In 2021, college baseball as a whole will be older and more talented than it has ever been.
Blanket eligibility relief for all players who took part in the 2020 season means that there are hundreds of seniors back in the sport who would normally have started careers, in baseball or otherwise.
At the same time, Major League Baseball’s decision to scale back last year’s draft to five rounds also pushed players to campus, because scores of current college players and high school recruits went undrafted.
Around college baseball, there’s a sense of excitement for what that confluence could mean this spring.
“Between getting a lot of guys back and getting freshmen who don’t usually come to campus, I think, obviously, it’s going to be huge for college baseball,” Central Florida coach Greg Lovelady said. “I think the parity and the level of talented kids and the level of play is going to be elevated.”
It also has lots of college coaches really excited about their teams. One such team is Texas Christian, which may be the oldest team competing in a power conference. The Horned Frogs have eight players on the roster who are going into at least their fifth season of college baseball. And TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle knows as well as anyone the benefit of having older players. He took his 2017 team to the College World Series with a roster that included eight seniors.
“Older players, they’ve been around the block, so nothing fazes them,” Schlossnagle said. “If they have a bad day, it’s just on to the next day. They’re able to get to the middle.”
Typically, we’d look at experience like that as a major competitive advantage, but the 2021 season will be anything but typical, and one thing that coaches universally agree upon this preseason is that really liking your team is no guarantee of anything because everyone is talented, experienced and really likes their team.
It has also made any evaluation of where a team stands difficult, even for those who know best. Often going into a season, a coach knows his team and the rest of the league well enough to know if it’s a year when the team will have to catch some breaks in order to compete for championships or if the group is talented and cohesive enough to mean the sky is truly the limit.
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