One word can be used to describe Georgia Bulldog Baseball this fall: new. New Head Coach, 17 new transfers, new freshman class, new coaching staff except for Brock Bennett (promoted from volunteer coach to assistant coach), and new life. After a year to be forgotten, outside of Charlie Condon's explosive introduction to the nation, Coach Wes Johnson is determined to bring Georgia Baseball back to national prominence. Before getting into all that is new, let's check out the known quantities returning for the Bulldogs in 2024.
Any Georgia Report has to start with Condon. After capturing accolades such as Freshman All-American, All-American, and SEC-Freshman of the Year in 2023, Condon looks to build on a year in which he hit .386 with 25 HRs and 67 RBIs. During the off-season, he has worked on his position flexibility, including all three OF spots, which would allow Coach Johnson to experiment with his defense and lineup early in the season. The epitome of consistency (he hit a HR in every 2023 SEC series, along with a .339 average), Condon returns to be the cornerstone of the offense. And yes, he is still raking this fall.
Also returning are Seniors Corey Collins, Sebastian Murillo, and Fernando Gonzalez. While Collins and Gonzalez both have caught, Gonzalez has the inside track to start behind the plate due to his defensive prowess. Collins also can flex out to the outfield, but he played most of his career at DH. Regardless, his leadership and bat will likely be featured in the middle of the Bulldog lineup come spring. Murillo will be playing middle infield, although which position is to be determined.
On the mound, the key returners are Charlie Goldstein, Chandler Marsh, Kolten Smith, Jarvis Evans, and Leighton Finley. As a whole, last year's staff struggled to consistently find the strike zone and avoid big innings, leading to a team ERA of 6.44. Goldstein and Smith have the potential to compete for starting roles this season, but all have the ability to be weapons out of the bullpen. Marsh is a good pick-to-click for the Bulldogs this spring as the potential closer for Coach Johnson if his control improves.
Offensive transfers will shape this team's identity, and newcomers Kolby Branch, Dillon Carter, Logan Jordan, Clayton Chadwick, Paul Toetz, Dylan Goldstein, Lukas Farris, Tyler McLoughlin, Josh Marant, and Slade Alford all have a chance to make their mark for this squad. I told you there were a lot of transfers, and Coach Johnson went out and got some talent out of the portal.
Branch was a Freshman All-American at Baylor, Carter provides elite defense in CF, Jordan posted back-to-back 12 HR seasons for Campbell, Chadwick hit .294 with 10 HRs for Sam Houston State, Toetz won Purdue's Triple Crown, Goldstein had 31 HRs in 2 seasons for Florida Atlantic, Farris led Western Kentucky with 13 HRs as a Freshman, McLoughlin hit .352 with 12 HRs for Emory while also serving as their closer, Marant posted a .434 average with 15 HRs and 70 RBIs for the Juco World Series winning College of Central Florida; Alford hit 9 HRs for Mississippi State last season with 7 in SEC play. Coach Johnson brought in a ton of weapons on the offensive side of the ball, and it will be interesting to see how he sifts through all of the talent to find his starting nine.
Not surprisingly, Coach Johnson brought in a plethora of talent on the mound as well. Brian Zedlin, Daniel Padysak, Brandt Pancer, and Josh Roberge bring with them a wealth of experience in big-game situations, whether it be the Division I, II, or III World Series, or even the World Baseball Classic. Although none of these arms have pitched in the SEC, there is no substitute for experience, and all of these guys have plenty of that at the collegiate level. Pancer has the best chance to be the Friday starter of the transfers, but don't be surprised if Padysak or Kedlin work their way into the weekend rotation as well.
Even with all the transfer talent, look for some of the following freshmen to make some noise in Athens this spring: Infielders Tre Phelps and Trey King, RHPs James Hays, Paul Farley, and Ethan Sutton, and LHPs Ryan Gold and Ryker Chavis. Phelps and Hays are my personal picks to garner significant playing time this spring, as both came in as top recruits and have plus tools that can play right away, even in the SEC.
This is a new Bulldogs squad, and they are looking to make some noise in the SEC and bring postseason baseball back to Athens. If you are looking for an under-the-radar squad, this is your team. However, they probably won't be under the radar for much longer.
All Pictures Courtesy of @BaseballUGA on X and the UGA Athletic Department.