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Rob Childress long ago established himself as one of the best pitching coaches in the country. It’s a given Texas A&M is going to pitch at a high level. However, the 2020 Aggies have a chance to be Childress’ best pitching staff, which is setting the bar very high.
But will they hit?
Let’s examine Texas A&M as it enters the 2020 season.
After a terrific career, Braden Shewmake was selected No. 21 overall by the Atlanta Braves. While junior college transfer Logan Sartori is expected to hit at a high level and start at shortstop, the Aggies don’t have one player capable of providing what Shewmake did.
They do bring back speedy third baseman Bryce Blaum, who should hit at the top of the order after swiping 17 bags in 19 attempts and also hit .292/.394/.464 last season, and Zach DeLoach rebounded from a poor sophomore season statistically with an outstanding summer in the Cape Cod League. Plus, senior Cam Blake (.260/.324/.349 in 2019 with seven steals) could emerge was a difference maker with a power-speed combo.
Perhaps no player is more important to Texas A&M’s lineup than first baseman/catcher Hunter Coleman. He’s encountered injuries in his career, but he possesses an ability to get on base (.244/.390/.537 in just 28 starts last year) and post one of the highest slugging percentages in the SEC.
That said, offense is by far the biggest question mark for the Aggies. Can they be good enough to elevate their pitching? They’re probably not going to be a good offense, but if they’re average, that could be enough.
Pitching & Defense
John Doxakis was terrific for the Aggies, but the Aggies have more than enough firepower to replace his production and innings. On paper, A&M has a special group loaded with power stuff, pitchability, depth, and competitiveness.
Lefty Asa Lacy leads the way with a heater capable of touching the upper 90’s, and he struck out 130 in 88.2 innings last season with a 2.13 ERA.
Christian Roa could be one of the best Saturday starters in the nation, and projected Sunday starter Chris Weber, a lefty, was a freshman All-American in 2019 and would probably be a Friday night starter for most teams. He tossed 65.0 innings with a 3.18 ERA in 2019 with 78 strikeouts and just 20 walks.
The bullpen is anchored by sophomore left-hander Joseph “Moo” Meneffee, the likely closer, and strike-throwing righty Bryce Miller. Keep an eye on freshman Trevor Warner and also sophomore lefty Jonathan Childress, an elite high school prospect making his return from Tommy John surgery — an injury that cut last season short after a bright start.
Behind the plate, Mikey Hoehner, who started 59 games last season, should handle the A&M pitching staff well. Center fielder Ray Alejo can cover a lot of ground, and second baseman Ty Coleman should also help the Aggies’ defensive strength through the middle of the diamond.
Who The Scouts Are Following
There might be some on par, but there won’t be a starting pitcher in the country who attracts more scouting attention than Lacy. With a great junior season, he could pitch his way into the discussion for the No. 1 overall pick in the next MLB Draft.
Scouts won’t leave College Station after Friday starts. They’ll follow Roa extremely closely, as well. The Houston-native is poised for an outstanding season as a member of the rotation after 10 starts last season.
Bullpen arms will also command attention and scouts will want to get an early feel for 2021 prospects.
Offensively, DeLoach will receive a lot of attention after winning the Cape Cod League batting title this past summer.
In an extremely deep, talented, and loaded SEC, the coaches predicted Texas A&M would finish fifth in the Western Division this season behind Arkansas, Mississippi State, Auburn and LSU. D1Baseball.com agreed with the coaches, and also projected the Aggies in the No. 5 spot.
That being said, a fifth-place finish isn’t a slight. D1 ranked Texas A&M No. 20 in its preseason Top 25, and it was one of nine SEC teams included on the list. Why did the Aggies make the cut? Pitching, pitching and more pitching.
It would be a surprise if Texas A&M doesn’t have one of the best pitching staffs in the country, a staff that should make it very dangerous in a postseason regional and super regional setting.
Considering the offense won’t be asked to do a ton, it’s hard to imagine a scenario that includes the Aggies missing the NCAA Tournament following a 39-23-1 (16-13-1) season and postseason appearance in 2019.