TSD's Hunter Paniagua spoke with a reliable source on the LSU side to get all the latest on the Tigers' recruiting efforts.
We'll start with a quick look at the 2014 signing class. LSU signed 12 prospects back in November, and be sure you check out this piece in which we discuss the biggest draft risks in the class. The full class is listed below:
SS Gregory Deichmann – Metairie – Brother Martin – 6-2, 180
LHP Mac Marshall - Lilburn, Ga. – Parkview – 6-2, 185
RHP Alex Lange – Lee's Summit, Mo. – Lee's Summit West HS – 6-3, 210
3B Bobby Bradley – Gulfport, Miss. – Harrison Central – 6-2, 220
SS Grayson Byrd – Alpharetta, Ga. – Kings Ridge Christian – 6-3, 180
LHP Jake Latz – Lemont, Ill. – Lemont Twp – 6-2, 185
LHP Hunter Van Horn – Tampa, Fla. – Jesuit – 6-3, 190
RHP Doug Norman – Fort Mill, S.C. – Ardrey Kell – 6-3, 175
SS Austin Bain – Geismar – Dutchtown – 6-1, 185
C Mike Papierski – Lemont, Ill. – Lemont Twp – 6-3, 205
OF Beau Jordan – Lake Charles – Barbe – 5-10, 195
3B Bryce Jordan – Lake Charles – Barbe – 5-10, 195
As it stands right now, LSU is pretty confident they'll get most, if not all, of the 2014 signees on campus. Mac Marshall remains the biggest draft risk, and several others could receive serious looks from the professional ranks. This spring will be big in determining where each individual stands, and LSU will engage in those conversations once they can begin visiting prospects in March.
LSU is content with the 2014 class, but they aren't necessarily finished adding to it. As the spring evolves and the coaches get a feel for which players on the current roster will be leaving, they'll begin to reassess whether they need to add a couple more junior college pitchers. Our source said there aren't any guys in particular they're targeting, but they do have a list of some guys they've heard about and will try to see in-person this spring.
One high school pitcher the staff is still considering is Catholic's Clay Moffitt, son of the football team's strength and conditioning coordinator Tommy Moffitt. Clay, who was also a standout tight end for Catholic, tore his ACL for the second time this past summer. LSU was tracking him at the time, but that injury prevented the coaches from having enough data to really go after him.
Clay signed with LSU-Eunice as a fallback option, and he should be ready to start pitching again this spring. Our source said if he has a phenomenal season and LSU has a big enough need, he is definitely someone they would consider adding, if not in time for the 2014 class, then possibly in 2015 or 2016 after his stint at LSU-E.
LSU has nine players committed in the junior class. Here's the complete of list of 2015 commits:
RHP Cole McKay – Spring Branch, Texas – Smithson Valley – 6-5, 205
SS/3B O'Neal Lochridge – Lafayette – St. Thomas More – 6-1, 200
C Dominic DiCaprio – Coral Springs, Fla. – Marjory Stoneman Douglas – 6-0, 210
RHP Caleb Gilbert – Hoover, Ala. – Hoover – 6-1, 170
MIF Lenni Kunert – Denham Springs – Live Oak – 5-7, 165
CF/LHP Brennan Breaux – Lafayette – St. Thomas More – 6-0, 183
LHP Kale Breaux – Sulphur – Sulphur – 5-11, 155
MIF Christopher Reid – Baton Rouge – St. Michael – 5-10, 175
MIF/RHP Dylon Poncho – Elton – Kinder – 5-9, 175
Poncho is the most recent addition to the class, committing to the Tigers after participating in their showcase in December. He's a very athletic player that's both a middle infielder and a right-handed pitcher. Our source said his future is likely as a position player with his strong arm and quick hands. He also has a power stroke and hit a few home runs during that showcase. He's still a bit raw but with his work ethic, there's hope he can be a key guy down the line.
The most high-profile target LSU has is Nolan Kingham (Las Vegas/Sierra Vista), considered one of the top 25 prospects in the 2015 class. The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted his brother, Nick, in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, and he's currently in AA ball knocking on the door to the big leagues. Our source said Nolan projects to be even better, and will be more inclined to go to college because he'll need that extra time for development.
LSU was one of the schools that Kingham reached out to because of pitching coach Alan Dunn and his reputation for developing big league arms. Kingham will visit Baton Rouge the weekend of Feb. 21 where the coaches will get their first opportunity to meet him in-person. They'll then repay the favor and go out to Nevada to visit him again in March.
Aside from Kingham, there are three in-state pitchers our source identified as prospects LSU will continue to monitor: LHP Ross Massey (Baton Rouge Catholic), RHP Austin Reich (St. Francisville/Livonia) and RHP Bailey Holstein (Denham Springs). LSU will make an effort to see all three once the evaluation period begins, and things will pick up from there.
In terms of which 2015 commits project to the MLB Draft, our source said there are two to really keep an eye on. Cole McKay is "the biggest draft risk without a doubt" according to our source. A 6-foot-5, power throwing righty will be an attractive prospect for professional organizations, so he could be one LSU has a hard time keeping.
O'Neal Lochridge is a big, physical prospect that could get professional attention as well. But our source said he would likely project as a 3B for the pros, a position that isn't valued as highly as shortstop. That plus the fact he's an in-state kid should help LSU get him to campus.
Dominic DiCaprio may also get a look, but our source said he'd at best project to a fifth-seventh round pick, and if that proved to be true, our source didn't believe he'd sign. Caleb Gilbert could also be an interesting prospect, but he just underwent Tommy John's surgery, so professional clubs won't be able to evaluate him this coming spring.
LSU has a pair of prospects committed for the 2016 class. The first one in was RHP Brennan Maddox from Fairview HS in Grant. Our source said he's one of the rare power arms that the state produces as he's already up to 91 MPH as a sophomore.
The other commit is Catholic's Josh Smith (SS), who pledged to the Tigers back in November. He has an above average glove for his age, and our source said he's comparable to Austin Nola at that stage in his development. He has good reactions and glove work and he comes through the ball well, a rare trait for someone so young. Our source called him a "special player," and both he and Maddox could be legitimate draft prospects down the line.
It's too early to say what LSU's biggest needs will be for 2016, but the goal for now is to identify the state's four or five best players and get them in by next fall. At that point, they'll reassess where they are for 2014 and 2015, then start addressing specific needs with 2016.
As of now, there are three players our source identified as in-state guys they'll keep a close eye on this spring. Justin Skeesick (Captain Shreve) is a big, power-hitting righty. Kyle Backofen (Airline) is a lefty that needs to improve his velocity but pitches with a lot of confidence. Rummel's Darren Willis is another athletic shortstop LSU will consider.
One last note, the NCAA will begin using a new flat-seam baseball for the 2015 season with hopes that restores the offense lost with the new bats. In recent years, LSU has turned its recruiting focus to speedier players that have a bigger impact on low-scoring games. If these new balls bring the changes most expect, our source said LSU might be more willing to take one-dimensional power bats they typically ignored in the past.