Missouri’s baseball season ended May 21 with a 2-1 loss to Ole Miss.
It was a tough pill to swallow for Steve Bieser and Co., as they put together such a promising season that was wasted with a 1-6 record to end Southeastern Conference play. The Tigers put together their best résumé since the 2012 season, the year they joined the SEC.
The NCAA Tournament now into super regionals, and depending on the appeal of their postseason ban, the Tigers may not have another shot until 2021.
So instead of dwelling on the letdown of Missouri being left out of the tournament, let’s see where the Tigers are at moving forward with their returning players.
First, here’s how Missouri’s roster fared in the MLB draft:
- Kameron Misner, Competitive Balance Round A, 35th overall, Miami Marlins
- TJ Sikkema, Competitive Balance Round A, 38th overall, New York Yankees
- Jacob Cantleberry, Round 13, 401st overall, Los Angeles Dodgers
- Chris Cornelius, Round 16, 480th overall, Philadelphia Phillies
- Cameron Dulle, Round 30, 905th overall, St. Louis Cardinals
The first four draftees are juniors but will likely sign with their respective teams, and Dulle, a senior, really has no other choice.
The Tigers will also have some roster turnover with the loss of other seniors in the program, including Connor Brumfield, Paul Gomez, Tyler LaPlante and Tony Ortiz.
So what will Missouri baseball look like in 2020? We’ll have to take a gander at some of the roster’s rising stars to find out.
First, there are Ian Bedell and Jordan Gubelman.
Both pitchers made a few starts throughout the year, but most of their work came out of the bullpen, where they did damage to most opposing lineups. Bedell and Gubelman both finished top five in the program in ERA (1.56 and 2.31, respectively) which helps solidify their roles on the staff next season.
Konnor Ash is another arm that should be see an uptick in usage in 2020. He had the most appearances of any pitcher and even got a couple starts toward the end of the year, including a great showing against the Rebels in the first round of the SEC Tournament. He was third on the team in innings pitched (53.2) and strikeouts (63).
Ash did end up second in earned runs (25) and finished with a 4.19 ERA, but he may be the guy that takes the jump that Dulle made heading into this season (Dulle — 6.55 ERA in 10 appearances in 2018 to 1.43 ERA in 18 appearances in 2019).
At the plate, Peter Zimmermann will be the anchor of the lineup.
He was impressive in his first season with the Tigers, putting up a line of .287/.388/.484 and hitting seven homers and 34 RBI. His breakout was necessary, after Missouri lost the consistent bats of Trey Harris and Brian Sharp.
Another big jump came from Chad McDaniel, who went from backing up Brett Bond in 2018 to being the everyday catcher. McDaniel didn’t disappoint in his first year as a starter, posting a .286/.355/.394 line with four home runs and 37 RBI.
And then there’s Mark Vierling. He probably had the most struggles of any of Missouri’s young players in 2018, especially if we recall his 20-day hitless streak to begin last April. The in-state product came through in his second year in the program though, hitting .285 to go along with 26 RBI, 10 doubles and a team-leading two triples.
These players have proven themselves on Bieser’s roster, and they will most likely be his go-to guys come next spring.
From there, though, the outlook gets a little murky. There aren’t a ton of names that seem like strong bets to replace the production left behind.
Thomas Broyles and Austin James showed promise at times at the plate, but they weren’t consistent enough to earn Bieser’s complete trust. Josh Holt Jr. was a starter to begin the year, but freshman struggles eventually got him pulled from the lineup.
And then there’s the rotation.
Art Joven had the most starts this past season of any returning arm, but he sported a 4.33 ERA and pitched over 1.1 innings in just one of his last seven appearances. Tommy Springer and Trae Robertson showed a ton of potential as freshman, but they are still young and won’t be rushed to the top of the staff unless Bieser thinks they’re ready.
All in all, there are a number of question marks left to be answered between now and next spring. A number of players will continue to improve with summer and fall ball coming up, and we’ll also have to see what Bieser gets with incoming prospects and transfers.
And if the appeal doesn’t go according to plan, don’t be surprised if Bieser uses next season as a complete developmental period instead.