Yesterday we began the countdown to Opening Day with the 18 most important Rebels to the 2015 baseball season. The list began with Kyle Watson, an infielder out of Southaven that should figure in all over the diamond for the Mike Bianco this year. Today, we continue the list with pitcher Jacob Waguespack coming in at No. 17.
A native of Prairieville, Louisiana, Waguespack was a huge pickup for Ole Miss in the 2012 recruiting class. The 6’6 righty posted an 8-2 record with a 0.37 ERA his senior year en route to an All-State selection. His strong high school career had coaches calling as LSU and Ole Miss were in hot pursuit for his signature. Ultimately, he chose to ink with the Rebels, but Bianco & Co. weren’t out of the woodwork yet as they still had to hold off the allure of the Major Leagues. Waguespack was drafted in the 37th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates and delivered the coaches the good news that he was spurning MLB to head to Oxford.
In two seasons on the mound, Waguespack is 1-1 with a 3.81 ERA in 13 appearances, including four starts. He’s struck out 16 batters, only allowing one extra-base hit in that time, a double.The numbers may not be eye-popping, but the potential is there to make a big jump from his sophomore to junior year. His fastball can touch 90 mph on the radar, adding to the slider and curveball in his repertoire. He was recognized by Perfect Game as the No. 77 junior prospect in the country going into this year.
While the weekend rotation of Christian Trent, Sean Johnson and Sam Smith appears entrenched, Waguespack adds tremendous value as not only a midweek starter, but as a viable option come SEC and NCAA Tournament time. Ole Miss will play 14 midweek games this year, including key games against Louisville, Mississippi State and Memphis. If he can pitch well and keep the Rebels in those games, it could pay huge dividends on their resume at the end of the year.
When it comes to tournament time, one key thing tends to separate the good from the great: good teams have three quality weekend starters, great teams have four, five or six. Waguespack certainly falls into that category. In the SEC Tournament, the winning team plays between four and six games in four to six days, so depth on the mound is key. When rain delays get involved, it becomes even more important.
Waguespack pitched very well during Fall scrimmages, posting three innings of one-run baseball on Sept. 27 and three shutout innings on Oct. 17. He appears poised to make significant contributions in 2015.
Michael Quirk is a HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at email@example.com.