LSU baseball look-ahead: Rebuild job looms to replenish the every-day lineup

June 21, 2015 Posted by admin

PART 1 | Position players

Most coaches find some way or another to indicate that the cupboard isn’t bare when they finish one season and start looking to next. LSU coach Paul Mainieri can certainly tell half his team that in all honesty. The other half? Well, there’s some work to do there.

The cupboard for the Tigers is technically not bare — nowhere close to it actually — but there is a twist to that.

Pitching-wise, LSU is in as good a shape as imaginable. Zac Person, Kyle Bouman and Brady Domangue were the only seniors on the staff this season and Person is the only one who played a prominent role.

Thirteen pitchers could be back, with an influx of five new pitchers coming aboard.

That’s the good news.

When LSU convenes for practice in the fall, the task Mainieri, Andy Cannizaro and Will Davis encounter is to replace every starter in the regular position player lineup from 2015.

That’s the case because four of the every-day nine were seniors and four others were juniors who got drafted and will forego their final seasons.

Whether you look glass half-full or nowhere-close-to-full, the numbers involved are attention-getting.

Jake Fraley, the one returning starter, and Danny Zardon, who started at three different infield spots and DH, are the only two players who could be back with more than 12 starts in 2015.

Those account for five of the six home runs the returnees accounted for and 58 RBI of the 93 RBIs. Fraley swiped 23 bases, while everybody else back was a combined 3-for-5.

“We’re going to have a lot of spots to fill and we all knew that was going to be the case as the season went along,” said Fraley, who finished his sophomore season batting .307 with 50 runs, 11 doubles and five triples to go with the homers and steals.

LSU infielders Kramer Robertson (3) and Danny Zardon join Jake Fraley as the only position players back in 2016 who have been in the program for two seasons. 

After beginning the season 1-for-10, the Delaware native was consistent the rest of the way and got red-hot in the postseason. He has already inherited the No. 8 jersey from Alex Bregman for next season.

“It’s going to make the fall really competitive.”

Which is precisely where the twist comes in.

While the LSU cupboard isn’t bare, it sort of looks like the pantry of a typical college kid: A lot of stuff that has been there for a while, but hasn’t been touched a whole lot. Add in the 10 new position players on the way, which includes four junior-college veterans, and the uncertainty – while still there – looks a little different.

Kramer Robertson should be back looking to finally find some kind of offensive groove that has evaded him for two years. He started 30 games as a freshman and batted only .200. Coming into this season, the former Texas prep star got a shot as the starting second baseman but wound up batting just .232 and missed the last two months of the season with a torn muscle in his elbow.

Five freshmen from the 2015 roster are expected back: Outfielder Beau Jordan (.219 BA, 4 RBIs), catcher Mike Papierski (.214, 16 BB, 10 RBIs), infielder Grayson Byrd (.212, 9 R, 9 RBIs), catcher/first baseman Bryce Jordan (.130, 6 RBIs) and infielder Greg Deichmann (0-for-8).

Rising sophomore Mike Papierski will get a shot to claim the starting job behind the plate in 2016. 

It’s conceivable that all five rising sophomores could start: Beau Jordan has corner outfield experience, Bryce Jordan got some mop-up innings at first and the derby to fill spots at second, short and third figures to involved Byrd and Deichmann.

All six players have the inside track of having been in the program and knowing what the coaches expect. Inside tracks mean little if it doesn’t equate to either superior defense, productive offense or both.

Which means the level of competitiveness ought to be fun to watch in the fall.

Because those 10 position players on the way will all get their chances to win jobs.

That especially holds true for the four JUCO incomers – catcher Jordan Romero from LSU-Eunice and the Delgado College trio of Bryce Adams, Cole Freeman and Cody Ducote.

Adams is a natural first baseman who put up big numbers for the Dolphins: .417, 15 2B, 7 HR and 45 RBIs.

Bryce Adams 

“I know they’ve got a lot of people leaving and a good core group coming back,” said Adams, who played at The Dunham School before heading to New Orleans. “What make me excited is that I’m the first real first baseman they’ve had in a while. The coaches have a done a great job of converting guys to first basemen the last few years and it’s worked out well for them. I’ve played there my whole life and I think I can be a guy they can count on there.”

Freeman could be a fit at either middle infield spot, although he settled in at second base for Delgado and earned an NJCAA Gold Glove (as did Romero). The former Lakeshore star calls playing for LSU a dream come true and says he will scrap for whatever playing time he can get.

Freeman upped his batting average to .385 as a sophomore and swiped 15 bases.

And there’s Ducote, whose offensive prowess might make it hard to keep him out of the lineup. The former Brother Martin star (he was teammates with both Deichmann and former LSU spark plug Sean McMullen) led the Dolphins with a robust .442 average, 19 doubles, 8 homers and 68 RBIs.

Incoming LSU infielder Cole Freeman won a NJCAA Gold Glove this season. 

Comparisons to McMullen and Mason Katz are common. A compact and powerful right-handed hitter, Ducote was a catcher and infielder at Brother Martin and played mostly outfield at Delgado.

“When you look at some of the better players in baseball, they can play anywhere on the field and I like to make myself as versatile as I can,” Ducote said. “When I met with Coach Mainieri in the fall, he basically told me, ‘I want you to be a guy like Mason Katz but be your own person.’ That meant a lot to me and motivates me to make myself at whatever position the coaches ask me to play.”

Romero navigated two injury-plagued seasons at LSU-Eunice and still caught a majority of the Bengals’ games, including this spring when they won the NJCAA Division national championship. Similarly to departing Kade Scivicque, the former Catholic High star possesses a strong arm and has been a catcher all his life.

A new crop of freshmen includes at least two and as many as four who could contend for immediate playing time.

Trey Dawson is considered a college shortstop at some point, while Brody Wofford could wind up at a corner infield spot or even in the outfield. The 6-foot-2 Georgia native swings from the left side.

St. Thomas More teammates O’Neal Lochridge and Brennan Breaux were the two leading men for a Class 4A state championship team this season. Lochridge could be in the mix at third base, while Breaux said last fall that his goal is to continue the run of Cougars manning center field for the Tigers, following in the footsteps of Andrew Stevenson and Mikie Mahtook.

LSU’s Grayson Byrd will be in the mix for a starting job at a number of infield spots in 2016. 

“I kind of look at like those guys have opened the door for me,” Breaux said. “I’m excited for it and ready for it. I’ve worked my whole life for it and can’t wait to get there and show what I’ve got.”

What looks to be a continued hallmark of the Tigers is some depth and flexibility around the infield.

Zardon could get a crack at first base, but he has started games at third base most of his life, including at LSU. Deichmann, Byrd and Robertson all played shortstop in high school. Freeman, Lochridge, Wofford and Dawson could get looks at a variety of spots in fall drills.

The outfield should be in good hands with Fraley as the cornerstone and he could play any of the three spots. Breaux and another freshman, fellow Lafayette native Antoine Duplantis, were standout center fielders. Beau Jordan and Ducote could evolve into reliable options at one of the corner spots, much as Raph Rhymes and Katz did during their LSU careers.

So, yes, the cupboard isn’t bare. But there is some rearranging and dusting off to do.

2016 projected roster

Catcher

Mike Papierski  (SO)

Jordan Romero (JR)

Bryce Jordan  (SO)

First base

Danny Zardon (JR)

Bryce Adams (JR)

Bryce Jordan  (SO)

Second base

Greg Deichmann (SO)

Cole Freeman (JR)

Kramer Robertson (JR)

Third base

O’Neal Lochridge (FR)

Brody Wofford (FR)

Bryce Jordan  (SO)

Shortstop

Grayson Byrd (SO)

Trey Dawson (FR)

Cole Freeman (JR)

Outfield

Jake Fraley (JR)

Beau Jordan (SO)

Brennan Breaux (FR)

Cody Ducote (JR)

Antoine Duplantis (FR)

DH/Utility

Bryce Adams (JR)

Greg Deichmann (SO)

Chris Reid (FR)

————————-

2015 final statistics

————————-

Randy Rosetta can be reached at rrosetta@nola.com or (225) 610.5507.

Article source: http://www.nola.com/lsu/index.ssf/2015/06/lsu_baseball_look-ahead_rebuil.html

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *