2020 Baseball Preview – Returning Players
Yesterday, we talked about the players from 2019 that won’t be in a Tech jersey in 2020.
And there were quite a few.
But Tech brings back a roster full of talent including most of last year’s starting position players and some key pieces out of the bullpen that will have a chance to prove themselves as starters.
Like yesterday, we’ll look at the non-pitchers first. And who better to start with than the two players that started every game in 2019: Parker Bates and Taylor Young.
When describing a hitter, there are two key factors: contact and power. Contact describes how often a batter can get the bat on the ball, and power is how hard they can hit it.
Parker Bates struggles a bit with contact, but his strength is power. Bates led the team a year ago with nine home runs, which resulted in also leading the team with 49 RBIs.
Taylor Young is almost the opposite of Bates. Young often batted first in the lineup, and like most lead-off hitters he got on base a lot. As a sophomore last year, Young posted a On-Base Percentage (OBP) of .443, the second highest on the team. So 44% of the time Young stepped up to the plate, he at least got on base.
Some of that impressive OBP stat is due to Young’s ability to lay off pitches and draw walks. Ever since his debut in 2018, Taylor Young has led the team in walks.
Where Young struggles is in the power department, however, with only three home runs. But Young’s job is just to get on base and let others drive him in.
While you probably know what you’re going to get from Taylor Young, Steele Netterville was the definition of boom-or-bust a year ago. Only three players in the conference had more strikeouts than Netterville’s 69 Ks.
But Netterville also led the team in doubles, and at least reached a base on 35% of his plate appearances. And now in his junior year, it will be interesting to see if Netterville can limit his strikeout rate.
While Netterville led the team in doubles last year, Hunter Wells had the most triples. Wells must have gotten pretty acquainted with that third base bag, because Wells will be moving over from second base to play third base on defense this year.
Moving over to pitching, Tech returns senior Kyle Griffen, often referred to as Tech’s swiss army knife. Griffen, who led the team in appearances a year ago with 34, is not much of a strikeout guy, but creates weak contact.
That weak contact keeps the ball in the park. In fact, Griffen only gave up 0.3 home runs per nine innings, the 11th best in the conference last year.
That’s what opposing hitters were batting against Jonathan Fincher in his freshman year, the 5th best in the conference. But what really jumps of his stat line is his strikeouts per nine innings of 14.3. That led C-USA and ranked Fincher 23rd in the nation.
Tech baseball announced that Fincher will be starting a game this weekend, something he was never called on to do last year. It will be interesting to see how that experiment pays off.
Like Fincher, Tyler Follis has also been named as a starter in one of the games this weekend. But unlike Fincher, Follis has made a couple starts for the Bulldogs a year ago against Troy and Arkansas State. In those two games combined, Follis only gave up eight hits, but also six runs, before being relegated back to the bullpen.
Pieces like Mason Mallard and David Leal will definitely be missed from a year ago, but this roster is still bursting with talent.
For position players, Burroughs still has the option to sprinkle in players like Philip Matulia, Manny Garcia, and Blake Johnson that were used sparingly last year.
On the mound, there are quite a few more holes due to losing an entire starting rotation. But Tech has also gone out and gotten some pieces that can help plug those holes.
And we’ll talk about those new faces in tomorrow’s post.