It’s no secret that the 2021 Missouri Tigers didn’t meet expectations. Going 15-36 and 8-22 in the SEC was disappointing, but they didn’t just have the worst record, they also had the worst team Batting Average (AVG), slugging % (SLG%), on-base % (OBP), and ERA. So yes, it wasn’t just bad breaks, the Tigers were the worst team in the SEC from top to bottom.
However, 2022 is a new year, and the Tigers are a new team. Plenty of players have left, plenty of new faces have arrived, and the 2022 Tigers will be looking to significantly outperform their 2021 selves.
If the Tigers are going to be successful, some of the new faces that have arrived on campus will need to lead the way. So let’s look at some transfers and freshmen who could help reinvigorate the Missouri baseball program this year.
Nander De Sedas
De Sedas is by far the most high profile of the transfers Steve Bieser reeled in this offseason. A 2-year starter at Florida State and one-time MLB draft pick, De Sedas was heralded out of high school as a future big leaguer, but elected to go to Florida State instead. Once he arrived in Tallahassee, he was one of the top high school players in the collegiate ranks.
Unfortunately for De Sedas, his time in Tallahassee didn’t go quite as expected for a guy who had dreams of being a first rounder. A couple of mediocre offensive years at FSU led to him seeking a change of scenery, and now he’s in Columbia hoping that the SEC can revive his once stellar draft stock.
Last year, the Panama native slashed .197/.303/.363 with 7 HR, but offense has never been his calling card. De Sedas has always been known for his glove. With a smooth glove and a rocket arm (he was clocked at 96 across the diamond at PG National in high school) he’s exactly what you’d want in your SS, but he’s spent time at 2B in college, too. There’s an opening at 2B for Missouri thanks to the departure of Mark Vierling in the transfer portal, but De Sedas has all the defensive tools to challenge last year’s starter Josh Day for the everyday SS job as well.
Here’s some clips of De Sedas going to work at the plate and in the field. His defense is absurd, he throws the ball on an absolute frozen rope across the diamond, and I can’t wait to see that at Taylor Stadium this year.
The Kansas City native is returning home this year, and will be looking to take up residence on the Taylor Stadium mound after spending the last two years on the West Coast at the University of San Diego.
Rustad, like De Sedas, was drafted out of high school, but decided to forgo minor league baseball in favor of going to USD, where he found success. In his two years, Rustad went 9-1 with a 3.60 ERA at San Diego, and he’s hoping to bring those numbers over to CoMo.
At 6’5, 195 lbs, Rustad is a commanding presence on the mound, and has experience as both a starter and reliever at the collegiate level. Of his 19 appearances at USD, 13 were starts, including one complete game shutout.
Rustad’s fastball is his best pitch, and it sits in the low 90s, but accoding to MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo, it has touched as high as 97. Tigers fans shouldn’t quite expect that much velo from the transfer, but he should fit right into the Tigers’ weekend rotation. He also mixes in a good slider, but his changeup needs lots of work from what I’ve watched of him. With that being said, having a third pitch is a lot less important for a college starter than it is for a guy that’s trying to find his way in the big leagues.
Here’s a clip of Rustad in his time with USD, and I’ve also added Mayo’s draft preview of Rustad prior to the 2019 draft.
Our final transfer to keep an eye on this year is Chris Wall, formerly of Columbia College. Wall didn’t have to move far after his transfer, but he’s is making a big leap in competition. The NAIA stud had an 11-1 record with a 1.91 ERA last year for the Cougars, and his standout performance was a 7-inning, 16 strikeout no hitter last spring.
Wall was pretty much the Jack Leiter of the NAIA last year as he didn’t just retire hitters, but he mowed them down. He averaged 6.2 innings per start, and had double digit strikeouts in 8 of his 12 starts. His 138 Ks in 79.2 innings were good enough for a 15.58 K/9 from an innings-eater workhorse. I’m sure the rest of the NAIA is glad he’s making the leap to the SEC after just how dominant he was.
The 6’5 lefty theoretically has the stuff that should transfer well to college baseball’s best conference, but again there’s no guarantees when jumping from the NAIA to the SEC. Coming from a left handed 3⁄4 arm slot, Wall’s fastball sits in the 90-93 range, and he has a plus slider at 82-83 to go with it. He likely won’t put up the same numbers, but his stuff and mechanics should still give hitters problems, and you can expect to see Wall in Bieser’s weekend rotation.
Carlos Pena could be the future of Missouri Tigers baseball. Ranked by Perfect Game as the No. 70 player in the 2021 class, Pena has tons of raw potential.
Elite power to the pull side is the first thing that jumps off the screen when you watch him, and if you’re a Missouri fan, it might remind you of Luke Mann’s sweet lefty stroke. He also has an elite outfield arm that could make him a mainstay in one of the corner spots for Steve Bieser this season. Clocked at 92 MPH from the outfield, Pena is probably going to throw a few runners out this year, however, at times he can look a little uncoordinated when tracking down balls. With that being said, he’s a true freshman and his potential is abundant.
When watching Pena, what immediately stood out to me was that his swing was smooth and simple. There’s not a bunch of moving parts and he gets the barrel to the ball with ease. What does worry me, however, is what I saw when watching him face a lefty. All his comfort in the box seemed to vanish and he was completely overmatched. I’ll be attaching the video, but he first gets fooled by an inside slider, then takes another strike, and finally flails at a pitch in the dirt. Three pitches, three mistakes, one ugly strikeout. Now, that highlight was from 2020, so there’s definitely been time for improvement, but Pena has to be able to hold his own against lefties or he WILL be eaten alive in the SEC.
Here’s the clip of Pena at a PG event.
Justin Colon shares many similarities with Nander De Sedas. Both attended Montverde Academy for high school, and both are exceptional defensive middle infielders.
Colon was Mizzou’s No. 2 recruit in the 2021 class, and figures to be the next freshman to make the biggest impact for the Tigers this year. Colon’s stellar glove could make him the immediate 3rd middle infielder after Josh Day and De Sedas, and when you watch him, you understand why.
Clocked at 94 MPH across the diamond, Colon, like De Sedas, just mesmerizes you with his defense. He has great range, and never seems to rush thanks to security of his exceptional arm. His defense will definitely get him in the lineup, he’ll just have to back it up with his bat, which is less solid.
Right now, if I was asked whether Colon could hold his own against SEC pitching, the answer would undoubtedly be no, but I’d love to be proven wrong. From what I’ve watched of him in a PG National event, his at-bats consisted of two outcomes: groundouts and strikeouts. He just looked outmatched against elite high school talent, and I think that gap may only widen when facing SEC competition. The good news is, he’ll be getting plenty of experience, and hopefully his bat can catch up to his exceptional glove.
Here’s a look at his performance at a PG National event and look back at that play he made in fall ball that went viral everywhere.