TCU brings back some crucial bullpen pieces in 2018, as we detailed earlier this week here. But with their best arm heading to the starting rotation, there is a big hole to fill. We take a look at the new faces (and one returner who will make his mound debut this spring) that will have a chance to show they can be stoppers out of the pen.
Dion Henderson (RS Freshman) - LHP - 6’4”, 180 - Oak Park HS: Detroit, MI
Henderson joined the Frogs as a member of the class of 2016, but spent his first year on campus redshirting after an injury knocked him off the field. A 27th round draft pick after his senior season, Henderson opted to make his way to Fort Worth instead of joining the Reds organization. A three time All-American, Henderson is an intriguing prospect - considered a top 100 overall prospect and a top 15 left handed pitcher, Dion has three quality pitches including a mid-90s fastball and a filthy swing and miss curve. With a smooth delivery and a deceptive 3⁄4 slot, the sky is truly the limit for this special talent. We might not see the full ability of Henderson in year one, but his projectables make him over to watch going forward.
Augie Mihlbauer (Freshman) - LHP - 6’0”, 190 - Mukwonago HS: Mukwonago, WI
Just look at the footprint TCU Baseball is creating - players from Wisconsin, Colorado, Michigan, and Texas - and that’s just the new pitchers. Augie (GREAT baseball name, by the way) is another out-of-stater, hailing from The Cheese State, and he sure throws it (sorry). You’re going to love Augie for a few reasons, but let’s start with the most important - he LOVES TCU:
Quality education was first priority. Second to that was being part of a program that could maximize my potential as an athlete and a person to reach the ultimate goal. TCU is one of the top schools in the nation. The atmosphere at TCU was a big factor in my decision to commit there. The energy from the crowd and the fan support from Fort Worth are unreal and something I’ve never experienced before, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I also respected and really got comfortable with the coaches, and their styles of coaching. The facilities and Lupton Stadium are Grade A, and campus was beautiful and very well kept up, which definitely added to that welcoming feeling.
You’ll also enjoy his upper 80’s fastball, his big drop curve, and the way he pounds the strike zone. At 6’1”, 186, Mihlbauer has room to add to his athletic frame, and will likely see his velocity increase as he does so. For now, he is a solid option out of the pen that can be used situationally or for longer stretches when needed.
Russell Smith (Freshman) - LHP - 6’9”, 250 - Midlothian HS: Midlothian, TX
The highest rated recruit to sign with TCU out of the class of 2017, Smith has super star potential. Rated the eighth best prospect in Texas and the second best pitcher in the state, Smith was a 38th round pick by the Cubs, but likely would have gone much higher were it not for his commitment to the Frogs. Though his 6’9” frame will remind you of Brian Howard, Smith weighs more (250 pounds) than Howie did at graduation, and isn’t nearly as raw coming in. Already hitting 90 mph regularly with his fastball, Smith also has a two seamer and cutter, as well as a changeup and developing curve. He has work to do, of course, but could find himself a mid-week starter before too long, as Schloss and Saarloos will have a hard time not setting him loose.
James Notary (Freshman) - RHP - 6’3”, 210 - Broomfield HS: Westminster, CO
Another out of stater, Notary comes to Fort Worth after finishing a stellar prep career that elevated him into top five player in the state status. A big kid with an over the top delivery, Notary is a downhill thrower with a fast ball already closing in on 90mph. A quick worker on the mound, James - who is also an exceptional student - keeps hitters off balance by mixing in a sweeping curve ball and isn’t afraid to come right at batters with strikes. While he might not be a huge name coming in, he has a similar makeup to Sean Wymer, and could develop at a similar rate. He should be able to add to his velocity too, as he has a great athletic frame and outstanding work ethic.
Caleb Sloan (Freshman) - RHP - 6’3”, 215 - Regis Jesuit HS: Centennial, CO
Another Colorado native, Caleb Sloan is another big bodied kid who also play high school football - and had ten sacks as a senior - so you know he has some toughness on the mound. The top overall prospect in the state, Sloan throws a heavy fastball that he can regularly run up towards the mid-90s, with decent movement. He has a great slider as well, one that can buckle opposing hitters, and is developing a changeup that will be effective in time. The thing I like most about him is that he throws strikes - he isn’t going to try and fool hitters, he’s going to make them swing. Everyone is talking about Smith, and rightfully so, but I think Sloan has breakout potential in the mold of a Charles King.
Dylan Smith (Junior) - RHP - 6’3”, 2015 - Weatherford College: Southlake, TX
The lone juco transfer added to the pitching staff, Smith hails from Southlake where he played in the same program as former TCU QB Kenny Hill. Smith spend the last two season at Weatherford College - which is also where former TCU and Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta got his start. He doesn’t blow you out of the water with speed, but he throws several pitches and has good control of all of them. He delivers from a 3⁄4 slot and works with good tempo, keeping hitters off balance. While his stats aren’t great, his potential is, and he can certainly be developed in one of the best programs in the country.