After years of success and another Omaha appearance in 2019, no one is surprised to see Texas Tech labeled as the Big 12 favorite and one of the top teams in the country.
Until proven otherwise, the Red Raiders are now expected to be in this familiar position even after losing key pieces from last year’s 46-20 (16-8) team.
Let’s examine Texas Tech as it enters the 2020 season:
Yes, the Red Raiders lost speedy Gabe Holt, power hitter Cam Warren, and first round pick Josh Jung. But Tim Tadlock made a name for himself as a hitting coach, and the Red Raiders have excelled offensively since his arrival.
This season shouldn’t be any different, although there is more of a gap between Tech’s offensive floor and ceiling than normal.
Dylan Neuse, Jr. hit .298/.408/.494 last season, and is a perfect place to start because of his power-speed combo. This group of Red Raiders probably won’t produce an elite slugging percentage like some recent teams, but they can fill out lineups with multiple players capable of driving the ball out of the yard on occasion, swiping a bag, and going from first-to-third on a single.
Neuse represents an athletic player capable of playing multiple positions, including center field, shortstop and third base. It’s possible Tadlock changes his lineup often during the early portion of the season because of how many options he has.
Neuse will likely be joined in the starting lineup by junior catcher Braxton Fulford (.298/.388/.419), and senior second baseball Brian Klein (.315/.406/.440). Sophomore Dru Baker (.321/.395/.445) performed so well offensively in 2019 it’s hard to imagine him not receiving significant at-bats, but Texas Tech will have to decide where he profiles best defensively.
If third base isn’t filled by a returning player, a familiar name could follow in his older brother’s footsteps. Jace Jung is capable of immediately contributing offensively with enough defensive ability to play an average third base from the jump.
Pitching & Defense
Sophomore right-hander Micah Dallas is expected to lead the pitching staff after a very impressive freshman campaign. Dallas is unafraid to attack the zone with his full arsenal and walked just 3.31 batters per nine innings last season.
Perhaps the biggest wildcard in the Big 12 is hard-throwing righty John McMillon, who returned to Texas Tech for his senior season. Out of the bullpen, McMillion can flirt with triple digits on the radar gun, but he was a reliever last season with zero starts. How will his power stuff and control transfer as a projected member of the weekend rotation?
Junior Bryce Bonnin and sophomore Mason Montgomery will likely battle for the third rotation spot. Bonnin was one of six pitchers last season with 9.0 or more strikeouts per nine innings.
In the bullpen, Clayton Beeter returns after leading the team with a .167 batting average against and an absurdly impressive 17.4 strikeouts per nine innings. Vanderbilt transfer Austin Becker should make an immediate impact and expect Texas Tech to bring talented arm after talented arm from the bullpen with big-time velocity numbers.
Who The Scouts Are Following
Beeter has the full attention of scouts after a stellar 2019, and could be viewed as a strong option to quickly move through the minor leagues as an impact reliever. While Bonnin is likely in a battle for a rotation spot, scouts view him as possessing some of the best draft upside of any player on the Texas Tech roster.
There isn’t a standout bat like Josh Jung, but there are certainly a few Texas Tech hitters that will likely hear their name called on day three of the draft.
Projected by both D1Baseball.com and Big 12 coaches as the clear favorite to win the conference, Texas Tech is ranked No. 6 in the D1Baseball Top 25 — and No. 2 in our Preseason Power 16.
The Red Raiders are going to hit under Tadlock regardless of who is in the lineup. He and his program get the benefit of the doubt in that area.
Where the Red Raiders have improved over recent years is loading the pitching staff with quality, power arms capable of missing bats. In fact, pitching and defense appear to be slightly stronger than the offense for Texas Tech as we enter the season — if only because of the unknown attached to replacing good, veteran players moving on.
On paper, this is a well-rounded club that is correctly labeled a favorite to reach Omaha. If Texas Tech doesn’t finish inside the top three of the Big 12, it would mean a lot of things went surprisingly wrong in Lubbock.