How did Missouri baseball’s 2010 draft picks fare in the minors?

While Missouri baseball missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002, the program still had five players selected in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft. All five players—four of which were juniors—signed with the clubs that drafted them. A look at how those five players fared in their first season of professional baseball:

Brett Nicholas had a 1.033 OPS with Missouri in 2010. (Photo by JJ Stankevitz)

Brett Nicholas (Texas Rangers, sixth round)

Nicholas didn’t see an immediate return on his decision to leave MU after one year to sign with the Texas organization, as the left-handed catcher hit just .245/.321/.344 with three home runs and 10 doubles over 215 plate appearances with low-A Spokane. A low line drive rate didn’t help matters, as Nicholas hit line drives on just 14 percent of balls in play with Spokane.

While Nicholas walked at nearly an identical rate with Spokane (20 BB in 215 PA) as he did with MU (20 BB in 210 PA), his strikeouts skyrocketed from 32 with MU to 49 with Spokane.

Those poor numbers will turn out to be red flags if Nicholas doesn’t start hitting for more power in his first full season of pro ball. Right now, though, they can be chalked up to a steep learning curve—most sixth-round draft picks start off in rookie ball, not single-A.

Aaron Senne capped his career at Missouri with a team-best 1.239 OPS. (Photo by JJ Stankevitz)

Aaron Senne (10th round, Florida Marlins)

Despite Senne’s fantastic numbers in his senior year at MU (.400/.506/.733 with 16 home runs and a 39/28 BB/K ratio), he slipped to the 10th round of the draft in part because of his status as a senior.

Senne transitioned better to pro ball than Nicholas, but he didn’t put up great numbers by any means. The first two numbers in his .296/.379/.376 slash line aren’t bad, but that .376 slugging percentage isn’t ideal for a player who projects as an first baseman, right fielder, or designated hitter.

Senne hit 14 doubles with only one home run in 248 plate appearances, good for an isolated power (ISO, slugging percentage minus batting average) statistic of just .088. What’s more worrisome is that Senne was a little lucky with his batting average on balls in play (BABIP), with that stat coming in at .358 with a 20 percent line drive rate.

It’s unlikely that Senne can keep up that .358 BABIP, and while his good eye is a plus (27 BB/39 K), he’s going to have to hit for more power in the future to move anywhere in the Marlins’ system.

Nick Tepesch had a solid 27/75 walk-to-strikeout ratio his junior year at Missouri. (Photo by JJ Stankevitz)

Nick Tepesch (14th round, Texas Rangers)

Tepesch signed with the Rangers a few days before MLB’s signing deadline in mid-August and did not pitch in the minors this year.

Questions about Tepesch’s willingness to sign undoubtedly slid him down to the 14th round, as Baseball America ranked him as the No. 130 prospect in the draft in May.

Texas may have picked up a steal now that Tepesch is signed. He’s always had front-line stuff, featuring a good fastball, changeup, and slider, but never put it all together until a few starts in to 2010.

While Tepesch’s 4.20 ERA wasn’t eye-popping, his .361 BABIP tells us that he was the victim of some bad luck in his junior season. If his BABIP regresses to the mean in his pro debut in 2011, he very well could put up numbers that will warrant moving him through the Rangers’ farm system pretty quickly.

Michael Liberto had a fantastic .810 OPS in his final year at Missouri. (Photo by JJ Stankevitz)

Michael Liberto (21st round, Kansas City Royals)

A great offensive senior campaign significantly improved Liberto’s draft stock, as the 5-foot-7 middle infielder posted a .317/.417/.392 slash line. He didn’t show much power, but his ability to get on base was key in him being picked in the first half of the draft.

Unfortunately for Liberto, that collegiate success didn’t translate into professional success, as he posted just a .290 OBP across four minor league levels in 2010. Like a lot of draftees, he struggles with the transition to better pitching, as his walk-to-strikeout ratio fell from 28/36 at MU to 13/28 in the minors.

Liberto had a fairly high BABIP throughout his senior year at MU, and that stat regressed pretty heavily across his four minor league stops. Going forward, Liberto likely doesn’t project as a starter, but if he can carve out a niche as a bench player with a solid OBP, he’ll have a chance to slowly climb his way through the Royals’ system.

Tyler Clark (23rd round, Detroit Tigers)

The hard-throwing Clark may have had the most success of any 2010 MU draft pick. Pitching for the short-season single-A Connecticut Tigers, Clark posted a 3.45 FIP with a 20/43 walk-to-strikeout ratio.

Keying Clark’s success was his allowance of just one home run in 190 batters faced, good for a 0.19 HR/9. While that low of a home run rate isn’t likely to be sustainable, his strikeout numbers indicate that his success perhaps could continue across higher minor league levels.

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