Freshmen are normally the future of a program. Football, basketball, baseball, you name it, freshmen are going to be the ones the team relies on sooner or later. Sometimes, however, the first-years are good enough and step in straight away. The SEC is seeing their fair share on the diamond. Let’s circle the bases, shall we? (I regret nothing.)
Blade Tidwell - RHP, Tennessee
What an impression Tidwell has made in his short time in a Volunteer uniform. He has been inserted right into the rotation and made five starts. He has posted a 1.65 ERA over 27.1 innings with 27 strikeouts and just seven walks. Opponents are batting .204 against Tidwell. Competition aside, any freshman that can come in and do that will raise some eyebrows. We’ll get a look at how good he is when he faces the gauntlet of an SEC schedule.
Enrique Bradfield, Jr - OF, Vanderbilt
Bradfield has stepped right into center field for the ‘Dores and he already looks like a seasoned vet. His .327 average is third-best on the team and his 15 steals (through 19 games) is insane. He has yet to hit a home run but has walked 14 times, opposed to ten strikeouts for an on-base percentage of .486. Given what we know about Tim Corbin, Bradfield is only going to get better and Vandy fans should be excited.
Dylan Crews - INF/OF, LSU
You had to know Crews was going to be on here at some point. He was the 13th overall prospect in the country according to Perfect Game, and CBS Sports had him ranked as a Top 40 draft prospect out of high school last year. Crews have lived up to the billing. His .383 average leads the team and he has smacked six dingers. He has recorded a hit in every game he has played in besides two. Not to mention Crews’ .505 OBP to go along with everything else. He’s not short on speed either with five steals. He’ll be a monster, probably a top-five pick in two years, and Tiger fans should enjoy him while they have him.
Landon Sims/Jackson Fristoe - RHPs, Mississippi State
Our first relief pitcher on the list and Sims is on here for one reason - strikeouts. In 13.2 innings, which equals 41 outs, 32 of them have been by strikeout. He’s doing that as a freshman in the toughest league in America. The scary thing about Mississippi State is there were about six people I could have chosen from. Sims, Fristoe, Will Bednar, Kamren James, Logan Tanner, etc. Granted, some of them - like Sims - were on the team last year but the shortened season doesn’t count, especially when no conference games were played.
As for Fristoe, he is a true freshman and currently has a 1.71 ERA with 28 strikeouts over four starts, five appearances. Like Tidwell, he will probably have some growing pains through the gauntlet of an SEC schedule, but he’s going to be a good one. The Bulldogs are still a very young team with a lot of freshmen and sophomores. Good luck, conference.
Jaxon Wiggins - RHP, Arkansas
Another relief pitcher on the list, Wiggins has shifted into the closer role straight away with three saves, a 1.59 ERA, and 12 strikeouts. His opponent batting average of .056 jumps off the page, with a mid-90s fastball he has the potential to be a starter down the line, but for right now, when he comes in the game is over. That’s how the Hogs want it.
Five other freshmen standing out around the country
Max Anderson - INF, Nebraska
There is actually an SEC tie here. Anderson was committed to Texas A&M before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and he had to re-evaluate his options. He decided to stay home and play for former Texas A&M assistant and now Nebraska head coach, Will Bolt. Aggie fans know Rob Childress and his staff love to recruit the state, and getting the Nebraska player of the year onboard was a good find.
Husker fans have not been disappointed, as Anderson is hitting .349 with a team-leading four home runs and a .417 OBP. He will be a cornerstone for this team for the next few years, and fans of the Big Red should be excited about the future of the program.
Kade Kern - OF, Ohio State
Anderson may not even be the freshman of the year in the league with those numbers, but there’s a lot of season left. Kade Kern is currently hitting .390 with a .479 OBP, but just one home run. Kern, like Anderson, is an in-state kid who decided to play for the home-state team. He was a Top 300 recruit nationally, and after top recruit, Mackenzie Wainwright signed with the Reds, Kern became the Buckeyes top player in the class. Anderson right now has Kern beat in power, but both players have outstanding overall skill sets and will be mainstays in the lineup.
Jace Jung - INF, Texas Tech
That name may look familiar to College Baseball fans, and it should be. Jace’s brother Josh was a first-round pick of the Texas Rangers in 2019. Jung is hitting .403 and leads the Red Raiders in home runs with eight. He is a second-year freshman but even still, he had less than 20 collegiate games under his belt and he’s doing this. His slugging percentage is a ridiculous .806. Given his trajectory, it looks like he will only be in college through the 2022 season, so Red Raider fans better enjoy him now.
Kevin Parada - C, Georgia Tech
Jung somehow has competition for the best freshman season, and Parada is a true freshman. His .422 average leads the way for GT, and he leads his team in doubles. He has smashed two home runs and is a stalwart behind the plate. One area that could need improvement is stolen bases, as he has only thrown out one baserunner out of ten. That’s not always on the catcher, but nonetheless. He’ll only get better as a freshman.
Jacob Berry - INF, Arizona
Rounding out the list is another .400 hitter in Jacob Berry. In 19 games he sits at an even .400 with six home runs, a 1.358 OPS, and a .512 OBP%. He leads the Wildcats in home runs, RBIs, average, OPS, triples, tied for the lead in doubles, and SLG%. This is a do-everything player, and with these numbers in the Pac-12, a notorious pitcher’s league makes it all the more impressive. Hi Corbett Field, the Wildcats home park is rather spacious. 366 down the LF line, and 349 down RF. Berry has managed to crank six home runs playing in that. Keep an eye out for this name.