Missouri’s outfield is going to feature an almost complete overhaul in 2024. Mainstays Ross Lovich and Ty Wilmsmeyer both transferred to Arkansas, and the Tigers return almost no one with extensive collegiate experience. This means all three spots are likely there for the taking.
The one player who featured in the lineup semi-regularly last season that returns is Juju Stevens. The junior from Connecticut was a coveted prep recruit but has struggled to find his footing since arriving in Columbia.
In 2023, Stevens appeared in 30 games, starting 19, and slashed a mere .198/.217/.395 with a 51 wRC+. He also struck out 26 times in 84 plate appearances and drew just one walk. There’s no way to beat around the bush here — that’s bad. However, there are a few indications that Stevens got a little unlucky. His BABIP was just .250. Typically, .300 is considered average, indicating that Stevens may have been a victim of some uncharacteristically good defense. Likewise, 10 of his 16 hits went for extra bases (3 homers, 7 doubles), so you can see the potential that scouts saw out of high school. The question is whether Stevens can tap into that potential consistently.
Speed to burn
The remaining members of this outfield are largely unproven, but there’s one trait that seems pretty constant among them — speed. The most exciting of this group is probably Texas Tech transfer Jeric Curtis.
Coming out of high school in 2022, Curtis was considered among the fastest players in the MLB Draft, running the fastest 30-yard dash (3.50 seconds) at the MLB Draft Combine, but he elected to go the college route instead and honored his commitment to perennial power Texas Tech. He saw limited action, appearing in just 17 games and making three starts in CF as a freshman for the Red Raiders.
For Curtis it seemed like his bat wasn’t quite ready for high-level DI baseball, as he went just 3-16 in his scarce opportunities last year. However, Curtis should, at a minimum, bring above-average defense and elite speed to CF for the Tigers. If he can find his way to hit around league average, he could become a regular in the Taylor Stadium outfield.
FASTEST PLAYER IN DRAFT!!! Jeric Curtis ran the two fastest 30-yard dashes (3.545 and 3.555 seconds) at the MLB Draft combine. What team do you think should draft Curtis? @curtis_jeric pic.twitter.com/Cp7ds43Ua9— Milb Central (@milb_central) June 17, 2022
Isaiah Frost is another speedster, and 2024 will be his third year with the Tigers. Frost’s main role in Columbia has been as a pinch runner, but with outfield spots up for grabs, he’s another name to keep an eye on. He has just 17 plate appearances in his previous two seasons at Mizzou.
Keeping it inside state lines
Frost is a Lee’s Summit kid, and a pair of other in-state talents should compete with him.
Jackson Beaman is a redshirt sophomore from Lincoln. Beamnan is a class of 2020 commitment who redshirted his freshman year, made limited appearances his second season, and took a medical redshirt in 2023. For a guy who’s been on campus three seasons, he has a total of 12 plate appearances.
However, optimism is high around Beaman this year after he slashed .292/.405/.571 and hit 10 homers across 42 games in the Northwoods League this summer. If he can even find 80% of that production in the SEC, I expect he’d become a mainstay in the Mizzou lineup.
Another Missouri native to keep a look out for is former CBC Cadet Kaden Peer. As just a true freshman, Peer wasn’t the most highly regarded recruit in the 2023 class but is making some noise as a potential early contributor.
I can’t say much about his skillset, but in limited exposure to him, I sure think he has a sweet lefty swing.
Memphis to Columbia
Two outfielders followed Kerrick Jackson from Memphis to Missouri this offseason — Cameron Benson and RJ Jimerson. Benson is junior and slashed .245/.344/.399 with 4 homers and a 86 wRC+ in 2023. He’s another speedster, stealing 12 bags on 16 attempts last season. He also posted a respectable .344 wOBA, but will need to find ways to lift the baseball while making solid contact more frequently. In 2023, he popped up or hit a ground ball 56.9% of the time. Dropping that number below 50% could make a significant difference for Benson.
Jimerson is a sophomore who made the AAC all-freshman team last year. At Memphis in 2023, he slashed .234/.339/.336 with 2 homers and a 75 wRC+. While none of those numbers particularly jump off the page, he did gain valuable experience, starting 40 games last year, and Jackson clearly trusted him enough to make him an everyday player which counts for something.
With the season just over a week away, it sure seems that almost every spot in the outfield will be there for the taking, and it looks like there’s enough potential to go around amongst position group. Whether Jackson can find three regulars to reach that will be another story.
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