Fall Report: Texas A&M
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Going through the worst kind of adversity can often make you stronger the next season.
That’s the overall feeling and vibe you get around Blue Bell Park these days as coach Rob Childress and the Aggies continue fall workouts. The Aggies had plenty of setbacks at the beginning of the 2015 season, losing lefthander AJ Minter to a season-ending injury just a couple of weeks in, while fellow lefty Tyler Stubblefield wasn’t available until the last month of the season because of an ACL injury. Still, the Aggies had one of the nation’s elite offensive lineups, and several pitchers rose to the occasion to make this a team that spent time during the season at No. 1 in the D1Baseball.com Top 25 rankings.
The Aggies fell short of a national seed in controversial fashion, and were forced to hit the road for super regional action. There, the Aggies had a hard-fought, outstanding three-game series against TCU in a three-game set that ended with a Frogs victory in the 17th inning, and of course, some Aggie heartache.
That occurrence might be a source of motivation in the back of some Aggies’ heads as fall workouts progress, but the maroon and white have turned the page and look forward to molding together a team that appears, for now, to be a slam-dunk top-10 team.
“We’ve got a great nucleus of returning players and they’ve done a tremendous job from a leadership standpoint,” Childress said. “They continue to improve as the fall moves along, and everything seems to be coming together just nicely.
“This team isn’t about the 2015 team,” he continued. “This team is about establishing an identity specific to the 2016 team. We just need to make sure we’re improving each day we get closer to the season.”
Childress and the Aggies have plenty of reasons to believe this team has a chance to be much better than last year’s super regional squad. The Aggies do have some holes to fill on this squad, however. For instance, shortstop Blake Allemand was an offensive force down the stretch last season and is gone, while Logan Taylor had a strong year, and no one was more of a pure hitter on this team last year than Mitchell Nau, who interestingly enough, is now a graduate assistant coach on the A&M staff. Meanwhile, the pitching staff must replace hard-nosed righthander Grayson Long, who stepped up in the weekend rotation last year, while lefthander Matt Kent was the do-it-all specialist who really carried the Aggies at the end of 2015 with two outings in the regional, along with an impressive showing against TCU.
Looking at this team on paper, the first thing that stands out is the sheer amount of talent on the mound. The Aggies welcome back Tyler Stubblefield, hard-throwing righthander Ryan Hendrix, who was very good much of last season, Kyle Simonds, who has improved his stuff this fall, hard-throwing righty Mark Ecker, and perhaps most notable, sophomore righty Corbin Martin, who was a seldom-used arm last year, but who had a terrific summer at the Alaska League with mid-90s stuff. That’s not even including the hard-throwing first-year players, who we detail below.
Offensively, there’s a lot of potential here. The Aggies finally have former TCU standout Boomer White eligible after sitting out last season because of transfer rules, while All-American outfielder Nick Banks is back, along with Ryne Birk, Hunter Melton and Ronnie Gideon, among others. There’s also the potential addition of freshman athlete and elite prospect Kyler Murray, who also plays football for the Aggies. Murray, at this point, fully plans to play baseball in the spring.
“There’s an awful lot of talent there [on the pitching staff],” Childress said. “Justin [Seely] has done a great job of putting together the talent in this recruiting class. But we will see how really deep we are in the spring, especially when the pressure gets in our guys.”
It’s time to look at some of the standouts so far this fall for the Aggies.
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