OPINION: Baseball stands at No. 38 in Hagemann’s NCAA baseball preseason poll

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Then-sophomore Daniel Carinci looks to tag a diving player out during the first game against Texas Tech on April 1, 2021. (Archive photo by Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

Collegian baseball beat writer Chase Hagemann has released his college baseball preseason Top-25 rankings. Below, you’ll find in-depth coverage on each Big 12 team on the list and where the Kansas State baseball team lands in the field.

#1 Texas

After finishing in the final four of this past year’s College World Series, the Longhorns are one of, if not the most, veteran teams in the country. Leading the veterans is junior power hitter Ivan Melendez, sophomore infielder Mitchell Daley, graduate transfer (Kansas) Skyler Messinger and a loaded pitching staff with a combined record of 29-7 and a 2.61 ERA this past season. It appears that losing Ty Madden to the MLB draft won’t affect Texas with Tristen Stevens, Pete Hansen, Tanner Witt and Aaron Nixon all returning.

#5 Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State has one of the most seasoned position rosters in baseball with several key starters returning and impressive transfers coming to Stillwater. The lineup hits for average, but notably with power, headed by former two-sport athlete Nolan McLean. After giving up football to focus on baseball, the utility player that had a .936 OPS and eight home runs in only 139 at-bats in his true freshman season is set for stardom following a summer in the Cape Cod League.

The question with the Cowboys isn’t their hitting or fielding, but their pitching, where proven experience starts and stops with third-year sophomore RHP Justin Cambell, who finished with a 7-2 record, 2.57 ERA and 102 strikeouts. However, don’t sleep on developing sophomores Bryce Osmond and Trevor Martin and Miami transfer Victor Mederos, who have grown plenty over the fall and are expected to blossom this season.

#9 Texas Tech

Texas Tech lost some players to the MLB draft, but like the revolver the Red Raider holds, they continue reloading. The Red Raiders retained All-American Jace Jung, Cole Stilwell, Kurt Wilson, Easton Murrell, Cody Masters, Parker Kelly and Dillon Carter. They also acquired middle-infield Texas A&M transfer Ty Coleman. Texas Tech’s pitching is the mystery. However, pitcher Brandon Birdsell survived an arm injury and was pumping 99 mph this fall, according to D1 Baseball. RHP Chase Hampton has just 44.1 innings under his belt but managed a 3.86 ERA. RHP Andrew Morris, LHP Mason Molina, RHP Trendan Parish and righty Kyle Robinson will battle for the starting rotation while the bullpen is loaded with talent.

#13 TCU

Bad news: long-time TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle is gone. Good news: the storied Horned Frog program has a familiar face in its new head man — long-time assistant coach Kirk Saarloos. TCU acquired notable Arkansas transfer Caleb Bolden and three-year Oregon starter Brett Walker to replace key pitchers from this past season. The Horned Frogs also have veteran Austin Krobb, who pitched for 96 strikeouts in 85 innings.

While there are some questions about TCU’s bats, the Horned Frogs have always developed players nicely. Brayden Taylor is back following a .324 average and 12 long balls in 2021, while Luke Boyers, a .307 hitter, also returns. If Elijah Nunez finds confidence after a rough ending to the 2021 campaign and freshman infielder David Bishop continues to swing like he did this fall, TCU could make another run for Omaha.

(Graphic by Marshall Sunner | Collegian Media Group)
(Graphic by Marshall Sunner | Collegian Media Group)

#38 KANSAS STATE

After tiresome hours of consideration, K-State baseball is currently No. 38 in the country in my rankings, as the team lost plenty of experience on the mound and on the diamond. Jordan Wicks, Carson Seymour, Kasey Ford, Eric Torres and Tyler Eckberg will all be pitching in MLB minor league stadiums this spring, but head coach Pete Hughes found a promising group of transfers that are likely to step up to the mound and the plate.

First on the mound is Arkansas transfer Blake Adams and Arizona transfer German Fajardo. These two names stand out when I look at the transfer portal, but Hughes emphasized there’s still plenty of competition to be had in practice. The lone returning starting pitcher for the Wildcats is sophomore Connor McCullough, who started this past season strong but hit a few rough patches near the end. If McCullough stays consistent, he’s going to be a tough matchup for any lineup in the country.

There’s a little more beef returning for the BatCats as far as position players go. Preseason All-American Dylan Phillips is back, and he’s only seven home runs shy of the K-State all-time home run record. Terrence Spurlin recovered from his wrist injury and hopes to pick up right where he left off in his fifth season. Sophomore shortstop Nick Goodwin looks to improve on a solid freshman campaign, Cole Johnson will likely add more power to a stacked outfield, and transfers Cash Rugely, Justin Mitchell and Jeff Heinrich add leadership and potential to the high “Omahattan” expectations for this ball club.

This past year, K-State defeated two of the four Big 12 teams in the Top 25 (Texas Tech, TCU) and narrowly missed out on an NCAA berth. The Wildcats will certainly exceed expectations by continuing the late-season hot streak from 2021 and will make the NCAA tournament with a combination of experience, transfers and highly-rated freshmen. K-State will be tested early against No. 18 Arizona on Feb. 18 in the 2022 State Farm College Baseball Showdown at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

Here are my predictions for the Top 25:

No. 1 Texas

No. 2 Mississippi State

No. 3 Arkansas

No. 4 Vanderbilt

No. 5 Oklahoma State

No. 6 Florida

No. 7 Notre Dame

No. 8 Stanford

No. 9 Texas Tech

No. 10 Ole Miss

No. 11 ECU

No. 12 LSU

No. 13 TCU

No. 14 Tennessee

No. 15 Georgia Tech

No. 16 Nebraska

No. 17 Dallas Baptist

No. 18 Arizona

No. 19 UC Irvine

No. 20 Long Beach State

No. 21 Duke

No. 22 NC State

No. 23 UCLA

No. 24 FSU

No. 25 Southern Miss

No. 38 KANSAS STATE

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of Collegian K-State baseball beat writer Chase Hagemann and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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