We are days away from the start of the 2023 NCAA baseball season so it’s time to begin our season previews, beginning with the weakest “Power 5” conference: the Big 10. Our staff at HSHH will be previewing the ACC, the SEC, and the PAC-12 over the coming days. A season preview episode of The Amateur Update will also be dropping this week on Friday morning ahead of Opening Weekend.
The Big 10 is a weak baseball conference that is anchored by two east coast schools in 2023. Maryland and Rutgers are by far the class of the conference and the only two that should really have a chance at the NCAA Tournament. It is not beyond the realm of possibility, however, that a school such as Iowa or Michigan gets hot during the Big 10 Tournament and steals the automatic bid, which is what happened last year when Michigan stunned Rutgers in the final to win the Big 10 and secure a postseason berth. Rutgers had to sit at home despite 44 wins.
Regular Season Champion: Maryland
Listen, Maryland is going to win 20 games in conference play this year. There’s just such a large gap between them and the rest of the conference that it’s not even funny. They have one of the best rotations on paper in the entire country. Rutgers is a distant second but Maryland should be clear at the top by several games come May.
Tournament Champion: Maryland
They were unable to do the double last year, but see above. They’re even better and the rest of the conference has gotten worse. Rutgers will obviously be the next closest favorite to win it if Maryland stumbles, but don’t count out Iowa or Michigan.
Tournament Teams: 2 (Maryland and Rutgers)
There will only be two Big 10 teams playing in the NCAA Tourney just like last year and one of them will definitely be Maryland who I suspect will once again be hosting a Regional, if not a Super Regional. That means Rutgers or Maryland must win the Big 10 tourney for the automatic bid. If Michigan, Iowa, or anyone else wins the automatic bid, Rutgers will once again be sitting at home come NCAA Tournament time.
Conference Pitcher of the Year: Jason Savacool (Maryland)
Honestly, I could also see Maryland’s Nick Dean or David Falco Jr being in this conversation as well, especially if the latter makes the transition to the weekend rotation. But don’t count out Illinois’s Riley Gowens or Rutgers’s Wyatt Parliament. Another dark horse to consider is Jake Marshall, a Le Moyne transfer to Rutgers who was lights out in Division II last season.
Conference Player of the Year: Ryan Lasko (Rutgers)
The easy pick here is Maryland shortstop Matt Shaw, who will be a Top 20 pick in this year’s draft, but I think Ryan Lasko has a monster year to bolster his draft stock and lead the Scarlet Knights into the postseason. Dark horses include Keaton Anthony (Iowa) or Max Anthony (Nebraska).
Freshman of the Year: Sam Hunt (Minnesota)
I really like this catcher who won Minnesota Player of the Year. Reminds me of another stud Minnesota catcher, Joe Mauer. Greg Pace Jr. at Michigan could also be a big time first year in the Big 10.
Impact Transfer of the Year: Cody Jefferis (Michigan)
I’m not going to count JUCO transfers here, so Chase Moseley of Iowa isn’t in the conversation for me. I think Michigan shortstop Cody Jefferis has a bounce back year after a disappointing 2022 at San Diego where he hit .230. A change of scenery will do him wonders. Long Beach State transfer Zach Voelker could also be massive for the Hawkeyes in the rotation, giving Iowa a potentially strong rotation if he pitches well. Ohio State’s Justin Eckhardt, a transfer from Texas, could also be exactly what the Buckeyes need to avoid the basement of the Big 10.
Big 10 Predicted Standings
2022 Record: 48-14
2022 Big 10 Finish: 1st (18-5)
Key Matchups: at Ole Miss (Feb 24-26), vs Vandy (Mar 4), at Iowa (Mar 31- Apr 2), vs Rutgers (Apr 7-9)
Jason Savacool is the undisputed ace of Maryland and the Big 10. He will start every Friday night for the Terps while Senior Nick Dean will be the guy on Saturday. The question will be who pitches on Sundays? If stud closer David Falco Jr. transitions from the bullpen to the rotation, he could take the Terps to a new level. The combination of Savacool, Dean, and Falco would put Maryland in the conversation for best rotations in the country.
Shortstop Matt Shaw is ranked #15 on Baseball America’s Top 100 College Draft Prospects and will likely be a Top 20 draft pick come July. But as seen below, this lineup is more than just Shaw. It features five returners who had double digit home runs and outfielder Ian Petrutz who just missed that club with 9 homers. They get on base and they hit the ball hard, so it’s not surprising to understand why Maryland is considered a Top 25 team in preseason polls.
As mentioned before, I think Maryland goes 20-4 in Big 10 play and will be a Top 15 team in the country. They have an impressive yet underrated rotation and they’re itching to get to Omaha after a disappointing 2022 NCAA Tournament that saw them get eliminated by UConn at home in the Regionals. They will once again host this year and go one step further before losing in three games as the visiting team at a Super Regional.
2022 Record: 44-15
2022 Big 10 Finish: T-2nd (17-7)
Key Matchups: at UConn (Mar 24-26), at Maryland (Apr 7-9), vs Michigan (Apr 14-16)
Le Moyne transfer Jake Marshall and returning starter Wyatt Parliament are going to be in Rutgers’s weekend rotation and will be a formidable 1-2 punch in the Big 10. Junior Sam Bello will likely get the first chance to take the Sunday spot while Drew Conover and Sam Portnoy will anchor the bullpen.
Obviously Ryan Lasko, who’s ranked #87 on Baseball America’s Top 100 College Draft Prospects, is the gem of this lineup. But Chris Brito and Tony Santa Maria are also dangerous hitters hoping to build on impressive 2022 campaigns.
Rutgers had a historical 2022 in which they won more games than they ever had with 44 and yet because Michigan got hot in the Big 10 Tournament, were robbed of a postseason berth. To avoid that same fate this year, Rutgers will need to once again get 42-45 wins and either win the Big 10 tourney or hope Maryland does. Because if someone else takes that automatic berth, Rutgers will be on the couch during the postseason once again.
2022 Record: 36-19
2022 Big 10 Finish: T-2nd (17-7)
Key Matchups: vs LSU (Feb 25), at Texas Tech (Mar 10-12), vs Maryland (Mar 31-Apr 1), at vs Nebraska (Apr 21-23)
Junior Ty Langenburg will be the ace for the Hawkeyes, with Long Beach State transfer Zach Voelker slotting in behind him in the weekend rotation. If Voelker can improve with the change of scenery, that 1-2 combo in their weekend rotation could be a big strength. Beyond those two, however, are some question marks for the third spot, though that could be covered by 2022 freshman stud Luke Llewellyn. That may weaken their bullpen but would make their rotation all that much better. Keep an eye on Langenburg, he’s a stud.
The guy to watch out for in the Hawkeye lineup is sophomore Keaton Anthony, a dangerous hitter who gets on base and hits for power. Outfielder Chase Moseley is a JUCO transfer who had a monster season last year and should be able to handle the jump in competition. Those two could provide a formidable 1-2 punch in the middle of Iowa’s lineup that could help them be a threat in the Big 10 tournament.
There is a clear gap between Maryland and Rutgers and an even bigger gap between Rutgers and the rest of the Big 10. Iowa is not going to be good enough to get an at-large bid, but with an underrated rotation and the potential of Chase Moseley pairing with Keaton Anthony in the middle of the lineup, they could get a decent seed for the conference tournament and get hot to steal an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
2022 Record: 34-28
2022 Big 10 Finish: 5th (12-12)
Key Matchups: at UCLA (Mar 1), Shriner’s College Classic vs Texas Tech, TCU, and Texas A&M (Mar 3-5), at Rutgers (Apr 14-16), vs Oklahoma State (Apr 28-30)
Michigan returns a lot of experience, but the numbers below don’t exactly exude confidence in this staff. Chase Allen, Connor O’Halloran, and Jacob Denner will almost certainly be the weekend rotation with Noah Rennard and Walker Cleveland working out of the bullpen or in weekday starting roles. Michigan needs more out of their pitching staff and honestly its this deficiency that has them at #4 behind Iowa.
This lineup is laden with seniors which ultimately could be the difference between them and Iowa when they jockey to be the Big 10’s third best team. Jimmy Obertop and Ted Burton strike out a ton, but they also hit for power. Greg Pace Jr. is a big recruit who I expect to start in the outfield alongside seniors Tito Flores and Joey Velazquez on day one. Cody Jefferis had a bad season in San Diego last year and if a change of scenery gets him back on track for the Wolverines, then Michigan will be a massive threat in the Big 10 tournament.
Like Iowa, Michigan is not going to be good enough to get an at-large bid, but they are good enough to steal an automatic bid by winning the conference tournament, which is exactly what they did last year to prevent Rutgers’ historic season from continuing into the NCAA Tournament. Clark Elliott is a big loss in their lineup, but I love what I am very intrigued by newcomers Greg Pace Jr. and Cody Jefferis. They should have enough firepower and balance in their pitching staff to be over .500 and challenge Iowa for the Big 10’s #3 seed.
2022 Record: 27-32
2022 Big 10 Finish: T-8th (10-14)
Key Matchups: at Auburn (Feb 17-19), at Texas (Feb 24-26), vs Iowa (Apr 7-9), vs Maryland (Apr 28-30)
LHP Ty Bothwell
3B Josh Pyne
OF Carter Mathison
C Matthew Ellis
1B Brock Tibbitts
We come to another talent gap and this is where it becomes more of a guessing game in terms of what teams finish where. Indiana’s biggest hope will be to get hot in the Big 10 Tourney and make a run at the automatic bid, but I don’t see that happening. A successful season for the Hoosiers would be a 5th place finish and getting over .500.
2022 Record: 31-22
2022 Big 10 Finish: T-2 (17-7)
Key Matchups: at Wake Forest (Feb 18-19), at Southern Miss (Feb 24-26), at Coastal (Mar 10-12), vs Michigan (Mar 31-Apr 2nd), at Rutgers (May 12-14)
RHP Riley Gowens
RP Ty Rybarcyzk
1B Cam McDonald
3B Branden Comia
Illinois actually had a fantastic 2022 and finished tied for second in the Big 10 with Rutgers and Iowa at 17-7. They lost a little bit of talent but they return stud pitcher Riley Gowens and some formidable hitters in Cam McDonald and Branden Comia anchoring the infield corners. I think they take a slight step back in 2023 and will hover right around .500 once the season ends.
2022 Record: 29-21
2022 Big 10 Finish: 7th (9-12)
Key Matchups: at Ole Miss (Mar 10-12), at Maryland (Apr 21-23), vs Rutgers (Apr 28-30), at Indiana (May 12-14)
LHP Calvin Schapira
RHP Avery Cook
1B Cam Thompson
SS Evan Albrecht
DH CJ Valdez
Did you know Purdue was one of the last undefeated baseball teams in Division 1 last year? Well it went downhill quickly once they got to conference play and they barely made the Big 10 Tourney after a 9-12 record in conference. Their non-conference schedule is going to be a little tougher this year as they head to the defending champions Ole Miss in March. They’ll finish just below .500 in 2023.
8. Penn State
2022 Record: 26-29
2022 Big 10 Finish: 6th (11-13)
Key Matchups: at Miami (Feb 17-19), at UNC (Mar 8), at Michigan (Mar 24-26), vs Ohio State (Apr 21-23), at Rutgers (May 5-7)
RHP Travis Luensmann
SS Jay Harry
C Josh Spiegel
OF Billy Gerlott
Penn State is going to be the last team to make the 2023 Big 10 Tourney and I think they’ll get bounced pretty quickly. A successful season for the Nittany Lions would be .500 in the conference or better and making the conference tourney.
2022 Record: 16-36
2022 Big 10 Finish: 13th (6-18)
Key Matchups: vs UCSB/Oreg State/New Mexico (Feb 17-20), vs Ole Miss (Mar 4), vs Vandy (Mar 5), vs Michigan (May 5-7), at Maryland (May 12-14), vs Rutgers (May 18-20)
RHP George Klassen
LHP Tucker Novotny
C Sam Hunt (Minn Player of the Year)
OF Brett Bateman
Of the bottom tier teams in the Big 10, Minnesota is the most intriguing for me. Freshman catcher Sam Hunt is drawing comparisons to fellow Minnesota native and Twins legend Joe Mauer, while righty pitcher George Klassen is casually throwing tripe digits on the mound. A successful season for Minnesota would be making the Big 10 tournament.
2022 Record: 23-30
2022 Big 10 Finish: T-8th (10-14)
Key Matchups: vs Vandy (Mar 3), vs Ole Miss (Mar 5), at Michigan (Apr 7-9), at Iowa (Apr 21-23), at Maryland (May 5-7)
LHP Emmett Olson
RHP Jace Kaminska (Wich St Transfer)
2B Max Anderson
DH Griffin Everitt
SS Brice Matthews
Nebraska has a Top 150 Draft Prospect in Max Anderson and intriguing starting pitchers in Emmett Olson and Jace Kaminska, but there’s not a ton of depth in either the lineup or the pitching staff. They’re going to need to find some depth if they’re hoping to make the Big 10 tourney and get a decent seed.
11. Michigan State
2022 Record: 24-30
2022 Big 10 Finish: 12th (8-16)
Key Matchups: vs Fresno St (Feb 17), vs Arizona (Feb 19), at Grand Canyon (Feb 20), at Rutgers (Mar 31-Apr 2), at Notre Dame (Apr 11), at Michigan (Apr 21-23), vs Notre Dame (Apr 25)
LHP Nick Powers
SS Mitch Jebb
OF Jack Frank
Like Nebraska, Sparty baseball has a big time Top 150 Draft Prospect in Mitch Jebb at shortstop but lack quality and depth elsewhere. They’ll be lucky to even make the Big 10 tourney.
12. Ohio State
2022 Record: 21-30
2022 Big 10 Finish: 11th (8-14)
Key Matchups: at UConn (Feb 17-20), vs Grand Canyon/Gonzaga (Feb 23-26), Frisco Classic vs Miss St, Cal, Oklahoma (Mar 3-5), vs Maryland (Apr 14-16), at Penn State (Apr 21-23), vs Michigan (May 18-20)
LHP Isaiah Coupet
RHP Justin Eckhardt (Texas Transfer)
RhP Landon Beidelschies (Freshman)
OF Trey Lipsey
OF Kade Kern
Honestly, Ohio State is a question mark for me. I could see them finishing as high as 6th and as low as, well here, at #12 in the Big 10. It’s all going to come down to the ability of new incoming pitchers Justin Eckhardt (Texas Transfer) and Landon Biedelschies (Freshman) on whether the Buckeyes make a run at a spot in the Big 10 Tournament.
2022 Record: 24-30
2022 Big 10 Finish: T-8th (10-14)
Key Matchups: at Texas State (Feb 17-19), at La Tech (Mar 3-5), at Nebraska (Apr 14-16), at Michigan State (Apr 28-30)
Northwestern is transitioning to a new era after hiring Jim Foster to become their next head coach in June. They had some promising young players transfer out, including outfielder Ethan O’Donnell (Virginia), shortstop Patrick Herrera (Kentucky), and pitcher Sean Sullivan (Wake Forest). The former two mentioned were Second Team All-Big 10 while Sullivan was selected to the Big 10 All-Freshman team.
With those three key players departing, it’s hard to predict who Northwestern’s key players will be this season, which is why we haven’t listed any. They have a somewhat light non-conference schedule with their fiercest opponents being Texas State and Louisiana Tech on the road early in the season. Right now, without really knowing what they’ve got, it’s hard to say where Northwestern will finish up, but they’ll need to figure it out fast or they’ll be in the basement of the Big 10.
It’s unlikely they’ll make the Big 10 tournament, much less the NCAA Tourney.