University of Missouri

How Missouri’s Kameron Misner can make program history on Monday night in the MLB draft

Mizzou OF Kameron Misner talks baseball career

Missouri outfielder and likely first round pick Kameron Misner talks about his five-tool profile and his development.
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Missouri outfielder and likely first round pick Kameron Misner talks about his five-tool profile and his development.

When Kameron Misner suffered a season-ending foot injury in the middle of 2018, the injury had a ripple effect with which most top-draft prospects can’t relate.

His stock didn’t move one bit.

A year later, the 6-foot-4 outfielder goes into Monday’s MLB draft with a legitimate chance to be Missouri’s highest drafted positional player and second first-round pick in three years. Misner is projected to go in the middle of the first round with his ceiling being in the back half of the top-10. The last MU position player to get taken in the first round of the MLB draft was catcher Steve Patchin in 1971, who was selected No. 20 overall.

“For him to have not played summer ball and then him not having a fall baseball season and we’re going into a him being a top-10 pick overall, that tells you a lot of his physical tools and what pro scouts think he can become,” MU coach Steve Bieser told The Star.

Bieser and Misner first crossed paths in the state’s bootheel when Bieser was at Southeast Missouri. Misner, a Poplar Bluff native, quickly became Bieser’s top recruiting target at SEMO after Bieser saw him play in high school.

Misner always had the size to be a power-hitter, and he quickly developed into a five-tool player as he grew more into his frame. Despite hitting 21 career home runs at MU, he said his first career home run didn’t come until his junior year of high school.

Misner’s older brother Logan was already committed to SEMO for football, which Bieser used as part of his recruiting pitch, but he lost out on Kameron Misner after Misner shined at a showcase in Columbia in front of former MU coach Tim Jamieson.

“They didn’t let him off campus without committing,” Bieser said. “The good thing is it worked out. I got to coach him anyway.”

The Royals drafted Misner in the 33rd round in the 2016 draft but didn’t have the money to sign him. He wanted to play college baseball anyway. As a freshman, he hit .282 with seven home runs before breaking out as a sophomore with a .360 batting average and .576 slugging percentage.

As the 2018 season went on, Misner began to feel pain in his right foot but continued to play through it. It got to the point where Misner couldn’t play with it anymore and approached Bieser early into conference play. X-rays showed Misner fractured his navicular bone and would miss the final six weeks of the season.

Rehab also cost Misner his season of summer ball in the Cape Cod League, which is considered the best collegiate summer league in the country. He underwent surgery and spent his summer fishing while other prospects made names for themselves.

While Misner looked for trout, his draft projection didn’t move. Scouts have raved to Bieser for years about the completeness to Misner’s game, and his injury did nothing to change their stance on him.

“People talk about raw tools. He has those tools,” Bieser said. “He missed really a whole year last year. That stunted him a bit. From a playing standpoint he’s almost a year behind other guys in his class.”

Missouri hitting coach Jake Epstein quickly learned why scouts loved Misner when he joined Bieser’s staff in January. Epstein, who has previously consulted Major League players on hitting, said Misner left an impression on him the first time he saw him take live batting practice.

“My jaw hit the floor a bit,” Epstein told The Star. He does things that great players don’t do. The amount of energy that comes out of his bat head when he hits the ball is on a different level.

“Some guys have a different sound when they hit the ball. Kam has that different sound.”

When Misner returned from his injury this season, he had a much different role than when he last played. Misner was part of a loaded Missouri lineup in 2018, hitting alongside Brett Bond, Trey Harris and Brian Sharp, who are all currently in the minor leagues.

Misner returned as the heart of Missouri’s lineup and found himself struggling at times in the Southeastern Conference, where he faced at least a pair of likely draft picks on the mound each weekend. Additionally, Bieser converted Misner from outfield to first base after an injury hindered the team’s infield depth.

“He’s gone through series where he’s seen maybe two or three good pitches to hit,” Epstein said. “When other teams are doing reports, there’s always a guy that says, ‘make sure this guy doesn’t beat us.’ It’s always going to be Kam Misner.”

Despite his struggles, Misner still hit .286 with 10 home runs and 32 RBIs. His debut season at first base went without much trouble too, as he only had four errors and a .976 fielding percentage. In Bieser’s eyes, Misner’s most telling statistic is his 54 walks, which led the SEC as of Saturday. It shows just how many teams pitched around Misner. Misner, who has speed, took advantage of the walks and stole 20 bases, which ranks fourth in the conference. He’s only been caught stealing once.

Misner has no preference as to where he goes in Monday’s draft and said he hasn’t spent any part of the season pondering his future. When Tanner Houck, Missouri’s last first-round pick, was on campus, the 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher then said his potential landing spot was routinely brought up around town. Misner hasn’t had that same problem.

“I look at it as a good problem to have,” Misner said. “I can’t complain.”

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Alex Schiffer has been covering the Missouri Tigers for The Star since October 2017. He came in second place for magazine-length feature writing by the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association in 2018 and graduated from Mizzou in 2017.
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