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2021 was packed with breakout pitching and talent on the mound. No, we won’t have the likes of Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter for Vandy this season, but we should still have a lot of first-round talent in college baseball this season.
This list barely covers it all, considering we tried to limit it to just 15 pitchers, but plenty of arms are included. Here are some of the best pitchers to watch out for in the 2022 season:
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Landon Sims — Mississippi State
Let’s start with a sure thing: Landon Sims at Mississippi State. Sims went 5-0 with a 1.44 ERA and 13 saves in 56 1/3 innings last season and was a big part of the national championship race. Anyone who has watched the 2021 Men’s College World Series will know this name. He was so big on the CWS behind Will Bednar on the way to the title. Sims hit 100 batters in those 56 1/3 innings last season, a heavy workload for a relief pitcher, but he’ll move into the rotation this season. Prepare for strikeouts early and often.
RELIVE 2021: Mississippi State Wins First College World Series
Parker Messick—State of Florida
Next up, we have left-hander Parker Messick at Florida State, the 2021 ACC Pitcher of the Year and Freshman of the Year. Messick went 8-2 last season with 126 strikeouts and a 3.10 ERA in 90 innings. He could have a massive 2022 campaign for the Seminoles. he is joined by Bryce Hubbartwho spent the summer as a Cape Cod star after earning third-team all-ACC honors in 2021.
Justin Campbell—Oklahoma State
Justin Campbell at Oklahoma State is next, a two-way guy with a big role this season. Campbell stands on the mound at 6-foot-7 and has a full mix of pitches. He was one of five finalists for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award last season after finishing with 102 strikeouts with a 2.57 ERA in 84 innings.
Andrew Taylor — Central Michigan
Andrew Taylor at Central Michigan makes the list easily. The right-hander burst onto the scene last season, winning MAC Pitcher of the Year. He was ranked No. 8 nationally with a 1.81 ERA, recorded 125 strikeouts, was second in the nation with 11 wins and finished five complete games.
Next, Carson Whisenhunt on ECUs. Whisenhunt is probably the best southpaw across the board in 2022 with one of the best trades nationally in his arsenal. He enters the season as a preseason first-team All American in four different publications after striking out 79 batters in 62 innings a year ago. He played for the US collegiate national team in the offseason and can only get better this season.
The preseason No. 1 Texas Longhorns lost Ty Madden, but this is still considered by many to be one of the strongest pitching staffs in the nation this season. For one thing, they have Pete Hansen leading their rotation, who closed out 2021 with two appearances in the College World Series. Hansen has strong command of his fastball and a great resume in 2021 with a 9-1 record, 1.88 ERA and an 80-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He will be joined by Tristan Stevens and Tanner Witt. Stevens returns after a great 2021 as well, where he was rock solid behind Ty Madden with a 3.31 ERA.
Hunter Boat is next in Florida. In the shortened 2020 season, he had a 1.40 ERA and a .162 opponents batting average before finishing 2021 with 94 strikeouts. He had a great 7-0 run last season in which he secured wins over No. 3 Ole Miss, No. 2 Vanderbilt and No. 8 Mississippi State. He should be big on the rock this season and the ace of a team in the preseason top 10.
Sam Highfill—North Carolina State
Highfill made a name for himself in last year’s postseason, the kind of guy who loves big moments and stands for them. He earned a win over No. 1 Arkansas in super regionals, then allowed just two hits in a career-high 7 1/3 innings, then went 3-for-4 at the plate in consecutive games against Vanderbilt in Omaha. It’s no big deal, Sam. I’m ready to see Highfill and Wolfpack this season.
Carson Palmquist—Miami, Florida
Carson Palmquist in Miami has been phenomenal out of the bullpen for the Canes the past two seasons. He posted a 2.22 ERA in 44.2 innings with 75 strikeouts and just eight walks. He is expected to make the jump to the starting rotation this season and has great potential. As a freshman in 2021, he was named first-team All American in two publications and second-team in two others. He led the ACC and ranked third nationally with 14 saves.
In Georgia you have Jonathan Cannon, who has refined his pitches for this season, according to D1baseball. He had an impressive start in the Cape Cod league this offseason and has the potential to be a first-round pick in the upcoming draft. The 6-foot-6 physical right-hander is 7-2 with a 3.38 ERA over his career thus far, but he should be getting better this season.
Northeastern has Cam Schlittler as an interesting arm to watch this season. The 6-foot-6 right-hander posted an 8-1 record with a miniscule 1.88 ERA last season and was recently named the 2022 CAA Preseason Co-Player of the Year. He had 85 strikeouts in 76.2 innings pitched and ranked among the Top 50 in the country with a WHIP of 0.99 last season.
Drew Thorpe—Cal Poly
At Cal Poly, Drew Thorpe is on the list. The Friday night ace hit 104 batters a year ago and earned time on the collegiate national team in the offseason. According to D1baseball, Thorpe combines a double plus changeup with a fastball at 92-94.
In the SEC, Blade Tidwell is an arm you’ll want to keep an eye on this season for Tennessee. He will miss the beginning of the season with shoulder pain, but I still wanted to keep him on the list to watch this season. Tidwell has hit 98 mph and has a takedown slider. The 6-foot-4 right-hander will be the ace for a team of volunteers coming out of a CWS race, when healthy.
Lastly, I have two relievers I can’t help but add to the list with Nick Maldonado at Vandy and Aaron Nixon at Texas. The Dores have question marks in the starting rotation, but Maldonado was one of the best bullpen arms in the nation last season with a 59-7 strikeout-to-walk record and nine saves. He could open or he could close for Tim Corbin this year. So, Nixon will probably remain in the role of closer for Texas. He closed out 2021 with a 2.21 ERA and nine saves.
Other pitchers to watch this season:
- Marcus Johnson – Duke
- Paul Skenes – Air Force
- Josh White—California
- Jonathan Fincher—Louisiana Tech