Shannon has proved he can play

By RICK CLEVELAND,

As this is written, Delta State has played 34 baseball games and won 28 of those. If that sounds ridiculously good, know that’s just about average for Mike Kinnison’s teams.

They just win. They have now won 925 in his DSU career, while losing just 294. That means Kinnison’s teams have won nearly 80 percent of their games, which borders on absurd. The 1927 Yankees, supposedly the best team in Major League history, won only 71 percent of the time.

Now then, this is absurd: DSU first baseman Zack Shannon has driven home 68 runs in those 34 games. That’s two per game. That’s insane.

Furthermore, Shannon has slammed 22 home runs and scored 54 runs. He is personally responsible for 122 runs in 34 games. That’s close to four per game. Himself.

Shannon, a senior from Cincinnati, is hitting .447. He gets on base 52 percent of the times he goes to the plate. Of his 59 hits, 34 have been for extra bases. His slugging percentage is 1.016 or roughly twice as high as “really good”.

Shannon leads the nation in home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage. Nobody else is close.

Last year, Shannon hit .434 with 19 home runs and 88 RBIs. He also pitched some, achieving an eye-opening 1.22 earned run average in six relief appearances.

If that sounds like Superman, know that the broad-shouldered, barrel-chested Shannon is built kind of like the fictional Man of Steel. He’s 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs 230.

“Like all our guys, he spends a lot of time in the weight room,” Kinnison said. “But with Zack, a lot of it is in his DNA. He’s just got a big frame. He’s built for power.”

 

So, with all this in mind, I had some questions about Shannon.

Number one, why in the world does anyone pitch to him?

The answer: Most times, they don’t.

Kinnison: “Most games he only sees one or maybe two good pitches to hit. It’s got to be frustrating for him. The guys ahead of him have done a good job of getting on base. And he’s got some good protection behind him. Clay Casey (10 home runs, 10 doubles, 38 RBIs) is no bargain. Sunday, Union walked Zack intentionally to load the bases and then Casey stepped up and hit a grand slam home run. Even so, Zack is seeing fewer and fewer pitches to hit and seeing a lot of strange shifts with people daring him to hit it the other way.”

Number two: How did Shannon, a Cincinnati kid, wind up at Delta State?

Shannon first committed to Big 10 powerhouse Ohio State out of high school and expected to be drafted out of high school. Apparently, grades were an issue with OSU, so he went to Wabash Valley Community College in Carmel, Ill., where he hit .392 with seven homers as a sophomore.

Now then, seven homers as a JUCO sophomore is a lot different than 22 as a college senior.

Kinnison, again: “I’d like to think he’s developed positively as a player in his two years at Delta State.”

 

Question number three: How have professional scouts gone three times without drafting Shannon? He wasn’t drafted out of high school, junior college or after his junior year at Delta State. What gives?

That’s harder to answer. My best guess is that he might have wanted too much out of high school and pro teams weren’t willing to pay what he wanted and passed on him in the draft. Same out of junior college.

Kinnison says character issues are not a problem. “He’s a good kid, a really good teammate. He’s a positive guy, well-respected here,” Kinnison said.

And that speaks volumes.

Said one well-respected scout: “Whatever questions teams had about him have been answered by the fact he spent two years under Kinnison at Delta State and has thrived there. That kind of gets you a seal of approval. Shannon is definitely a guy we like. You’re going to see him get drafted this year. You put up those kind of numbers at Delta State, you can play.”

Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is rcleveland@mississippitoday.org.

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