The only every day player that the Frogs will need to replace this season is outfielder Dane Steinhagen, who graduated last spring - but sliding right into his place is redshirt senior Nolan Brown, who is back to full health after sitting out last year with a wrist injury.
Outfield Stats (2015/2016 stats)
|Brown, Nolan (2015)||OF||0.302||0.371||0.373||11||1||1|
|Evan Williams (2015)||OF||0.351||0.458||0.401||1|
Brown will return to center field this spring, sliding junior Austen Wade to right and leaving sophomore Josh Watson patrolling left. Though Steinhagen was a solid piece a year ago, getting Brown back automatically improves the defense considerably due to his speed and range manning the middle. Wade, who was an honorable mention All-Big 12 nominee last year, batted .286 with 11 doubles, a triple, and a home run, knocking in 27 runs in the process. He also stole 13 of 16 bases successfully. He found his stroke in his first season seeing significant playing time, and should lock down right field for the course of the year.
Opposite Wade will be Watson, who showed flashes of his incredible power but struggled with strikeouts in his freshman campaign. He hit .280, mashed 11 dingers, 12 doubles, and five RBIs - but struck out 65 times in 67 games. On the bright side, he had 44 RBIs, 12 stolen bases in 15 attempts, and slugged an impressive .506. He should increase his average and decrease his strikeouts in year two, especially with the types of hitters he will be surrounded with in a deep and variable lineup.
Nolan Brown’s return is a welcome event for Jim Schlossnagle and the Frogs, as the plus defender brings an element of speed to the outfield grass and the base paths. Brown saw very limited action in 2016, mostly as a defensive replacement, but had only three at bats over the course of the year, reaching base twice and stealing a base. In his last full season of health, he hit over .300 and stole 19 bases while starting 65 games in centerfield. Additionally, he drew an impressive 23 walks from the lead off spot, and when you can get a guy with his ability to take bases on first, it creates a ton of opportunity for the offense behind him. Inserting Brown back into the top of the lineup dramatically changes the way opposing pitchers approach the Frogs - when you have such a patient hitter leading off, and such big bats behind him, there’s not a lot of room for error.
Backing up the three expected starters is a veteran and a pair of TCU rookies; redshirt senior Evan Williams returns, juco transfer Austin Ingraham makes his debut, and freshman Haylen Green will split time between the outfield and bullpen.