One of the fun college follows this season ought to be Southern Mississippi. Their key piece for the season is two-way player Matt Wallner. Wallner isn’t the only attraction in Hattiesburg this time around. However, if “tracking the guy the Cubs might pick first” is your interest, the Golden Eagles are a reasonable first choice.
Wallner is 6-4, 220, and all of it. A lefty-hitter, he’ll be the mid-week starter this season for the Conference USA side as a righty. Mid-to-high nineties are the draw, but buy the bat. As a sophomore his offensive numbers were in the same stratosphere as the Cubs 10-rounder last time around, Luke Reynolds. In other words, Cubs scouts already know about Wallner. With an “inside-source” they could have a bit more knowledge than other teams.
He played center field last season. He wasn’t fantastic defensively, but his strong arm (Did I mention mid-to-high-90’s?) will play well in right. He is above average defensively in right, aside from the arm. The Cubs really dig center field types. Wallner is a right fielder.
Wallner hit .351 as a sophomore, knocking 16 homers. His walks (48) and strikeouts (53) were similar last season. He seems like he’d fit into the Cubs style of doing things. Not to say that Wallner definitely will be on the board at 27. You’re never sure the type of available talent that will be available in the late first round. However, Wallner has mocked in that range, and the MLB Draft 50 has him at 26.
By familiarizing yourself with a few of the players in the strike range, you grasp the basics of what might come next in June. Finding a team or player to roll a bit more attention to displays the depth at the plate and on the mound of the college terrain.
The Golden Eagles will rely heavily upon a pair of veteran arms in Walker Powell and Stevie Powers. Neither has shown “Friday night stuff” with regularity. They did start 30 games between them in 2018, and will be candidates for the 100-inning plateau in 2019. Beyond that, no returning pitcher started more than five games. Hence the interest in using Wallner mid-week.
Hunter Slater (.309, 12 homers) returns to provide a degree of balance for Wallner. They have a number of players that were reserves in 2018 that will be asked to carry bigger roles, which may or may not get them back to the Field of 64. Cole Donaldson returns behind the plate.
They jump on February 15 against Purdue, at home, and play Mississippi State the next weekend in a fairly worthy match-up. As per usual, here is the schedule. With a degree of monitoring a team in February, by the end of March, you should have a reasonable idea which players are worth checking in on, later. Pick a game against Mississippi State (preferably Friday or Saturday) for a priority tracking opportunity if either Mississippi school is your selection.
It appears the Golden Eagles audio stream for free, both via radio stations (available online) and the Tune-In app, which is very useful in my efforts. No, colleges don’t often give away live video coverage. However, if the Eagles, or Wallner, are your choice, the team page and YouTube are your friends.
In addition to his 2018 college exploits, Wallner played for Team USA, and Falmouth of the Cape Cod League. On The Cape, he slugged four homers in 84 appearances. Am I saying a right fielder with power and a pitcher’s velocity ought to be the Cubs primary draft goal? Naaaah. I’m saying the awareness of players like Wallner ought to be a bit more than it is as June approaches. Pick a guy. Pick a team. Research them as time permits, develop opinions, and make your case.
That challenge might be for you, or it might not be. Hopefully, for my readers’ sake, enough of us will get a bit more educational banter going on than on most sites. Half an hour of reading on any one squad ought to get you apprised on who you should follow on their team. Or if another side might be better suited to your tastes..
Next week, I might have another pre-season favorite. However, Wallner makes sense. He should hit, and play well in right. Does that mean he will definitely hit MLB pitching like a fifth hitter? Nope. That’s where the discussion fun starts. And resumes for real on February 15, less than two months away.