Mid-Major Bangers: 10 Small School Hitters With Big Performance In 2023
Tom Lipari played collegiate ball at New Orleans, then played five years professionally, in the Padres and Astros organizations as well as in Indy ball. He was a nine-year college coach and then spent seven years scouting for the Cardinals and is the signing scout for Paul DeJong, Mateo Gil, Luken Baker, Steven Gingery, Levi Prater and others.
Resident scouting expert Tom Lipari breaks down 10 high-performing hitters from mid-major programs early in the 2023 season.
Last year’s Mid-Major Bangers piece included current No. 70 draft prospect 3B Mike Boeve, D-backs 10th-rounder OF Brett Johnson, Twins 11th-rounder C Andrew Cossetti, Angels 19th-rounder 1B Luke Franzoni and Nationals 19th-rounder OF Johnathon Thomas.
1. Ben Nemivant, OF, Pacific
There truly is nothing like experience. The veteran graduate student is off to a blazing start for the Powercats, posting a .453 batting average through 86 at-bats. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound outfielder stands in with a drastic open stance from the left side, accompanied with a crouch. Nemivant's level path through the zone allows him to spray the ball to all fields and allows him to serve as a table-setter for the more powerful bats behind him in the lineup. Nemivant is performing regardless of the opponent, including a 7-for-14 performance against San Diego in late March.
2. Dylan Ditzenberger, INF, New Mexico
The Kansas transfer has played a major part in contributing to the Lobos’ nation-leading .342 team average. With his individual .468 average through 94 at-bats, the power numbers don’t necessarily stand out (with nine extra-base hits on the spring), but what does is the consistency in the quality of his at-bats. The lefthanded-hitting Ditzenberger's plate discipline and ability to work all fields is his "X-factor." Opposing arms are constantly mixing locations and patterns but have been met with little success against him thus far. With conference play now in full force, it will not be surprising to see Ditzenberger continue the tear he's currently on.
3. Hunter Fitz-Gerald, INF, Old Dominion
If you're a loyal follower of college baseball, I'm certain you have stumbled across a few majestic round-trippers through most social media platforms. Names like Florida's Jac Caglianone, Wake Forest's Brock Wilken and the emergence of South Carolina’s Gavin Casas (the younger brother of Red Sox slugger Triston Casas) have stolen the show. However, there's a 6-foot-5, 230-pound first baseman in Norfolk, Va., who can launch balls into orbit right along with them. With 12 home runs on the year, and ranking among the top run producers in the country with 38 RBIs, Fitz-Gerald's blasts warrant little effort from the closest outfielder and those watching at home will fail to see most of them land. Fans should keep an eye on the lefthanded power hitter.
4. Shane Lewis, OF, Troy
The beauty of the Mid-Major Bangers list is that it includes all types and styles of hitters. In this case, we introduce to you a switch hitter with power from each side. Junior outfielder Shane Lewis, who began his career at Mississippi State and transferred to Troy by way of juco power Chipola (Fla.) JC, is among the country's leaders in home runs (13) and RBIs (41). Lewis' power is effortless—the loft power he possesses is something to be seen. What appears to be a routine fly ball off the bat just continues to carry out of the park. Typically a switch hitter will pack a more powerful punch on one side rather than the other, but this isn't the case with Lewis. He does need to cut down on his swing-and-miss, with 26 strikeouts in 79 at-bats, but there are positive signs in his plate discipline as he leads the Trojans with 18 walks. Rest assured, Lewis will be a topic of discussion for opposing pitching coaches and their staff prior to a conference series with Troy.
5. Joey Loynd, INF, Delaware
Few have had a start to the 2023 campaign like Loynd. The redshirt junior third baseman is sitting on a .396 average with six home runs and 34 RBIs while also tied for the lead in all of Division I with 14 doubles. The strongly-built 6-foot-1, 200-pound righthanded hitter stands in with an upright stance and possesses one of the more level cuts you will find these days in the "lift era." With most of Loynd's power taking place to the pull side, he does demonstrate the ability to use the middle of the field with a lot of hard line drives on pitches left out over the plate. Expect Loynd's dominance to continue into Colonial Athletic Association conference play as he looks to repeat his All-CAA first team performance from 2022.
6. Cole Gober, OF, Eastern Illinois
Gober opened the eyes of scouts and certainly Razorback fans alike early this spring after hitting .500 with a pair of home runs against the highly-touted Arkansas staff. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior made his way to Eastern Illinois from Olney Central (Ill.) JC, where he hit .370 with seven home runs, 64 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 2022. Gober possesses an explosive bat and his production against above-average velocity this spring is impressive. Like others names on this list, Gober has the ability to work all fields and will contribute on the base paths as well. He currently ranks No. 288 on the recently-updated BA draft board.
7. Chase Hug, UTL, Evansville
Only five players have been on base more than Hug this spring. With a .479 on-base percentage, Hug's 28 walks along with his current .422 average has helped guide the Aces to a respectable 16-7 start to the season. The 6-foot, 190-pound lefthanded hitter's barrel stays through the zone and he constantly peppers hard liners to the pull side and middle of the field. There is some strength in his bat as well. With four home runs thus far, the fifth-year senior is on pace to surpass the double-digit mark. Dangerous lefthanded bats are nothing new in Wes Carroll's tenure as skipper for the Aces. Hug joins an elite group of lefthanded sticks that have made their mark on the program, including Kevin Kaczmarski, Trey Hair, Josh Jyawook and Brett "Boomer" Synek.
8. Quinn McDaniel, INF, Maine
Each successful baseball team has that particular player on the roster who contributes in multiple ways, is hard-nosed, and produces no matter the situation. Often called a "gamer,” McDaniel has taken on this critical role for the Black Bears. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound junior is off to a great start with a .375 average, an eye-opening 31 walks and 10 stolen bases. Bringing some power to his game, McDaniel has four home runs and has crossed the plate a team-leading 31 times. His setup at the plate is unique and fun to watch. Standing upright, McDaniel uses a high leg kick followed by a compact stroke with plenty of bat speed. A lot of his success can be attributed to his aggression on pitches in the zone but he stays controlled, with an extremely high walk rate.
9. Jaylen Armstrong, OF, Southern
Armstrong brings a style of play similar to McDaniel’s. The senior outfielder is hitting .354 and making an impact on the base paths with 19 stolen bases. Armstrong's seven extra-base hits with eight walks and only 16 strikeouts point to consistency, and if you ever have the joy of watching him play, you'll see why. The 6-foot, 185-pound lefthanded-hitting center fielder possesses a quick, handsy stroke. His plus speed puts pressure on the defense, especially the infield, to get rid of the ball quickly with little margin for error. Armstrong had plenty of quality at-bats against the current No. 1 team in the country in Louisiana State, which shows his skill set translates to the highest level of competition.
10. Aidan Longwell, INF, Kent State
Shoutout to one of my favorite baseball men, and in my humble opinion, one of the best pitching coaches in the country in Kent State's Mike Birkbeck! Alright, back to the list. While watching video of the lefthanded-hitting Longwell, a couple things stood out to me: his ability to square up good offspeed offerings and lefthanded pitching. The ball jumps off Longwell's barrel and through 96 at-bats, he's hitting .406 with 11 doubles and four home runs. He's walked more times than he's struck out and on top of all this, Longwell contributes on the mound for the Golden Flashes as well. In five appearances, the junior lefthander is 1-0, 1.45 ERA and has punched out 25 batters in 18.2 innings. He could be a John Olerud Award contender.