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August 24, 2012OXFORD, Miss. -- Leading up to June's MLB Draft, talk centered around Ole Miss needing to catch a break.
A couple months later, the Rebels did. A bad one.
After losing three signees in the first round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft, as was expected by pretty much everybody with knowledge of the situation, the Rebels' 2012 signing class remained solid, yet void of an instant-impact lock as a freshman.
Pascagoula, Miss., infielder Chase Nyman was the closest to that designation, in my opinion, obviously, when Gavin Cecchini, Ty Hensley and Stryker Trahan all signed professional contracts. I predicted Nyman to start immediately at second base and be Alex Yarbrough's capable replacement.
But, in an odd twist, Nyman left Ole Miss on Tuesday and quickly signed with Chipola College, a junior college baseball power in Florida. The move centered around a scholarship "miscommunication," according to sources. Best I can tell, no one did anything technically "wrong," but the miscommunication quickly spiraled into one party finding the situation serious enough to alter his life plan.
As with most things, I'm sure each side has a slightly different take, but for Ole Miss presently, that's irrelevant. The Rebels must move on without another bell cow from what has gone from a top class nationally to one without five of its top six signees, from a rankings standpoint -- three professional signees, Nyman's situation and Zach Irwin was academically ineligible.
The ripples of which will impact Ole Miss' season, and while it's not catastrophic to lose Nyman, it's definitely debilitating, removes some margin for error and elevates the need for other players to transition and step up into larger roles.
The starting job at second base will likely come down to sophomore Jake Overbey, junior college transfer Lance Wilson or freshman Christian Helsel. I'm penciling Austin Anderson in at shortstop for the sake of this column.
Overbey had flashes defensively last season but was overwhelmed at the plate during his first year. He hit .176 in 26 games and eight starts. Obviously the potential is there, as Overbey was a 10th round selection of the Phillies in 2011, and it's impossible to judge a player just on a freshman season. Yarbrough wasn't all-world during his first season.
Wilson is billed as a Kevin Mort-type defensively with plus speed. There's probably not Nyman's potential at the plate, but there are worse things than a vacuum at second base that can do things on the bases.
Helsel can play third base or second base, and early reviews have been very positive. He's got good size and had several notable offers. He committed to TCU before opening things back up when the Horned Frogs made their brief move to the Big East.
Perhaps one of the players mentioned above was going to start at second base even with Nyman on campus, but it's not a stretch to say Nyman was likely in line to play in 50-something games this season. We have no way of knowing what his exact role would have been, but it's substantial no matter the exact outlook. And it's the ripples that make it a serious loss. It removes depth, and it removes a player who everybody thought could hit early at the collegiate level -- in a lineup looking to replace Yarbrough and Matt Snyder. Suddenly, a bench player is the starter, and a situational bench player becomes more of a primary player. With a 35-man roster limit, any loss is significant. It's even more so when the player was the No. 126 prospect in the nation.
A year after getting nine of 11 drafted players to campus and replenishing a roster with nationally-respected high school talent that should make strides in 2013, the 2012 high school class hasn't matched that depth. Helsel, Cameron Dishon, Brady Bramlett and Jake Waguespack are all very good players who chose the Rebels over other perennial contenders. Early returns are positive for Matt Denny and Tyler Jackson.
But as I said before, the margin for error in the class is limited - in a league where there is no margin for error.
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