2022 SEC Baseball Preview

Coming off one of the most memorable seasons in SEC history with having the CWS champion and runner-up. The SEC is once again looking to prove themselves as the dominant conference in college baseball. In the first edition of conference previews, here is a breakdown of SEC baseball in 2022. 

2022 Champions

Well, as everyone knows the team that wins the SEC usually moves on to Omaha. On top of that, most end up winning it all such as Vanderbilt in years past. However last year NC State upset Arkansas in the supers so will that happen again? I have an interesting prediction on who wins the league. I believe Ole Miss will be crowned 2022 SEC champions for a few reasons. 

The Rebels are in an interesting position compared to most teams in the SEC. Their coach Mike Bianco was expected to take the LSU job with Paul Manari retiring, however, he is back for another season and a new contract which is a huge advantage of having stability for the program. Ole Miss lost ace Gunnar Hoglund along with Doug Nikhazy, but the Rebels have some talented arms coming in. One is Hunter Ellis, who is a top 4 recruit in the state of Mississippi according to Perfect Game.

The Rebels also have two transfers coming in who could fill starting roles such as Jack Washburn from Oregon State and John Gladdis from Texas A.M. Corpus Christi. Another piece of the puzzle that could see time in the bullpen right away is Brayden Jones. He is also a top 10 recruit in Mississippi who has more of the style of Kyle Hendricks in using his breaking pitches effectively to draw hitters off guard. However, he does have a fastball he can run up to 95 and along with his pitch mix he will definitely find a middle relief role immediately. This also leaves Ole Miss in similar positions as most SEC schools including Vanderbilt who arguably lost the greatest 1-2 punch in college baseball history with Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter. 

The offensive side of the ball is where the Rebels can win the league and even the CWS. Ole Miss will return essentially their entire lineup from 2021, which was the second-best offense in the SEC with 7.1 runs per game. The Rebels also bring in left-handed power hitter John Kramer. Kramer was the number four recruit out of the state of Missouri who has plenty of potential for Ole Miss. 

The schedule for the Rebels is not that easy after a weaker non-conference slate as they play Tennessee and Mississippi State who were CWS teams in 2021 at home and have to travel to LSU, South Carolina, and Arkansas.

While it certainly won’t be easy, Ole Miss will be named 2022 SEC champions in possibly the deepest year in the conference’s history. 

Player of the Year

For player of the year, it will likely go to Jacob Berry. After putting up a record year at Arizona in which he was a first team All American, he also led the Wildcats in home runs and RBI’s, along with a .352 batting average, helping his ball club go to the CWS. Berry comes to LSU as one of the most decorated players in the country and will help the Tigers chances to get to Omaha significantly.

It is an exciting year upcoming in Baton Rouge with new coach Jay Johnson. Also coming from the Wildcats, LSU will have an explosive offense with potentially one of the best lineups in all of college baseball with the best top of the order in the SEC. With all of this in place, this could lead to Berry becoming a serious candidate for the Golden Spikes Award.

Freshman of the Year

For the rookie of the year, it will likely go to undrafted Florida Gator Rene Lastres. Lastres, who is the 31st overall prospect in the Perfect Game rankings and a top 5 catcher in the state of Florida is one of the best defensive high schools catchers in the country. He also has the capability of having the best arm of any catcher in the country this season for Florida. One of his downsides is he strikes out a lot, but he has plenty of power. There is plenty of potential for Coach Sullivan to groom him into a premier college baseball. It’s expected for him to see significant time behind the plate for the Gators as the year progresses. 

Most Improved Team

Things couldn’t get any worse for Texas A&M on the diamond last year. After the firing of coach Rob Childress, there’s new hope in College Station after a dreadful 29-27 campaign last season. The Aggies will look to bounce back and restore hope for a tremendous program under Coach Jim Schlossnagle. With an impressive lineup returning in the likes of Austin Bost, who put up over a .300 batting average along with 39 RBI’s and Britt Logan who produced 20 RBI’s in his sophomore campaign, the Aggies lineup appears to be in good shape for 2022.

Along with them, the Aggies bring in the #15 overall recruiting class in the country. The class is headlined by premier short-stop Austin Stracener who’s considered a top 10 shortstop in the state of Texas. To compliment him, the Aggies also brought in many pitching prospects who will be mentioned shortly. The biggest question for the Aggies is if their lineup has enough power to make a regional run?

On the opposite side of the ball, the Aggies bring in as mentioned above one of the best pitching classes in all of college baseball by landing Rawley Hector who is the 7th overall pitching prospect in the state of Texas. Hector topped 91 in high school, but now is expected to get up to 93 by the season’s start. To accompany him, the Aggies also bring in John Rizzo, no relation to Anthony, who registers a perfect grade by Perfect Game’s prospect tool.

He also has one of the best velocities in all of high school baseball at 94 with some sink on some of his pitches. Both of these guys will have to be in serious contention for a weekend slot with the departures of Dustin Saenz and Chandler Jozwiak to the draft. While having a young rotation and losing their starting rotation from 2021, the Aggies have the talent to compete with an extremely competitive SEC for the 2022 campaign. 

Pitcher of the Year

This might be the easiest selection of the entire preview with Mississippi State’s Landon Sims to be the 2022 SEC Pitcher of the Year. Sims dazzled for the Bulldogs last season by posting a 5-0 record and a 1.44 ERA in 56 innings pitched. He’s also Mississippi State’s best closer and one of the best in college baseball. Sims, however, was solid too at the CWS putting up 2 saves on college baseball’s grandest stage. He should be nothing less than spectacular in 2022 and will likely be a 1st rounder in next summer’s MLB Draft. 

Omaha Predictions

Whenever you talk about SEC Baseball you think about the rich history at the CWS. By having Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and Tennessee in Omaha can all three teams get back or will there be new faces from the SEC?

SEC will once again get three teams in Omaha, but only one remains on the list. The easy choice is Vanderbilt because how can you leave Tim Corbin’s team off the list? His club has been to Omaha five times since 2011 and holds a pair of national championships to show for it. Even with an extremely young, yet talented pitching staff, returners such as the nation’s fastest player in Enrique Bradfield Jr. and projected top pick, Isaiah Thomas, the Commodores are in good shape to return to Omaha for the 3rd consecutive season.

A new team on the list is our 2022 SEC Champions in Ole Miss. With everything mentioned prior, expect to see the Rebels in Omaha for the first time since 2014. 

Last on the list is a dark horse for Omaha the LSU Tigers. It’s rare for a new coach to lead his program to the CWS, but LSU has the #6 recruiting class in the country. This includes five of the best hitters returning in college baseball to go along with that. The Tigers also have two of the best pitchers in the country last season coming back to school in Devin Fontenot and Ma’Khai Hilliard who both posted under 3.00 ERA’s in their 2021 campaigns.

The issue is the bullpen depth which is in the same boat as most SEC teams this upcoming season. LSU will have to depend on freshmen stepping up into those roles and proving to be reliable in big spots. The offensive power should be plenty to finally get the Tigers back to Omaha for the first time since 2009. 

Final Projected Standings

  1. Ole Miss
  2. LSU
  3. Vanderbilt 
  4. Florida 
  5. Arkansas 
  6. Mississippi State
  7. Georgia
  8. Texas A&M
  9. Alabama 
  10. Tennessee 
  11. South Carolina 
  12. Auburn
  13. Kentucky 
  14. Missouri