But Ross is likely to be a draft pick after the 2013 season, making replenishing that position a priority.
A key member of the incoming freshman class may have taken care of that.
Chris Chinea from Miami will arrive on campus in August and looms as a backup to Ross next season with an eye on the starting gig the following season.
The 6-foot, 205-pound power-hitting Chinea was ranked No. 7 among the top 10 prep catchers nationally by ESPNHS.com going into the 2012 season (future LSU teammate Alex Bregman was rated No. 3).
Pro scouts watched Chinea all spring and he was on draft boards all over the country. But he made it clear to any scout who contacted him what his plans were.
“I let scouts know I was going to LSU,” said Chinea, who was a prep star at Gulliver Prep Academy in Pinecrest, Fla., in the Miami suburbs. “I told scouts it would take way too much money for me to turn my back on going to school. I got a couple of calls during the draft but I wasn’t going anywhere.”
A one-time commitment to the University of Miami, Chinea cited LSU assistant coach Javi Sanchez as a key reason for his decision to play for the Tigers instead of an in-state program – two of which were at the 2012 College World Series.
Sanchez and LSU coach Paul Mainieri both grew up in Miami.
An existing connection to Ross, who hails from Naples from across the state, has also been a key for Chinea.
“I played with him when was I a freshman and sophomore and we’ve been close since then,” Chinea said. “I talk to him almost every day. He told me to be ready to come in and work hard and I’ll get my chance to play if I do that.”
That pre-established camaraderie might help explain why a player of Chinea’s caliber isn’t deterred by coming to a program with a starting catcher already in place.
Ross has been the starting catcher from the first game of his freshman season, but he made a monumental jump between his freshman and sophomore seasons, both defensively and with the bat. He batted .292 in 2012 with 41 RBIs and threw out 16 of 29 base stealers, while also helping solidify the loaded LSU pitching staff as a receiver.
Although Chinea will wind up behind the plate, he said he has also played first base and in the outfield on a regular basis in summer ball. Ross’ current immediate backup, Tyler Moore, was the starting first baseman for most of the second half of the season but is working at third base in summer ball.
“I feel like if I can get on the field and play first base or outfield, I can make things happen with my bat,” Chinea said. In his senior season, Chinea batted .570 with 9 home runs and 50 RBIs. “I can hit the ball to all parts of the field and have some power.”
Wherever and whenever Chinea gets on the field as a freshman, he’s ready to chip in however he can.
“I’m a team player, and I try to be a leader who does anything I can to win the ballgame,” Chinea said. “I’m very excited to be going to a top program like LSU and can’t wait to get down there.”