Georgia has a lot of pieces to replace from 2020’s team but head coach Scott Stricklin has the players to do that. They bring in one of the nation’s top recruiting classes and have several guys who will need to impact immediately in 2021.
2019 Record: 46-17 (21-9)
2020 Record: 14-4
Perfect Game Recruiting Class: 11th
It’s a tired narrative but the Bulldogs are another team that was heartbroken from the 2020 season ending early. Georgia had arguably the most talented rotation in the country and was ranked inside the top five at season’s end.
The bulk of the losses came to one team during midweek games. Georgia was unable to figure out Georgia Southern and were 0-3 against them. Aside from that, the duo of Emerson Hancock and Cole Wilcox were a thing of beauty early on and are going to be sorely missed by fans this season.
Fourth year junior C.J. Smith returns as the Sunday starter from last year’s rotation. He was a dependable option last year as well as in 2019 when he was forced into the weekend rotation. He was at a 3.32 ERA in four starts last year but had a high walk count which he’ll want to bring down this year.
Though there’s concern about the remaining two holes left by two of the better pitchers in the SEC last year, Georgia boasted one of the best bullpens in the short season and have the talent to fill in. Ryan Webb is at the top of that list. The lefty allowed just two runs in 15 innings and is ready to slide into a starting role.
The other option is Jonathan Cannon. Like Webb, Cannon worked all bullpen innings last year. He was 3-0 in 11.1 scoreless innings along with 12 strikeouts. If these two guys can make a smooth transition, the rotation won’t drag too much from 2020.
The Bulldogs have two or three big bats they’ll need to replace from 2020. Four year starter Cam Shepherd is gone but backup Cole Tate is ready to take over at shortstop. Tate was hitting .339 with a pair of homeruns last year in his first season with legitimate playing time.
Fourth year sophomore Ben Anderson brings back the team’s best batting average from last year at .414. He’ll need help from some guys stepping into bigger roles this year to replace the monster numbers from Tucker Bradley in 2020. Riley King and Connor Tate are two of those guys who will need to make jumps after slow starts last season.
A number of new faces will likely be worked in to the lineup as Georgia’s strong recruiting class vies for starting positions. Parks Harber and Garrett Spikes are two infielders that will impact the infield, ranked No.116 and No.155 by Perfect Game, respectively.
Corey Collins and Fernando Gonzalez will duke it out for catching duties. Collins catches the eye at 6’3″ 220lbs and is a serious weapon at the plate. He’s coming off recent surgery so his arm isn’t 100% yet. Gonzalez has the edge defensively for now but can still provide sufficient offensive numbers as well.
Georgia has a lot of “ifs” and “cans” when looking at their 2020 outlook. The rotation is reliant on the smooth transitions of Webb and Cannon coming over from the bullpen. The lineup needs guys like King and Tate to step into bigger roles as well as incoming freshmen to make immediate impacts.
Stricklin is asking a lot from his younger guys. Still, it’s a credit to him that Georgia is not talent depleted after last year. The Bulldog have the pieces to compete. As long as disaster doesn’t strike, they should be in a good spot to make another NCAA Tournament.
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