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2023 TCU Baseball Preview: Pitchers

Will the Horned Frogs have enough arms to reach the top of the Big 12 standings once again?

Big 12 Baseball Tournament Photo by Bailey Orr/Texas Rangers/Getty Images

The TCU baseball team will be counting on some key transfers to help anchor both the starting rotation and the bullpen when the Horned Frogs tee off the 2023 season next weekend. TCU lost several veteran arms from last spring including starters Riley Cornelio, Austin Krob and Brett Walker as well as relievers Caleb Bolden, Drew Hill and Marcelo Perez. With former pitching coach Kirk Saarloos preparing for his second year as the head coach, TCU will need to show growth on the mound if the Horned Frogs hope to compete in 2023.

The Horned Frogs added several pitchers through the transfer portal over the offseason. One of those arms was Kansas right-hander Ryan Vanderhei, who should immediately factor into the weekend starting rotation. Vanderhei threw well as a reliever during the 2021 season, but struggled as a starter during the 2022 season, recording a 6.46 ERA with 83 strikeouts and 43 walks over 78 innings. The Horned Frogs also added Vanderbilt transfer Brett Hansen, but after the left-hander reportedly suffered an offseason lat injury, he opted to depart from the program, leaving TCU one arm short.

Right-hander Cam Brown started nine games for the Horned Frogs last season, posting a 4.42 ERA with 49 strikeouts and 31 walks in 53 innings. The junior will also likely command a spot in the weekend rotation as a starter in 2023 . Both Vanderhei and Brown possess high-velocity arms with fastballs measuring in the mid-to-upper 90s. Command will be the key for both players, who have walked their fair share of batters in recent seasons. Junior right-hander Luke Savage, who has excelled in relief over the last two seasons, could make the leap into the starting rotation and secure a weekend position. Savage holds a career 2.91 ERA with 55 strikeouts and 21 walks over 58 and two-thirds innings with TCU.

TCU’s bullpen will feature two prominent returners in right-hander Garrett Wright and left-hander River Ridings. Both juniors have experience closing games, but Wright fared much better during the 2022 season than Ridings, who was dominant during the 2021 season before struggling mightily last spring. While Wright and Ridings combined for 15 saves last season, walks were an issue for both players, who combined for 33 free passes and nine wild pitches over 40 and two-thirds innings in 2022. Ridings finished with a 1.08 ERA with a 39/14 K/BB ratio during the 2021 season, but those numbers ballooned for the worse during the 2022 season, where the junior held a 6.95 ERA with a 22/17 K/BB ratio and 10 saves. Wright has been steady over the last two seasons, posting a 3.63 ERA with a 35/16 K/BB ratio in 2021 before recording a 2.89 ERA with a 27/16 K/BB ratio in 2022.

Incoming transfers Hunter Hodges (UNC-Wilmington) and Sam Stoutenborough (California) should factor into the bullpen mix for the 2022 season. Hodges was a strikeout machine in his two seasons with the Seahawks, totaling 103 strikeouts over 69 and two-thirds innings. But his 61 walks and 26 wild pitches mean Hodges will be a high-risk, high-reward addition to the pitching staff this season. Stoutenborough arrives as a graduate transfer who pitched for four years at California, holding a 134/57 K/BB ratio in 202 and one-third innings. Stoutenborough posted a career 4.71 ERA with 49 appearances and 17 starts, meaning he could be used as either a starter or a reliever for the Horned Frogs during the 2023 season.

One returning pitcher who could see more usage this season is sophomore right-hander Cohen Feser, who struck out 11 batters without a walk and recorded a 3.86 ERA over 16 and one-third innings in 2022. TCU will also have several freshmen including Louis Rodriguez who are looking to earn their way onto the mound for the upcoming 2023 season.