This past offseason, the Ole Miss Rebel baseball team lost consensus all-American Alex Yarbrough, and his .380 batting average, to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Along with Yarbs, the team graduated Zach Kirksey and Matt Snyder, who combined for 25 of the team's 37 home runs. So the Rebels lost their best offensive position player and their most powerful bats from 2012, but that has not at all dampened their offensive optimism for 2013.
"Our goal this year is to be the No. 1 run-scoring offense (in the Southeastern Conference)." Left Fielder Tanner Mathis said that. A lofty goal, indeed, and a highly unlikely one - but a worthy one for which to strive nonetheless. So how exactly do they intend to go about this?
Versus lefties, the Rebels starting lineup and batting order will look something like this (with batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage in parenthesis):
- LF Tanner Mathis (.359, .460, .416)
- CF Auston Bousfield (.281, .352, .362)
- 1B Will Allen (.302, .333, .391)
- DH Sikes Orvis (.232, .317, .321)
- C Stuart Turner (JUCO from LSU-Eunice)
- SS Austin Anderson (.239, .352, .312)
- RF Preston Overbey (.255, .316, .345)
- 3B Andrew Mistone (.243, .305, .299)
- 2B Lance Wilson (JUCO from Shelton State)
Against right-handed pitchers, look for Bianco to utilize the same 1-6 in the rotation, but switching 7-9 out for the following:
- 3B Andrew Mistone
- 2B Lance Wilson
- RF Will Jamison
Of course, you've got to like Tanner Mathis in the leadoff spot. I do question whether or not Bousfield, Allen, Orvis, and Turner have the pop to start 2-5 but, then again, in this newfangled era of college baseball, a team which can consistently hit doubles is as valuable and more easy to assemble than a team which can live off of home runs, so I'll reserve any trepidation or criticism until I actually see the product in the batter's box.
In the field, the Rebs return everyone from the left side, including Andrew Mistone who is very reliably defensively at third base. Stuart Turner at catcher and Lance Wilson at second are the guys to watch for, obviously. Turner is taking over for Allen who has shed his catching pads for a first baseman's mitt, and Wilson is going to have to do his damndest to replicate Alex Yarbrough's performance at second. Bianco's teams have always performed well defensively, and I have no reason to think that this will be an exception.
As with any ballclub though, this team will be judged by its runs scored and not its ability to get on base. Remember, last year the Rebs were second in the SEC in batting average, but just eighth in runs. Our team average with runners on base went down with each subsequent runner. The pressure of the game, it seems, got to this team in a lot of ways. If this team can overcome that this year, even somewhat, I would then expect them to be one of the better scoring clubs in the SEC.
[A huge tip of the hat to the Daily Mississippian's Austin Miller for his impressions on the starting lineup and their batting statistics. If you see him out on the square this weekend, buy a drink for him, will ya?]