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2019 SEC Baseball Preview

The SEC is always stacked. How does it look this year?

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Arkansas vs Florida Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Going through the SEC in baseball has always been a gauntlet. This year is no different. The SEC had at least eight teams in each of the main preseason polls and the conference is stacked with high draft picks no matter where you look. Based on those polls, we can sort the conference into four distinct tiers, based on where they landed and their goals for the year.

Tier 1: Title Contenders

LSU

Avg Ranking: 1.5 | 2018 Record: 39-27 | 2018 Result: Lost in Regional

The Tigers got a preseason No. 1 ranking in half the major polls. LSU and Arkansas both have good arguments for having the best outfields in the nation, the Tigers will roll out Antoine Duplantis and Daniel Cabrera. Zach Hess will look for a bounce back season and freshman Landon Marceaux is one of the most hyped pitchers in the country in addition to following the LSU tradition of having the most Louisiana-ass names possible.

Vanderbilt

Avg Ranking: 1.7 | 2018 Record: 35-27 | 2018 Result: Won Regional, Lost in Super Regional

If you didn’t have LSU as your preseason No. 1 you had the Commodores. Vandy was an extra innings loss away from the College World Series last year and returns damn near everyone. Catcher Phillip Clarke and 2B Austin Martin are preseason All-SEC first team, and their pitching staff led by Drake Fellows will be stacked as well.

Florida

Avg Ranking: 5.6 | 2018 Record: 49-21 | 2018 Result: No. 1 Seed, CWS Semifinals

Arkansas took down the No. 1 overall seeded Gators in last year’s CWS. While they lost a ton of names to the MLB draft, they’ve still reloaded. OF Will Dalton and Pitcher Tyler Dyson have both earned preseason All-America awards.

Tier 2: Could Host A Regional, Deep Postseason Run Possible

Ole Miss

Avg Ranking: 10.9 | 2018 Record: 48-18 | 2018 Result: No. 4 Seed, Lost In Regional

Ole Miss had a ton of pitchers taken in the draft, but still has some excellent arms. Freshman Gunnar Hoglund was taken 36th overall and turned down over $2 million to go to Oxford. They also return one of the best relief arms in Parker Caracci.

Georgia

Avg Ranking: 14 | 2018 Record: 39-21 | 2018 Result: No. 8 Seed, Lost In Regional

Last year was a huge breakout year for the Dawgs. Most expectations that they’re going to stick around that 10-15 range nationally. They’ll be led at the hot corner but first team All-SEC pick Aaron Schunk.

Mississippi State

Avg Ranking: 15.8 | 2018 Record: 39-29 | 2018 Result: CWS Semifinals

The Bulldogs got one hell of a ride to the CWS last season after a huge comeback in the regional round. Jake Mangum is back in Starkville for his ninth season of eligibility. The question for them is reloading on the pitching staff.

Arkansas

Avg Ranking: 16.5 | 2018 Record: 48-21 | 2018 Result: No. 5 Seed, CWS Runner-Up

The common theme in this tier is teams trying to replace some elite pitching arms they lost to the draft but still have enough big bats to be a threat. Arkansas fits that description perfectly. Gone are Blaine Knight and Kacey Murphy, but Heston Kjerstad, Dominic Fletcher, and Casey Martin are all back and first team preseason All-SEC. They also have the back end of their bullpen locked down with Matt Cronin returning.

Auburn

Avg Ranking: 19.3 | 2018 Record: 43-23 | 2018 Result: Won Regional, Lost In Super Regional

The Tigers have to replace top overall draft pick Casey Mize, but are still doing okay with first team preseason All-SEC pick Tanner Burns. Will Holland is also going to be one of the top shortstops in the SEC. And that’s a big compliment because the SEC has a ton of really good shortstops.

Tier 3: Should Make Postseason Play

Texas A&M

Avg Ranking: RV | 2018 Record: 40-22 | 2018 Result: Lost in Regional

Speaking of really good shortstops, A&M’s Braden Shewmake is second team preseason All-SEC. John Doxakis is also second team on the bump for the Aggies.

South Carolina

Avg Ranking: RV | 2018 Record: 37-26 | 2018 Result: Won Regional, Lost in Super Regional

They’ve dropped off a bit from where they’ve been in the past 10 years. After losing in the Fayetteville Super Regional, the Gamecocks have lost several key pieces and expectations aren’t as high. Noah Campbell was still known enough to get a first team All-SEC nod.

Kentucky

Avg Ranking: NR | 2018 Record: 34-22 | 2018 Result: Missed Postseason

Zack Thompson will be one of the conference’s best arms, and they’ll launch plenty of home runs in their small park in Lexington, but can they keep up enough to make a regional?

Tier 4: Oh No

Tennessee

Avg Ranking: NR | 2018 Record: 29-27 | 2018 Result: Missed Postseason

Tony Vitello had some good signs in his first year with the Vols, but the talent deficiency was too much to overcome. They might still be another year away from getting into postseason play.

Missouri

Avg Ranking: NR | 2018 Record: 34-22 | 2018 Result: Missed Postseason

They won’t have the NCAA Tournament in their sights thanks to the NCAA, but they still return a couple of key pieces. Kameron Misner and Tyler LaPlante will be the engines that make the Tigers go.

Alabama

Avg Ranking: NR | 2018 Record: 27-29 | 2018 Result: Missed Postseason

The Tide have improved a lot, but they were already a ways behind the rest of the conference and were dealt the most brutal schedule in the SEC. Good luck getting over .500 when your SEC road series are Ole Miss, Florida, Mississippi State, Auburn, and Georgia. They also get Arkansas, LSU, and Vandy at home.