Oklahoma State fell one win away from Omaha last year, dropping a heartbreaker in the finale of the Lubbock Super Regional. Four everyday regulars are back from that club, plus a few key pieces on the mound, ranking the 2020 Cowboys 22nd in D1Baseball.com's preseason top 25.
Below are a few facts to consider when breaking down the 2020 Oklahoma State club:
2019 record: 40-21
Coach (record at school): Josh Holliday (271-133-1, 7 seasons)
Ballpark: O’Brate Stadium (Capacity: 3,500)
Postseason history: 45 regionals (active streak: 7), 20 CWS trips (last in 2016), 1 national title (1959)
OKLAHOMA STATE FALL REPORT: How the Cowboys are preparing the 2020 season
In this preview of Oklahoma State's 2020 season, we've graded the Cowboys in each characteristic of the game: Hitting, power, speed, defense, starting pitching, bullpen and experience/intangibles. But before we begin, let's present our projected lineup for Oklahoma State in 2020.
Oklahoma State's projected lineup
|C||*Brock Mathis, Jr.||.164/.291/.287||3||12||0|
|1B||Alix Garcia, Sr.||.294/.388/.485||8||25||0|
|2B||Kaden Polcovich, Jr.||Tr. — Northwest Florida State JC|
|3B||Jake Thompson, Jr.||DNP — transfer rule|
|SS||Hueston Morrill, So.||.282/.390/.386||2||20||12|
|LF||Carson McCusker, Sr.||.311/.383/.520||6||40||2|
|CF||Caeden Trenkle, Fr.||HS — Hillsboro, Texas|
|RF||Cade Cabbiness, Sr.||.234/.307/.406||8||27||4|
|DH||Blake Robertson, Fr.||HS — Edmond, Okla.|
|*Stats at LSU|
Oklahoma State's projected weekend rotation/closer
|SP #1||Parker Scott, Jr.||3-1||2.18||45.1||51||14||0|
|SP #2||Bryce Osmond, Fr.||HS — Jenks, Okla.|
|SP #3||Justin Campbell, Fr.||HS — Simi Valley, Calif.|
|Closer||Ben Leeper, Sr.||4-4||4.21||31.1||43||23||7|
Grading the Cowboys: 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.
Oklahoma State ranked 145th in the nation in batting and 87th in scoring last year, despite ranking fourth in the country with 93 home runs. It was an all-or-nothing approach, as OSU also struck out a whopping 652 times, against 293 walks. But the Cowboys replaced some of their big boppers with more contact-oriented slashers, which could change the complexion of the offense; this group figures to be more versatile and better at putting the ball in play consistently.
The 5-foot-10 Caeden Trenkle and the 5-8 Kaden Polcovich are the most notable additions in this regard; both of them have advanced barrel skills, and nobody made more consistent contact in OSU fall ball than Trenkle, a perfect fit in the No. 2 hole behind likely leadoff man Hueston Morrill.
The switch-hitting Polcovich has explosive bat speed and natural hitting instincts — he already proved himself against top competition by hitting .305 with four homers and eight doubles in the Cape Cod League last summer, and the Cowboys envision him sliding right into the 3-hole this spring.
The 6-foot-8 goliath Carson McCusker figures to hit cleanup, and though he has some swing-and-miss to his game, he also led the team with a .311 average last year, a testament to his knack for making hard contact when he connects. He and gap machine Morrill tied for the team lead with 17 doubles last year. Alix Garcia is another established veteran run producer from the right side.
Brock Mathis, a transfer from LSU, worked hard with OSU hitting coach Matt Holliday this fall to refine his swing and increase his contact rate, making him an intriguing wild card heading into the spring.
Kentucky transfer Jake Thompson proved his mettle as a hitter in a long summer in the Northwoods League this year, hitting .355 with 16 doubles in 186 at-bats. The left-handed hitter does a good job choking up and putting the ball in play with two strikes, and he can wear out the gaps as well, potentially in the 5-hole to break up the righties.
Cade Cabbiness has struggled to make consistent contact over his first three years, but he showed a much more mature approach in the fall, with a shorter stroke and the ability to line singles the other way with two strikes. If he can carry over that progress into the spring, he’ll serve as another valuable left-handed threat in the second half of the lineup.
Also keep an eye on junior two-way player Noah Sifrit, whose middle-away approach and plate discipline stood out in fall ball and could make him a factor in the outfield mix.
Our 2020 schedule is here & loaded with great opponents — make your plans accordingly 📅 ➡️ https://t.co/rMH6s85xNu #GoPokes #okstate— Cowboy Baseball (@OSUBaseball) December 11, 2019
Secure your 🎟️🎟️ for the inaugural season at O'Brate Stadium with a deposit today ➡️ https://t.co/wn0ynBivJC pic.twitter.com/0Ku5xO3jeD
The departed quartet of Trevor Boone, Colin Simpson, Andrew Navigato and Christian Funk combined to hit 62 of the team’s 93 long balls last year. There are still some intimidating big-bodied homer threats left, but this year’s Cowboys figure to rely far less on the home run. McCusker is the biggest of all, and while he’s been more of a doubles hitter so far in Stillwater, he certainly has the strength to hit double-digit homers as a junior. The same goes for Garcia, who has worked hard to make strength gains in the weight room and shorten up his path to the ball, with the goal of helping him catch more fastballs out in front and drive them out to the pull side.
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Polcovich is a little stick of dynamite, whose electric bat speed should translate to plenty of homers in the 3-hole. The 6-foot-5 Blake Robertson has shown the ability to keep a short swing despite long levers and projects to hit for huge power as he matures; it’s just a matter of how quickly that power plays this spring. The 6-4 Cabiness has always had big raw power; he’s just been held back by his hit tool, but he could have a power surge if his hit tool continues to mature as it appeared to in the fall. Thompson should provide occasional pop as well.
Oklahoma State did not run much last year, ranking 219th in the nation and eighth in the Big 12 in steals per game. Morrill (12-for-15) was the only double-digit base stealer a year ago, and he’ll form a disruptive, fleet-footed trio atop the order alongside live-bodied newcomers Trenkle and Polcovich, both of whom can really run and know how to put their speed to good use on the basepaths. Coach Josh Holliday described Polcovich as “an active base stealer with a lot of burst and power.” There won’t be much speed after that trio, unless Sifrit works his way into the lineup.
Oklahoma State is built to mash, not to run. The departed Matt Kroon accounted for 18 of OSU’s 60 steals last year, leaving the sneakily athletic Simpson (8-for-11 SBs) as the top returning base stealer. Simpson is a heady baserunner, but he’s still just a below-average to fringy runner. Boone is an above-average runner underway, and Morrill has plus speed and good quickness.
Oklahoma State has been a mediocre defensive team two years in a row, fielding .969 in 2018 and .970 last year. But this year’s club has the personnel and experience to take a step forward defensively, in part because newcomers Mathis, Polcovich and Trenkle are quality defenders at up-the-middle positions.
Mathis is a good receiver and blocker who gained valuable experience behind the plate in the SEC, and Josh Spiegel gives OSU another good catch-and-throw guy behind him. Polcovich attacks the baseball no matter where he plays on the diamond, and he should team with the instinctive, reliable Morrill to form a solid double-play tandem.
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If OSU opts to move Polcovich to the outfield or third base, baseball rat Max Hewitt can play a quality second base; Hewitt has even learned to catch this fall, giving OSU extra depth at that spot. Another hard-nosed gamer, Dylan Gardner, is another valuable utility player who handles himself well at second or third, and he’ll also have a chance to win an everyday job.
Thompson has worked hard to improve his defense at third, where he’s made gains with his glove skills as well as his throwing accuracy. Trenkle is a dynamo in center with premium range and athleticism, which he showed off with a spectacular leaping catch to rob Vanderbilt’s Spencer Jones of a home run this fall. Cabbiness is a standout defender with a double-plus arm in right field.
Starting Pitching: 50
Oklahoma State’s rotation has fascinating upside but a lot to prove, as it figures to rely upon three blue-chip freshmen from the nation’s No. 3 recruiting class, behind battle-tested junior lefty Parker Scott, who provides veteran stability and pitchability on Fridays even though he doesn’t have classic overpowering ace kind of stuff. Scott has battled injuries in his career, but he was very good when he got healthy last year, posting a 2.18 ERA in 45.1 innings over 15 appearances (eight starts). He looked outstanding in two hitless innings in our fall look, attacking the zone at 86-88 and mixing in a very good high-70s changeup and 1-to-7 curveball in the mid-70s. He’s also developed a slider to give him a fourth weapon, and Holliday loves how he competes and maintains his composure in tight spots.
Bryce Osmond, the highest-ranked freshman in this group, has a wiry 6-foot-3, 174-pound frame and an “explosive arm,” as Holliday put it, giving him legitimate first-round upside as he matures. He worked downhill at 88-91 in the fall but has shown more velocity in the past. He pounds the bottom of the zone and features a 79-80 slider with very good tilt and a 74-76 curveball to steal a strike.
Fellow freshman Campbell is a lanky, projectable 6-foot-7 righty who worked at 88-91 and touched 92 against Vanderbilt, along with a 75-76 curve with tight rotation and good arm speed on his 79-81 changeup, which flashes above-average. Freshman right-hander Kale Davis has put himself in the starting mix as well — Holliday said he looks like a starter already, with a refined delivery, feel for a sharp curveball and a slider with solid tilt and advanced feel for his craft. His fastball was 87-88 in our fall look, but there’s plenty more in the tank as he grows into his 6-foot-4 frame.
Sophomore righty Brett Standlee made 12 starts a year ago and posted a 4.46 ERA, so he figures to compete for a weekend rotation job as well, though he might be a better fit cutting it loose in the bullpen after struggling in the fall, when he was working to make adjustments in his delivery to maximize his leverage and get more bite on his pitches. A 6-foot-4 lumberjack with a long beard, Standlee has good movement on all four of his pitches: a sinker, slider, cutter and changeup.
Once again, Oklahoma State’s bullpen should be a strength, as it usually is under pitching coach Rob Walton’s expert leadership. Bulldog senior Ben Leeper and redshirt sophomore righty Tucker Elliott plus fourth-year junior righty Zach Cable are back to anchor the bullpen, and Holliday said all three are 92-94 mph guys with power breaking balls that can miss bats in the late innings.
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Standlee or one of the three freshmen mentioned above will also slide to the bullpen and serve as a key swingman. The 6-foot-9, 249-pound left-hander Mitchell Stone offers a unique look, and his fastball has sat in the low 90s in the past; he also features a good fading changeup at 80-81 and a solid 81-82 slider. He could also be a factor in the rotation if he can repeat his delivery consistently and get himself into a groove. Two-way player Sifrit is a quality strike-thrower who should be able to log some useful innings out of the bullpen this spring.
Freshman righty Wyatt Cheney is a 5-foot-11, 170-pounder with a quick arm that produces 87-91 heat with good life from a high slot. His 80-81 changeup also flashed good fading action at times, and his mid-70s curve has nice spin and downer shape.
The wild card is sophomore righty John Kelly, who was up to 95 mph with an 89 mph slider in his first outing of the fall but has been inconsistent. He was 90-92 with erratic command in our fall look, but he did flash a legitimate plus slider at 82-85 with late power tilt, so it’s easy to envision him blossoming into a big-time weapon in the OSU bullpen.
This team will rely heavily on newcomers, both freshmen and transfers. How the new faces adapt to the rigors of Big 12 competition will be crucial, but it is encouraging that Polcovich and Thompson are coming off standout summers, and Mathis has already been through the SEC grind. Under Holliday’s leadership, Oklahoma State never fails to get better as the season progresses, and this fine coaching staff figures to get the most out of their youngsters by the time May and June roll around.