A year ago the LSU baseball team struggled to find an identity on offense all season.
While the Tigers averaged 6.1 runs per game in 2012, run production was a problem at times throughout the run by the Tigers to the Super Regional series against Stony Brook. Another aspect of the LSU offense that has room for improvement is base running. Assistant coach Javi Sanchez feels as though the squad that LSU will put on the field in 2013 will make for a much-improved Tiger offense throughout the season, simply because the Tigers are a faster team this season.
"I would say that we have improved, and, in some places, drastically," Sanchez told TSD recently. "I think our team speed is improved. The top of the order has guys that can really provide a spark with their speed, and it isn't just above average speed, it's game-changing speed. The young guys we brought in, as well as the JuCo guys, will help a lot."
Not only does Sanchez have confidence in the young players to come in and make an immediate impact, but he also feels that some of his more veteran players are vastly improved on the offensive side of the ball heading into this season.
"You have to assume that Tyler Ross and JaCoby Jones can be better than they were last year," said Sanchez. "They had very good falls. Then, you have the two seniors (Mason Katz and Raph Rhymes) that are going to spearhead the offensive approach. Alex Edward had a tremendous fall as well. He is a guy that we have relied on at times throughout his career, and for some reason, this fall he looked really comfortable at the plate, and put up pretty good numbers."
Sanchez also echoed the comments from Paul Mainieri following Fall Ball. Sanchez had a lot of good things to say about a couple of newcomers that are expected to make an immediate impact for the Tigers. While they are both first-year LSU players, Sanchez feels that Alex Bregman (SS) and Christian Ibarra (INF) will have a great first year for the Tigers.
"Bregman is a freshman, but he isn't going to play like a freshman," said Sanchez. "He is a very advanced hitter, which is something he has done his entire career. In his entire amateur career, I think he has only struck out five or six times over seven years. He is a kid that we are going to rely on heavily this spring to provide that offense. Not so much in overall power, but he has tremendous gap-to-gap power.
"Ibarra is a guy that is a free-swinger. He's a little bit undersized, but he definitely makes the most of every swing. I think he is going to get some fastballs that pitchers groove in there, and he's going to make them pay. He is another guy that has some potential to provide a spark and drive the ball in the gap."
While Bregman and Ibarra are two newcomers expected to contribute early, Sanchez also sees a couple of freshmen outfielders with a chance to make an early dent in the rotation for LSU.
"[Mark] Laird and [Andrew] Stevenson are two guys that have game-changing speed," said Sanchez. "I don't know how much Coach Mainieri is going to lean on them early in the season because experience is a big factor. If we feel like it might be a low-scoring game on any given day, those are two guys you will probably see in the lineup."
With Sanchez feeling that the team will be much improved this season on offense, he maintained that the approach of the Tigers while on offense wouldn't change from last season. However, Sanchez does feel that LSU will have more freedom to try different things with the squad this year.
"I think we will have the same approach for the most part," said Sanchez. "We want our guys to be aggressive and attack the fastball. I think one thing that has changed is our personnel. We had a lot of singles hitters last year. This year, we have a more dynamic lineup. We have some more speed that will produce some offense, like stealing a base to produce runs.
"We will be a lot better at the hit-and-run. We will obviously have a few guys with home-run potential. Last year, it was very frustrating at times, when it felt like we need three hits to score a run. We will be able to manipulate the offense a little bit differently than it has been in past seasons."
While Sanchez expects the Tigers to be drastically improved in some areas next season, he also stressed that they have a long way to go in certain aspects before they are game-ready. With that being said, Tiger baseball fans have to be excited about the direction the 2013 squad is moving prior to the season.
Sanchez expects to see improvement
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