Baseball

2019 Texas Tech Baseball Preview: Infield

We look at the Texas Tech infield and who could be starting at some key positions next season.

Earlier this month, Keith took a look at Texas Tech’s non-conference schedule for the upcoming season. This week, we’ll take a look at the infielders, next week the outfielders, and the week after that will be the pitchers. Plus there’s a new baseball podcast from Keith’s baseball fanatic mind called Dinger Derby (A superstar podcast name), which will be awesome whenever that project is released.

Now let’s take a look at the infield for the Red Raider, starting with the third baseman once again because it’s obvious who’s going to be starting there.

THIRD BASEMAN
Josh Jung (Jr.) Parker Kelly (So.) TJ Rumfield (Fr.)
.392/.491/.639, 80 RBIs, 69 runs, 12 HR, .953 FLD% 1 for 12, .941 FLD% Freshman from Temple HS

Last Year: Josh Jung was outstanding his freshmen year, with a slash line of .306/.395/.453 with 43 RBIs and 55 runs. He improved every one of those numbers this past year except for his fielding percentage, which was at .979. He was a staple batting in the third hole and was arguably robbed for the Big 12 player of the year before (typically they look only at conference stats). He was a second team All-American by four services (thanks Jonathan India) and a third team by another.

My Prediction: It’s Josh Jung. C’mon. Could see Kelly or Rumfield get some time here in garbage innings or rare off days.

This Year: There’s a reason why Jung is projected to be a Top 10 pick in the MLB Draft and could go as high as three (as far as mocks go). He was voted as a preseason first team preseason All American by many services. It appeared during the Red and Black Series that Jung somehow go better, which I didn’t know was possible. This is the last year you’ll see him at Texas Tech, and you could see him in the MLB by 2020. We saw Parker Kelly play opposite Jung in the Red and Black Series and showed some nice defense, and Rumfield played some third as well, so those are probably your back-ups.

SHORTSTOP
Brian Klein (Jr.) Parker Kelly (So.) Dylan Neuse (So.) Dru Baker (Fr.)
.317/.422/.480, 50 runs, 34 RBIs, 23 XBH, .993 FLD% 1 for 12, .941 FLD% Transfer from McLennan CC Freshman from Tomball HS

Last Year: Local kid Michael Davis from Lubbock High returned to the line-up after missing the postseason in 2017. He had his best season yet and became one of the best stories for the Red Raiders. Davis batted .281/.371/.524 with 12 home runs and the ability to make some amazing plays. Davis started 61 of 65 games, with Holt, Klein and Wilson all seeing time when Davis didn’t play.

My Prediction: This was by far the hardest choice I had to make. I think Kelly and Neuse will battle it out with Kelly eventually taking the job.

This Year: This isn’t a situation where we can’t decide who will be shortstop because no one has stood out, but instead I think there’s a lot of good options. Both performed well in the Red and Black series, but I like what I saw defensively from Kelly. However, I would not be upset or surprised if Neuse ended up taking over the job. Another option could be Klein, as he was a shortstop in high school and has a strong, accurate arm. If Klein wins the job, then I’d probably have Neuse at second base. I believe Neuse is a good player and will see time somewhere this year.

SECOND BASE
Brian Klein (Jr.) Gabe Holt (So.) Dylan Neuse (So.) Dru Baker (Fr.)
.317/.422/.480, 50 runs, 34 RBIs, 23 XBH, .993 FLD% .348/.440/.485, 70 runs, 44 RBIs, 29 SBs, .983 FLD% Transfer from McLennan CC Freshman from Tomball HS

Last Year: Holt started off most of the year here as 2018’s star freshman. He was doing fine there, but Tadlock wanted a little bit better glove and arm in the infield, so around late April he moved Klein here and Holt into the outfield. Klein came up with some clutch moments last year, including adding an insurance run in a 5-4 game in first game of the Super Regional and hitting a HR up 3-2 in the seventh inning of the CWS clinching game.

My Prediction: Klein starts the year at second base and keeps his job throughout the season. Neuse and Baker are the reserves.

This Year: Klein has a great arm and if Tadlock is willing to move Klein here and Holt to the outfield mid-season, I think he wants to keep him here for 2019. I didn’t start Klein on this list last year and wasn’t a huge believer in him, which was by far my biggest blunder of the season. Klein brings sneaky power and is a consistent player who has had some big hits. I wouldn’t rule out Holt here, as he did play a majority of the season at second. If Klein is at shortstop, then probably Holt returns or Neuse starts here.

FIRST BASE
Cameron Warren (Sr.) Doug Facendo (Jr.) Parker Kelly (So.) TJ Rumfield (Fr.)
.326/.444/.549, 49 runs, 53 RBIs, 37 XBHs, .989 FLD% Transfer from Howard CC 1 for 12, .941 FLD% Freshman from Temple HS

Last Year: Warren came off a hot summer and was the obvious choice at first base last year. Although he struggled during his sophomore campaign, he did fantastic last year. His glove was a little effy at first, but by the end of the season, he was making some tremendous plays at first base. His moment came against No. 1 Florida when he had a 14 pitch at bat and sparked a rally against Brady Singer. Parker Kelly saw a start here as did Brain Klein (who played a SS, 2B, 1B and LF last season. Talk about versatility).

My Prediction: Warren stay put at first base, with Facendo and Rumfield getting a look during off days and blow outs.

This Year: He played in the outfield during the Red and Black Series, but I think Tadlock is going to keep Warren at first. His glove was pretty solid at the end of last year, and the outfield is absolutely loaded for the Red Raiders (as I’ll mention more next week). I didn’t think Warren would leave, but I was a tad surprised he wasn’t drafted late. If Warren isn’t here, I bet one of the two freshman will be here, unless Kelly isn’t starting.

CATCHERS
Zayne Willems (Sr.) Doug Facendo (Jr.) Braxton Fulford (So.) Cole Stilwell (Fr.)
.250/.344/.357, 16 runs, nine RBIs, six XBHs, .983 FLD% Transfer from Howard CC .193/.324/.273, 14 runs, four RBIs, 4 XBHs, .988 FLD% Freshman from Rockwell Heath HS

Last Year: Last year was a carousel of catches. Clay Koelzer started the season batting fourth (never quite got that) at catcher, and after a slow start, starting rotating with Fulford and Willems for the starting job. Nobody’s bat really developed as the season went on (Willems had the best at .250), so he went with the best defensive option, which was Fulford. By no means an offensive threat, but he was close to perfect during the postseason defensively.

My Prediction: Fulford and Cole Stilwell will battle it out and get plenty of starts each (because that’s what catchers do), but Fulford will get a majority of the starts in conference play and postseason play.

This Year: This was another tough one, but if you look at the three college world series teams, all of them had good defensive catchers. Redman was an 8th round pick, Floyd was solid defensively and had a good arm, and Fulford was pretty clean during the postseason run. Interesting note though, Stilwell was drafted in the 38th round by the Houston Astros. I listed Willems on there, but he was listed as strictly a pitcher on the Red and Black Series roster. Could be an emergency catcher if one of these guys gets hurt.

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