the makeup of the roster. Here is a breakdown of the key players at the positions:
Despite being freshmen, Evan Skoug and Jake Plunkett are in place. Skoug is a left-handed power hitter and will hit cleanup. He can also DH and play first base. Plunkett is a right-handed hitter. Schlossnagle said both will play.
Jeremy Fagnon gets first crack. Played hurt most of last season, but had hip labrum surgery in the offseason. “He can do a lot of really good things,” Schlossnagle said.
Garrett Crain led the team in batting with a .324 average in 56 games last season. One of the few .300 career hitters on the roster. His bat has him hitting fifth in the lineup.
Keaton Jones started and played all 66 games last year at shortstop and played error-free in 54 games. Hit .296 in 13 postseason games.
Derek Odell goes into his senior season with 160 starts for TCU, including 63 games last year at third base, his first year at the position. Had a .347 on-base percentage.
Nolan Brown, a transfer from Blinn, is set to start in right field. He is a left-handed hitter. Cody Jones started all 66 games in center field last year and led off in 65 games and returns in those spots. Dane Steinhagen, a transfer from Howard, gets the first chance in right. He hit .324 in junior college last year.
One of the areas the Horned Frogs have to fill, but already, freshman Connor Wanhanen from Flower Mound appears ready. That he will hit second also reinforces Schlossnagle’s faith. “High school quarterback, left-handed hitter, real short stroke. Absolutely love him,” he said.
Elliott Barzilli, a transfer from Georgia Tech, is a switch hitter and the first in line to fill in at any infield spot. He can also balance the lineup as a right-handed hitter.
Preston Morrison, Tyler Alexander, Alex Young are the starters for the first series. Schlossnagle said Young, Mitchell Traver and Brian Howard have all “taken a pretty big jump” in making themselves candidates for the rotation, which lost Brandon Finnegan and Kipper.
Riley Ferrell is the hands-down closer after saving 15 games last season. Trey Teakell can pitch in long and short relief and has been, in Schlossnagle’s words, “the most valuable pitcher on our team the last two years.” Travis Evans is the lefty specialist. Ryan Burnett, a left-hander, is coming off an injury-shortened year. He pitched 11 innings and didn’t give up a run.
1. Cody Jones
2. Connor Wanhanen
3. Derek Odell
4. Evan Skoug
5. Garrett Crain
6. Nolan Brown
7. Keaton Jones
8. Jeremy Fagnon
9. Dane Steinhagen
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407