The Arkansas Razorbacks 2023 season is just days away, and the excitement is growing in Fayetteville. The head coach, Dave Van Horn, met with the media today to discuss this season. The Razorbacks will only return two starting position players from last season’s team. In a season of new faces in new places, it’s good to get an idea of who this team will feature. We will review some pitchers, hitters, and fielders you may know and others you may not. We will also look at what Van Horn had to say today regarding this team. Then, we will look at when this season will start and who the Razorbacks will play. We will begin with the pitchers. Who is back, and who can make an impact?
The lefty had an outstanding freshman season going 7-2 on the season with a 4.66 ERA, along with two saves in 77.1 innings of work. Smith made ten appearances in SEC play, with nine being starts. In these games, Smith would finish 3-1 with a 5.96 ERA. Smith would be vital to the Razorbacks’ postseason success with his performance in the NCAA Tournament. This season expects to see Smith as the day-one starter. Van Horn talked about Smith today with great confidence and made no question who his number one is as of today. Smith has recently been named a top 100 sophomore and Preseason All- American by ‘Perfect Game.’
The sophomore, Peyton Stovall, comes into 2023 looking for one thing: redemption. The talented lefty battled injury and struggled at the plate during the regular season. Then, in the postseason, the Arkansas faithful saw the bat they knew was there. Stovall would hit .429 in the postseason. In the NCAA Tournament, Stovall batted .525 in the first nine games before finishing 0-9 in the final two contests. We will see a change defensively for Stovall this season as he moves to his natural position at second base after playing first in 2022. Peyton will be one player to keep an eye on in the field, especially at the plate. As always, Van Horn will move him around to find his sweet spot in the above-mentioned stacked lineup. Stovall was part of the press conference today and spoke about just playing ball. He said he tried to do too much and live up to the hype. After a conversation with Van Horn, he didn’t think about that anymore and just started playing ball. Van horn spoke about Stovall hitting today when he said, “I think he is one of the best hitters in the nation.”
Possibly the most talented addition out of the seven junior college players in Caleb Cali. The designated hitter can fill rolls in the field at first base, but he excels at the plate. The former Florida State Seminole was one of Arkansas’ best hitters in the fall. Cali showed significant league power while hitting .419 and 16 RBIs, both team-leading. The Razorbacks will need bats like Cali to get back to their scoring ways of seasons past. Van Horn can use him in multiple positions within the hitting lineup. The junior will be one to watch this season and moving forward. Arkansas has found someone who can drive the ball with precision and power. At the plate, that is a dangerous combination.
Brady Slavens being back in an Arkansas uniform surprised many in Fayetteville. The Senior had elbow surgery that hampered him last season. Slavens was thought to be a sure MLB draftee but slipped because of this injury. Now that he is back, he will be in a familiar position. Slavens will return to first base, which he played in 2021, and looks to return to his ways of that season. Slavens will be a critical factor in the success of the infield this season, and the Hogs will lean on him for leadership.
In what is the most significant hole of the infield, the shortstop, Arkansas, landed another junior college star. Harold Coll joined the Razorbacks after many thought the MLB would take him. The right-hander will fill the shortstop position this season after winning a battle in the fall against Austin Peay transfer John Bolton, and his play will be essential. At the plate, Coll has the power to drive the ball to any part of the field with plenty of power. He has a powerful arm in the field and will need consistency in his throws and accuracy. The veteran Van Horn went with Coll and told us he was the man for the job. At least to start the season.
What Did Van Horn Say Today?
In today’s press conference, Van Horn was confident in the team he has coming into this season. While there were plenty of great quotes, a few stood out today. When speaking of the shortstop and second base connection of Robert Moore and Jalen Battles, Van horn would say, “The second and shortstop connection you have seen the last two seasons you may never see again.”
The second statement was when speaking of the depth of the pitching staff, and Van Horn would say it was “The best he has ever had.” which is quite the statement based on some we have seen come through Fayetteville since Van horn took over in 2003.
Also, speaking about the pitching staff, Van horn said, “If you can hit our pitchers, you can hit any in the country.”
On baserunning, Van Horn would say, ” We need to be a team that is great at baserunning…smart baserunning.“
What is Next?
Arkansas will travel to Dallas to compete in the College Baseball Showdown on February 17-19th. In this showdown, they will play three games in three days. The first is on Friday against Texas, with the first pitch at 7 pm. The Saturday slate will be against TCU beginning at 7 pm. The final game of the showdown will take place on Sunday, the 19th, against Oklahoma State, starting at 2:30 pm. The season’s opening showcase will be broadcasted on the FLO Sports app.