Before we jump into the players, let’s make one thing clear. This is not an article looking at the best hitters in DII baseball, although some, like Haydn McGeary, are certainly making their case. And this isn’t even every hot hitter. Let’s remember: baseball is a game of nines. There are nine hitters in the lineup and nine innings in a game. The natural progression seems to lead to nine hot hitters from the diamond.
We are looking at the bats that came out of the gates red-hot and have yet to relent. Also keep in mind, since DII baseball is a staggered start, some teams have just begun playing. So we are looking at players who have at least 12 games under their belt, which usually gets them right around the 40 at-bat mark.
Now, how about those bats?
Haydn McGeary, C/DH, Colorado Mesa
McGeary has been on our radar since his freshman year, and looking at his numbers, it’s easy to see why. He was well on his way to the Player of the Year conversation through 18 games last season, and his numbers through his first 20 games this season are even better. McGeary is currently hitting .531 with 13 doubles, nine home runs and a DII-best 45 RBI.
He is a big righty, standing at 6’5” and pairs advanced contact skills with a smooth, pretty swing that simply generates immense power. This is a guy that can easily wait to clear the fences on every pitch, but he’s smart and uses the field well. Simply put, McGeary is one of the most dangerous hitters in the land.
Marek Chlup, OF, North Greenville
Normally, it’s the big-hitting catcher, John Michael Faile, that we talk about when discussing the Crusaders, but Chlup’s start can’t be ignored. Now, Faile is still among the elite, but Chlup as come out red-hot. The N.C. State transfer is huge, listed at 6’3 and 234 pounds. He’s hitting .427 with a 1.364 OPS, crushing nine home runs and 30 RBI. More so, he seems to be smart at the plate, walking 15 times and striking out just 12 in 82 at bats.
Chlup is an interesting story in his own right. He came from the Czech Republic, where he played on the WBC team as an outfielder. He joined the Wolfpack with fellow Czech Vojtech Mensik, and while he saw limited at bats, he simply couldn’t crack the lineup. He’s done that in North Greenville and is cracking off hits every weekend.
Livan Reinoso, 3B, Erskine
Reinoso is proving that last year — when he led the Fleet in nearly every offensive category including hitting .447 with nine home runs with 35 RBI and a 1.447 OPS — was no fluke. Through 28 games, Reinoso is among DII leaders in average (.474), home runs (12), RBIs (36) and OPS (1.400), with a DII-best 54 hits. When those around him describe him as a player with a “simple, explosive swing,” that “hits line drives to all fields” we are looking at an advanced bat.
Oh, as a side note, he also pitches and has been clocked at 97. And to make things even worse for opposing pitchers, there’s another: Dayan Reinoso — his twin brother — is hitting .308 with four home runs himself.
Daniel Cipriano, 1B/DH, Montana State Billings
While it may not be resulting in a ton of wins, this hulking first baseman is having a sensational season for the Yellowjackets. Cipriano set the program record for home runs in grand style — smashing a grand slam on March 6. Two weeks later, he hit six home runs in three days, including a three-home run performance on March 19 against St. Martin’s.
Cipriano doesn’t sell out for power, though. He understands moving the runners or a single the opposite way is just as important as the flashy numbers. He has an advanced eye and will wear down pitchers or take a walk as easily as driving one out of the park. He’s leading the team in hitting (.410) and OPS (1.449), while getting plunked (14 hit-by-pitches) more than he’s struck out (12).
Robert Brooks, C, Columbus State
Brooks isn’t high on the draft radar, but he should be. Scott Miller, the Cougars play-by-play man for more than four decades, thinks he’s one of the most complete hitters he’s seen come through Columbus. That speaks volumes, considering the Cougars are a team in the hunt for Cary, N.C. every single year.
The senior catcher is as steady as they come, blending contact skills and power since he stepped on the field as a freshman and led the team in hitting. He’s currently leading the team in hitting at .365 and is amongst the DII leaders in OPS (1.326) and home runs (11). The six-foot, right-handed hitter’s power is not only for real, it’s impressive to all fields with seven of his 11 home runs either to center or right field. Brooks is aggressive early in the count but smart enough that it doesn’t hurt him, striking out just 47 times in the past three seasons. We’re looking at a catcher who can barrel it up the middle or the other way and not even blink an eye. That’s special.
Zion Pettigrew, IF, Illinois Springfield
The Prairie Stars have had some fun hitters the past few years. Names like Michael Rothmund paved the way for the run-scoring machine UIS has become. They are off to the best start in program history, sitting at 18-2, and Pettigrew is a big reason why.
Numbers don’t lie. The third baseman (who will likely settle in at second base at the next level) is hitting .459 with a 1.63 OPS. Of his 28 hits, 19 are extra bases and because all that UIS does is score runs, his 25 RBI in 17 games are third on his own team, which is crazy in itself. He knows the strike zone very well as evidenced by walking 15 times and striking out just 10, with one of the most advanced bats in all of DII. He has a quick bat that can spray to all fields and as UIS continues to roll, expect Pettigrew to as well.
Brock Reller, OF, Minnesota Crookston
The NCAA.com preseason top 25 had two teams from the NSIC in the top 10. Don’t look now, but the Golden Eagles are making their pitch for consideration, sitting at 13-1. Their big-hitting outfielder has certainly been helpful to this start.
Reller is big, listed and 6’3 and 230, and just a menace from the left side. His bat is quick and explosive, allowing him to muscle up to all fields. Thus far, Reller is hitting .407 with a 1.554 OPS. He has eight home runs in 54 at bats with a team high 24 RBI. He also has a cannon of an arm, clocked at 93 on throws from right field, so we are looking at an all-around athlete.
Memorable days on the DII baseball diamond
Though one day does not make a season, we can’t overlook these performances.
Sam Baier, IF, Augustana (SD) — On paper, Baier is having a great season. He’s hitting .417 with a 1.314 OPS and a team-high eight home runs and 25 RBI. But what if I told you seven of those home runs came on the same day? Baier exploded in an April 2 doubleheader, going 8-for-10 with a three-home run game and four-home run game — the latter was the first in DII this season — while driving in 14. That is a season’s worth of stats for some players.
Dusty Stroup, 3B, Central Missouri — Spring certainly sprung when April hit in DII baseball. One day after Baier’s heroics, Stroup said, “watch this.” The Mules third baseman had back-to-back three-home run games in a doubleheader sweep of Missouri Southern one day after Baier’s explosion, driving in 11 for the Mashin’ Mules. Central Missouri is on a home run tear of its own: Erik Webb became the MIAA all-time leader in dingers and Central Missouri tied the single-game mark with nine home runs in a week’s span.