Top 25 Breakdown: No. 8 ArkansasSeason Preview
2022 Record: 43-19 (18-12 in SEC).
Coach (Record at school): Dave Van Horn (796-423 in 20 seasons).
Ballpark: Baum-Walker Stadium (Capacity: 10,737).
Postseason History: 33 regionals (active streak: 5), 11 CWS trips (active streak: 1).
More: Fall Report on Arkansas
2024 Early-Season Tournament Action: College Baseball Series at Globe Life Field (Feb. 23-25)
Schedule, Stats, Team News: Follow the Razorbacks all season long at our Arkansas Team Page.
Arkansas’ Projected Lineup
|Hudson Polk (Stats from Oklahoma)
|John Bolton (Stats from Austin Peay)
|Jared Wegner (Stats from Creighton)
|Tavian Josenberger (Stats from Kansas)
Grading The Razorbacks
Just as scouts grade prospects using the 20-80 scouting scale, we use a 20-80 scale to evaluate teams in our top 25. A score of 50 in each category is average, relative to a typical NCAA tournament team; 55 is slightly above-average; 60 is above-average (plus); 70 is well above-average (plus-plus); 80 is top of the scale, historically strong. Accordingly, 45 is fringe-average or slightly below-average; 40 is below-average; 30 is well below-average; and 20 is the extreme in that direction.
Starting Pitching: 60
Strengths: Arkansas stands out most for the depth and variety of its pitching staff, which is loaded with power arms from the right side as well as the left. That depth should really shine in the bullpen, which has a chance to be among the nation’s best, led by shutdown closer Brady Tygart and emerging juco transfer lefty Hunter Hollan. The Hogs also did a nice job retooling the lineup through the transfer portal as well as the juco market and the high school ranks, and this offense should remain plenty powerful despite the turnover.
Question Marks: The greatest challenge facing Arkansas is replacing its four up-the-middle stalwarts defensively (catcher Michael Turner, shortstop Jalen Battles, second baseman Robert Moore and center fielder Braydon Webb). That was an elite defensive unit that played a huge part in leading the Hogs to Omaha last year. Three transfers will likely assume the jobs at catcher (Hudson Polk), shortstop (John Bolton or Harold Coll) and center field (Tavian Josenberger, who played mostly second base at Kansas but has a nice center field skill set). Peyton Stovall will slide from first base to second. It has a chance to be a solid defensive unit, but it will surely be a downgrade from last year’s premium group.
Star Power: Hagen Smith earned freshman All-America honors last year and came up huge in the postseason, and he looks primed to make the leap to superstardom as a sophomore. He attacks from a tough three-quarters angle that makes his lively fastball really play up, and he has plenty of feel for his slider and changeup. Tygart has some of the filthiest stuff you’ll find at the back of any bullpen in college baseball, with perhaps the nation’s best breaking ball and a fastball that reaches the mid-90s. Stovall was one of college baseball’s top recruits a year ago and found his stride in the second half after a sluggish start; he has a premium hit tool from the left side and emerging power that should make him a big star in year two.
Glue Guy: Will McEntire doesn’t have the sexy stuff that the other starting candidates on this staff can boast, but he’s a winner. He came out of nowhere to give Arkansas a huge boost in the rotation down the stretch last year, and his ability to command a fastball that tickles the low 90s as well as a good cutter and curveball should make him a reliable innings-eater this spring, whether he works as a midweek starter or returns to the weekend.
Picks to Click: Jaxon Wiggins has one of the biggest arms in the country, with a fastball that sits in the high 90s and bumps triple digits, along with the makings of a wipeout slider and swing-and-miss curveball. If he can harness his command and maintain his poise in tight spots, he has superstar potential — and the Hogs need him to put it all together in year three. Offensively, keep an eye on Jace Bohrofen, who has tantalized with his lefthanded bat and athleticism in his career but has yet to consistently produce.
Top Newcomers: Juco transfer Caleb Cali, a bounceback from Florida State, showed the ability to hit for average as well as power this fall, and the Hogs think he could step right into the heart of the order, along with Creighton transfer Jared Wegner (a proven run producer with pop and hittability). Josenberger is an athletic switch-hitter who runs well and could assume the leadoff job. Freshman Jayson Jones offers serious juice from the right side and has a good shot to win the DH job. Hollan made a velo jump into the mid-90s this fall and has feel to land multiple quality offspeed pitches for strikes.
Outlook: The Hogs lost serious star power from last year’s Omaha team, but they reloaded extremely well once again in the offseason, and there’s no reason to believe they’ll fall back to the pack in the SEC. This has the look of a top-tier SEC contender with Omaha upside, as usual.
See the Arkansas Razorbacks in action at the 2024 College Baseball Series at Globe Life Field!
From the Fall Report:
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Heading into last season, Arkansas appeared certain to hit, with a deep and powerful lineup loaded with experience, but the pitching staff was filled with talent but lacking in proven commodities. As it turned out, the Hogs were excellent on offense (ranking 13th in the nation in scoring) and also on the mound (ranking 22nd nationally in ERA), and the talented roster gelled at the perfect time en route to the College World Series.
Fast forward to this fall, and Arkansas faces questions in the lineup after losing everyday players Chris Lanzilli, Michael Turner, Cayden Wallace, Jalen Battles, Braydon Webb and Robert Moore — but the pitching staff now looks like a sure thing, stuffed with both marquee talent and experience. Arkansas should be a serious national contender once again on the strength of that pitching staff, but it needs a host of newcomers to make a big splash in the lineup in order to make another run at Omaha.
Arkansas struck gold through the transfer portal last year when it landed Turner and Lanzilli, who finished as the team’s top two hitters. The Hogs appear to have done very well in the portal again this year, bolstering the lineup with outfielders Jared Wegner (Creighton) and Tavian Josenberger (Kansas), catcher Hudson Polk (Oklahoma), and shortstop John Bolton (Austin Peay). But the Hogs have not forgotten their roots, and they continue to recruit the high school and juco ranks at a very high level as well. A number of those freshmen and JC transfers will also compete for major roles right away, along with the four-year transfers. … CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING THE FULL IN-DEPTH TEAM REPORT