FAYETTEVILLE — Brady Tygart was one of several Arkansas baseball players bit by the injury bug last season, but there might have been a silver lining to his absence.
While losing a player as talented as him is never a good thing, especially when coupled with all of the other pitchers who got hurt, the process of working Tygart back into the mix forced the Razorbacks to quit delaying the inevitable.
Rather than continuing to bring the right-hander out of the bullpen, Arkansas moved him into the starting rotation when he returned from the sprained UCL that kept him off the mound for nearly two months.
“The only way to do it safely was to start him,” pitching coach Matt Hobbs told Best of Arkansas Sports in an exclusive interview following fall ball. “We had always thought about starting him and it was just that was the way to do it. It ended up being really good for him and for the team.”
As a starter, Tygart knew exactly when he’d be pitching and the Razorbacks could easily set a pitch count as they slowly built him back up from the injury to his right elbow’s Ulnar Collateral Ligament.
By the end of the season, he was able to throw 99 pitches in the Fayetteville Regional and help Arkansas stave off elimination against Santa Clara.
It wasn’t exactly a large sample size, but that performance gave the coaching staff a glimpse of what Tygart is capable of when they let him loose with no limitations.
He is next up in our series previewing Arkansas’ projected starting rotation ahead of the 2024 season, which starts Feb. 16 against James Madison…
Projected Weekend Starter: RHP Brady Tygart
Jr. | 6-2 | 215 | Hernando, Miss. (Lewisburg HS)
2023 Stats: 10 G/6 GS, 3-1, 1 save, 3.20 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 31 K/8 BB, 25.1 IP, .167 BAA
Even when he was closing games on his way to Freshman All-America honors in 2022, there was plenty of talk about Brady Tygart being a future starter for the Razorbacks.
Dave Van Horn brought it up again following a dominant five-out save by the right-hander in last year’s season opener against Texas. However, he remained in the bullpen until getting hurt.
When he finally became a starter, Tygart was sensational. Limited to only 19 total innings in six starts because of a pitch count, he posted a 2.37 ERA and 0.84 WHIP with 21 strikeouts and held opponents to a .141 batting average and .538 OPS — numbers that’d earn him All-SEC and All-America accolades if sustained across a full season.
That kind of performance wasn’t surprising to pitching coach Matt Hobbs, who agreed with Van Horn that Tygart was better suited to be a starter than a closer.
“I always thought that starting would be better for him just because it’s not as much effort for him,” Hobbs said. “When he is in those games closing as a freshman, it is like maxing out on every pitch. That was to the positive sometimes and to his own detriment sometimes. If you looked at him last year versus his freshman year in terms of just delivery, everything looked a little more quiet and it allowed him to be able to utilize his pitches.”
Tygart certainly has a lot of pitches, too, hence the coaching staff’s belief he would excel as a starter. Everyone knows about his fastball and curveball, but he also has a changeup and slider.
As a closer, Tygart primarily threw those first two pitches because he was usually only throwing about 30 pitches max in an outing. Hobbs said his arsenal is his strength, though.
“When you think about college pitchers, (they) usually have two pitches, most of them,” Hobbs said. “If they’re plus pitches, they’re usually pretty good and if they’re above average pitches, they’re okay. Then if they have a third pitch, they rarely throw it. Brady’s always had four pitches.”
The velocity of his fastball, which is in the mid-90s, is a major plus. But what makes his arsenal so deep is the fact he has an “innate feel for the baseball” and an ability to “manipulate the baseball,” Hobbs said. That is why his curveball has such a high spin rate, averaging 2,800 RPMs last year, according to Baseball America’s Peter Flaherty III. That is above the MLB average of 2,430-2,550.
Moving into the starting rotation helped Tygart get into a routine last year, which Hobbs said calmed him down a little bit because he no longer has to wonder when he’s pitching and he knows when he’s throwing a bullpen, lifting weights and other things during the week.
With the 2024 Arkansas baseball season just around the corner, he’s in position to lock down a starting role for the Razorbacks and expectations are quite high for what he’ll do as a junior.
Flaherty projects him as a second- or third-round pick in this summer’s MLB Draft, while Joe Doyle of Future Star Series speculates that his talent could “force” his way into the big leagues as soon as this year as a September call-up. Both analysts see him as a future high-leverage reliever.
With a strong final season as a starter, though, Tygart could change that perception and shoot up draft boards.
“I think his stuff’s better than ever,” Van Horn said in December. “We’ve just got to keep him healthy. We need him to pitch and we need him to pitch a lot. He’s really worked on his body. He’s gotten so much stronger in the last five months, it’s been fun watching it.”
Arkansas Baseball’s 2024 Pitching Staff
- RHP Ben Bybee – sophomore
- RHP Dylan Carter – redshirt senior
- LHP Parker Coil – sophomore
- RHP Cooper Dossett – sophomore
- RHP Jake Faherty – junior
- RHP Christian Foutch – sophomore
- RHP Koty Frank – super senior
- RHP Josh Hyneman – redshirt freshman (Tommy John surgery)
- RHP Will McEntire – redshirt senior
- LHP Hagen Smith – junior
- RHP Brady Tygart – junior
- RHP Gage Wood – sophomore
- LHP Stone Hewlett – senior (transfer from Kansas)
- LHP Mason Molina – junior (transfer from Texas Tech)
- RHP Jaewoo Cho – freshman
- LHP Hunter Dietz – freshman
- LHP Colin Fisher – freshman
- RHP Gabe Gaeckle – freshman
- LHP Adam Hachman – freshman
- LHP Tucker Holland – freshman
- RHP Tate McGuire – freshman
- RHP Diego Ramos – freshman
- LHP Jack Smith – freshman
Check out the full scouting report on Brady Tygart from Baseball America’s Peter Flaherty III:
Miss our piece on projected ace Hagen Smith? Check it out here:
More coverage of Arkansas baseball from BoAS…