When looking at a baseball team’s infield, generally the team’s first and third basemen are the most skilled offensively—at least, in terms of power numbers. Occasionally, you’ll see good offense out of a second baseman or shortstop, but rarely both.
Unfortunately for Mizzou, the team has offensive questions at both first and third base. Fortunately for Mizzou, the team’s best offense may come from its second baseman and shortstop.
Conner Mach—brother of former MU third baseman Kyle Mach—is slated to man second base for the Tigers and brings loads of power potential to the plate. While Mach had a wholly average 2010 (60 at-bats, two home runs, .810 OPS), he’s earned the trust of his teammates and coaches and will hit cleanup for Mizzou this season.
Eric Garcia enters his sophomore year as the best returning hitter on the 2011 team. With the departures of Aaron Senne and Brett Nicholas, Garcia’s .860 OPS and 1.37 walk-to-strikeout ratio are the best among Tiger returnees. Only Jonah Schmidt returns with more home runs to his name—seven—than Garcia’s six.
“It’s been a while since we potentially had that much offensive production from those [positions],” said coach Tim Jamieson. “Usually we’ve had one guy at the top of the lineup and one guy at the bottom of the lineup, but with those two guys you’re talking about the 3-4 hole hitters.”
Both players fit perfectly into those spots in the lineup, with Garcia possessing plus on-base skills for a No. 3 hitter and Mach bringing good power for a No. 4 hitter.
“Conner especially is going to show some power—Eric’s gonna show some power too, but I think he’s a guy that’s gonna hit more for average,” added Jamieson. “Those are two guys who have a chance to be really good offensive players, not only for us but also relative to the other middle infielders in the Big 12.”
True to form, both Mach and Garcia deflected attention away form themselves when asked about leading Mizzou’s offensive charge.
“Pretty much our whole lineup I’m real confident in, as opposed to last year we had a lot of guys with not as much experience as this year,” said Mach. “It’ll be nice to see the whole lineup produce and help us win games.”
Garcia gave a nervous chuckle when presented with the fact he’s the second-leading returning home run hitter on the team.
“I wouldn’t put too much power behind me,” said Garcia. “We don’t have too many power guys on the team this year, but we’re definitely going to hit for average.”
He’s right. Mizzou doesn’t have a lot of power in the lineup as is. But Garcia shouldn’t sell himself short—he does have power, and so does Mach. And they’ll show off that power from an unexpected place on the diamond.