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2014 TCU Baseball Preview: Pitching

Last year, TCU was neck and neck with Texas for the best pitching staff in the Big 12. Will the Frogs take the crown in 2014?

Brandon Finnegan leads the TCU weekend rotation in 2014.
Brandon Finnegan leads the TCU weekend rotation in 2014.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

I don't think anybody would argue with this statement: TCU is built on pitching. The program, the team, it's reputation... All of it.

Just think of the names: Cashner, Arrieta, Atchison, Mitchell, Winkler, Purke... And all that is just within the last 5-7 years.

This year's team has yet another phenomenal group of arms, headlined by All-American Brandon Finnegan and All-Big 12 stud, Preston Morrison.

The weekend rotation is set: Finnegan, Morrison, Alexander. You know the first two names, Finnegan is the hard throwing lefty who should go in the first round this summer. Morrison is the soft throwing righty who has dominated opponents for two years with his sinker/slider combo. The third name is a new one, but I have no doubt everyone will know him well soon.

Tyler Alexander was a huge get for TCU out of Southlake Carroll HS, with the elite combination of great mechanics, solid control, and plenty of room to mature as an athlete. The 6'3" lefty throws in the high 80s to low 90s with excellent movement and control, mixing in a breaking ball and changeup as well. He garnered the eyes of major league scouts as well, and was taken in the 23rd round of the 2013 MLB amateur draft by the Tigers, but he ultimately decided to come to TCU. Why? Plenty of reasons I am sure, but its important to keep in mind that due to his age, he will be a draft eligible sophomore, and could be drafted again next summer after only two years on campus. Regardless of that, Alexander will be a treat to watch while he is on campus, starting 2014 as the anchor of the starting rotation.

There are a bunch of guys in line for the mid-week rotation slot, including returning studs Alex Young, Trey Teakell, Mitchell Traver or JUCO transfer Jordan Kipper. Young, the hard throwing lefty, probably has the edge right now, but any of these guys could get the job, depending on how much they pitch during the preceding weekend series.

Kipper is a great name to watch out for: The righty comes from Arizona, has previously been drafted, and has an incredible feel for the ball. He will probably be more valuable to TCU as a reliever during big weekend series, but I am sure Schloss will try to get him the ball as much as possible.

Mitchell Traver is returning from a red-shirt season after going through multiple injuries (shoulder, elbow), but he looks completely healthy and back to form now. He will be a major player for TCU down the road. Alex Young too, who had a good freshman campaign, he should log a bunch of innings this year.

Travis Evans, a relatively unknown lefty for TCU, could get a huge bump in innings this year after a solid summer and fall campaign. Coaches have been extremely pleased with his progress, he and Young are both hard throwing lefties that could be difference makers coming out of the pen. Brian Trieglaff is the same way but from the right side, coaches have told me he has looked better than anybody so far in practice, I expect him to pitch quite a bit in 2014.

Riley Ferrell is your closer, which should be obvious enough. Ferrell, who can tough 98-99 and comfortably throws 95-96 with a wipe-out slider, has more than earned the closers roll since the end of 2013 and is looking to have a breakout 2014 season.

Other breakout freshman arms include Brian Howard, the 6'9" righty who has a ton of promise and will see time on the mound in 2014, along with Ryan Burnett who was a high school phenom in Houston. Both of these guys look to get time out of the pen in 2014 and could see big innings down the stretch, especially if injuries start to play a factor.

The same is true for Robby Medel and Brandon Gilson, a righty/lefty duo who are candidates to be red shirted this year but could force Jim Schlossnagles hand by continuing to show well in practice. The same goes for hometown righty Preston Templer, from All-Saints.

Pitching will once again be a focus for TCU in 2014, if this staff can stay healthy and consistent they should end the year as one of the best groups in all of college baseball.