Coming into the 2014 Ole Miss baseball season, there were questions all over the lineup. Two of those questions centered around major unknowns. Who did Ole Miss have that could start at shortstop? Was there a bat good enough to finally make the DH spot a strength?
Ole Miss fans began to hear that Errol Robinson and J.B. Woodman were competing for those spots and looked like they might win them. I remember thinking, "well that's not good." It turns out that was in fact very good.
Robinson hit .294 on the year (dropped below .300 very late). He continually made difficult plays at shortstop look routine. Sure, Robinson made a few errors, but as someone who knows baseball much more than me said, "The errors he commits are usually because he's so aggressive. As a freshman, I'll take that." I remember instances when a ball looked like it would be a base hit up the middle, and Robinson would seemingly teleport there to make the play look easy. He doesn't have any power at the plate yet, but if he can improve on that facet of his game, he has a chance to be a legend at Ole Miss.
Woodman was supposed to be drafted high last year. Everyone was saying he would go in the top five rounds coming out of high school. Then draft day(s) came, and he wasn't picked until the 40th round. We were told it was because he told programs he was going to school. I didn't know whether to believe that or not, as some players who turned out to be pretty not good were rumored to have done the same. Then Woodman hit .298 with fifteen extra base hits while fielding at a 98.8 percent clip. He had a remarkable season, though it was tempered by a major slump in the postseason. He's going to be wonderful to watch for the next two years.
While those two were the only everyday starters among the freshmen, there were several others worth mentioning.
Colby Bortles only batted .250 on the season, but his last month or so was very special. Bortlees was continually put into pinch hitting situations with runners in scoring position during the postseason. Over and over again, he produced.
Brantley Bell started the season off with a bang, batting .400 early. He tapered off and was used less once pitchers figured him out, but he could certainly end up taking a starting job somewhere, perhaps at third base after Austin Anderson's departure.
Dalton Dulin played well towards the end of the year after a terrible start at the plate. It will take some work, but he could potentially be next year's starter at second base.
Wyatt Short had a 2.59 ERA in relief on the year with a .186 batting average against him ... as a freshman. He's going to be counted on a lot more next year and appears to have what it takes to be a major contributor.
Evan Anderson, who didn't pitch much at the end of the year for some reason, had a 2.11 ERA and a .134 batting average against him mostly as a midweek starter. Those numbers are wonderful, but he'll be facing a different animal if he secures the Saturday starting job next season. SEC lineups aren't as forgiving as some of the teams he faced. Still, he's the odds on favorite to start on Saturdays next year, and his numbers don't suggest that will be a major problem.
This freshman class didn't have as many expectations heaped upon it as some that have come through in the past, but they ended up contributing more than any other as freshmen. Two starters in the field, three pinch hitters who played regularly, a starting pitcher, and a relief pitcher. Let's see what this group has in store as sophomores.