Ole Miss baseball was on a tear to begin the 2020 season, riding the nation’s longest winning streak into conference play, before COVID-19 altered the course of the season and ultimately saw it cancelled. The Rebels were averaging 2.18 home runs per game, 9.47 total runs per game, and only 3.41 opponent runs per game, which was anchored in 69 (nice) extra-base hits, six players batting over .300 and a team era of 2.92.
Mike Bianco’s 2020 team will forever hold the program’s longest winning streak, but won’t know the length to which it would have continued. Scheduled to begin conference play with a three-game home series against LSU, the rivalry bout would have reflected how legit this team could have been. Instead, there is no clear answer to how far the fun-having boys in powder blue could have gone.
A fun season cut too short pic.twitter.com/036RwhuRsu— John Ross Swaim (@john_ross_swaim) March 20, 2020
However, with the abundance of youth on the roster, and an additional year of eligibility for spring sport athletes likely to be granted by the NCAA, the starting lineup and rotation for 2021 remains predominantly intact. By the numbers, that’s pretty good.
In fact, the analytics team at D1 Baseball took a look at some of the top-50 players by position in each grade based on four weeks of statistics from the 2020 season, and Ole Miss had six representatives make a list.
Batters are graded on plate discipline, hit ability, and game power, combined to a total score. Plate discipline measures how well a hitter can control the strike zone, hit ability is simply the ability to hit and reach base, while game power takes into account extra-base hits and power in batting practice.
At the dish, the Rebels are the only team in college baseball with two top-15 junior hitters, as Tyler Keenan comes in at No. 15, and Anthony Servideo lands at No. 12.
Keenan, who finished the year with an 11-game hitting streak, led the team in batting average (.403), slugging percentage (.791), hits (27), RBIs (33), doubles (5), home runs (7), and total bases (53!!).
The junior from North Carolina makes consistent contact, and never fails to punish pitchers for leaving one hanging in the zone. He was a sure-fire All-American, likely MLB Draft pick, and has enough power to work his way through the minor league system. If his bat isn’t enough, Keenan locks down the hot corner and recorded a .929 fielding percentage.
To his left, Servideo took over the shortstop spot from Houston Astros prospect Grae Kessinger and made quite a name for himself over the four-week season.
Scouts are bearing down on @OleMissBSB SS Anthony Servideo after a strong start to 2020.— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) March 4, 2020
✅ Pitch selection
✅ Bat-to-ball skills
✅ Impressive hands
Plenty more on Servideo in today's Stock Watch: https://t.co/EGf1J5YeV8 pic.twitter.com/MsfMFAII8r
Servideo was seeing the ball as well as anyone in the country and hit .390 in 59 at-bats. More impressively, the Blonde Bomber reached base 57.5 percent of the time, swiped nine bases on 10 attempts, and added five home runs— more than doubling his total from 2019. In the categories where Keenan was first, Servideo sat second, and he led the team on-base percentage, runs scored, walks and stolen bases.
It is curious to see what will happen with the MLB Draft (based on COVID-19 concerns), but if it continues as scheduled, the Jupiter, Fla. native has risen up prospect boards and will likely follow his 6-spot predecessor and have his name called.
Coming in at No. 29, Peyton Chatagnier wiggled his way on to the top-50 freshman hitters list with an impressive campaign over 61 at-bats.
The flashy second baseman from Cypress, Texas hit .311 on the season, knocked in 13 RBIs, and scored 23 of his own. Chatagnier swiped a bag on all three of his attempts, hit four doubles and added some pop with four home runs. If his breakout fall and follow-up spring speak to his ceiling, No. 1 is going to be a tough out as he only continues to mature. Oh, and he’s part of the historic Ole Miss slam-dunk high five that is both fun and cool.
On the mound, pitching is broken down into categories of zone control, pitch ability and durability. Zone control is determined by strikeouts, walks, wild pitches and hit by pitch, while pitch ability refers to statistics like WHIP, FIP and an opponent’s slugging percentage. Durability is largely based on innings pitched and batters faced.
Fellow freshman Derek Diamond made the top-50 list after an impressive Sunday reign of terror.
Despite the five dingers that contributed to his 3.48 ERA, the California kid pitched 20.2 innings over four starts and fanned 15 opponents with only four walks. Having come into the season as the No. 37 overall prospect on Perfect Game, Doc lived up to his billing and will be a force to reckon with as he (likely) continues to rock the powder blues as the series finale starter next season.
In their second years at Ole Miss, Gunnar Hoglund and Doug Nikhazy landed at No. 11 and No. 28 respectively on the top-50 list of sophomore pitchers.
Hoglund, though not the Friday night starter, might be the most complete, MLB-ready arm to come through Oxford since Lance Lynn. Over 23.1 innings in four starts, the 6-foot-4, 220 pound Florida native struck-out a team-high 37 batters, and did so by consistently making them look silly.
Two consecutive nasty sliders from Ole Miss RHP Gunnar Hoglund pic.twitter.com/5AxMDT3pRh— Josh Norris (@jnorris427) March 2, 2020
Having allowed just three earned runs, his 1.16 ERA led all Rebel starters, and showed that despite allowing 18 hits, he can work out of a jam. Hoglund has the juice, and could well continue his dominance to a starting rotation in the bigs one day.
Although Saturday’s starter may be the better prospect, Doug Nikhazy has Fridays locked down. He may not blow a fastball by the hitter, but he has enough velocity to paint the corners and can drop a nasty breaking ball over the plate without a sniff of contact.
Nikhazy pitched 23 innings in four starts, three wins, and the only loss of the season on opening day— no fault to the 5-foot-10 lefty who posted a 2.35 ERA on the year. His nine walks isn’t ideal and can be attributed to short spurts of trying to do too much, but his nine hits allowed is exactly half of those allowed by his starting pitcher bookends, speaking for itself. #DougDay was dominant in 2020, and can only see improved numbers with more time to develop his spin rate and timing during the extended offseason.
Yes, Ole Miss baseball will not see the conclusion of a historic start to the 2020 season, but if analytics are any indication, the Rebels are set up to succeed into Opening Day 2021.