Connect with us


Texas Tech Baseball Preview & Predictions

Photo CC: NCAA

“If we don’t have the best fanbase in the country, I’d like someone to show me who does.” – Tim Tadlock.

College baseball is back, baby! After last season’s home defeat in the super regional round, the Red Raiders will, for the second year in a row, open their season up in Arlington at the 2022 State Farm College Baseball Showdown. Coach Tim Tadlock’s squad will play Michigan, Auburn, and Arizona this weekend.

The NCAA’s baseball season could not be coming at a better time for many baseball fans. This past Tuesday, in the wake of the ongoing MLB lockout, pitchers and catchers did not report like they always do the week after the Super Bowl. What is usually the first sign of baseball being back instead served as a dreary reminder that this year’s major league season is still very much up in the air.

It is really a shame. I am anxious to see the Astros run it back with a healthy Justin Verlander, a prime Kyle Tucker, and a new rookie shortstop in Jeremy Peña. Likewise, Rangers fans will have to wait a little longer to see their new high-priced middle infield with Corey Seager and Marcus Semien.

With the start of the MLB’s season on hold, baseball fans will have to go elsewhere to get their yearly baseball fix. And without the likes of Adolis García and José Altuve to fawn over, where better to go than Big 12 action?

The 2022 Red Raiders roster looks much, much different than it did in 2021. Key contributors from last season Cal Conley, Dru Baker, Braxton Fulford, Mason Montgomery, Ryan Sublette, and Patrick Monteverde were all drafted into the major leagues over the summer. Dylan Neuse and Hunter Dobbins, who missed most or all of 2022 with injuries, will also be taking their talents to the pros by way of the MLB draft.

Tech also lost star pitcher Micah Dallas and first baseman/catcher Nate Rombach to the transfer portal. Dallas even pulled off the second most disappointing departure from Lubbock of 2021 when he chose Texas A&M as his new destination. A distant second place, but second place nonetheless.

Excluding Neuse and Dobbins, that’s two weekend starters, last season’s two best bullpen arms, and three everyday position players lost. So who will pick up the lost production from last season? That does seem to be the million-dollar question. Let’s take a look at the three returning players that I believe are most likely to steal the show in 2022 and lead Tech to, hopefully, their sixth straight playoff berth.

#1: Jace Jung

I can’t believe it took this long for me to mention Jace Jung. The 21-year old San Antonio native is coming off one of the greatest individual seasons in Tech’s history. In 2021, he hit 21 home runs, drove in 67 RBIs, and had 70 hits all while slashing a beastly .337/.462/.697 line. The longer you look at Jung’s numbers the more impressive they become. He had just 45 strikeouts in 264 plate appearances, had an OPS of 1.159, and was one of just two players to appear in every game last season. All of this while playing plus defense at second base I might add.

I could go on and on about his numbers, but I digress. Bottom line, Jung is one of the best players not just in Texas, but in the nation. He’s coming off a season where he was a consensus All-American, was the Big 12 Player of the Year, was the NCBWA National Freshman Hitter of the Year, and was named to the All-Big 12 First Team. Rumor has it that he was also in the running for a Nobel Peace Prize, a Grammy, and was nearly named best in his class by JD Power and Associates.

Like his brother before him, Jace is heading into his third collegiate season present in many MLB first-round mock drafts. Some even see him as a better and more well-rounded prospect than Josh. There is no reason to believe, right now, that he cannot be in play for the No. 1 pick. Especially so if he keeps having three home-run games. If you did not know, he had two last year.

Will Jung’s 2022 season be better than his 2021 season? Probably not…I think…I don’t know. His season was one of those that will be hard to top. Think Patrick Mahomes for Kansas City in 2018 or Josh Hamilton in 2010. There will, no doubt, be some other exceptional years, but it is pretty difficult to consistently improve your numbers year by year. A good, recent example would be Jace’s older brother, Josh. In 2018, Josh Jung drove in 80 RBIs and batted .392 percent in 263 at-bats. The following year he drove in 58 RBIs and batted .343 percent in 239 at-bats. Was his year as impressive statistically? No. Was it still wildly impressive and good enough for him to be a top-10 pick in the 2019 MLB Draft? Absolutely.

My suggestion to Red Raider fans: Sit back, relax, and enjoy one final year of exceptional play from one of the most talented young men to ever call Rip Griffin Park home.

#2: Brandon Birdsell

It is nice to see Birdsell returning to Tech in 2022. He opted not to sign with the Minnesota Twins after they made him the 339th overall pick in the MLB Draft. The former Aggie clearly believes that he is better than that assessment and is ready to prove it this season.

While I am optimistic, Birdsell is by no means a sure thing in 2022. He is coming off a rotator cuff tear in April of last season that sidelined him for the latter half of the 2021 season. But be that as it may, he is still the most accomplished starter on the roster. In 35.1 innings of work last season he amassed 36 strikeouts to go along with his 3.06 ERA and 1.019 WHIPs. Not too shabby.

Birdsell’s big arm is the best part of his game. Last season his fastball sat consistently in the mid-90s, and he seems to have retained that ability post-rehab. His fastball was sitting consistently from 97-99 in the Red Raiders’ fall baseball exhibition games.

His ceiling is, without a doubt, as high as anyone’s on the roster. Coach Tadlock pegged him as the team’s Saturday starter for the opening series. That has to mean something. Last season it was Micah Dallas who had the honors after he was arguably the team’s best pitcher during the Covid-shortened 2020 season.

Birdsell is the opposite of Jung in the sense that I would actually be surprised if he does not have a better season than the one he had in 2021. By all accounts, his rehab went swimmingly, and now all that is left for him is to go out and show the world that he is better than an 11th round pick.

#3: Chase Hampton

This third spot was the toughest to settle on…by far. Outfielder Easton Murrell, first baseman Cole Stilwell, and utility man Kurt Wilson all have a chance to really shine in 2022 with a couple hundred more at-bats under their belts. However, I would argue that no one showed more promise down the stretch of last season than Hampton. That is why I have him third.

After a rocky showing last season, on April 25th against Baylor, Hampton’s ERA was up to 5.21. Most of his work had been out of the bullpen, and he had been having a hard time stringing together positive outings. Hampton started to turn heads heading into the playoffs after injuries to other players forced him back into a starting role.

His best moment came in the final game of the season before the Big 12 tournament when he tallied 6.0 shutout innings at home against Kansas. He allowed just three baserunners and struck out seven batters. Two weeks later Hampton had an equally impressive outing in the first round of the playoffs against Army. In that game, he allowed one earned run in 6.0 innings of work with another seven strikeouts. After that game, his ERA sat at 3.32.

When it was all said and done, Hampton had a 3.86 ERA and 1.195 WHIP in 44.1 innings of work in 2022. The only returning pitcher on the roster that had a better ERA and WHIP last year (with at least 20.0 innings pitched) was Birdsell. Hampton’s strikeout to walk ratio was admittedly low at 2.00, but his improvement as the year went on is what lands him higher on this list. He struck out 14 batters and walked just two in his Kansas and Army starts.

I admit I am higher on Hampton than most. I just can’t get the late-season image of him out of my head. The 6’2 righty consistently keeps his fastball in the low-90s and I do not know what his ceiling looks like if he can keep his control in check. He is slated to start in Tech’s home opener Tuesday against Dallas Baptist. I would have liked to see him in Arlington, but I’ll take what I can get from Hampton. Whether it is out of the bullpen or in the weekend rotation, I expect him to play a very important role for the Red Raiders in 2022.

Everyone else:

Jung, Birdsell, and Hampton are all immensely talented, but there are so many other names worth watching this weekend. I already mentioned Murrell, Stilwell, and Wilson. All three of them are position players who had between 125 and 200 plate appearances in 2021, all three batted between .250 and .290 percent, and all three are now expected to be full-time starters in 2022. Any one of them could break away from the pack and solidify themselves as a star.

Furthermore, freshman players like Mason Molina, Hudson White, and Ryan Brome all could make a splash this season. Molina, a lefty from California, will start on Sunday against Arizona. White and Brome were both mentioned by name in Tadlock’s media availability on Wednesday as players who could step up and earn an everyday role. White is a potential replacement for Fulford behind the plate, while Brome can claim a spot for himself in the outfield.

Andrew Morris, a transfer from Colorado Mesa in Division II, will start on opening day for the Red Raiders. Morris is a righty who had an 18-2 record, 3.23 ERA, and 1.269 WHIP in 175.2 innings across three seasons with the Mavericks. Hopefully, he can recreate the unexpected breakout season that Monteverde had last year. If you did not know, Monteverde started his collegiate career in Division III before winding up in Lubbock.

Another transfer is infielder Ty Coleman, who, like Birdsell, started his collegiate career at Texas A&M before making his way to Tech. Coleman slashed a .243/.310/.660 line in three years with the Aggies.


Regardless of how many players the Red Raiders lost to the Major Leagues, Tech is ranked No. 14 nationally by D1 Baseball heading into this season. When someone as talented and respected as Tim Tadlock is your head coach, you will always be able to compete. With the 2022 Red Raiders, it is a question of how high their ceiling can be.

It is hard to believe that a team that lost Cal Conley, Braxton Fulford, Micah Dallas, Patrick Monteverde, and Dru Baker over the offseason will immediately be as competitive as they were the year before. Then again, the Oakland Athletics made the playoffs in 2002 without Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, and Jason Isringhausen, so who knows? Forewarning, with baseball season getting underway, that will not be the last baseball movie reference of 2022.

Bottom line: it comes down to Jung and Birdsell. Those two will be tasked with setting the tone for the season. They have the skill, they have the support, all that is left is for them to do is put it together on the field like we know they can. If that happens, it will free up opportunities for the younger guys to come in and carve out bigger roles for themselves.

Outside of those two, I would bet on Hampton (obviously), Hudson White, and Cole Stilwell as the guys who could really break out this season. That being said, last year I wrote that Nimari Burnett would be the most exciting part of the 2020-2021 Tech basketball season, so clearly I’m no Red Auerbach. I do stand by those predictions, though.

Last season the Red Raiders went 39-17. I would imagine they will finish within 10 games of that number with a playoff berth, but no Super Regional home-field advantage. I’ll say 33-23 in 56 games.

Maybe my predictions do not show it, but I am incredibly excited about this season. Between Jung in his final collegiate season, Birdsell grinding to prove himself, and the whole team trying to redeem themselves from last season’s failure against Stanford, it is not hard to find a fun storyline.

If you do not believe me now, I am sure you will soon. This is just the first of what I plan to be a bi-weekly update on the status of the baseball team. The next time I write about them they will be eight games into the season and, hopefully, I will be gushing about the hot start to the new season. Maybe by then the MLB and MLBPA will have come to an agreement too! We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, happy opening day!

1 Comment
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

[…] Texas Tech Baseball Preview & Predictions […]

More in Baseball