Final grades are being sent out at Ole Miss, so I thought it an appropriate time to evaluate the Rebel baseball team, who just finished up a 37-19 regular season. Each player received a grade between A+ and F based on performance and statistics relative to preseason expectations.
Note that last bit, as these grades are less about ability and more-so a gauge of whether they exceeded or failed to meet expectations. Because of that, you'll see a guy like Sam Smith, who had a surprisingly decent year as a Sunday starter, receive a higher grade than Mike Mayers, who wasn't quite as sharp as most of us expected.
I've only graded the more prominent players here, so guys like Christian Helsel and Matt Denny who made solid contributions (or Hawtin Buchanan, who didn't) aren't included.
Stuart Turner: A+
Turner was far and away the Rebels biggest surprise of 2013. The has guy come out of nowhere to lead the team in almost every meaningful offensive statistic and, at least in part, help fill the void left by Alex Yarbrough. His .377 average ranks fourth in the SEC and his slugging percentage (.538), OBP (.448) and RBIs (47) are all in the top seven. He's been just as good defensively, gunning down 21 baserunners and allowing only five passed balls.
Bobby Wahl: A
Despite a somewhat rough final two outings, Wahl was about as solid as you could ask from your Friday night starter. His 1.99 ERA is the fourth lowest in the conference and he finishes the regular season with a an undefeated 9-0 mark. The nine runs he allowed in his last eight innings against Mississippi State and LSU keep him from earning an A+, but still a great final season for the Rebel ace.
Andrew Mistone: A
We all knew Mistone was a quality defensive player coming into this season, but he's proven he can swing the bat as well. He was one of only two Rebels to finish the regular season with a .300 average, and his .330 in-conference average is actually higher than Turner's. He has provided a rare clutch stick for the offense, regularly delivering big hits and two-out RBIs. A surprising seven errors are the only thing standing between him and an A+.
Brett Huber: A
The Cardiac Closer has actually kept the drama to a minimum this season. He's recorded 12 saves on the year compared to only two losses, one of which came to Vanderbilt after being asked to pitch three innings. Huber flaunts a spectacular 1.59 ERA and has held opponents to only .175 on the season.
Will Jamison: B
Jamison certainly hasn't put up much in the way of numbers, but has nevertheless found various ways to contribute as a solid starter. He's started 40 out of 56 games, providing quality defense in right field and great speed on the bath paths (he went second-to-home on a passed ball twice this year). Its been the little things like laying down a sac bunt or making a sliding catch in the outfield that have defined Jamison, though his game-tying home run in the seventh inning of what was ultimately a win over Tennessee was a more dramatic contribution. His 36 strikeouts hurt his cause, but he also finishes with a surprising .406 slugging percentage.
Preston Overbey: B-
Overbey has never lived up to the hype he brought to Oxford with him, but he has finally managed to post decent power numbers in 2013. His two homers in game three of the LSU series tie him with Turner at five for the team lead, and he's recorded career highs in RBIs and slugging percentage. Most importantly, he filled the defensive need at second base with surprising adeptness, fielding at a .979 clip at a position he had previously never played.
Sam Smith: B-
He was far from lights out, but Smith provided a servicable arm on Sundays, something the Rebels have been lacking for the past couple of years. With expected starter Chris Ellis injured or inept for most of the season, Smith stepped up, and was a big reason the team's game three winning percentage improved in 2013. He closes the regular season with a 3.28 ERA and a 3-0 record.
Tanner Bailey: C+
Bailey was spectacular for most of the year, and would have earned an A here a month ago. But like the rest of the bullpen, he's become a bit unravelled at the end. Having held a sub-2.00 ERA for much of the season, he let that number slide to 4.01 in SEC play, and hasn't looked sharp over the past month.
Austin Anderson: C+
It was a vastly improved offensive performance this year for Anderson, who raised his average nearly .060 points and more than tripled his RBIs between 2012 and 2013. He also added three home runs and was the hardest Rebel to strike out (only 12 on the season). Defensively, on the other hand, the shortstop struggled. His team-high 16 errors keep his grade in the C range.
Mike Mayers: C
Its not that Mayers had a bad year, but compared to the high expectations we had for him coming in, it's been a middling performance at best. Many thought he would serve as a second ace throwing behind Wahl on Saturdays, and while he's shown periods of brilliance, his inconsistency resulted in a mediocre 4-5 record. Poor run support and bad luck were major factors in his 0-4 SEC start, but he didn't help himself out with an in-conference ERA of 3.90.
Auston Bousfield: C-
At the conclusion of last season, I predicted 2013 to be a breakout year for Boz. Instead, we've seen a sophomore slump. His SEC average regressed from .305 in 2012 to .198 this year, though he did see a slight increase in extra-base hits and RBIs. His defense in center field has been superb, however, as he is the only starting player to finish the regular season with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage.
Aaron Greenwood: C-
I'm extremely tempted to give Greenwood a D here, but the first half of his season was admittedly strong. The second half has seen a complete collapse, however, as he's surrendered a lead in four straight outings and holds a conference ERA of 4.21.
Tanner Mathis: D+
Its been a monumental struggle for the Ole Miss left fielder, who holds a .272 average after finishing 2012 at .359. As the team leader in walks and hit-by-pitches, he's still been able to do a decent enough job as the leadoff man, reaching base at a solid .408 pace. Mathis did finish the season with a 7-for-10 weekend against LSU, so don't be shocked if he gets hot and replicates his 2012 postseason success.
Will Allen: D
Allen was expected to do the brunt of the heavy lifting this season for the Rebel offense but has failed to produce significant power numbers. He has only 9 extra-base hits, a slugging percentage of just .325, and 11 more strikeouts than he has RBIs. In a metaphor for the Rebel's offensive season as a whole, the team's designated hitter owns the lowest batting average (.236) of any starting player.
Sikes Orvis: D
Orvis was also expected to lend power to the Rebel lineup, but has fared little better than Allen. He had the fewest total bases of any starter and struck out in nearly 19 percent of his at-bats. He almost provided a walkoff homer in game two of the Auburn series, but like his 2013 performance, it was a little short.
Chris Ellis: D-
It's been a nightmare of a season for Ellis, who was expected to be a strong Sunday starter. He was sidelined with an abdominal injury for most of the first half of the season, and after being roughed up by Florida in his second and final start of the year he was moved permanently to the pen. He finishes the regular season with only 21 innings pitched, a 5.57 ERA, and a .348 opponent batting average.
All combined, that gives the team a 2.42 GPA, which I find quite fitting. You're in no danger of your parents pulling you out of school or anything, but its not something you're going to brag about.