Though there were bigger names in the Rice rotation this season, it was the grandson of T.K. Reckling (aka the guy Rice's stadium is named after), who stole the show and became the staff ace.
Reckling flashed stuff all season, with his fastball velocity going anywhere from 86-93 MPH. He threw both a four-seam and a two-seam fastball with a good curveball and a new changeup he's using more and more. Four pitches make a pretty solid starter and Reckling showed that this season.
In 79 innings over 13 starts, Reckling has struck out 92 batters and given up 32 walks. He's got a .178 batting average against with just eight extra-base hits and just one home run. He has two shutouts on the season and has an 8-2 record.
That's quite a drop in walks for Reckling, who had 48 in 78 innings last season with a comparable number of strikeouts. The drop in his senior season is a big reason why he's going to go much higher than the 22nd round he got tabbed in last season.
Consistency has been a problem for Reckling, as he's struggled with both fastball velocity and control of the pitch at times this season. There are some reports of him flashing great stuff with that knockout curve complemented by his emerging changeup. With those pitches and a good two-seamer, he's got pretty good upside.
The good news with Reckling is his floor as a reliever is pretty good. He's got both a great breaking ball and a good change to support a move to the bullpen if needed. Plus, pitching out of the 'pen may let his fastball velocity rise a tick. Still, his age means he's going to have to move quickly if he wants his floor to be higher.
Look for him to be a decent back of the rotation starter in the majors. His strikeout rate is legitimate, but his lack of control could lead to high pitch counts and low inning totals. He might have a good career as a lockdown closer if things break right, too, but I'd think his biggest upside is as a starter.
Neither Keith Law nor Baseball America has Reckling in their respective Top 100 lists. He is listed at No. 179 for BA, which means they expect him to be drafted around Round 6. That's about where I have Reckling pegged, going somewhere in the Top 10 rounds and maybe sneaking into the Top 5. With a developing change and good velocity, he's a big school version of a guy like Nick Tropeano.
The fourth-year senior is guaranteed to sign if he intends to play professionally.
In his first two dominating outings this season, Reckling threw harder than he did Saturday night, when his fastball ranged from 86-91 mph. But of course, Reckling had struggled even when he had good velocity in years past because his command of his fastball was inconsistent. It was a more effective pitch Saturday, even without its best velocity.
The velocity on the fastball is practically the same, and that curveball remains as devastating as ever. Rice senior right-hander Matthew Reckling has integrated a change-up into his arsenal, but the significant difference between Reckling now and the Reckling of old has more to do with what is between his ears as opposed to his repertoire.
Rice JR RHP Matthew Reckling: 90-93 FB at start, velocity dips to 86-89 quickly; good 79-81 CB, loses effectiveness when it dips to mid-70s
As a sophomore last season, Reckling made just 10 appearances and started one game and had a 6.32 ERA in 15 2/3 innings. Opponents hit him at a .241 clip. Two seasons ago, opponents only hit the righty at a .252 clip but he had an unimpressive 5.84 ERA.
Last season, Reckling had issues developing an effective fastball. He also only threw in the upper 80s and occasionally broke into the 90s. Against Stanford to begin this season, his velocity and stuff were on a different level.
Reckling was consistently 88-92 and touched 93 MPH on occasion. Rice coach Wayne Graham added that the right-hander even touched 94 MPH during fall workouts, leading him to believe he was ready for a breakout season.