Head coach: Rob Childress Last season: 48-19, 13-13 in Big 12 Postseason: The Aggies finished fifth in the Big 12, but made a statement in the postseason. After winning the conference tournament, the Aggies hosted a Regional and defeated Louisiana-Lafayette. They lost to Rice in the Super Regional round.
After a tough first season in College Station, coach Rob Childress guided the Aggies to the NCAA Tournament in 2007. There, the Aggies won the College Station Regional before bowing out at the hands of in-state foe Rice.
With last season still fresh in the Aggies' minds, they enter the spring with extra motivation and higher expectations.
The Aggies had one of the most aggressive offensive lineups last season, but must replace key hitters Brandon Hicks, Parker Dalton and Craig Stinson, among others. As a result, second baseman Blake Stouffer and designated hitter Luke Anders must continue their successful ways.
TEXAS A&M AGGIES
Junior Luke Anders and the Aggies should have another productive offensive lineup.
Probable Starting Lineup
C Kevin Gonzalez
1B Darby Brown
2B Blake Stouffer
SS Jose Duran
3B Brian Ruggiano
OF Ben Feltner
OF Kyle Colligan
OF Brooks Raley
DH Luke Anders
SP Kirkland Rivers
SP Barret Loux
SP Kyle Thebeau
While the offense is expected to be in good shape, the Aggies have some questions to answer on the mound.
Without Nicholson and Newmann, Kyle Thebeau and Kirkland Rivers must rise to the occasion. Additionally, freshman Barret Loux is expected to be an immediate contributor.
If the pitching staff meets expectations, the Aggies should be in good shape. If not, the offense must be more productive. Even with some question marks signs point to a successful campaign.
The Aggies have some key offensive contributors to replace, but welcome back their best player – All-American Blake Stouffer.
With a target on his back, Stouffer must once again rise to the occasion. The senior batted .398 with 12 homers and 85 RBIs last season. He also slugged .668 and had a .487 on-base percentage.
While Stouffer leads the charge, the Aggies are also expecting strong campaigns from Luke Anders, Kyle Colligan, Darby Brown and Ben Feltner, among others.
Anders batted .336 with 11 homers and 46 RBIs last season, while Colligan and Feltner were key contributors. Brown hopes to rebound after injuries plagued him last season.
Newcomers Jose Duran and Brooks Raley are also expected to be key contributors, while returnees Brian Ruggiano and Kevin Gonzalez assume more important roles.
Much like last season, the Aggies will live to put pressure on opposing teams. And like last season, the Aggies will likely experience success at the plate.
As the season nears, the most important question facing the Aggies is their weekend rotation. Last season, the Aggies received consistent performances from Kyle Nicholson and David Newmann. However, both pitchers are gone.
Hoping to rebound from their losses, the Aggies will look to Kirkland Rivers, Kyle Thebeau and Barret Loux for comfort.
Rivers and Thebeau were outstanding down the stretch last season, but have had consistency issues.
As a junior last season, Rivers went 2-3 with a 5.21 ERA in 38 innings of work. He also struck out 25 and walked 20. Thebeau went 3-6 with a 4.67 ERA in 79 innings. He also struck out 92 and walked 36, while opponents hit him at a .240 clip.
Loux, a freshman, could end up being the gem of the pitching staff. The talented right-hander had an exceptional fall and caught the coaching staff's attention in impressive fashion.
Even with some uncertainty, the A&M rotation has upside.
With weekend starters Kyle Nicholson and David Newmann logging over 100 innings last season, the Aggies didn't have to rely too much on their bullpen to get it done.
That probably won't be the case in 2008.
Even without Nicholson and Newmann, the Aggies believe the weekend rotation will be in good hands. However, the bullpen will likely play a more integral role early in the season. Of course, that might not be a bad thing for Childress and Co.
The bullpen is highlighted by sophomore Travis Starling, senior Jordan Chambless and freshman Brooks Raley. Sophomore Scott Migl will also factor into the equation, but his exact role is still to be determined.
Starling throws a knucklecurve and had a 1.33 ERA in 20 1/3 innings of work last season, while Chambless has the ability to be a shutdown reliever. To date, he has had several injury issues.
Raley could be the most interesting player to watch. The gritty freshman is currently slated to start in the outfield. But if the Aggies decide he's too valuable in the bullpen, it will be interesting to see what transpires.
Outlook with postseason forecast
After a less than stellar first season in College Station, Childress got the Aggies back on track in 2007. Now A&M hopes to reach the College World Series for the first time since 1999. Though the Aggies have some holes to fill with the departures of the weekend starters Kyle Nicholson and David Newmann in addition to offensive contributors Parker Dalton, Brandon Hicks and Craig Stinson, they welcome back a strong nucleus of players. The Aggies reached the Super Regional round last season, so anything short of that in 2008 will be considered a disappointment. A&M has some questions to answer on the mound, but was in the same situation entering last season. If the pitching staff rises to the occasion, a trip to Omaha is not out of the question.
Shoes to Fill
After losing a few key players from last year's team, the Aggies enter the spring with some important holes to fill. The Aggies must replace offensive contributors Parker Dalton, Craig Stinson and Brandon Hicks, among others. Perhaps most discouraging, the Aggies must also replace weekend starters Kyle Nicholson and David Newmann. Though A&M has been in this position before, they must replace 22 wins with the departures of Nicholson and Newmann. The Aggies have some work to do in this regard.
Must Step Up
With a Super Regional berth on the line last season, the Aggies sent hard-throwing right-hander Kyle Thebeau to the mound.
Despite having a history of inconsistent performances, Thebeau rose to the occasion and pitched a gem against Louisiana-Lafayette in the College Station Regional Championship.
For the Aggies to take the next step, Thebeau must establish consistency – preferably early in the season.
If Thebeau emulates his Regional performance on a consistent basis this spring, the Aggies could be in business. If not, they will have to search for another reliable arm.
Like many college baseball teams, the Aggies were plucked by the MLB Draft last June. Somehow, they were able to hold on to talented right-handed pitcher Barret Loux. Loux is expected to be in the weekend rotation and brings an impressive demeanor to the table. Loux throws three pitches for strikes and does a great job of controlling the running game. According to Childress, Loux went through fall workouts like a veteran. With the pitching staff A&M's main concern, Loux comes at the right time.
JUCO transfer shortstop Jose Duran is another player to watch. Replacing Brandon Hicks in the infield, Duran has a great combination of strength and speed. He's also a guy Childress believes can be a good doubles hitter this season. The Aggies have a void without Hicks, but Duran should be an adequate replacement.
Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Rivals.com is counting down our Preseason Top 25. Coming tomorrow: No. 23.