MSU's Baseball Talent Grows

There are many factors that help a team become a winner. Quality coaching is one. Chemistry is another. Lack of key injuries is also another. But the number one reason, in my opinion, is talent. And that is a major reason Mississippi State baseball was so good this past season and has the potential to be as good or even better next season.

There are numerous ways you can judge the talent level of a player. How about using something that indicates a player's talent when he was still in high school? How has MSU done with those type players? A good measuring stick for those players is, without question, the Louisville Slugger High School All-American team.

Who, currently on the MSU baseball team made that elite team during their high school careers? And which recruits that will be coming in next year made it? And, most importantly, how well have the MSU coaches developed these players once they got to campus?

I'll start with the Mississippi State seniors. Two, RHP Josh Johnson and 2B/OF Jeffrey Rea, made the 2003 Louisville Slugger High School All-American team. Rea wound up the the leading hitter, hits-wise, in the history of MSU baseball, while Johnson had a solid career that saw him end it as the Sunday SEC starting pitcher.

As for the 2004 Louisville Slugger High School All-American team, that team included junior catcher Ed Easley and junior 1B/OF/LHP Mitch Moreland as well as redshirt sophomore RHP Chad Crosswhite.

Easley, MSU's starting catcher this past season, is one of three finalists for the 2007 Johnny Bench Award, a 1st team All-American selection as well as a supplemental 1st round choice in the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft. Moreland, on the other hand, was a key factor as a hitter (.343 BA, 10 HR, 62 RBI) and pitcher (3-0 W-L, 2 S, 3.20 ERA) on this year's squad as well as a 17th round selection in the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft. Crosswhite wound up the Friday night SEC starting pitcher and recorded a 8-5 record with a 4.69 earned run average.

The MSU players that were on the 2005 Louisville Slugger High School All-American team haven't done too badly for themselves either. Brandon Turner, a redshirt freshman this past season, wound up batting .399 with 3 home runs and 48 RBI as the starting second baseman. His batting average was second in the SEC. Oh yeah, he wound up making 2nd team All-American as well. Sophomore Aaron Weatherford, a hard-throwing righthander, took over the closing duties for MSU's relievers and recorded a 3-2 won-loss record, 5 saves and a 3.53 earned run average. Thanks to a fastball that was clocked as high as 96 miles per hour this past season, he is expected to be a very high draft choice in next year's Major League Baseball Draft.

Of the 2006 Louisville Slugger High School All-American team, two current MSU players made the team - true freshman third baseman Connor Powers and shortstop Ryan Powers, a true freshman who was redshirted this past season due to an injury.

Connor started for most of season at third base until he faded near the end of the season due to the demands of college baseball compared to high school ball. Overall, he .306 with 8 home runs and 37 RBI. Ryan, as I mentioned, was redshirted but is considered the best defensive middle infielder on the current Bulldog squad.

When you reflect back on each class of Louisville Slugger High School All-Americans that MSU signed, I think you will agree that once the MSU coaches get a Louisville Slugger High School All-American on campus, they will develop them into either a great SEC player at best and a solid SEC player at worst. The above facts appear to prove that.

So, which of MSU's 2007 signees made the Louisville Slugger High School All-American team?

Meridian Community College's Tyler Moore, a 1B/OF type player, made the 2005 team. He's a great power hitter who wound up being the player of the year in his junior college classification. A draft and follow draftee from the 2006 MLB Draft, Tyler turned down a six-figure bonus from the Washington Nationals to be a Bulldog.

RHP/SS Michael Busby, Porter's Chapel Academy (Vicksburg, MS), made the pre-season 2006 team, but didn't play or pitch much that season due to Tommy John surgery. He's since come back from the surgery and is throwing in the high-80's to low-90's miles per hour range with his fastball. He's also an excellent hitter with very good power potential. Forrest Moore, a LHP/1B/OF from Parkview Baptist in Baton Rouge, LA, also made the team as a junior.

MSU had two of their signees make the 2007 team - Paxton Pace, a pitcher/infielder from West Lauderdale H.S. in Collinsville, MS. who was Mississippi's Gatorade Player of the Year this past season, and, for the second straight year, Forrest Moore. Moore was expected to be a high draft choice in the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft, but wound up being chosen in the 32nd round due to his excellent academics and questions about his signability.

So, subtract former Louisville Slugger HS All-Americans Ed Easley, Jeffrey Rea and Josh Johnson from this year's team, then add in returners Brandon Turner, Aaron Weatherford, Chad Crosswhite, Connor Powers, redshirt freshman Ryan Powers and, hopefully, Mitch Moreland, as well as newcomers Tyler Moore, Forrest Moore, Michael Busby and Paxton Pace.

The return and addition of 10 compared to the subtraction of 3 definitely makes you believe the potential of next year's team looks pretty bright.


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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