After a very abbreviated 2020 schedule, the 2021 season is just underway with pretty much every team in the area getting started over the weekend - some already with a handful of games under their belts.
The mostly lost season a year ago has baseball coaches, players and fans/parents antsy to make sure the entire year plays out, culminating with crowning state champions across all classifications and organizations.
With that said, we're going to try a new spin on the previews. We'll introduce power rankings in a couple weeks after a good amount of games have been played.
What we'll do instead is highlight a team we think has a high chance to win state, a team that could be dark horse in that class as well as a preseason player to watch in each class.
Team to Beat: Prosper
Simply put, Prosper is the best team in the state by Diamond Pro/THSB. Prosper went 11-2 in the abbreviated 2020 season and returns 10 starters from that team that looked to be headed toward a deep playoff run.
Junior catcher Easton Carmichael, Jr. and senior shortstop Chase Pendley are the headliners for a team laced with talent up and down the lineup.
6A Dark Horse: Dallas Jesuit
Like Prosper, Jesuit is a team that has double-digit returning starters (10) for a team that was off to a very solid start in 2020. Before things shut down, Jesuit was off to an 8-4 start.
Jesuit is led by senior infielder Jordan Lawlar, a Vanderbilt commit.
Preseason Player to Watch: Tyler Collins, McKinney Boyd
Collins is an Oklahoma State-bound outfield from McKinney Boyd. Last year, Collins started the year with a .486 average with 2 doubles, 2 triples, a home run and 18 runs scored.
Collins has made an impact for McKinney Boyd since his freshman year and has continually gotten better each season.
Team to Beat: Cleburne
Just like 6A, the top-ranked 5A team in the state heralds from the DFW area. Cleburne was off to an impressive start last year, going 12-0-2 before things shut down.
For the 2021 season, Cleburne brings back eight starters, including senior outfield Ethan Flores who had 23 RBI in those 14 games.
5A Dark Horse: Mansfield Legacy
A Top 10 state-ranked team, Mansfield Legacy is a deep team that started the 2020 season at 10-2. Legacy brings backs seven returning starters from last year, including senior shortstop Raef Wright, who batted .395 with a homer and four triples, and senior Griffin Brinkley, who had 14 strikeouts in nine innings of work last year.
Legacy is already off to a 4-0 start this year after an 18-2 drubbing over Midland Christian this weekend.
Preseason Player to Watch: Creed Williams, Aledo
The senior is committed to TCU and is looking to continue what he was building on from last year. In the abbreviated season, Williams was hitting .408 with two round-trippers, seven doubles, one triple and 23 RBI. All of that basically mirrored or surpassed his sophomore season output, which was a full season.
Team to Beat: Argyle
Argyle is still the reigning back-to-back state champs, albeit with a gap year. And has been the case for the Argyle athletics department, the school just churns out top talent and teams built for long runs.
Argyle enters 2021 ranked 5th in the state with six starters returning from a year ago that started 7-3-2. Tyler Abrego, the senior shortstop committed to Incarnate Word, and sophomore Pierce Brooks, a TCU-commit, lead Argyle this year.
4A Dark Horse: Godley
Godley is a preseason Top 20 team in the Diamond Pro/THSB rankings with seven starters returning from a team that only got four games deep into the season last year, according to MaxPreps.com
Braden Karnes is a senior pitcher/third baseman that batted .385 and posted a 1.25 ERA last year to lead Godley into the 2021 season.
Preseason Player to Watch: Jaxon Holder, Aubrey
Jaxon Holder was on a tear as both an infielder and pitcher for Aubrey in 2020. He was clubbing everything with a .657 batting average (best in all of 4A), four doubles, a triple, a homer, 19 RBI, and then on the mound, he was 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA with seven strikeouts in seven innings pitched.
Holder, a Dallas Baptist-commit, has greatly improved each season since his freshman year. With that precedent set, his senior year could be off the charts.
Team to Beat: Brock
Nine starters are back for a Brock team that finished 2020 with an 8-1-1 record. Brock is looking for another deep playoff run as it made the Regional Finals back in 2019 before falling three games to eventual state champion Wall.
Brock is led by senior infielder Jaxson Gleaton and senior pitcher Carson Lightfoot.
3A Dark Horse: Grandview
Grandview returns six starters from a year ago that started off strong at 7-3-1. Grandview made it three rounds deep in its last playoff run before falling in three games to Troy in the Regional Quarterfinals.
Seniors Blaine Vaughan (SS/P) and Jimmy Mathis (C) lead Grandview into the 2021 season.
Preseason Player to Watch: Barrett Kent, Pottsboro
Kent committed to Arkansas over the summer and is the poised to have a solid a breakout sophomore season for Pottsboro in 2021. As a freshman, Kent was 3-0 with 27 strikeouts and had two complete games. He batted .500 with four homers and 16 RBI.
Team to Beat: Prestonwood Christian
The state's top-ranked private school team is poised for another great season, much like it was last year getting off to a 14-1 start.
Despite having the fewest returning starters among the ranked larger private schools, Prestonwood is year-in and year-out a contender.
Sophomores Derrick Mitchell and Tarris Murray along with juniors Trenton Shaw and Christian Bates are poised to lead Prestonwood to a deep playoff run in 2021.
Private School Dark Horse: Fort Worth All Saints
On the other side of town, Fort Worth All Saints enters the year ranked 10th in the state after a 13-1 2020 campaign. All Saints brings back 10 starts from year ago, including senior pitchers Grayson Cole and Charlie Bennett.
Preseason Player to Watch: Trip Banta, Fort Worth Lake Country Christian
Banta was having a nice season for Lake Country in 2020 before things shut down. The TCU-commit finished the year at 2-1 with 22 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings pitched and was batting .344 with a home run, three doubles and eight runs scored. Banta is looking for his first full season of action as last year as shortened and missed his sophomore season (2018) due to injury.