The 2014 College World Series is over. But college baseball talk doesn't have to die. Last week, we had a nice Q&A with Baseball America's Aaron Fitt. Fresh off an Omaha golf course, Fitt was impressed with TCU baseball's present and future. Among many things, we discussed this year's turnaround, Preston Morrison, the future of Riley Ferrell, and the rise of Garrett Crain.
The expectations were fairly high for TCU going into this season, especially given last year’s disappointing year. For a while, it was kind of looking like more of the same. I think the Texas series was the turning point, thoughts?
I think you nailed it. That Texas series gave them so much confidence. At the time Texas was playing really well. I can’t remember where they were ranked, but they were ranked high if I recall. The thing too, Texas is pretty similar to TCU. They have great pitching and I think it showed they (TCU) have elite pitching and they can win in big environments. It was a springboard for them, no question.
I know that Finnegan made your "All Fitt" team, so would he be your TCU MVP for 2014?
I think you can make a case for Finnegan or Preston Morrison…Riley Ferrell was so valuable back there too. But it’s a cointoss between Finnegan and Morrison; one of them is the conference pitcher of the year and the other is a first round draft pick. I think they’re going to have to be Co-MVPs.
I can get behind that. Like you said, Morrison was the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, but he went undrafted. Obviously scouts and teams aren’t really looking for that---groundball---type of pitcher. Morrison will be back in 2015, what’s he going to have to do to prove he’s ready for the next level?
I have a feeling he’s going to go in the Top 10 rounds. He’s not the prototypical big league guy. He hits about 84-85, maybe touches 86-87. He’s just usually not what they’re looking for. But he does win and his track record does prove it. Guys that have that profile usually go out as seniors. Quality usually gets drafted, so I definitely see him going in the Top-10 rounds next year.
We talked briefly about Riley Ferrell; there’s been some water cooler talk and just the usual message board gab that Ferrell may come into a starting role next year. Have you heard anything about this?
I think we’ve all speculated about it. I’m curious to see what they’ll do. I think he can do it, he’s big physical, guy that should be able to hold his velocity as a starter. I think unlike Nick Burdy, from Louisville---a comparable arm strength guy---I think Ferrell has a cleaner delivery and cleaner mechanics, and a cleaner command. Those are the things you need to start.
I think he could start, I think he’d be a very good starter. Now with that said, there’s value in having a proven back-of-the-bullpen guy you can trust. Maybe it would give them peace of mind to have him in the role he’s been so good at. It’s a good topic for discussion. I don’t know what they’re going to decide. I don’t even think Schlossnagle knows at this point. I think they’ll try it out in the fall and go from there.
I’m kind of in the mindset that if it’s broke, don’t fix it…he’s got that closer persona, he loves Kenny Powers and being called "La Flama Blanca". He definitely has that closer personality. If he stays in that role, who do you think would take over that third starter role?
Good question. Where’d Jordan Kipper get drafted?
Pretty sure Kipper’s going to sign, so he’s out. I kinda like Trey Teakell in that role. But Alex Young could be a good fit and makes a case for it. Either of them would be great. Thoughts?
You’ve got some options there. Teakell’s started before in his career and has pitchability. I think he could be well suited. Then again, Alex Young could do it too—I mean, a left-hander that has great command. You’ve got a couple options and I don’t know what they’re going to do.
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We had Finnegan in the Friday role last year. Do you see Morrison moving to Friday? Or do you like him staying in that Saturday role? Then maybe Alexander goes Friday? Or Morrison goes Friday and Alexander goes Saturday?
I think it would make sense to have him go Friday and be that "tone-setter" for the weekend. But the whole reason they started throwing him Saturday, from what I understand, is because he’s a groundball guy and balls tend to carry better at night than they do in the day.
I think Schlossnagle really wanted to use Finnegan’s power for Friday night. But if Ferrell moves into that starting role, maybe he becomes that Friday guy and keep that "power mold" that Finnegan was in. All of these options are fine. I think even Alexander would be well suited for that role. But probably your safest bet is putting your senior on Friday.
Thinking ahead, we’re losing Finnegan, we’re losing Cron, Kipper, Bacak, and Fitzgerald…how do you think TCU will recover from the losses? Especially on offense, losing a guy like Bacak and a guy like Fitzgerald---who might’ve had spotty fielding, but was certainly a huge asset at the plate?
They’re going to be pretty darn good. The pitching will still be one of the best in the Nation. I haven’t been putting the TCU draft list together yet, but Garrett Crain will be back?
Yeah, Crain will be back. Odell will be back, Keaton Jones will be back, the whole infield minus Cron. The whole outfield minus Fitzgerald (as well).
Right, so you’re going to have Boomer White back, you got Cody Jones, all of those guys are winners. I don’t think it’s going to be that difficult to fill a couple of holes in the lineup. I don’t know who’s going to catch, but I think a lot of teams would love to be in that position of only having two or three spots to fill.
And they get most of their pitching back (laughs)…
Looking ahead again, who do you think will be TCU’s biggest asset? Will it be Morrison or a guy like Boomer White?
I think you have to go back to the pitching again. The offense was a lot better this year and that’s why they were able to go as deep as they did, [and it’ll continue to do that].
I think they’ll be competent again offensively and very good defensively. But the thing that makes TCU special and out of the ordinary is the pitching. So it’s Morrison, Ferrell, and Alexander. But especially Morrison and Ferrell…those are the difference makers.
Do you see any breakout stars on this team next year?
Interesting. I don’t know if you can really call Crain a breakout guy. That’s a guy who I feel like, on a National level, he doesn’t get as much attention as other guys on the team.
He’s a great player. He’s a great natural hitter…he’s got great barrel control. I could see him stepping forward and having an All-American type of season next year. He’s a guy for me that certainly stands out.
Finally, where’s TCU’s ceiling next year?
I think it’s National championship. I haven’t published my pre-season [column] yet, but they’ll definitely be in there. They’ll be in my 8 for Omaha, that’s for sure. With that kind of experience returning and Omaha experience returning, no doubt they’ll be one of the contenders for the National title.