There will be a lot of new faces for Texas Baseball this year, but the expectations remain high for a program coming off their 38th trip to the College World Series. The 2022 Longhorns opened the year as the unanimous #1 team in the country. The 2023 squad has seen their preseason ranking anywhere from the 20-25 range to unranked in many publications.
Let's take a look at what to expect from the Longhorns in 2023.
The Returners (Position Players)
The Longhorns will be replacing Ivan Melendez, Trey Faltine, Murphy Stehly, Skyler Messinger, Douglas Hodo, Austin Todd and Silas Ardoin in the lineup. The lone returners who saw significant action at the plate in 2022 are Mitchell Daly, Dylan Campbell and Eric Kennedy. Daly will be entering his 3rd season as a starter and will likely be making the move to SS this season to replace Faltine. 2022 was not kind to Daly, as he finished the season with a .237 average with 4 homers and 37 RBI's. The glove has never been a question, but his offense will need to step forward in 2023. Perhaps the most intriguing player on the Texas roster is Campbell, who came on strong in the back half of the 2022 season and hit .325 in Big 12 play. He finished the year with 10 homers and 14 stolen bases. He will likely open this season as the starting RF and bat in the middle of the lineup. Kennedy opted to return for his 5th season at Texas instead of starting his professional career. He has 166 career starts and hit an even .300 in 2022 despite missing time with a hamstring injury. Kennedy and Campbell have the ability to combine for 40+ steals if both remain healthy.
Jack O'Dowd, Ace Whitehead and Peyton Powell combined to start only 9 games in 2022 but all 3 figure to take on bigger roles this upcoming season. O'Dowd is a strong contender to win the starting 2B job with Daly sliding over to SS. Whitehead is another speedy OF who showed good contact skills in limited duty last year (10 hits in 18 at bats). Powell has battled injuries throughout his time at Texas, but has been healthy throughout the fall and could factor in at catcher, first base or the outfield.
The Returners (Pitchers)
In addition to losing the bulk of their lineup, Texas is also having to replace Pete Hansen, Tristan Stevens, Jared Southard, Marcus Olivarez and Aaron Nixon on the mound. Lucas Gordon, who stepped into weekend rotation last season following Tanner Witt's injury, will be the Friday night starter this year. Gordon had an outstanding 2022 (7-2, 3.05 ERA, 77 strikeouts in 85.2 innings) and will look to take the next step as the ace of the staff. Zane Morehouse is a strong candidate for a weekend rotation spot after starting 6 games in 2022. Morehouse, who has flashed a mid 90's fastball and nice slider, has spent a lot of time this offseason working on his command after issuing 22 walks or HBP's in 39 innings last year.
Andre Duplantier and Lebarron Johnson Jr. are two other candidates who could work their way into the starting rotation. Duplantier returned to the mound last year after missing the 2021 season due to Tommy John surgery. He struggled at times throughout 2022 but pitched some big innings for Texas in the postseason. Johnson Jr. has an electric fastball that can sit in the upper 90's but has struggled with control (11 walks in 17 innings in 2022). He has been stretched out throughout the fall and could be in line for some work as a starter to begin the season.
Luke Harrison and Travis Sthele both seem likely to begin the season in the bullpen. Sthele, like Duplantier, was returning from Tommy John surgery last season and struggled with consistency. At his best, he is able to utilize his mid 90's fastball and a nice changeup. Harrison led the team in appearances last season (32) and will be used heavily as a left handed reliever. (2/13 Update: Harrison will reportedly not pitch this season due to injury).
The real wildcard is Tanner Witt, who is about 9 months removed from Tommy John surgery. Witt has stated publicly that he hopes to pitch this season and Pierce mentioned that the righty is ahead of schedule in his recovery. It is not known when he might return to the mound, if at all.
The Portal Additions (Position Players)
The Longhorns brought in 3 transfer position players to help shore up the lineup. TCU transfer Porter Brown, who is a career .286 hitter with an OBP hovering around .400, is the favorite to be the everyday starter in LF. Brown has started 82 games in his career. USC transfer Garret Guillemete is a strong candidate to take over the catching duties after hitting .286 last year with the Trojans. Lastly, Long Beach State transfer Tanner Carlson will look to carve out a role in the everyday lineup after hitting .345 last year. Carlson can play 2B, SS and 3B.
The Portal/JUCO Additions (Pitchers)
Pitching was a huge focus for Texas this offseason after struggling with depth in 2022. The Longhorns welcomed 6 new pitchers from the portal or junior college ranks. The most notable is USC transfer Charlie Hurley, who stands 6'8 and started 13 games for the Trojans a year ago. Hurley has a fastball that can touch 93-94 and a nice curveball. He will push for a spot in the weekend rotation right away.
In addition to Hurley, Texas also added LHP David Shaw (Rice), RHP Heston Tole (Arkansas), RHP Cody Howard (Baylor), LHP Chris Stuart (San Jacinto junior college) and RHP DJ Burke (San Jacinto junior college). Stuart is the most likely out of the group to push for time in the starting rotation. The lefty struck out 106 batters in 78.1 innings at San Jac in 2022. The other 4 will be competing for innings in the bullpen. Burke and Howard could both end up in the backend of the bullpen in high-leverage roles.
The Freshman (Position Players)
Texas added 7 position players in the 2022 signing class. The 3 most notable arrivals are Jalin Flores, Jared Thomas and Max Beyleu. Flores is the favorite to open the season as the starter at 3B and oozes potential. Thomas has seen a lot of reps at first base has a nice swing from the left side. Beyleu is another left handed hitter who can play in the OF or factor into the discussion at DH.
Jayden Duplantier (younger brother of Andre) and Cade O'Hara will serve as depth up the middle of the infield. Duplantier has outstanding speed and will be someone who can be used situationally late in games. Catcher Rylan Galvin is the catcher of the future with a ton of offensive potential and will likely get eased into action as the season progresses.
The Freshman (Pitchers)
RHP Kobe Minchey and RHP Max Grubbs are the two freshman most likely to see time on the mound.
David Pierce opted to completely remake his coaching staff following the 2022 season. He parted way with pitching coach Sean Allen and assistant Philip Miller was reassigned to an off-field role. In addition, volunteer assistant Troy Tulowitzki also chose to step away from his role with the program. Former Baylor head coach Steve Rodriguez is the new hitting coach while 15-year MLB veteran Woody Williams was hired as the new pitching coach. Texas also hired former Duke pitching coach Chris Gordon as the coordinator of hitting and pitching development.