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2020 Purdue Baseball Preview: Hitting

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Ben Nisle will be the focus of a Purdue offense that needs improvement.

Last week I took a look at Purdue’s returning talent on the mound. Today it is time to see how Purdue will do at the plate under Greg Goff. Mark Wasikowski had a definite style of baseball that Goff is likely to continue. He is a small-ball coach. He likes to get batters on via hit by pitch, bunt, or any little way. The stolen base is also a favored weapon. The idea is to force defenses into a mistake with constant pressure.

In 2018, this worked to perfection. Nick Dalesandro and Harry Shipley were terrors on the basepaths with Evan Warden and Skyler Hunter also notching more than 10 steals. Shipley was adept as a table setter, getting hit by a pitch 20 times, drawing 29 walks, and stealing 16 bases. Jacson McGowan and Ben Nisle then provided the big blow with runners on. Last year… it didn’t work. After McGowan had 13 home runs by himself in 2018 Purdue hit only 11 as a team in 2019. Part of this was because Nisle played in just 19 games. Purdue only had Cole McKenzie reach double-digit stolen bases as well with 10, while Dalesandro led the team with 27 in 2018.

Like with the pitching staff, there are plenty of reasons for hope offensively, but several players have to become like contributors in that 2018 season.

Top Returners

Ben Nisle – Jr. – OF - .262, 1 HR, 8 RBI – Last year was supposed to be a big year for Nisle as he moved into McGowan’s cleanup role. As a freshman in 2018 he hit .304 with 7 HR and 43 RBI, slugging .495 along the way. Unfortuntely, a back injury in March sidelined him from March 13 until May 7th, limiting him to only 19 games. Purdue suffered big time as a result. Nisle was a Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American in 2018 and was even named to the Chapel Hill Regional all-Tournament team in Purdue’s postseason appearance. Purdue will rely heavily on him as the big bat in the lineup and needs him to be a 10 HR, 50 RBI guy.

Skyler Hunter – Sr. – OF - .307, 17 RBI – Hunter has been a rock for Purdue’s lineup for the last three seasons. He is batting .322 for his career with 90 RBI and 26 stolen bases. He is a solid no. 2 or No. 3 hitter in the lineup that can get on base himself or move runners over. With 209 career hits Hunter is only 70 behind program leader Daryl Hallada, and after gathering 78 hits in 2018 he is definitely in range.

Zac Fascia – Sr. – C - .277, 4 HR, 37 RBI – Fascia was the closest thing Purdue had to a power hitter last season, as he led the team with 4 of the 11 home runs we hit all year. He was expected to be a nice middle of the lineup punch with Nisle, but Nisle’s injury limited that. Fascia is also a steady, calming presence behind the plate. He doesn’t bring the speed that Dalesandro had, but he is on par defensively.

Bryce Bonner – Sr. – C/DH - .195, 2 HR, 17 RBI – Bonner’s career thus far is a real mystery. In 2017 he burst onto the scene by batting .273 in 38 starts and was even named a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball. Since then he has struggled mightily at the plate and has hit below .200 the past two seasons. The last two years have been disappointing, but from that 2017 season we know he has talent.

Milo Beam – Sr. – OF - .254, 1 HR, 9 RBI – If you look up “scrappy” in the dictionary you’ll see Milo Beam’s picture. Beam has never been a regular starter, but he is a utility player from Westfield that has been all over the field and a general menace on the basepaths. How much of a menace? He found a way to get to third base on a walk in the Big Ten Tournament game against Michigan in 2018.

That play set up the winning run in a game that might have clinched Purdue’s NCAA Tournament bid. Milo is a ridiculously smart player that will take every inch given to him, then try to steal a few more. He has played in 72 games as either a pinch runner or defensive replacement.

Tyler Powers – Jr. – INF - .225, 12 RBI – Powers is another scrappy utility infielder that could take a big step forward if he improves his on base percentage. He has decent speed and is effective once he gets on base (43 runs scored in his career), but getting there has been his biggest issue.

Johnny Sage – Sr. – OF - .210, 10 RBI – Sage was another JuCo guy that started to come into his own late last season. He ended up starting 31 games, but was inconsistent at the plate.

Ryan Howe – So. – 2B - .221, 2 HR, 16 RBI – Howe, along with Albrecht below, was part of an extremely young middle infield that could be a strength in 2020. He started 40 games, but needs more consistency at the plate.

Evan Albrecht – So. – SS - .161, 5 RBI – Albrecht gained a lot of experience last season with 42 starts as a freshman, but needs to be more consistent at the plate. His 42 strikeouts to 18 walks needs to be flipped.

Top Newcomers

Mason Gavre – Jr. – INF - Gavre is a JuCo transfer brought in from Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix. He batted .367 there last season and was a second team all-conference selection, so we can definitely use his bat.

Jake Parr – Fr. – INF – Parr is a massive corner infield at 6’7”, 225 pounds and was one of the top players in the state of Alabama. He batted .408 as a high school senior last season.

Tyler Brandenburg – Fr. – INF – Another hot hitter as an infielder, he was the top player in the Milwaukee area and batted .524 with 5 HR and 25 RBI last season. He also showed patience at the plate with 25 walks.

Outlook

The biggest question is basically how much can we rely on Nisle. So much of Purdue’s offense last season was geared around him, and when he went down it was a huge blow. I like Gavre and Brandenburg as promising hitters, and both Hunter and Fascia as players you can build around with Nisle. The Boilers need to get more out of the middle infielders though. So much of Purdue’s success in 2018 was tied to just getting guys on and pressuring teams into mistakes with speed. When that disappeared last season, Purdue struggled.

There are definitely some pieces there, but it could take time to really come together. Last season Purdue was 10th in the Big Ten, hitting just .239, but several individual players in the conference had more home runs than Purdue had as a team. Even with more speed on the base paths, someone has to make the hit to drive them home.