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Preseason Team Snapshots: Missouri Express

Management

Garrett Blain (Owner)

Connor Vermilyea (GM)


Depth Charts

Lineup (S = Constant Starter)

S. Connor Vermilyea

S. Kaden Sellards

S. Caiden Schultz

4. Ryan Bloomstrom

5. Mateo Vodjansky

6. Dylan Hoiseck


Pitchers

1. Kaden Sellards

2. Caiden Schultz?

3. Connor Vermilyea

4. Ryan Bloomstrom


Fielders

1. Caiden Schultz

2. Mateo Vodjansky

3. Ryan Bloomstrom


Strengths

On paper, this team should be a lot better than they were last season. Batting-wise, Connor Vermilyea is a Hall of Fame center piece in the lineup and despite a horrendous JAL 22 hitting season, he bounced back strong in JAL 23 with a .365 average and 4 HR. Around him there's actually quite a bit of depth to add some scoring punch or pickup the slack when Vermilyea has a poor game. In the two most recent seasons, the most consistent No. 2 hitter has been Caiden Schultz. In JAL 22 he hit 4 HR and last season swung .359. Kaden Sellards has drastically underperformed the last two seasons (.167 and .111), but has been an All-Star batter in the past and one must believe (given that he's young) still has that ability hidden somewhere. Additionally, Ryan Bloomstrom is coming off a rookie season in which he hit a very impressive .412 and Mateo Vodjansky is a surprisingly decent bottom of the lineup type hitter (.258, 3 HR last season). At pitcher, Sellards has elite talents and style similar to Tegan Connors, but suffers from being wildly inconsistent — as will be discussed in the "concerns" section. Behind the ace, there's two formidable backup arms in Connor Vermilyea and Ryan Bloomstrom. Vermilyea is a former All-Star ace who's very comfortable in the circle. Last season he started the team's final doubleheader vs the Lynx, got a split but nearly won both. Bloomstrom started two games for the team earlier in the season, lost both, but showed definite capability as a rookie. When Sellards plays well, Missouri can beat anyone and when he's not good or inactive, they can turn to competent backups. A final pitcher to mention is Caiden Schultz, who's had a strange career story at the position. Schultz was the team's ace as a rookie in JAL 21 and helped get them into the playoffs. When Sellards joined the team in JAL 22, they split time as ace but Schultz slowly moved into more of the backup role and injured his arm (baseball) by the season's end. In JAL 23 Schultz was "shut down" from pitching, but after his arm recovered, he and the team flirted with letting him throw again at the end — though this did not end up happening. Currently it's unknown if Schultz is going to be a pitching option for the Express in JAL 24. If so, he's an ace-material option they could get back to using.


Concerns

The single greatest concern Missouri has is the uncertainties of their ace Kaden Sellards. He's so talented that even when he plays poorly, it's hard to just "move on" from him either via in-game substitution or big-picture as their starter in general. Last season he was inactive for several games and only started at pitcher in three of them. If that occurs again, it would make "moving on" a lot easier and justifiable. The fact that Caiden Schultz's return to pitching is a questionable situation further complicates their ability to solve this ace pitcher dilemma. Lastly, it cannot go unsaid that the Express got stuck in a malaise type of energy last season which is going to be hard to shake off. We must not forget this team under Vermilyea as GM was considered "on the rise" after making the playoffs in JAL 21 and the AC Finals in JAL 22. The natural next step was supposed to be getting all the way to The Cup, but instead they completely fell apart last season by going 1-7. After starting 0-4 Missouri sunk into a feeling of no confidence or spirit and limped their way to the finish line. Sure, a new season is naturally a chance to start fresh, but it'll be challenging to totally shake the disastrous JAL 23 out of their minds.


Grades

Batting: B

Pitching: C

Fielding: C-

Management: B+

Roster Sturdiness: B


Overall: C+


Plan (Probably)

Give Kaden Sellards one more opportunity at the begging of the season to be the star ace they need, but if he does not perform well or is inactive, move on right away. If so, go with Vermilyea (or Schultz if cleared to throw) as the starter if a chance to make the playoffs still seems within reach. But, if it's time to move on from Sellards as ace AND it's unlikely Missouri can reach the playoffs, commit to either developing Bloomstrom at pitcher, bring in a new rookie to develop, do both, or make a trade. Offensively the lineup can compete with any team, especially when Vermilyea takes every other — a strategy they've always used against good pitchers and will no doubt continue in JAL 24. Finally, Missouri's players must do their best to block last season out of their memory, but GM Vermilyea needs to maintain an honest assessment of why things failed. Stubbornly holding on to the vision he had of what this team "could be" will be a mistake if things don't improve quickly.


Opponents

Lawmen x2

Sasquatches x2

Bambinos

Lynx

Wrecking Crew

Cobras


Projected Wins

3.3

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