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2019 MLB Draft Prep: Old school Ole Miss

There’s a familiar name associated with this college baseball program.

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As this experiment continues, my vision is likely a bit different than yours. Similarly, my end-point goal is likely different. Many of you wish to “audit the class,” and pull information for your use, without contributing anything to the project. Such is life, on-line. For all I know or care, some of you that are especially motivated (yet surreptitious) might hijack the discussion points, and tell people who the Cubs might select at 27, without credit. Be you. Before I run on more with my tinfoil hat theories, it will eventually make sense that this is about the 2019 Ole Miss baseball team.

For a stretch of years, I was very interested in moving south. South, where the weather is warmer, and baseball is more easily viewed in person. Long story shortened as with a guillotine blade, I’m still in northern Illinois, and that isn’t likely to change. Knoxville, Louisville, the Carolinas, Florida, and Texas were all options. Alas, no.

When making a decision on where to choose to relocate, many factors play in. School situations, employment availability. weather, and civic environment all play in. It’s understandable why. However, with this experiment, none of that needs to matter.

For some of you, one school far and away is the one you would select. Perhaps you spent a few years on or off campus. Maybe it’s where you met your spouse. Possibly you moved to the area on your own. Perchance, you were born in the area, or you want to select a team that’s going to be the college baseball version of the Golden State Warriors. For some, a degree of whimsy rules.

Among my hopes is that, by the time the weather freezes and warms, some of you take the challenge seriously. Not necessarily due to a loyalty to a school or university, but to learn about college baseball. As with other topics, you can gather quite a bit of information on college ball online. Some of it might even be accurate.

What would be eventually useful would be to have most of the four power conferences (Southeast/Atlantic Coast/Big 12/Pac 12) accounted for. Why? Because, then can people sign in with their own educated opinions on the topic, with many of the major schools being regularly noted by others.

For instance, when Florida and Ole Miss play on April 5, it will be the opener of a three-game weekend series. While, in theory, you could go to a website, and look up the box score, you aren’t likely to do that. Unless you are specifically tracking one of the teams.

Imagine one of the readers of this column is tracking the Gators, and another the Rebels. The respectful trash talk brews with the last weekly column in March.

“How’s your injury situation looking for next week?”

“Our third baseman has missed two weeks with a tweaked elbow. Fifty-fifty he plays?”

“Our Friday guy has been really good until last weekend. He got shelled, for no apparent reason.”

et cetera

I plan to keep apprised on what’s going on through the season, as well as possible. I even paid money to better follow D-1 Baseball. However, I’ll be limited in the number of games I can track from my caboose chair in my computer room. This works best with participation, and the more the better. And, after the series?

“Your starting pitchers limited us to three runs over seventeen and a third.”

“Yeah, they were pretty good. Which one looks draft best to you?”

The mid-range goal is to get as many of you to think along the lines of college baseball as a sub-sector of baseball that can be eventually understood. Not in six minutes. However, more in the terms of a Cubs fan with memories.

“I remember the days when...”

***

I chose Ole Miss specifically for the “wax nostalgic” version for a reason. When I run my way back machine as far as it goes, Don Kessinger was the Cubs shortstop. He was making the “boardinghouse reach” plays. If you remember, you heard that in Jack Brickhouse’s voice.

As noted, choose whichever team you want, and for whatever reason. However, old time Cubs fans might have a reason to track the University of Mississippi Rebels in 2019. Grae Kessinger is their shortstop, and a rather good one. Keyed by Ryan Rolison, the Rebels were 48-17 last season. Eight of their players had their name called during the June draft. And, if you were watching the Oxford Regional in June, you might have seen a former Cubs infielder watching his grandson at short, qualifying for the All-Regional Team.

Kessinger will play short again, this season. He hit .300 with eight homers and eight steals (without being caught) in 2018. To beat you to the obvious question, yes, he will be drafted. No, I’m not sure when. Which is why it’s so useful to have as many outlets covered as possible.

To the person who “tracks Oxford” every week, as your schedule permits, type in a little mild update on how the Rebels did that weekend, and how Kessinger is progressing. If a number of SEC schools are being tracked, you can have discussions among yourselves on if Kessinger is better than Auburn’s Will Holland. Pre-conference clashes against Long Beach State and Alabama-Birmingham will give you a read on how he’s matching up before SEC play begins.

The main premise is to demystify college baseball, and give people a place to attend to think and discuss the drafting process. That seems far more useful and educational than having no idea who the Cubs should consider in the draft, or why. The more you know about a topic, the more you trust your opinion. By selecting a side to start with, you can usefully join the conversation.

Will Ethridge sounds ready to be the Friday night ace for head coach Mike Bianco. A reliever last season, he’ll probably jump to the rotation this season. Any SEC junior starter that succeeds deserves a look, and analysis of when he should be selected. Hours are put into a draft room board, and it’s based on much more than “velocity” and “will he be an ace?” Whichever team you have weekly knowledge of will be the one you are most likely in tune with regarding the ability of their pitching and hitting talents.

Parker Caracci was the Rebels closer last season. With 73 strikeouts in 48 innings in 2018, he deserves some draft discussion. His WHIP was 1.08. If that drops, he becomes an even more valid draft consideration. And, yes. If you track the Rebels even somewhat regularly, you might have an idea if you want the Cubs to pluck him in Round 6 or Round 22.

The Rebels hit .300 as a team last season. They hit over a homer per game. They scored 451 runs, and gave up 289. Their 18-12 mark led the SEC West. Cole Zabowski (10 homers, .851 OPS) and Thomas Dillard (13 and 1.002) return with Kessinger. You could do quite a bit worse than following the Rebels.

When selecting a college baseball squad to follow for the season, it isn’t a blood oath. You don’t have to learn the school song, or know the most recent Cubs selected from the school (Wyatt Short, Mark Hollimon, Kevin Kessinger, and Laddie Renfroe among them). What you’re trying to do would be up to you. However, dipping you toes, gently, into the pool of learning about college baseball is a large part of it.

If your world is complete by entirely avoiding college baseball aspects of the pro game, dismissing completely the benefits of a bit of knowledge from an aspect of the game that gets underplayed, the swing sets are over there. Have a wonderful day. This section of Bleed Cubbie Blue is for people who want to learn more about baseball, not dismiss a “step along the way” as being “too complex to be understood”.

The Rebs were rather middling (14-16 32-25) in 2017, but were a regional host in 2018. What will 2019 bring? Do you hope the Cubs consider adding Don Kessinger’s grandson in June? If you wish to step into the elite Southeastern Conference, Swayze Field would be a nice stomping grounds, whether figuratively or in reality.

Nobody has officially laid claim to tracking any teams for the season, though I know a few of you will check in periodically. You can select a team, like Ole Miss, and do some basic homework between now and February, to educate all of us. The regulars. The lurkers. The information pirates. Learn about a team between now and January, and tell us what you’re learning in the process.

Who’s your side? You can move almost anywhere in the country without lifting a couch or calling a transporting company. I’ll help in the non-moving process, if you’d prefer. What are you looking for. Happy shopping. The Rebels open on February 15 against Mid American Conference and 2018 Field of 64 participant Wright State.