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Missouri Baseball needs a power surge in 2020

We’re previewing the 2020 baseball season with a brief look at the Tigers’ lineup.

Twitter: @MizzouBaseball

As we detailed in our first part of the Mizzou Baseball season preview, pitching is what has kept this program afloat since its move to the SEC (and even before). Even with the offensive-minded Bieser at the helm, Tiger pitching has been the driving force behind much of the program’s success.

It’s rare that you get a standout MLB prospect in Columbia that isn’t taking the bump every weekend. Last year, Missouri had their first bonafide star in Kameron Misner — and just as soon as he arrived on the scene, he was out, going in the first round (technically) of last year’s draft.

You’d think the relative lack of star power would make Missouri a bottom-feeder in the SEC when it comes to offense. However, the numbers show that Missouri is actually a fairly consistent offensive program with one big hole.

Mizzou Offense Under Steve Bieser

Season Runs OBP SLG K BB SB
Season Runs OBP SLG K BB SB
2017 9th 7th 7th 12th 6th T-3rd
2018 12th 7th 14th 7th 6th 4th
2019 10th 6th 11th 5th T-6th 2nd

In every year of Bieser’s tenure, the Tigers have ranked in the top half of the SEC in all of these categories except for two — runs scored and slugging percentage. I’d argue the two are related. On-base numbers are probably the most important indicator of scoring runs — you can’t score if you don’t get on base — and the Tigers have consistently been a good-not-great on-base team. If you’re going to go that route, you’ll need heavy hitters to bring those players in. That’s an area the Tigers haven’t been able to improve yet, as they’re consistently one of the lowest slugging teams in the conference.

That’s especially worrisome in 2020, with a good amount of power leaving the roster. The six departures from last year’s roster accounted for 45 percent of the Tigers’ at-bats, 56 percent of their home runs and just over 47 percent of their hits. Four of them (Misner, Chris Cornelius, Paul Gomez and Tony Ortiz) were all team leaders in slugging percentage, doubles and home runs. Missouri was already a less-than-explosive offense in 2019, and they just lost most of their biggest weapons.

This piece of the puzzle — the missing power in the middle of the lineup — is probably what has kept Missouri on the fringes of NCAA Tournament contention for the past few years. For the Tigers to take that next step (sadly without the benefit of the postseason in 2020), they’ll either need to find a power surge or lean fully into an on-base-first identity.


Departures: Connor Brumfield (Graduation); Chris Cornelius (MLB Draft); Paul Gomez (Graduation); Trevor Mallett (Graduation); Kameron Misner (MLB Draft); Tony Ortiz (Graduation)

Returners: Thomas Broyles; Josh Holt Jr.; Austin James; Luke Mann; Chad McDaniel; Tre Morris; Alex Peterson; Clayton Peterson; Cameron Swanger; Mark Vierling; Peter Zimmerman

Arrivals: Garrison Bennett; Brandt Belk; Blake Jackson; Jackson Lancaster; Bret Madren; Dalton McNamara; Eric Rinzel; Art Schoenstadt; Ty Wilmsmeyer

Names to Watch...

Peter Zimmerman

We’ve covered that Missouri doesn’t return a lot of firepower from an already offensively challenged team. Those who are returning will need to lead the way, and Zimmerman headlines that group. Zimmerman led all 2019 Tigers (minimum 50 at-bats) in slugging percentage and leads returners in OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging). Simply put, Zimmerman is the hitter from last year’s roster with the most consistent production at the Division I level.

That being said, it’s not as if Zimmerman set the world on fire. His .388 OBP is good, but not top-tier for a team with aspirations for the top of the SEC. And while his strikeout numbers aren’t catastrophic by any means, Zimmerman doesn’t walk a ton. None of this is to say Zimmerman can’t make the leap to the next level. But if Missouri wants to take another step forward in 2020, they’ll need Zimmerman to up his production and become a more well-rounded offensive threat.

Chad McDaniel

McDaniel is more of a wild card candidate, but I’m interested in what he could bring to the lineup namely because of one thing — baserunning. McDaniel was one of Missouri’s most dangerous baserunners in 2019, attempting more steals than anyone on the roster and converting at a 73 percent rate. The rule of thumb with base-stealing is that you need a success rate of about 75 percent to be useful for your team, and McDaniel is right on the cusp. Logic says he’ll improve on this trait, thereby making him the Tigers most dangerous returning baserunner.

However, you can’t be dangerous if you’re never on base. McDaniel only posted a .355 OBP in 2019, which is respectable, but not great. There’s a little bit of pop in his bat — 4 home runs, 8 doubles — but you’ll sacrifice some power if you can get him on base. Notably, McDaniel only walked 21 times in 2019 — not a great number if you’re wanting to put yourself in a place to succeed on the base paths. McDaniel made improvements from his freshman to his sophomore season, but his OBP dipped about 40 points. I’d like to see McDaniel getting on base at about a .400 clip. If he can do that, Missouri should be able to get him in scoring position more times than not.

Jackson Lancaster

I’m saving the best for last here. Not necessarily because I think Lancaster is the best hitter on Missouri’s roster... though I don’t think he’s too far off. It’s probably foolhardy to put too much emphasis on Lancaster’s junior college numbers, but I can’t help myself — he murdered JUCO pitching in his two years at Itawamba Community College. In 2019 alone, Lancaster put up an OPS of 1.032, slugging .572 and posting an OBP of .460. He only hit five home runs, but was an extra bases machine, notching 13 doubles and 5 triples.

There’s no doubt that, despite his disappointing senior season, Kameron Misner was the most feared Tiger hitter in 2019. Without setting our expectations too high, Lancaster profiles as a hitter with similar tools. He’s got good power, good speed (or at least his extra base numbers suggest he does) and a good knack for just getting on base. He’s already been drafted once (2019, 38th round by Seattle), so he’s clearly on professional teams’ radars. With some coaching from Steve Bieser, it feels like Lancaster could be the next Major League positional prospect to come out of Columbia. Again, it may not all come together right away — but Lancaster is the most intriguing talent on this year’s roster (in my humble opinion.)