There's a lot of work to be done this season, but two TCU starters may have their future plans mapped out. Mitchell Traver is the second TCU pitcher to hear his name called, following Brian Trieglaff, as he is drafted in the 17th round, at number 498, by the Cincinnati Reds. Brian Howard followed suit soon there after, picked by the Houston Astros at number 517, also in the 17th round.
After both struggled with injury in 2016, something Traver has dealt with his entire TCU career, it's great to see these two leaders and talented pitchers have the opportunity to continue their careers in pro ball, should they choose to forgo their final year of eligibility. Both Howard and Traver are juniors, with Traver having used his redshirt year due to the aforementioned injury issues.
While Mitchell was expected to be the ace coming into 2016, as TCU lost their entire 2015 starting rotation to injury or the draft, he had to wait until the very end of conference play to make his starting debut. A star amongst stars as a sophomore, when Traver posted a 1.89 ERA and 77 strikeouts on his way to a 9-2 record, it appeared the 6'7" righty was finally healthy and ready to explode onto the scene as a junior. But a back muscle issue kept him off of the mound until May, and he threw in only nine innings prior to the Big 12 tournament. But the veteran leader is a role model for his teammates on and off the field, and as the pitcher of record for TCU's dramatic 16 inning victory that sent the team to Omaha a year ago, he is a battle-tested, experienced player who has proven that the moment is never too big for him. In limited work this year, Traver is 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 18.1 innings pitch. His most recent start, against Oral Roberts in the opening game of the Fort Worth Regional, Traver seemed back to his old self, throwing five shutout innings, allowing only two hits and striking out four. He is scheduled to start Saturday night in College Station against the Aggies, with a third straight trip to Omaha on the line for TCU.
Brian Howard has become the ace of TCU's team, almost by default. The lone veteran on the mound to start the season, the 6'9" righty out of St. Louis took ownership of the mound and the team almost from the get go. Despite some injury issues of his own, Howard led the team with 15 starts, going 8-2 with one complete game, 78 strikeouts and a 3.56 ERA. He has been especially effective in the post season, pitching six innings in a must-win game against Texas in the Big 12 Tournament, allowing only two runs on five hits with five strikeouts, and helping TCU take the Fort Worth Regional with an absolute gem of a game against Arizona State. In that Sunday night contest, Howard went eight innings of four hit ball, surrendering a lone run and striking out nine while not allowing a single walk. He will be called upon in the Supers against A&M Sunday, if the Aggies are able to force a game three.
It will be interesting to see what both of these veteran leaders for the Frogs decide; both have experienced Omaha twice before, with an opportunity to return for a third straight time available to them this weekend, and have been a part of the most successful era of TCU Baseball. Knowing the young talent on the roster now, there is certainly an opportunity for this group to be even better in 2017, and I am sure the lure of winning it all could be enough to keep them in Fort Worth for their senior seasons. But with pitchers, and especially for a guy like Traver who has an extensive injury history, it's hard to pass up the opportunity to head to pro ball and keep the mileage on their arms down. While we certainly hope they return and lead the charge their senior year, TCU fans will be happy to follow them at the next stage, should they choose to move on to the minor leagues.