Few players get on base as well as Liberty’s D.J. Artis. That’s not a generalization or hyperbole. The statistics back that statement up.
As a freshman in 2016, thanks to 82 hits, 52 walks, and ten times being hit by a pitch, Artis had an even .500 on-base percentage. In 2017, apparently convinced that wasn’t good enough, he collected 65 hits and drew 62 walks to go with seven hit by pitches (in seven fewer games) for a .532 on-base percentage. That OBP was good for second in the nation, behind only UC-Irvine’s hit machine Keston Hiura, and his walks per game rate of 1.19 was good for tops in the country.
Finding his way on base might be the best thing he does, but it’s not the only thing he provides. In fact, for both of his seasons at Liberty, he’s been a very well-rounded offensive weapon.
In 2016, he hit .369/.500/.464 with 23 stolen bases and just 28 strikeouts in 222 at-bats. One thing that wasn’t really part of his game at that time was power, as he had just 14 extra-base hits total- nine doubles, three triples, and two home runs, but that’s nothing but nitpicking what was an outstanding season overall, earning him Big South Freshman of the Year honors and a spot on the Big South All-Conference first team.
As a sophomore, however, he was everything he was in 2016, but with an added power component to his game. He hit .359/.532/.552 with 13 doubles, six home runs, 45 RBI, 23 stolen bases (with his caught stealing total cut in half from 2016), and just 30 strikeouts in 181 at-bats. His numbers were even more absurd if you isolate what he did in Big South play, as he hit .388 with a .568 on-base percentage and an almost unfathomable ratio of 35 walks to just eight strikeouts.
Not surprisingly based on all of that data, Artis was named the 2017 Big South Player of the Year, and now, he’ll be back in 2018 to try to give Liberty a fitting encore. Perhaps the best thing he could do for an encore would be to help lead the Flames into a regional, something that has eluded the program since Artis got to campus.
On a recent episode of the College Baseball Central Podcast with Damien Sordelett, who covers Liberty baseball for The News & Advance, the state of the Big South, a conference now without a marquee program thanks to Coastal Carolina’s move to the Sun Belt Conference, was a topic of conversation. Based on their geographic location, their facilities, and their established track record of success, Liberty looks the part of a program capable of filling that power vacuum.
With another season like the last two from Artis, perhaps 2018 is the year the Flames get back into the postseason and begin their time as the team to beat in the league.