clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

SEC Baseball Preview 2014: Arkansas Looks for New Arms

The starting rotation is gone, but there's a good bit of experience on offense and the Razorbacks are still a decent bet to play in the postseason

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

Preseason Rankings | Baseball America: 25; USA Today: ORV

Last Season | Arkansas started out the 2013 season as one of the favorites to play for the national title; they finished the season by getting knocked out of the tournament in the regionals. But the disappointment began long before the postseason, when a trip to the Coca-Cola Classic in Arizona turned into an 0-4 weekend with some ugly losses that would haunt the Razorbacks' resume for the rest of the year. (You can make a case that the classic blunder was a major reason the Hogs didn't get a regional in the NCAA tournament.) After those losses, Arkansas went from No. 2 to No. 19 and spent little more than a week in the Top 10 after that.

Who's Gone in 2014 | The starting rotation, basically. Ryne Stanek, Barrett Astin and Randall Fant all checked out of Fayetteville after working a combined 254.2 innings last season with Fant's 2.03 ERA the highest among them. A good deal of the success that Arkansas had in 2013 was due to the starting rotation. The three pitchers that Dave Van Horn seems to be touting as possible replacements started a combined 11 games last year, and none pitched more than 36.2 innings. Arkansas' team ERA could climb a good bit from last season's 1.89 and still be very good -- and that's good news for Hogs fans, because it's hard to see the pitchers doing as well this season.

Who's Back in 2014 | The flip side of those losses is that the team is not terribly hard-hit on offense, which is fitting, because the offense didn't hit anything terribly hard last year. They ranked 12th in the SEC in OPS in 2013. The reason for optimism is the possibility that the lineup gained experience; six of the nine position players who started 30 or more games are back this year. Jacob Morris, who batted just .160/.210/.287 is the only batter with 100 or more at-bats in 2013 who won't return in 2014 (and he just reached 100 at-bats). The Razorbacks do lose a heavy chunk of what little power they showed last season -- 12 of the 27 home runs decamped for graduation or the pros -- but the offense should at least be as good as it was last year, and perhaps take a step or two forward.

Prognosis | This team probably goes as far as the offense takes it, at least initially. That's not to say that the pitching staff is going to implode, but it's likely going to be shaky early in the season, and another early-season stumble like last year's team could do more damage to Arkansas' tournament hopes than simply knocking them out of contention for a regional. The conference slate is tough, with trips to Gainesville and Baton Rouge on tap and Vanderbilt and South Carolina coming to Fayetteville. Still, if the offense comes around a bit and the pitching gels in time for the SEC schedule, the Hogs should be able to make it to the NCAA tournament.