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SEC 2024 Preseason Predictions

By AJ Sessions


Before we get started with the outlook, I want to explain what you will see under each team. I have done my best to provide a snapshot of the impact players for each team, as well as the ceiling and floor for each program. After all of that, I give my own personal guess on how each team finishes the season. I apologize ahead of time for jinxing, underrating, or just flat out being wrong about how your team ultimately finishes. I also apologize for giving too much praise to your rival. With all of that out of the way, let the deep dive begin.


East


1.Tennessee

2023 Record: 44-22 (16-14)

Roster Breakdown: The Volunteers had a rocky start to the season (by their standards), yet many around the country felt they were only a couple wins in Hoover away from hosting. Instead, they just won the Clemson regional and Hattiesburg Super Regional, on the way to the MCWS before being knocked out by LSU. This season, Head Coach Tony Vitello has a deeper offense and a lethal pitching staff as Tennessee tries to capitalize on its talent.


The offense will be led by the core of Blake Burke, Christian Moore, Cameron Peebles, and Billy Amick. Moore, coming off a season where he hit over .300 with 17 HRs and 50 RBIs, looks to make the move to shortstop for his junior campaign. Burke battled slumps in SEC play last season, but his power and bat-to-ball skills are too good for him not to improve upon his .280 average and 16 HRs. Amick and Peebles are transfers from Clemson and NC State, respectively, who can both handle the bat at elite levels. Amick hit .413 with 13 HRs and 63 RBIs, while Peebles hit .352 with 12 HRs and 50 RBIs.


Outside of this core, returner Zane Denton will be battling newcomers Alex Perry, Ariel Antigua, Dean Curley, and Dalton Bargo for either the second-base position or the DH spot. Returners Charlie Taylor and Cal Stark can also slide in for Peebles behind the plate, exchanging offensive for defense.


The outfield will be manned by Hunter Ensley, who hit over .300 in SEC play, and Dylan Dreiling, who has all the physical tools you want in a lefty at the plate but needs to prove he can have success against left-handed pitching. Right field is up for grabs between Reese Chapman, Colby Backus, and Kavares Tears, all of whom have loads of talent and physical skill, but need to have consistency in order to truly seize an everyday role.


On the pitching side of things, expect the Vols to, once again, have one of the best staffs in the nation. Drew Beam, QB1, is in line to be SP1 in 2024. Don’t let his low strikeout total fool you, Beam has the makings of SEC Pitcher of the Year. AJ Russell and Zander Sechrist will follow Beam in the rotation. Russell is more of a pure power arm, and Sechrist carves up batters from the left side, but it will be interesting to see how both step into new roles. AJ Causey, a transfer from Jacksonville State, is another arm with starting experience who could step into the rotation if necessary.


The bullpen looks to be loaded with talent, even though they only return a couple guys who saw serious action last season, Aaron Combs and Kirby Connell. Newcomers Marcus Phillips, Nate Snead, and Derek Schaefer stood out in camp and look to have the inside track on late-game roles, but Chris Stamos and Andrew Behnke provide unique looks for hitters if needed.


Ceiling: The pitching staff performs up to potential, the offense rolls from the get-go, and there is no need for a debate about whether or not Knoxville will host a Regional. In fact, they will host a Super Regional as well. Fueled by their passionate and fiery fans, the Vols make it to Omaha in back-to-back seasons.


Floor: The losses from last year’s pitching staff rear their heads in ugly ways, as Tennessee can’t close out games. The offense is solid, but they struggle on the road in the SEC. Similar to last year, Tennessee has to go on the road for a Regional. Unlike last year, they get bounced.


Prediction: Coach Vitello does a tremendous job mixing and matching guys early in the year to find a rotation and lineup that clicks before starting SEC play. The Vols hit their stride in conference play, and they roll through SEC and postseason play as a Top-5 team nationally. They win home Regionals and Super Regionals, once again reaching Omaha.



2.Florida

2023 Record: 54-17 (20-10)

Roster Breakdown: The Gators were one game away from a National Title in 2023 but couldn’t seal the deal, as LSU dog-piled while Florida watched from the dugout at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha. In 2024, Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan once again has an Omaha-caliber roster, led by two-way All-American Jac Caglianone. Caglianone, coming off a campaign where he blasted 33 HRs and 90 RBIs, will hit in the middle of the order once again. Sophomores Cade Kurland and Luke Heyman are both coming off impressive freshmen campaigns. Sophomore transfers Brody Donay and Colby Shelton also bring plenty of pop to the Florida lineup.


The outfield will most likely be a combination of Michael Robertson, Ty Evans, Tyler Shelnut, Jaylen Guy, and Hayden Yost. Evans struggled for much of the year, but his five HRs in Omaha gave us a glimpse at his potential. Shelnut acquitted himself pretty well, but he needs to improve on his strikeout rate. Robertson and Guy are in a battle for the CF spot, and Coach O’Sullivan just might go with whoever provides better at-bats, since both are quality defenders with plus speed. Yost is first in line to get a chance if starters aren’t performing well enough.


On the mound, the Gators have a stable of power arms, once again led by Caglianone. No one can argue Caglianone is effective when he throws strikes, but that was too inconsistent last season. In 74 1/3 innings, he gave up 69 free bases. Not nice. Word out of camp is his arm slot is more consistent, which should improve command. Caglianone is the only returning starter from the rotation, but Cade Fisher, Brandon Neely, and Liam Peterson are all in the mix for the remaining spots.


Both Fisher and Neely had effective campaigns out of the bullpen for the Gators last year, and whoever does not secure a rotation spot will most likely serve as the closer. That is because Peterson has all but locked up the Sunday role. The 6’6” freshman touches 98, pounds the zone, and has the makeup of Florida’s next First Rounder pitching prospect. Returners Ryan Slater, Blake Purnell, and Fisher Jameson will also be leaned on as experienced arms out of the bullpen, especially early in the year. The rest of the Gator staff is young but incredibly talented. Freshmen Jake Clemente, Reilly Witmer, Luke McNeillie, and Frank Menendez all touch mid-to-upper 90s. Florida has power, both in the lineup and on the mound.


Ceiling: The vets play well enough early to get the young guys through growing pains, and when SEC play rolls around, the freshmen are contributing at a high level. The returning bats are more disciplined at the plate while still hitting for power, and the Gators roll through the postseason and into Omaha as the most well-balanced team in the nation.


Floor: Relying on so much youth on the mound loses them some games, relying on a power-over-hit approach loses them some games, subpar defense loses them some games, and all of a sudden, Florida is on the road for Regionals. Bad defense, too many free bases, and a lack of timely hitting means an early exit for the Gators.


Prediction: The core of Caglianone, Shelton, Heyman, and Kurland will carry the load offensively at times this season, but they get enough from their supporting cast to be a dangerous offense the entire season. Peterson and Fisher develop into true SEC starters behind, and eventually in front of, Caglianone, and lead this Florida team back to Omaha with a chance to finish the season on top this time around.



3.South Carolina

2023 Record: 42-21 (16-13)

Roster Breakdown: Head Coach Mark Kingston loses many key players from last year’s team, especially off the mound. Despite the losses, many in Gamecock Country are enthusiastic about this year’s team. They should be. Nearly the entire offense is back, led by Ethan Petry and Cole Messina, both of whom are coming off breakout campaigns. Petry hit .376, launched 23 HRs, and drove in 75 RBIs; while Messina took over full catching duties and carried a .307/17 HR/ 65 RBI stat line. Gavin Casas and his 19 HRs also return. Talmadge LeCroy took over third base and provided a steady offensive presence, even if he’s not necessarily a power bat.


Transfers Kennedy Jones, Parker Noland, Blake Jackson, and Tyler Causey can all launch the ball out of the yard. Jones and Noland have the clearest paths to immediate playing time, and both should be at or near the middle of the Gamecock batting order. Jackson is in a battle with Evan Stone and Dylan Brewer for CF, but Jackson’s capable of swinging his way into the starting lineup moreso than his competitors.


Causey is a true wild card after taking a year off from baseball last season. He absolutely mashes baseballs, but strikeouts and injury have plagued him throughout his career. Sophomore Will Tippett and Freshman Lee Ellis might trade-off for the shortstop spot at some point this season, but Coach Kingston is hoping Tippett takes the job and runs with it while Ellis’ offense develops. Ryan Bakes might be the only other freshman who gets at-bats, simply due to the veteran nature of this offense.


The mound is an entirely different situation. The Gamecocks bring back only 18 of their 63 starts, and all but one come from Eli Jones and Matthew Becker. Jones and Becker will make up 2/3 of the weekend rotation, while Roman Kimball makes his return from Tommy John surgery to complete the rotation. Jones and Becker have track records and have had success in both non-conference and SEC play, but consistency is the key, especially with Becker.


Kimball could step right into that Friday role and run with it, or the coaching staff could choose to ease him into the season. Dylan Eskew, Sam Simpson, Connor McCreery, Jackson Phipps, and Ricky Williams will all have the opportunity to cement their roles early in the season. Two guys who locked themselves in as key pieces last season were Austin Williamson and Chris Veach. Williamson was second on the team in ERA and Opponent BA, and Veach led the team in saves. Transfer Ty Good can provide length out of the pen if necessary, after starting most of his career.


Garrett Gainey, Drake Quinn, and Tyler Dean will also be counted on in late-game situations. Freshmen talent is going to force its way onto the mound for the Gamecocks, led by Jevarra Martin, Eddie Copper, and Tyler Pitzer. South Carolina has no shortage of options out of the bullpen.


Ceiling: The offense does what it is projected to do, and the pitching staff proves to be one of the deepest in the SEC. Led by Petry, Messina, and Casas, the Gamecocks boat race non-conference opponents. The roster avoids the injury bug for the most part, as quality depth gets them through the dog days of SEC play in position to host. The fans at Founders Park propel this team through both Regionals and Super Regionals, and the Gamecocks return to Omaha for the first time since 2012.


Floor : While not bad, the pitching staff struggles against better competition. Petry slumps during his sophomore campaign, and a couple injuries on the offensive side of the ball leave this team playing catch-up the whole season. There is no postseason ball in Columbia as the Gamecocks go two-and-BBQ on the road.


Prediction: The veteran leadership on both sides of the ball proves an invaluable tool for South Carolina. A couple freshmen play their way into prominent roles, but the quality depth keeps the Gamecocks afloat throughout SEC play. A strong finish locks up a Regional host, and, after defending their home field, this Gamecock team finally breaks down the door to Omaha by winning a road Super Regional.



4.Vanderbilt

2023 Record: 42-20 (19-11)

Roster Breakdown: Another SEC team, another incredible pitching corps. Led by Carter Holton and Devin Futrell, Vanderbilt could plug you, the reader, into the Sunday role and have a good chance to win two of three games each weekend. Fortunately for Vanderbilt, they have a plethora of quality options. Greyson Carter, Andrew Dutkanych IV, Bryce Cunningham, Levi Huesman, and Ethan McElvain all have the stuff to start right away in the SEC.


The depth of quality starting options is truly insane, but that’s what Head Coach Tim Corbin does: he cranks out great pitching year after year. Those who don’t start will join Sam Hliboki, Ryan Ginther, JD Thompson, and transfer Sawyer Hawks in the bullpen. If you are looking for a weakness within the Vanderbilt pitching staff, good luck finding one.


On the offensive side, Vanderbilt does not appear to be a team that is tying their fate to the long ball. In fact, after hitting only 76 home runs as a team last season, they might fail to reach that number in 2024. That doesn’t mean they won’t be dynamic, however. Led by RJ Austin, Jonathan Vastine, Chris Maldonado, Davis Diaz, and Matthew Polk, this lineup returns a lot of experience, speed, and bat-to-ball skills.


Transfers Jayden Davis and Jacob Humphrey also fit the mold of speed/contact over power. If the Commodores are going to launch balls out of the yard, look for freshmen Braden Holcomb, Matt Ossenfort, and Colin Barczi to be the main culprits. The lineup on paper won’t strike fear into your heart, but Vanderbilt will continue to field at a great clip, scratch across runs, and shut down opposing offenses. In short, Vanderbilt is still Vanderbilt.


Ceiling: We witness a Tim Corbin masterclass. A perfect blend of experience and youth create a dynamic and explosive offense, backed by the best pitching staff in the nation. After a few years of postseason letdowns, Vanderbilt surges back into Omaha with a game built to win in that spacious ballpark.


Floor: With a game built on pitching and creating runs, the margins are slimmer. A key injury or two to pitchers, combined with the failure to adjust to evolving roles by other members of the staff, would neutralize Vanderbilt’s biggest strength. Vanderbilt is destined for the Regionals no matter what, but crashing out as a 2 seed would be seen as abject failure in Nashville.


Prediction: We see more ups and downs than we are used to with a Vanderbilt squad, but Corbin leads them to a record above .500 in conference once again. On the edge of hosting conversations, the Commodores actually win the SEC Tournament. Unfortunately, the run stops there as they once again lose at home in a Regional.



5.Georgia

2023 Record: 29-27 (11-19)

Roster Breakdown: Any Georgia report has to start with Charlie Condon. After capturing accolades such as Freshman All-American, All-American, and SEC-Freshman of the Year in 2023, the redshirt sophomore looks to build on a year in which he hit .386 with 25 HRs and 67 RBIs. 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 have both caught, Gonzalez has the inside track to start behind the plate due to his defensive prowess. Collins also can flex to the outfield, but he has 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 new Coach Wes 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.


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 two 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; and Alford hit nine HRs for Mississippi State last season, with seven in SEC play.


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.


Ceiling: The collection of both talent and experience combine to springboard Georgia Baseball back onto the national scene. Johnson fixes the pitching issues enough to let the offense carry this team through a tough SEC schedule and into a home Regional, maybe even beyond.


Floor: Despite Johnson’s best efforts, the pitching staff still doesn’t perform enough to keep the Bulldogs in games. Condon and company do their best once again to carry the team to success, but the result is the same as last year: a losing conference record and no Regional. Oh, and you wasted the career of Charlie Condon, a projected top draft pick.


Prediction: This Bulldogs team will take a rather significant step forward on the mound. They won’t be near the top of the conference, but a middle-of-the-pack staff will let their offense carry them to a .500 in-conference. That means the Bulldogs will be back in the dance after underwhelming last season.



6.Kentucky

2023 Record: 40-21 (16-14)

Roster Breakdown: If you could copy-and-paste last year’s style of play, Head Coach Nick Mingione would take it in a heartbeat. In fact, that is exactly what Kentucky is trying to do this year. It makes sense. They bring back nearly their entire core group of players on both sides of the ball, and those they did lose were replaced by equally (or more) talented newcomers.


Emilien Pitre, Grant Smith, Mitchel Daly, and Ryan Nicholson will make up the infield, providing a boatload of experience. Daly and Nicholson are newcomers that could provide some pop (Nicholson more so than Daly), but defense should once again be a strength of this Wildcat infield. Reuben Church, Nick Lopez, and Patrick Herrera wait in the wings to provide further infield depth. Devin Burkes is a lock behind the plate, and his elite defense paired with an above-average hit tool might put him in position to be this team’s MVP in 2024.


The outfield will be a combination of James McCoy, Nolan McCarthy, Ty Crittenberger, and Ryan Waldschmidt when he returns from injury. All of these guys are speed merchants and control the barrel well at the plate. This entire offense will rely on speed, contact, and putting pressure on the defense.


The pitching staff, much like the offense, is loaded with experience. Travis Smith and Mason Moore return to fill in two rotation spots. Both Smith and Moore fill up the zone, induce weak contact and groundballs, and flat out get outs. Transfers Dominic Niman and Trey Pooser are in consideration for the final weekend rotation spot, as both have starting experience at their previous schools. Longtime Wildcat Ryan Hagenow is also an option, but Mingione might decide to keep him for late-game situations.


The bullpen will be filled with guys who fill up the zone with movement over high velocity. Evan Byers, Cooper Robinson, Robert Hogan, and Johhny Hummel will be leaned on for bridging the gap between starters and whoever closes for the Wildcats. While not the scariest team on paper, Kentucky will not beat themselves in 2024.


Ceiling: This season goes exactly like last season, except Kentucky catches a break in their Super Regional. They frustrate their opponents all season, end up near the top of the SEC, and finish the year as a surprise Top 8 seed. The Wildcats play their brand of baseball in their park and have nothing but success in the postseason. Then they go to Omaha and continue to succeed there too.


Floor: Regression on defense and the pitching staff means this Wildcat team is on the wrong side of close games this season. With so many close calls going the other way, it feels like Kentucky is swimming uphill all season. The Wildcats make the SEC tournament, but a loss in the single-elimination round ends postseason play entirely.


Prediction: Kentucky rides its veteran leadership through tough stretches of SEC play to finish at 15-15, but that is plenty good enough to make a regional. That is when this team takes off. Relying on defense and grinding out at-bats, Kentucky exposes their opponents' bullpens on the way to winning a Regional on the road. They continue the momentum and knock off their Super Regional host. Yep, you heard me: Kentucky gets its first trip to Omaha.



7.Missouri

2023 Record: 30-24 (10-20)

Roster Breakdown: New Head Coach Kerrick Jackson takes over a Missouri program in desperate need of an injection of energy. Comfortably at the bottom of the SEC East, the Tigers have a wide talent gap to make up on the rest of the division. The offense in 2024 is going to resemble that of Vanderbilt and Kentucky, but without the elite level of talent.


Speed is the name of the game, and Mizzou has it in bulk. Juju Stevens, Jeric Curtis, Isaiah Frost, Aiden Heberlie, Cameron Benson, Kaden Peer, and Keondre Fields all feature plus-speed or greater in their skillset. Peer might have the highest ceiling in terms of talent, but the freshman will have to earn his way onto the field over more experienced competition.


When it comes to driving the ball with authority, Jackson Lovich, Trevor Austin, and transfer Danny Corona are in the best position to contribute right away. Corona, a transfer from Wake Forest, might need to take the lead offensively if this team is going to make some noise in the SEC.


The pitching staff is returning a surprising amount of experience in critical roles. Ian Lohse returns to fill a spot in the weekend rotation, and it looks like he will be joined by Logan Lunceford, who gained valuable starting experience last season. The final rotation spot is truly a mystery. Mizzou was so hampered by injury last season that many of the arms they planned to rely on never made significant impacts. Ben Pedersen, Sam Horn, Javyn Pimental, and Bryce Mayer all missed at least part of last year due to injury and will be leaned on this year.


Even their transfers have significant injury histories. Xavier Lovett, Victor Quinn, and Miles Garrett have the talent to be successful bullpen pieces, but Missouri needs them to stay healthy and available.


Ceiling: Missouri uses their speed on offense to create havoc and pressure opposing defenses into costly errors on a regular basis. The pitching staff stays healthy and proves to be competent. The Tigers won’t wow anyone, but it will lead to wins and an SEC Tournament berth.


Floor: Injuries continue to plague Mizzou, and it does not matter how much speed the offense has when they trail early and often. The team hits rock bottom as Jackson truly begins to build towards the future. Finishing last in the SEC is almost assured from the very start of SEC play, after a sub .500 non-conference record.


Prediction: Mizzou will show fight that will surprise some SEC competition, but the depth just is not there for sustained success as the year progresses. I expect some talent on the pitching side to give some teams fits, but Missouri will not be attending Hoover in 2024 unless they want to buy tickets.




West



1.LSU

2023 Record: 54-17 (19-10)

Roster Breakdown: Head Coach Jay Johnson may have lost a ton of talent with the departure of Paul Skenes, Dylan Crews, Tre Morgan, and Ty Floyd, just to name a few, but his 2024 roster is still overflowing with talent and potential.


Headlined by Tommy White on the offensive side, LSU should boast one of the more explosive lineups in the SEC once again. Brady Neal, Jared Jones, and Paxton Kling look to learn from growing pains during last season to take a massive step forward in 2024. Jones has gargantuan power but needs to improve his strikeout rate. Kling can be a true game-changer at the top of the lineup and in the field if he lives up to his potential. Neal battled injury and a rough SEC slide, but he has the makings of a contributor behind the dish.


Hayden Travinski and Alex Milazzo can rotate with Neal at catcher, but Travinski might end up as the DH when Neal starts. Ethan Frey has been a name to watch after blistering baseballs this fall. With huge power, the only question with Frey has also been his strikeout rate. Josh Pearson looks to slide into the second base position after what he might personally consider an underwhelming 2023 season. He has experience, and he was more valuable than his .226 batting average and minimal power numbers might indicate.


Transfers Mac Bingham and Michael Braswell will be plug-and-play guys for the Tigers, with Bingham being the more offensive of the two, although Braswell has made strides this fall, according to Coach Johnson. Freshman Jake Brown has the inside track to start in RF, although do not be surprised if he is eased into the lineup as LSU finds out what it has early in the season.


On the mound, the mission to replace Skenes and Floyd begins. Thatcher Hurd looks to lock down the Friday role after an up-and-down 2023 season. Transfers Luke Holman and Gage Jump will be tasked with filling out the rotation behind Hurd, and both have All-SEC upside. If Johnson wants to look internally for starters, Nate Ackenhausen and Griffin Herring are his best options after impressive 2023 performances out of the bullpen.


Gavin Guidry is going to be a staple in the back-end of the bullpen, and transfers Justin Loer, Fidel Ulloa, and Kade Woods give new Pitching Coach Nate Yeskie plenty of options. And that is not even factoring in freshman phenom Cameron Johnson, who throws gas from the left side. Also look for Javon Coleman, Micah Bucknam, and Sam Dutton to take steps forward in 2024 as well.


Ceiling: The offense hardly misses a beat as Jones, Kling, Neal, and Frey step right in and ball-out from the get-go. Hurd and Holman evolve into the best 1-2 punch in the nation, and LSU hardly misses a beat all year. This team has a chance to be the first to repeat as National Champions since South Carolina in 2010-11.


Floor: The fresh faces don’t mesh into a cohesive offensive unit, pitching is inconsistent, and the Tigers take a significant step back from their 2023 campaign. Even in the worst world, LSU makes a Regional, but it would be a short stay.


Prediction: There are going to be some growing pains early, as newcomers carve out playing time, but the Tigers will once again be the class of the SEC West. My own personal take is they trip up in the Super Regionals against a team who gets hot at the right time, but the Tigers should have their eyes set on Omaha, and another title, as the goal once again.



2.Arkansas

2023 Record: 43-18 (20-10)

Roster Breakdown: Oh boy, is this pitching staff absolutely loaded! Hagen Smith, Brady Tygert, and newcomer Mason Molina represent the best rotation in the entire country on paper. All three guys are First Rounder talents. And the talent does not stop there. Freshmen Gabe Gaeckle, Hunter Dietz, and Tate McGuire would start in many programs around the country, and more than a few in the SEC.


Instead, Head Coach Dave Van Horn gets to bring them along slowly before unleashing them in SEC play. Returning arms Will McEntire, Gage Wood, Christian Foutch, and Ben Bybee are all SEC-caliber arms that can pound the zone and be effective against any lineup in the nation. If other arms like Jake Faherty and Adam Hachman can get a grip on their control, then Arkansas just gains two more guys who sit in the upper 90s. This 2024 Arkansas pitching staff will be the best we have seen in the SEC since the Dollander, Burns, and Beam rotation from Tennessee in 2022.


With pitching being arguably the biggest strength of any team in the SEC, what about the offense? While certainly not as lethal as their pitching staff, sleeping on Razorback hitters would be a mistake. Kendall Diggs, Peyton Holt, and Peyton Stovall all return, as do Ben McLaughlin, Parker Rowland, and Jayson Jones. Rowland is a good defensive catcher, but transfers Hudson White and Hudson Polk swing the bat better and provide Van Horn with options. Freshman Ryder Helfrick is another option to catch, but he will probably get more play as a DH early in his career.


Okay, I have gone as long as possible without talking about Freshman All-American Shortstop Wehiwa Aloy. Aloy will be a game-changer on both sides of the ball and provide much needed length to the Razorback lineup. Additional transfers Jared Sprague-Lott, Jack Wagner, Ty Wilmsmeyer, and Will Edmunson are all quality depth pieces that will compete for playing time this spring as well. This Arkansas lineup will hit for more average than power, but they should not be taken lightly. The Razorbacks once again have one of the best rosters in the nation.


Ceiling: The pitching staff shuts down opposing teams all year as Smith wins not only SEC Pitcher of the Year, but National Pitcher of the Year. The offense is more potent than many thought, as the Hogs coast through a home Regional and Super Regional. The OmaHogs are back.


Floor: A couple key injuries in the rotation throw the season into a tailspin early. The offense isn’t explosive enough to win games on their own, and the Razorbacks struggle to find their footing in SEC play. Coach Van Horn gets them to the postseason, but it’s a quick stay after so much preseason potential.


Prediction: Turns out that winning the SEC Regular season is bad juju for the Razorbacks. They won’t win it, or even the division, but they will win in Regionals and Super Regionals. The winning won’t stop until Omaha, if it ever stops. The pitching is deep and legit, and so are the Hogs.



3.Mississippi State

2023 Record: 27-26 (9-21)

Roster Breakdown: When looking at Mississippi State’s roster this year, throw out all 2023 stats on the pitching side. Perhaps no team in the nation dealt with more pitching injuries than the Bulldogs last season. Nate Dohm, Bradley Loftin, Pico Kohn, Stone Simmons, and Brooks Auger are all arms that lost part or all of last season to injury, and who would have contributed in significant ways.


This thrust Evan Siary and freshman switch pitcher Jurrangelo Cijntje into roles they were not prepared to take on. Now, all of those arms are back and healthy, and lumps taken last year grow into lessons for this year, especially with new Pitching Coach Justin Parker. The starting rotation might still be up in the air, but expect Colby Holcomb, Khal Stephen, Karson Ligon, Kohn, Dohm, Cijntje, and Loftin to all be in the mix when the season begins.


With the injury to flamethrower freshman Mikhai Grant, the bullpen will be staffed by newcomers Cam Schuelke, Nate Lamb, and Gavin Beck, Kohn, Simmons, Auger, and those who do not win starting roles. The talent on the mound has not matched the production in prior years, so throwing strikes and limiting walks is absolutely paramount for the Bulldogs.


One thing the Starkville fans do not have to worry about is having an explosive offense. Projected draft picks Dakota Jordan and Hunter Hines return to be the foundation of a lineup that will put up runs early and often. Amani Larry, David Mershon, Ross Highfill, and Bryce Chance also return to build upon impressive individual 2023 campaigns. New faces Logan Kohler, Johnny Long, Dylan Cupp, and Jackson McKenzie will have the opportunity to get onto the field and make a statement early in the year. While they might not have too much team-wide speed, the Bulldogs will hit for both average and power in 2024.


Ceiling: With potent offense already established, power pitching actually becomes this team’s identity. They go blow-for-blow with the top teams in the conference and build an ironclad postseason resume. Postseason baseball at The Dude is back.


Floor: Pitching improves slightly, only because it can’t possibly get worse. Failure to throw strikes dooms this team in conference play once again, and Coach Lemonis is on the way out after missing another postseason.


Prediction: Not much has gone right for Mississippi State fans in the past year, but the baseball team finally gives them reasons to care about their team late in the season. Hines and Jordan are going to have All-SEC-caliber seasons, while the pitching staff vastly improves under Parker. To the disappointment of visiting teams who crave the delicacies of the outfield grills, Mississippi State may not host, but they will be a Regional lock in 2024.



4.Auburn

2023 Record: 34-23-1 (17-13)

Roster Breakdown: Once again, Auburn looks to use the portal to build around a core of returning playmakers. On the offensive side, Ike Irish, Bobby Peirce, and Cooper McMurray return. Irish might be the best pure hitter in the SEC, and both he and Peirce look to tap into more power at the plate. McMurray was second on the team with 14 HRs in 2023, and he can threaten the 20 HR mark in 2024. Chris Stanfield, who possesses both speed and pop, showed flashes as a freshman last season, and the Tigers expect him to take a massive leap forward in his sophomore season.


Transfers Deric Fabian, Kaleb Freeman, Cooper Weiss, Christian Hall, Mason Manners, and Javon Hernandez will all factor into the starting lineup at different points throughout the start of the year. It’s hard to predict what the offense will look like because so many guys will be given the chance to win starting roles. Freshmen Cade Belyeu, Cole Edwards, and Cale Stricklin will also get the chance to earn playing time early in the year as well.


Auburn welcomes back 2022 ace Joseph Gonzalez, who missed almost all of 2023 with an injury. Gonzalez, if healthy, is a great piece to build the staff around. Chase Allsup and Christian Herberholtz are the logical candidates to fill out the rotation, but don’t be surprised if Zach Crotchfelt pitches his way into the starting rotation either.


Newcomers Dylan Watts, Carson Myers, and Cameron Tilly have high upsides and will throw high-leverage innings for the Tigers this spring. Returners Will Cannon, Konner Copeland, Drew Nelson, and Tanner Bauman offer experience after up-and-down seasons last year. Although there might be some questions once you get past the top arms, Auburn’s plethora of experience will result in a more consistent staff than last year’s campaign.


Ceiling: Head Coach Butch Thompson wins “best use of the portal” once again, as Auburn surprises the SEC for what feels like the third year in a row. This year, there is no slow start as veteran pitching combined with experienced hitters grind out tough wins every weekend. Hosting a Regional is not outside the realm of possibility for the Tigers.


Floor: Eventually they have to miss on portal guys, right? If the guys don’t click on offense, they will struggle to score against most SEC rotations. And with a “good but not great” rotation of their own, winning SEC series will be a struggle each weekend. This team might be fighting for postseason hopes the last weekend of the year.


Prediction: The team’s identity reflects Irish: consistent, productive, not too flashy, and underrated. Auburn is going to float under the radar for most of the year before surprising as a Regional host once again. Don’t bet against Thompson and his squad.



5.Texas A&M

2023 Record: 38-27 (14-16)

Roster Breakdown: Head Coach Jim Schlossnagle brings in highly-rated freshmen and transfers as he tries to get the Aggies back to Omaha. Schloss has the benefit of building a lineup around Jace LaViolette. The All-American-caliber centerfielder headlines the returnees for the Aggies, which also includes Ryan Targac and Kaeden Kent, both of whom will likely start this season as well. The majority of the offense will be newcomers, whether freshmen or transfers.


The newcomer name everyone knows is Braden Montgomery. The true five-tool, two-way phenom will play right field and hit in the middle of the order. He might also come out of the bullpen for the Aggies as well. Additional transfers Ted Burton, Ali Camarillo, and Hayden Schott are expected to open the years as starters.


This year’s star freshman looks to be Gavin Grahovac. It is never a guarantee how freshman perform in the SEC, but Grahovac has all the tools to be an impact player for A&M right away. Blake Binderup, Hank Bard, Jackson Appel, and Max Kaufer will all likely see time as position battles settle themselves early in non-conference play.


As a pitching staff, Texas A&M absolutely needs to throw more strikes. Justin Lamkin and Tanner Jones look to have seized starting roles by pounding the zone with plus-stuff. If Chris Cortez can throw strikes, he will be an absolute weapon for the Aggies this spring, but that has yet to materialize in college for Cortez. For the final rotation spot, expect Troy Wansing, Zane Badmaev, and Ryan Prager to get chances to prove themselves.


Whoever loses out on the starting jobs will join returner Evan Aschenbeck at the back end of the bullpen. Shane Sdao, Isaac Morton, Kaiden Wilson, and Brad Rudis will throw innings for the Aggies as they try to work their way into more opportunities. Talent on this Aggies team is definitely not an issue.


Ceiling: The reliance on freshmen and transfers pays big dividends, and the Aggies are a mainstay in the Top 5 all season. Pitchers pound the zone and let their stuff work, and Montgomery battles LaViolette for SEC Player of the Year. Schlossnagle has this team back in Omaha with a real chance to win it.


Floor: The upside of pure talent is unrealized as inconsistency plagues A&M all season. Pitching fails to hold up their end of the deal, as the Aggies lose conference games against weaker opponents. After being eliminated on Day 1 of the SEC Tournament, the Aggies wait anxiously to learn their postseason fate.


Prediction: This roster, that is so loaded on paper, will not live up to the hype. They will be a solid team in a loaded conference, so their record might be worse than they deserve. The pitching staff holds the team back, and, despite the best efforts of LaViolette and company, A&M fails to make it out of their Regional.



6. Ole Miss

2023 Record: 25-29 (6-24)

Roster Breakdown: This Ole Miss team hardly resembles the National Title team of 2022. And yet, that might not be a bad thing. Head Coach Mike Bianco's team needed to hit the reset button after a disastrous 2023 campaign. Newcomers Luke Hill, Andrew Fischer, Treyson Hughes, and Jackson Ross look to be the centerpiece of the offense. All of these transfers are proven, well-rounded hitters who also field their position well. Ethan Lege and Ethan Groff look to be the only two returning starters for the Rebels, and it was a win to get both guys back to campus.


Will Furniss also returns, and look for him to force his way into the lineup with his bat. Reagan Burford will likely get the start at second base after an exceptional fall, but he will be pushed by freshman Brayden Randle all season. The biggest reason for excitement in Oxford is Campbell Smithwick. He has already been labeled as the catcher of the future, and he has all the tools to succeed right away, even in the SEC.


On the mound, JT Quinn, Xavier Rivas, and Grayson Saunier return to give the Rebels one of the better rotations in the SEC, at least on paper. All went through rough stretches last season, but they were thrust into roles they most likely were not prepared for. Riley Maddox and Josh Mallitz return from Tommy-John surgery to join Mason Nichols and Mitch Murrell, who had rough 2023 seasons, in the back end of the bullpen. Transfers Kyler Carmack, Liam Doyle, Connor Spencer, Gunnar Dennis, and Ryne Rodriguez will all compete for opportunities out of the bullpen. Keep an eye on freshman Wes Mendes, who has the ceiling to be the next star arm out of Oxford.


Ceiling: If Quinn, Rivas, and Saunier all click, the sky is the limit. The offense produces just enough to pick up any slack from the bullpen, and Ole Miss jumps back into SEC contention after a downright forgettable season last year. In fact, most fans will forget about last year as the Rebels make an Omaha run.


Floor: Injuries continue to keep this pitching staff and fanbase in baseball purgatory. Much like last season, they never get off the ground in SEC play. As this team fights for SEC Tournament qualification, the noise around Bianco grows louder.


Prediction: No team has a wider gap between ceiling and floor than the Rebels, and we will get glimpses of both throughout the year. It would not surprise me to see the Rebels making noise in the postseason, but the offense has to produce. Ole Miss starts the season on the outside looking in, but this team is dangerous.



7.Alabama

2023 Record: 43-21 (16-14)

Roster Breakdown: This is a new-look Alabama team, starting with Head Coach Rob Vaughn. And, Mac Guscette, Will Hodo, and Bryce Eblin are the only returning offensive players who played significant time. Much of the offensive identity will be determined by the play of transfers and freshmen.


Max Grant, Gage Miller, TJ McCants, Evan Sleight, and Ian Petrutz all have track records of success, but it remains to be seen if they can have sustained success in the SEC. Freshman Justin Lebron has the inside track to start at short while Luke Vaughn and Coleman Mizell might also force their way into the lineup at points. This freshman class has significant upside, but it remains to be seen how this offense gels as a whole.


On the pitching side, everything revolves around Ben Hess. Hess is the unquestioned Friday starter for the Tide, and there is a surplus of talent at Vaughn’s disposal to fill in the rotation around him. Greg Farone, Riley Quick, Alton Davis, and Aidan Moza are the most likely candidates to join Hess in the rotation, so it might be a matter of seeing who performs the best in non-conference play.


Whoever doesn’t claim a rotation spot will join Bobby Alcock and Coulson Buchanan in the back-end of the bullpen. Also in the mix are returners Tyler Fay, Austin Morris, Braylon Myers, Zane Probst, and Hagan Banks. A couple freshmen will have the chance to make some noise as well, with Zane Adams, Sam Mitchell, and Jansen Kenty having great make-up and projectability as they mature.


Ceiling: Rebuild? What rebuild? The new-look offense for the Crimson Tide is explosive, and the pitching staff holds its own against the rest of the SEC. While the Tide aren’t destined for SEC titles in the near future, success in a Regional is entirely within the realm of possibility.


Floor: If the offense is not as productive as Vaughn hopes, any struggles from Hess would effectively put Alabama behind the 8-ball each weekend. In a loaded conference, the Tide fail to find their footing, as they slide to the bottom of the SEC.


Prediction: With so much talent across the conference, someone has to miss the SEC Tournament. Unfortunately for the Tide, the margin for error is just too slim this season. Vaughn can build this team into a winner, but his first year will not be one to remember.



All SEC teams open the 2024 season Friday, February 16, with conference play set to start March 15. The SEC Tournament will once again take place in Hoover, AL, May 21-26.


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