Every year during TCU’s recent three-year run of College World Series appearances, they have put together one of the top pitching staffs in the nation. In 2014 and 2015, they were No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation respectively. Last year, they put together a top 20 pitching staff despite injuries forcing them to start multiple freshman in the weekend rotation over the course of the season.
This year’s staff has the chance to be a special one. Both of the Frogs most experienced starters, Mitchell Traver and Brain Howard, made the decision to forego the MLB draft and return to TCU for their senior seasons. Also returning is last year’s redshirt freshman sensation Jared Janzack.
Schlossnagle said in January that in addition to the three returners mentioned above, the coaches are looking at three freshman who might be able to break into the starting rotation. Those prospects would be Nick Lodolo, Charles King and Jake Eissler. These young arms reportedly got a lot of work in fall ball as some of the veterans were given time to rest up. Mitchell Traver didn’t practice in the fall as he recovered from surgery at the end of last season, and Janczak was used lightly since he pitched all summer in the Cape Cod league.
Mitchell Traver, RS Sr. - RHP (6’7”, 255 lbs)
Traver’s season last year was limited by injury, but he was honored as a preseason All-American before the start of the 2016 season. That All-American mention was following a 2015 season when he went 9-2 with a 1.89 ERA, 77 Ks and 26 BBs in 76 1⁄3 innings pitched.
Sadly, he was injured the weekend before the 2016 season started and he was never able to match his sophomore performance. It was May before he pitched any meaningful innings and, although he clearly still had his mid-90s fastball, he never fully looked like himself until his last start against Coastal Carolina in the College World Series. Its clear that Traver feels like he has some unfinished business, and this could be his year to fully realize his enormous potential.
Brian Howard, Sr. - RHP (6’9”, 185 lbs)
Howard was TCU’s most reliable pitcher last year. He was 4-0 in his last four starts, securing crucial wins again and again during TCU’s path to the College World Series semi-final. He was only used out of the bullpen his sophomore year, but matured into TCU’s more reliable starter as a junior.
During the 2016 season, he went 10-2 with a 3.19 ERA, 93 Ks and 30 BBs in 98 2⁄3 innings pitched. Named a 2017 first-team preseason All-American by Collegiate Baseball, among other various preseason honors, Howard seems a lock to return to the starting rotation and produce at a high level.
Jared Janczak, RS So. - RHP (6’1”, 205 lbs)
Early on in the 2016 season, Luken Baker was the third weekend starter, and Janczak was an excellent compliment to the big man as a reliever. As the season progressed, he became one of the Frogs’ go-to arms out of the bullpen, and when Baker was shut down as a pitcher for the year with elbow discomfort, Janczak was called upon to step into a starting role.
He carried that opportunity to a 7-4 record with a 2.61 ERA, 80 Ks and 26 BBs in 82 2⁄3 innings pitched. In the latter half of the season Janczak showed that he was more than capable of handling the starting role. In the Frogs’ super regional at Texas A&M, Janczak took the mound on Friday night and gave TCU a 1-0 lead in the series. Whatever role he is called upon to perform this year, expect him to have success after further honing his craft in the Cape Cod league over the summer.
Nick Lodolo, Fr. - LHP (6’6”, 185 lbs)
Lodolo is one of the most anticipated commits in recent years for the Frogs. He was drafted out of high school with the 41st overall pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and was the highest unsigned draft pick in 2016. As a senior in high school he was honored as a first-team Rawlings-Perfect Game All-American and was ranked by Baseball America as a top 100 prospect nationally.
The commitment of Lodolo out of California really shows TCU’s emergence as a national brand. He was ranked by Perfect Game as the No. 1 left-hander in the state, and despite many top in-state programs, he opted to come all the way to Texas to join the Frogs. Being a lefty may give him the best chance out of the freshman to earn a spot in the starting lineup, as all of TCU’s weekend starters last year were right-handed.
Charles King, Fr. - RHP (6’5”, 215 lbs)
King comes to TCU as a hometown commit from Coppell High School, where he was named a first-team Louisville Slugger All-American as a senior. His other honors include Baseball America naming him the ninth-best overall prospect in the state of Texas. He already has an impressive frame for a freshman and according to Perfect Game, his fastball is clocked at 95 mph, so the power is there. Even if he doesn’t start this year, he is a player that could pay major dividends to the Frogs for years to come.
Jake Eissler, Fr. - RHP (6’1”, 205 lbs)
Schlossnagle made special mention to Eissler as the third freshman who is in the running to be a starter for the Frogs this year. Ranked as the No. 12 prospect in the state of Colorado, Eissler produced a 1.28 ERA with 81 Ks in 60 1⁄3 innings and was named the Colorado 5A Baseball Player of the Year as a senior.