Mike Bianco has had a penchant for producing significant contributing freshman in his ten year tenure at Ole Miss. His three SEC Freshmen of the Year speaks for themselves to that. But are there any candidates for the top conference honor for freshmen on the roster this year?
In this part of our baseball preview, we're looking into some of the names and faces new to the squad this year including the ever important Juco's who fill voids in the defense and line-up. With having lost so much off of last year's squad this past offseason, this new baseball class is crucial to success not only this season, but for several seasons to come.
Pick up a game program during the Wright State weekend or get a media guide for $15 to follow along. There's a few players we probably won't touch in great detail as Bianco, and the media haven't really mentioned them as contributors this season.
Blake Newalu, Jr. IF - The Chipola Community College product is slated to start at SS, and we've heard he is a fairly polished infielder though his bat leaves something desired in terms of power. He hit .372 at Chipola with one home run and 25 RBI. He also posted the second fastest 60-yard dash time on the team at 6.66 seconds. Newalu fills the position left by Kevin Mort – who I believe was one of the strongest defensive options we've had at that position in Bianco's tenure.
Zach Kirksey, Jr. OF - First off, fastest player on the team in the 60-yard dash – 6.58 seconds. Good, speedy outfielder who is also likely to start from the first game, according to Bianco. Another JUCO prospect, he's out of LSU-Eunice where he notched 10 triples last season. Kirksey seems to be an all-around player as well as he captured the home run derby title at the NJCAA World Series in 2009 and 2010. His power is evidenced by his weightlifting numbers (315 bench, 500 squat and 500 dead lift). Kirksey could, in theory, fill the loss of Tim Ferguson who provided speed and some power last season.
Bobby Wahl, Fr. P - Wahl is listed as a catcher in one part of the media guide and a pitcher in another part. I'm fairly certain he's a pitcher, and a good one at that. A career 28-1 high school pitcher, Wahl was an All-Metro Player of the Year selection by the Washington Post out of Virginia. Boasts a SEVEN TO ONE STRIKEOUT TO WALK RATIO. I'm hoping Wahl is a mid-week starter from the get-go.
Jimel Judon, Fr. OF - HUGE. MASSIVE. STRONG. Please learn how to smash the shit out of the ball. Judon had the biggest dead lift on the team (572 lbs.) in the offseason showing the potential power of this 6'5'' 270 lbs. man-child. Word from fall ball was that he hit below the Mendoza line and has been slated for playing OF or possibly 1B in the future. With 36 HR and nearly 150 RBIs in high school, it'd be a shame to redshirt him as his upside is huge.
Casey Greene, Fr. P - Desoto Central is still one of the newer baseball programs in the state, so it's hard to get a read on what Greene can offer. He was first team all state 6A but also had a 4-5 record with a 2.05 ERA. He also hit 6 HR his senior year, so he's possibly a player in project mode for the future.
Austin Hartzog, Fr. P - The 6'4'' right hander is another story yet untold by this coaching staff. Coming out of Hillcrest Christian with great stats is one thing, but his ability to raise that level of play to the SEC in year one is in doubt for now. Sported a 3 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio in his career showing good control and was ranked the 191st best player in the country by Perfect Game. I'd like to at least see him get some innings this season to see how he'll project out.
Mike Mayers, Fr. P - Another pitcher who I would assume is not going to be doing more than a mid-week start here or there. The 6'3'' Ohio product was 18-6 in his high school career with a 2.5 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio.
Scott Weathersby, Fr. P - Needs a year to develop his stuff. The Oak Grove pitcher also only weighs 160 lbs., though he does come from the baseball hotbed of south Mississippi. I just don't think there's enough innings to go around to see Weathersby get significant time this year.
Austin Wright, Jr. P - Signed with Arky out of high school. Now coming to the Rebels from Chipola Community College. Will be our Sunday starter, according to Bianco. Drafted by the Red Sox in the 2010 draft in the 23rd round and could be looking to have a great year and go pro. Struck out 97 batters in 85 innings at Chipola. At 6'4'' 234 lbs., he's built like a starter, and the hope is that he will be able to give Ole Miss a shot at victories on Sundays - which have in the past been slugfest-type matches.
Will Allen, Fr. C - The most likely of a trio of frosh catchers (Peyton Johnson and Austin Sullivan) to receive significant PT in 2011. Allen has some pop in his bat previously playing behind the dish and at 1B in high school in Gainesville, Fla. He'll be a third option behind Miles Hamblin and Taylor Hightower, but with Hamblin playing some 1B this year, Allen could get some ABs and time at C.
Austin Anderson, Fr. IF - This Florida product hit near .500 in his high school career, but his name hasn't been on the lips of Bianco this fall or in early reports out of practices. Could be relegated to some utility infield this season and picking up spot starts in mid-week games.
Preston Overbey, Fr. IF - Overbey's already nailed down the starting 3B job. He is most likely the biggest impact freshman we will have in 2011. Everything we've heard on this 6'4'' 210 lbs. Tennessee player is that he can swat and is an all around great player. He also pitched a ton of innings in high school, so he should have a cannon from the hot corner. His 41 HR and near 200 RBIs in high school means he could be slotted into the five or six spot in the order and produce almost immediately.
Gabe Woods, Fr. IF - Haven't heard much on Woods. Stats show that he can square up the ball pretty well, hit over .500 his senior year along with nine home runs. Again, this is another situation where we have two veterans in the infield and then a JUCO and a great Frosh ahead of Woods for playing time. May see him in a situation here or there but not much.
Jordan Poole, Fr. OF - Poole has some power, but the outfield is fairly crowded right now with a couple players coming back and a JUCO in Kirksey ahead of Poole. Here's an opportunity where a redshirt could be useful if the outfield stays healthy as Poole will have to develop this season to be ready for next year.