Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A team from College Station had a preseason ranking inside the top 10 but has underwhelmed during the regular season. No I’m not talking about Texas A&M football, but I am talking about their baseball team.
After reaching the college world series last season, there were high expectations for A&M (20-13). While they haven’t been horrible, they haven’t lived up to the preseason hype that thought they might contend for an SEC Championship.
This weekend, Missouri takes a trip to College Station to face the Aggies as the Tigers try to get back on track. Let’s break down what they can expect from the A&M.
At the Plate
The first name at the top of the scouting report when talking about A&M is SS Hunter Haas. A transfer from Arizona State, Haas came to College Station in search of a change of scenery after battling a partially torn rotator cuff last season.
So far, things are going about as good as Haas could’ve expected. With a .371/.465/.545, 4 HR, and a 143 wRC+, he’s been A&M’s best player from the time he showed up on campus. Haas also has great plate discipline. He’s drawn 22 walks and struck out just 13 times. Not to mention, he’s fantastic defender at a premium defensive position.
For his efforts, Haas was recently recognized on the Golden Spikes Award Midseason Watchlist.
I wish I was as good at anything as Hunter Haas is at baseballpic.twitter.com/u5q7krvefW— Sidelines - Texas A&M ⚾ (20-13) (@SSN_TAMU) April 7, 2023
Another newcomer for the Aggies is also making waves this season. Freshman OF Jace LaViolette might be one of the youngest players on the team, but he doesn’t show it in his play.
The No. 113 prospect in the 2022 class by Perfect Game, LaViolette is excelling in his first SEC season to the tune of a .261/.400/.559 slashline. He sports a 125 wRC+, has launched a team high 8 homers, and is a threat on the basepaths, swiping nine bags this season.
LaViolette comes into this series fresh off being named SEC Freshman of the Week. He launched 3 HR and drove in 8 runs in a series victory against Auburn last weekend.
If you were to pick one flaw in LaViolette’s game it would be his tendency to swing and miss. His 27.1% strikeout rate is a little high, but considering he’s just a freshman, the Aggies likely anticipate that will go down as he matures.
Bye ball! ⚾️@JaceLaViolette2's 6th homer on the year.#GigEm pic.twitter.com/EHlHRvFVH1— Texas A&M Baseball (@AggieBaseball) April 7, 2023
The final hitter I want to highlight is OF Brett Minnich. After missing a large chunk of the season because of thumb surgery, Minnich has returned to the Aggie lineup with a vengeance.
His .371/.488/.743 slashline is stupid good, and his 178 wRC+ is even better. The Aggies have also won both of their weekend series since Minnich’s return, and it’s hard to argue that’s coincidence.
Minnich comes into this series riding a six-game hitting streak, and I wouldn’t expect the sweet swinging lefty to slow down any time soon.
BRETT MINNICH STRIKES AGAIN pic.twitter.com/ykXsVgq0Gj— Tim England (@tengland_150) April 7, 2023
On the Mound
A&M has a strong lineup that’s plenty capable of scoring several runs, but the Aggies problems this year have stemmed from the pitching staff evidenced by their 5.39 staff ERA.
A&M’s pitching struggles are so dire, they have only named one weekend starter, Nathan Dettmer.
Dettmer broke out last season with a 7-inning shutout in the CWS against Notre Dame, and expectations were high for him in 2023. Coming into the year, MLB Pipeline had Dettmer as it’s No. 48 MLB Draft prospect, but he’s struggled.
Dettmer’s 5.98 ERA and 1.52 WHIP leave a lot to be desired, and things have only gotten worse in SEC play as he has a 9.14 ERA in four starts. The numbers indicate he could be getting a tad unlucky considering his 4.61 FIP and 3.96 xFIP, but the results heavily favor a Missouri lineup that feels like it’s due for a big offensive game.
You can expect Dettmer to rely most heavily on his mid-90s sinker and mix in a changeup and slider.
Nathan Dettmer folks @NDettmer21— Texas A&M Baseball (@AggieBaseball) April 23, 2022
While A&M hasn’t named a Game 2 or Game 3 starter, one candidate to get the start in either game is freshman Justin Lamkin. Before Lamkin shifted to the rotation three weekends ago, he had a 1.33 ERA and was a major weapon for Jim Schlossnagle out of the bullpen.
In A&M’s first SEC series of the year against LSU, Lamkin came out of the pen with 4.1 strong innings to help the Aggies top the nation’s best team. The next weekend, Schlossnagle gave Lamkin his first SEC start. Things have gone poorly since that decision was made.
Lamkin has surrendered six or more earned runs in each of his SEC starts and his ERA has climbed to 6.67. Whether or not Lamkin will get a start this weekend or feature out of the pen is up in the air, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility he does make his fourth straight SEC start.
Freshman left-hander Justin Lamkin out of Corpus Christi Calallen has looked really sharp today. Good tempo and filling up the strike zone. Fastball has been in the 89-93 mph range. @LamkinJustin pic.twitter.com/Y0580Um8Za— Ryan Brauninger (@R_Brauninger) October 15, 2022
I’m not even going to waste my time trying to guess who else could get a start for the Aggies with how messed up their weekend rotation is. What I will do, however, is talk about Evan Aschenbeck. A Juco transfer from Blinn College, Aschenbeck has arguably been the Aggies best arm this season.
In 32.1 innings, Aschenbeck has a 3.34 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 3.11 xFIP and 40 Ks with just 9 walks. In SEC play, his ERA is even lower at 2.57 in 14 innings. Schlossnagle has exclusively used Aschenbeck out of the pen, and he’s been an absolute weapon but at this point who’s to say Schloss won’t give Aschenbeck a start to try and remedy his team’s pitching woes.
evan. freaking. aschenbeck. pic.twitter.com/0lJd44nlUk— Texas A&M Baseball (@AggieBaseball) March 6, 2023
For the first time this season, Missouri isn’t playing one of the top teams in the SEC. A&M’s pitching issues should give the Tigers’ offense a chance to rediscover it’s groove and secure Mizzou’s first SEC series victory since Tennessee. While, the Tigers are on the road, a series win feels reasonable and almost essential.
Thursday @ 7 pm on ESPNU
Friday @ 6 pm on SECN +
Saturday @ 12:30 on SECN +