With the NCAA College Baseball season starting in just a few weeks, it is time that we preview some of the top college players in Texas that will be looking to break out in 2022.
1. Jace Jung, 2B – Texas Tech
Leading the way as our top player in Texas is none other than Jace Jung out of Texas Tech. The younger brother of current Texas Rangers number two prospect (Josh), Jung, burst onto the scene in 2020 as one of the premier second basemen in college baseball.
Coming off one of the best seasons in school history that earned the sophomore infielder a unanimous first-team All-America, NCBWA National Freshman Hitter of the Year award, NCBWA District 7 Co-Player of the Year, a finalist for the Dick Howser Trophy, and Big 12 Player of the Year, all in 2021.
Jung will be looking to build on his resume going into the 2022 season. Already named a preseason first-team All-American, Jung has the attention of MLB teams.
2. Jared McKenzie, OF, Baylor
Baylor Bears outfielder Jared McKenzie will be looking to build off a freshman season where he hit .383, with ten home runs and 44 RBI in 2022. He also led the Bears this season in hits (82), runs (62), triples (4), and OPS (1.079) in 2021, which was enough to earn him a Third-Team All-American by Perfect Game/Rawlings and was a Second-Team Freshman All-American selection by the NCBWA.
Already named Perfect Game/Rawlings 2022 Preseason All-America Third Team, announced earlier this week by the organization, the Baylor Bears outfielder will be looking to cement his name into the record books going into his sophomore season. As it currently sits, McKenzie is the all-time batting average leader in Baylor history (.389).
3. Trey Faltine, SS, Texas
Texas Longhorns redshirt sophomore shortstop Trey Faltine is looking to turn it up a notch in 2022. A season in which Faltine earned a Big 12 Honorable Mention as a redshirt freshman, Faltine led the Big 12 with 203 assists in 2021. Offensively, Faltine helped the Longhorns return to the College World Series, batting .249 with 18 doubles and five home runs last season.
One of the best defensive shortstops in college baseball, Faltine was able to earn himself a preseason All-American Second Team selection by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
4. Jace Grady, OF, Dallas Baptist
The underclassman is taking over the top spots in our top college players in Texas. Jace Grady, from Dallas Baptist, is another impressive sophomore looking to shine in 2022. Having earned Freshman All-American honors, Grady was a Second Team All Missouri Conference with an impressive .338 batting average, which was enough to rank him eighth in the conference.
A menace on the base path, Grady ranked second in the MVC in stolen bases with 15. During the MVC Tournament, Grady earned MVP honors after going 4-for-6 with two home runs, a double, three RBI, and four runs scored, leading the Patriots to a conference championship.
5. Pete Hansen, LHP, Texas
Rounding out our top five, our first pitcher is a left-hander out of the University of Texas, Pete Hansen. As a redshirt freshman, Hansen dominated opposing hitters in 2021. Named the freshman All-America first team and a Big 12 Honorable Mention, Hansen held opposing hitters to a .201 batting average.
In 91-innings pitched, Hansen finished the season with a 9-1 record, a 1.88 ERA, and 80 strikeouts. In his young career with the Longhorns, Hansen has a 1.58 ERA, with 108 strikeouts in 98 innings pitched. The Longhorns will be stacked this season with pitching, which will allow Hansen to go out and do his thing on the mound.
6. Austin Krob, LHP, TCU
The left-handed Junior Austin Krob will lead the TCU Horned Frogs pitching staff this season, hoping to repeat as Big 12 Champions. Standing at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, Krob jumped into the limelight in 2021. In 16-games started last season, Krob went 8-1 with a 3.81 ERA in 85 innings pitched. Tallying 96 strikeouts, Krob was able to keep opposing hitters at bay with a .252 batting average against him.
This season, a preseason All-America Second Team selection, Krob, will be looking to increase his velocity on his fastball, which is currently between 91-93 MPH—mixing in a slider and a changeup to keep hitters off-balance. If Krob can master the combo of fastball and offspeed, mixing it around when needed, the left-hander will have MLB teams calling in July.
7. Aaron Nixon, RP, Texas
Aaron Nixon from Texas is our first relief pitcher to break into the top ten. A true freshman in 2021, Nixon anchored the Longhorn bullpen as the closer, holding opposing hitters to a .211 batting average with nine saves in 27 appearances last season.
The presumed closer for 2022, Nixon, a preseason All-America Second Team selection by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, will be looking to build off his first season on the Forty Acres that earned him a Freshman All-American and Big 12 Honorable mention selection in 2021.
8. Tanner Witt, RP, Texas
A fourth-generation Longhorn, true freshman Tanner Witt dazzled both on the mound and at the plate last season. The right-hander appeared in 28-games for the Longhorns in relief, managing a 5-0 record, a 3.16 ERA with five saves in 57 innings pitched. His 73-strikeouts were quite impressive for the true freshman, as he held off opposing hitters with a batting average of .194, which was enough to earn him Freshman All-American and Big 12 Honorable Mention last season.
His best outing came with the Longhorns facing elimination during the College World Series. Facing Tennessee, Witt pitched a career-high 5.2 scoreless innings to keep the Longhorns alive to advance to the next round against Virginia. Witt had 13-plate appearances, hitting .231 with three hits and three runs scored. Going into the 2022 season, Witt is a preseason All-American Second Team selection by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
9. Ivan Melendez, 1B, Texas
Having spent his freshman and sophomore seasons at Odessa College, Ivan Melendez transferred to Texas and immediately impacted the lineup. The redshirt sophomore led the Longhorns with a .319 batting average with 13 home runs and 51 RBI. In his first season with the Longhorns, a .603 slugging percentage was enough to earn Melendez First Team All-Big 12 Designated Hitter and an ABCA All-Region Second Team honors.
Melendez hit a program-record six-game home run streak in a stretch of games from April 3-11 in 2021, which was enough to earn him NCBWA Hitter of the Week. Coming to the 2022 season, Melendez is a preseason All-American First Team selection by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
10. Tristan Stevens, RHP, Texas
Closing out our top ten college players in Texas, we stay in the Big 12 and with the Longhorns. With former Longhorn pitcher Ty Madden gone to the Detroit Tigers organization, the Longhorns will turn to redshirt senior Tristan Stevens to guide this young rotation.
Leading the Longhorns with an 11-3 record, a 3.13 ERA, 77 strikeouts in 111.1 innings pitched, Stevens earned himself First Team All-Big 12 honors in 2021. Standing at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Stevens is a pitcher that throws strikes. His velocity on his fastball is not where it should be, sitting between 87-89 MPH, but most often than not, command trumps velocity, and in Stevens’ case, he has excellent command.
It is no surprise that when we look at Stevens, Hansen, and Witt, the Longhorns will be stacked this season, which is why they are the number one team in the country. A preseason All-America Second Team selection by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, Stevens, will be exciting to watch in 2022.
It is no surprise that the Longhorns have several preseason All-Americans. These players in our top ten will be exciting to watch as the college baseball season kicks off on 2/18.
Main Image Credit