We are just over a month away from the College Baseball season kicking off on February 17th so it’s time for Half Street High Heat’s Preseason Top 25. A lot of official publications haven’t yet released their preseason Top 25, so we’re ahead of the ball. Below are our rankings and a few thoughts on the status of the team.
Full previews for the major conferences and a handful of mid-major schools will be released as we get closer to the opening weekend of the season.
2022 Record: 40-22
On paper, this might be the best college baseball team I have ever seen. Yes, Jacob Berry and Cade Doughty are gone after having been drafted in the first and second round of the 2022 MLB Draft, respectively. But the lineup returns the presumptive #1 overall pick in this year’s draft in center fielder Dylan Crews and stud first baseman Tre’ Morgan. Shortstop Jordan Thompson, outfielder Josh Pearson, and DH Brayden Jobert also return. But they add two monster All-Americans in the transfer window in Air Force’s Paul Skenes (who is actually better on the mound) and NC State’s freshman phenom Tommy White. The weak point of the 2022 team was their pitching staff that returns ace Blake Money and starter Ty Floyd and is bolstered by Skenes, Vanderbilt stud Christian Little, and UCLA fireballer Thatcher Hurd. Throw in a #1 recruiting class that features six Top 100 recruits (OF Paxton Kling #19 , P Chase Shores #23, C Brady Neal #29, P Jaden Noot #33, C Jared Jones #47, and IF Gavin Guidry #65) and you’ve got the deepest and most talented team in the country.
2022 Record: 42-24
They lose 3 key players in outfielders Sterlin Thompson, Jud Fabian, and ace Hunter Barco but they return Wyatt Langford and starting pitcher Brandon Sproat while adding key transfers in former Southern Miss ace Hurston Waldrep and Coastal Carolina infield stalwart Dale Thomas. Throw in a top recruiting class and you’ve got the recipe for Florida challenging Tennessee in the SEC East.
2022 Record: 57-9
Tennessee disappointed after an incredible regular season and lost some important players. But they return the best pitcher in the country in Chase Dollander and both the other two weekend starters in Drew Beam and Chase Burns. Drew Gilbert, Jordan Beck, and Trey Lipsomb are big losses but that weekend rotation alone should give them more than enough to be a Top 5 team again in 2023. Add in Kansas transfer Maui Ahuna and Alabama transfer Zane Denton and their lineup should be legit once again.
2022 Record: 47-18
Finally we get out of the SEC here in the Top 5 and head out west to Stanford, who finished their season in Omaha after an up and down regular season. Stud outfielder Brock Jones and 2022 Pac 12 Pitcher of the Year Alex Williams are gone, but the Cardinal return five monster pitchers including new ace Quinn Mathews and five dangerous hitters including first baseman Carter Graham and right fielder Braden Montgomery. No big transfers came their way but a good recruiting class solidifies Stanford as the top team outside the SEC.
2022 Record: 46-21
Arkansas lose hitters Robert Moore, Jalen Battles, and Cayden Wallace, plus pitcher Connor Noland, but they add some firepower and are optimistic their stud pitcher Jaxon Wiggins can get back on track following an abysmal 2022 where he had a 6.55 ERA. The Razorbacks are almost completely reinforced through the transfer window including the addition of third baseman Caleb Cali (College of Central Florida), outfielders Jared Wegner (Creighton) and Tavian Josenberger (Kansas) and catcher Hudson Polk (Oklahoma). Because of these transfers and the fact that they return so many quality pitchers, they are in my Top 5 and will be a force in the SEC West.
2022 Record: 42-21-1
Louisville is bringing back catcher Jack Payton and shortstop Christian Knapczyk to a deceptively deep lineup that will be bolstered by the nations 6th ranked recruiting class. The ACC is deep and wide open for any team to claim, but the Cardinals should be at the top to start.
7. Texas A&M
2022 Record: 44-20
Texas A&M made it to the CWS semi-finals and return most of their lineup and some key pitchers. Their lineup isn’t super powerful, but is anchored by quality hitters such as first baseman Jack Moss and right fielder Brett Minnich. They add some quality new faces and should be able to compete with Arkansas and LSU atop the SEC West.
2022 Record: 40-24
UCLA is an interesting team here in the Top 10. They lose pitchers Max Rajcic and Thatcher Hurd, but they return six hitters and five other pitchers in addition to a Top 15 recruiting class. Outside of Stanford, the PAC-12 looks to be a bit of a mystery as to who is going to be the second best team. Will any of them being able to compete with Stanford? UCLA has the best chance, but it’ll all depend on how they put it together.
9. Wake Forest
2022 Record: 41-19-1
Wake Forest returns almost their entire lineup in addition to five key pitchers for a team that finished 41-19-1 last season. Third baseman Brock Wilken is expected to be a Top 10 pick, while new battery mate Bennett Lee transfers in from Tulane to replace the departed Brendan Tinsman. Oh, and they also return 2022 ACC Pitcher of the Year Rhett Lowder. Rightfully so, the Demon Deacons have very high expectations for 2023.
2022 Record: 39-23
Vanderbilt is our 6th SEC team in the Top 10 and this is quickly turning into an SEC Preview which I wasn’t planning to publish until February. Spencer Jones, Dominic Keegan, and Carter Young are gone. Christian Little has transferred to LSU. But they bring in outfielder RJ Schreck from Duke along with the 14th ranked recruiting class that includes Andrew Dutkanych, a presumed top draft pick before he withdrew to attend college just weeks before the 2022 MLB draft. Centerfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. will be a Top 10 MLB Draft pick and will anchor a lineup that expects to compete not just in the SEC, but in Omaha come the season’s end.
2022 Record: 39-19
Virginia returns seven players to their lineup, including potential 2023 MLB first round draft picks in Kyle Teel and Jake Gelof. Griff O’Farrell, Ethan Anderson, Casey Saucke, Justin Rubin, and Colin Tuft will all be looking to build off impressive freshmen (first year) seasons. But the Hoos only return 3 pitchers who threw more than 20 innings for them in 2022 (Jay Woolfolk, Jake Berry, and Matthew Buchannan). Woolfolk and Berry will compete with transfers Nick Parker (Coastal Carolina) and Connelly Early (Army) along with freshmen (first years) Jack O’Connor and Bradley Hodges for the three weekend spots. While the pitching at the moment looks to be a question mark, the newcomers could turn that question mark into a strength by the end of the season.
12. Oklahoma State
2022 Record: 42-22
Oklahoma State loses two way player Justin Campbell and hitters Griffin Doersching and Jake Thompson, but they return two way player Nolan McLean and five other position players including second baseman Roc Riggio. They needed to reload on pitching and that’s exactly what they did in the transfer by adding freshman All-American Juaron Watts-Brown from Long Beach State, Janzen Keisel from Brigham Young, and Brian Hendry from St. John’s.
13. North Carolina
2022 Record: 44-22
Sophomore Vance Honeycutt and Alberto Osuna hit 20+ home runs for the Tar Heels in 2022, and they’ll be returning to anchor the lineup in 2023. Mac Horvath adds 18 more at 3B which is a lot of power from 3 players in a single lineup. Pitcher Max Carlson will once again lead the rotation on Friday nights. Learn the name Vance Honeycutt, who will be one of the top prospects in the 2024 MLB Draft.
14. UC Santa Barbara
2022 Record: 44-14
UC Santa Barbara is the first mid-major in our preseason Top 25, and are a threat in large part thanks to their returning pitchers plus returning sluggers Brock Mortenson and Christrian Kirtley in the middle of the lineup. Pitchers Ryan Gallagher and Mike Gutierrez are getting a lot of preseason accolades and should dominate in that conference.
2022 Record: 38-22
All I can think about right now is how their poor football team got beat 65-7 in the National Championship. Oof. Luckily their baseball team looks good and can hopefully distract their fans from the pain. Stud third baseman Brayden Taylor returns to anchor the middle of that order while they’re roster is bolstered by all conference players such as Tre Richardson (Baylor), Austin Davis (West Virginia), and Hunter Hodges (UNC Wilmington).
16. Miami (FL)
2022 Record: 40-20
The Hurricanes return most of their lineup, but will need to replace pitchers Carson Palmquist, Alex McFarlane, and Jake Garland if they hope to make some noise in 2023. They do have Andrew Walters back to presumably close out games and Yohandy Morales will be looking to improve his draft stock as one of the best hitters in the nation.
2022 Record: 48-14
Maryland will coast to back-to-back Big 10 regular season titles and host another regional in 2023. Rutgers is really their only threat, and even they’re not on the same level as the Terps in that conference. Ace Jason Savacool has an awesome name and is the pitcher to watch for Maryland and within the Big 10. Catcher Luke Shliger, third baseman Nick Lorusso, and second baseman Kevin Keister were all .300 hitters in 2022 and return alongside power-hitting short stop Matt Shaw. Their expectations will be beyond the conference title in 2023, with only a trip to Omaha being enough to satisfy those expectations.
18. Georgia Tech
2022 Record: 36-24
Georgia Tech’s lineup is going to miss Tres Gonzalez, Kevin Parada, Chandler Simpson, and Andrew Jenkins a lot. But they return third baseman Drew Compton and right fielder Stephen Reid and are bolstered by a Top 5 recruiting class. Pitcher Zach Maxwell is also gone, but they’ll rely on pitching to compete in the deep ACC. In 2022 they focused on outslugging opponents, while in 2023 they’ll rely more on their pitchers to keep elite ACC lineups in check.
2022 Record: 39-25
Former Washington Nationals bench coach and 2019 World Series Champion Chip Hale had a debut season to forget in 2022 as the Arizona head baseball coach and 2023 may be a challenge as well. He does have quite a bit of talent returning in second baseman Garen Caufield and outfielder Chase Davis, but there’s a lot of question marks around this Wildcat baseball team. A lot will ride on the performance of newcomer Kiko Romero, who transferred from Central Arizona and is slated to be the first baseman to open the season. But, as mentioned before, the PAC-12 is a mystery outside of Stanford at the top so Arizona has a chance to surprise people in the conference.
2022 Record: 47-22
They were a strong #1 early in the 2022 season, but faltered in conference play before rallying to reach Omaha once again. But they return only three key position players in shortstop Mitchell Daly and outfielders Eric Kennedy and Dylan Campbell. Tanner Witt is still recovering from TJ, leaving Lucas Gordon to potentially lead the Long Horn rotation heading into 2023. Coach David Pierce will have to heavily depend on his elite recruiting class and a handful of transfers if he hopes to lead Texas back to Omaha yet again.
21. Southern Mississippi
2022 Record: 47-19
Much like the aforementioned UVA, Southern Miss returns the bulk of their lineup, but their pitching staff is a question mark following the departure of six key pitchers (including Hurston Waldrep transferring to Florida), but Tanner Hall returns and a number of JUCO transfers and Nebraska transfer Tyler Martin should provide them with enough talent to be one of the best mid-major teams in the country in 2023.
22. East Carolina
2022 Record: 46-21
ECU was oh so close to a trip to Omaha last year before their hearts were broken by the Texas Longhorns. They return a lot of key players and pitchers while adding some potential gems in the transfer window such as pitcher Jonathan Childress from Texas A&M and Tyler Bradt from VMI. Ace Carter Spivey is the player to watch this season for the Pirates and he’ll be expected to take the mound every Friday night and dominate.
2022 Record: 36-25
Oregon had high expectations last season and despite making it to the NCAA tournament, they were a somewhat disappointing team. Expectations will once again be high as they return the bulk of their lineup and key pitchers in addition to another quality recruiting class and intriguing crop of transfers. Oregon, like UCLA and Arizona, are question marks in the PAC-12 right now. They could potentially have the talent to compete with Stanford at the top, but remain an unproven commodity in the preseason.
24. Texas Tech
2022 Record: 39-22
Jace Jung is gone, but the Red Raiders return some stellar players including DH Ty Coleman and pitchers Brendan Girton, Trendan Parish, and Mason Molina. Much like the ACC, the Big 12 is up for grabs with no teams really separating themselves from the pack on paper.
25. Virginia Tech
2022 Record: 45-14
Virginia Tech was a pleasant surprise in the ACC last season and boy did they mash the ball which always led to the coolest home run celebration in the country, the sledgehammer of home plate as the hitter crosses. Gavin Cross, Tanner Schoebel, and Cade Hunter are big losses but the return of Jack Hurley, Cason DeMartini, and Eduardo Malinoski means the Hokies’ lineup remains dangerous. Ace Drue Hackenburg is coming off a surprisingly fantastic freshman season and paired with Griffin Green in the rotation means the Hokies have quite 1-2 punch heading into the 2023 season.
Just Missed: Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Central Michigan, Oregon State, Rutgers, NC State, Florida State