With Texas A&M baseball being a perennial success on the mound, the offense needed a change this past fall. Coach Rob Childress identified that gap and hired Southern Mississippi’s Chad Caillet to run the offense, and with that positive addition, the Aggies take the No. 20 ranking in D1Baseball.com’s preseason top 25.
Last year, Texas A&M was sent home in the regional round by Duke, scoring just one run in the elimination game.
Below are a few facts to consider when breaking down the 2020 Texas A&M team:
2019 record: 39-23 (16-13 SEC)
Coach (record at school): Rob Childress (577–304–3 in 14 seasons)
Ballpark: Blue Bell Park (7,000)
Postseason history: 35 regionals (active streak: 13), 6 CWS trips (last in 2017)
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In this preview of Texas A&M’s 2020 season, we’ve graded the Aggies in each characteristic of the game: Hitting, power, speed, defense, starting pitching, bullpen and experience/intangibles. But before we begin, let’s present our projected lineup for Texas A&M in 2020.
Texas A&M’s projected lineup
|C||Mikey Hoehner, Sr.||.292/.381/.380||3||30||2|
|1B||Hunter Coleman, Sr.||.244/.390/.537||5||18||1|
|2B||Ty Coleman, So.||.241/.301/.340||5||33||1|
|3B||Bryce Blaum, Jr.||.292/.374/.474||6||47||9|
|SS||Logan Sartori, Jr.||TRANSFER–Hutchinson (Kan.) CC|
|LF||Rody Barker, Jr.||TRANSFER–New Mexico CC|
|CF||Ray Alejo, Sr.||GR TRANSFER–UCF|
|DH||Cam Blake, Sr.||.260/.324/.349||1||26||7|
Texas A&M’s projected weekend rotation/closer
|SP #1||Asa Lacy, Jr.||8-4||2.13||88.2||130||43||0|
|SP #2||Christian Roa, Jr.||3-2||3.56||48||46||11||1|
|SP #3||Chris Weber, So.||4-1||3.18||65||78||20||0|
|Closer||Moo Menefee, So.||3-2||3.75||36||51||14||0|
Grading the Aggies: Just as scouts grade prospects using the 20-80 scouting scale, we use a 20-80 scale to evaluate teams in our top 25. A score of 50 in each category is average, relative to a typical NCAA tournament team; 55 is slightly above-average; 60 is above-average (plus); 70 is well above-average (plus-plus); 80 is top of the scale, historically strong. Accordingly, 45 is fringe-average or slightly below-average; 40 is below-average; 30 is well below-average; and 20 is the extreme in that direction.
To say the Aggies struggled at the plate last season would be an understatement. At one point late in the season, A&M almost no-hit two teams in the SEC tournament and still managed to lose both games. Craziness, indeed.
With Will Bolt heading to Nebraska as head coach in the offseason, the Aggies had an opportunity to bring in an additional offensive mind, and they did just that with long-time Southern Miss assistant Chad Caillet, who has an excellent reputation in the southern half of the country.
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A&M finished last season with a .251 average, so there’s only one way to go, and that’s up.
Bryce Blaum and Mikey Hoehner are primed to have strong 2020 campaigns after finishing the 2019 season with .292 averages, respectively, while Cam Blake (.260) and Zach Deloach (.200) are two guys who struggled last season but who were either terrific this past summer or in the fall. Blake brings senior leadership to the batter’s box, while Deloach has recently shown huge upside.
Hunter and Ty Coleman should be better. Ty generated some power as a freshman last season, but as with many young bats in the SEC, he struggled at times, too.
UCF graduate transfer Ray Alejo gives the Aggies some big-time speed atop the lineup, while junior college transfers Logan Sartori and Rody Barker each hit in the fall and give the Aggies reason for confidence.
Mason Corbett could be a sleeper to watch. Though he’s not listed as a starter for the Aggies, he had a terrific fall at the plate. He’ll likely get plenty of opportunities to make an impact early in the season.
The Aggies weren’t an overly powerful team last season, but there’s a decent chance they’ll generate more power this spring.
They lose a good power producer in Braden Shewmake, but return a hard-hitting guy in Blaum, who finished last season with nine doubles and nine home runs. Hoehner has gap and home run power, while the Coleman brothers (Ty and Hunter) both have the ability to generate some power — especially Hunter.
Junior college transfer Rody Barker and Cam Blake should hit for power, while Deloach could be the X-factor. Deloach struggled last season but had a terrific summer at the Cape Cod League with a solid average and power generation. If he can pan out as expected, that’s a game changer for the Aggies.
The Aggies should have a bit more speed than they did last season, but that’s not saying too much.
A&M welcomes back its top base stealing threat in Blaum, who finished last season with 17 stolen bases. The Aggies didn’t have anyone else with double digit stolen bases last season, but that doesn’t mean there’s not at least some speed present.
One guy to watch from a base-stealing standpoint is graduate transfer Alejo. Alejo might have some swing and miss in his bat but possesses electrifying speed that should allow him to be a versatile hitter and premier defender.
Cam Blake can run a little bit, while shortstop Logan Sartori is an athletic guy the Aggies expect to create some opportunities on the bases.
So, once again, this A&M team isn’t filled with burners. But there are more speed opportunities than there was last season.
The Aggies struggled from a defensive standpoint at times last season, but the unit should be better this spring.
Behind the plate, Hoehner gives the Aggies a veteran presence, Blaum or Sartori will man the third base/shortstop positions. Right now, we’d give the edge to Sartori, who reminds the Aggies coaching staff of former middle infielder Michael Helman. However, they are more than comfortable with Blaum up the middle, too. Ty Coleman shifts from third to second, where he’s more comfortable from a defensive standpoint, while Deloach and Alejo spearhead what is an athletic and solid outfield. Alejo’s addition gives the Aggies a guy who can track down pretty much anything out in center field.
Whereas the defense was a lability at times in the past, the unit should be much improved this season.
Starting pitching: 65
The Aggies have several terrific options from a starting standpoint, but the rotation is headlined by one of the best in the business in lefty Asa Lacy and hard-nosed righty Christian Roa.
Lacy is one of the nation’s premier prospects and is expected to have another dominant campaign. He will sit anywhere from 92-96 and up to 97 mph with his fastball, while attacking hitters with a high quality 83-85 mph changeup. He also possesses a pair of effective breaking balls in the 77-81 mph range. There have been times in the past when command was an issue with Lacy. But if he can get that under control, the sky is the limit.
Roa is a definite breakout candidate for the Aggies. He put together a solid 2019 campaign but showed better and harder stuff during the fall. Roa can pitch backwards with his 85-86 mph changeup, 82-84 mph slider and 79-80 mph curveball, while the fastball has gotten better, sitting more 91-94 and up to 95 mph during the fall. Roa should have a strong season if he emulates what he did in the fall.
“The team’s grown from week one to the last we had, a substantial amount. It’s cool to see the progress…”@Brycecolin3 on the team’s progression through the fall grind.#FamilyF1rst | #GigEm pic.twitter.com/VQX2ae3dZ9
— Texas A&M Baseball (@AggieBaseball) November 4, 2019
The final spot in the rotation is still up for grabs despite sophomore left-hander Chris Weber being the projected starter. Weber blossomed down the stretch last season and dazzled at the SEC tournament. He’s gotten in better shape physically and will sit 88-91 and up to 92 mph with his fastball, along with feel for four pitches. He changes speeds well and has a mature approach on the mound.
Chandler Jozwiak, a left hander, sits 88-91 and up to 92 mph at times with the fastball. Jozwiak was more of an 87-89 mph arm last season, but he showed more velocity during fall workouts. He also possesses a sweeping slider that can give hitters fits.
Meanwhile, keep an eye on sophomore lefty Jonathan Childress. Childress is still coming back from Tommy John surgery early last season but is progressing well. Childress will sit 88-92 and up to 93 mph with his fastball, along with a quality big breaking curveball. He’s also developed feel for the changeup.
Just like the starting rotation, the Aggies have plenty of intriguing options from a bullpen standpoint.
The two headliners at the backend will be left-hander Moo Menefee and right-hander Bryce Miller, while another lefty, Jozwiak, will be in the mix, too, assuming he doesn’t land a starting job, as discussed above.
As for Menefee, he’s a hard-nosed guy who is perfect for the closer role. He’ll sit anywhere from 90-93 mph with his fastball, along with a put-away slider and much-improved change. Meanwhile, Miller has gotten crisper with his secondary stuff, while the fastball continues to be a weapon, sitting anywhere from 91-94 and up to 95 mph at times.
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Two more returning arms to watch include lefty Dustin Saenz and right-hander Jake Nelson. Saenz needs to go out and prove it, but he has good stuff with a fastball sitting 92-93 mph along with a quality breaking ball, while Nelson was a little raw early last season with a fastball up to 95 mph. But his stuff has gotten better with the breaking ball becoming a better pitch.
Two newcomers to watch out of the pen are righties Cam Wynne and Evan Vanek. Wynne is a physical 6-foot-5, 225-pounder, who was up to 93-95 mph with his fastball in the fall. There’s upside there, while Vanek sits 90-93 mph and up to 94 with his fastball which has some sink. He also has a quality slider.
The Aggies have plenty of experience with this group, though they have plenty of new faces from a positional standpoint. However, it welcomes back several experienced pieces.
Mikey Hoehner is a leader and stable backstop, while Bryce Blaum is a heart and soul type who returns to help anchor the infield again this season. In the outfield, Zach Deloach is an experienced guy and Cam Blake, who will split time between the outfield and designated hitter, is another seasoned bat and a senior. There’s also speedy outfielder Ray Alejo, who joined the program as a graduate transfer from UCF.
The pitching staff is loaded with experience, too. Sophomore lefty Chris Weber pitched in some huge spots last season, while Asa Lacy and Christian Roa are battle-tested and hard-nosed pitchers. Lacy gives the Aggies a chance to win every Friday night.
In addition to A&M’s usual success on the mound, it’ll be fascinating to see what kind of impact new hitting coach Chad Caillet makes on the offense. Caillet had tons of success offensively at Southern Miss, but he now tries to turn around a struggling A&M offense.