The LSU baseball team wraps up fall practices with the Purple & Gold World Series this weekend.
The Tigers will play three intrasquad games Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Games will last six innings and are all free and open to the public. You can get all the info on starting pitchers for the three games, rosters, start times and more notes on the series’ rules by heading to the message board at the link below.
The purpose of this piece will be to clue you in on the Tigers coming out of the fall after getting insight from the coaches. LSU spent the better part of the last month practicing and scrimmaging to get a feel for the team as they build toward the season. With less than 100 days left until Opening Day, key players and roles are starting to come into focus.
Let’s start with the position players.
The three most entrenched players on the roster are Alex Bregman at shortstop, Andrew Stevenson in center and Mark Laird in right. All three had great falls, as would be expected, and the coaches expect them to be the hearts of this team. They could very well occupy the first three spots in the batting order as well.
Though two outfield spots are locked in, the third is now up for grabs. Jake Fraley, thought to be a sure bet in left field, underperformed this fall and now some others are providing competition. It’s worth noting though that Fraley also had a rough fall his freshman season before turning it on in the spring, so the coaches aren’t quite ready to rush to judgment.
But senior Chris Sciambra and freshman Beau Jordan both had very good falls and are pushing for playing time in left field. Jared Foster will also be back after undergoing foot surgery in August. He hit for the first time this week, and the coaches expect a four-way battle in left field this spring.
Moving to the infield, LSU had a three-way battle at third base to start the fall between Danny Zardon, Conner Hale and Greg Deichmann. Zardon won the job outright as he had a tremendous fall both offensively and defensively. He has a ton of power potential in his bat, and the coaches have high expectations for him this season.
Hale will likely move between first and second base in the spring, and should be an everyday presence in the lineup. LSU moved Deichmann to second base toward the end of fall as they see him taking that position over in 2016. He too has power potential at the plate — he hit three homers this fall and several doubles — but struck out a lot. He’ll play plenty as a freshman, but the coaches see his ceiling at designated hitter this year as they hope to get him at-bats so that he’s ready for a bigger role as a sophomore.
The other infield experiment this fall was with Kramer Robertson at shortstop. Though he’ll play a lot this season at second base, the coaches hope he can be the heir apparent for Bregman at short. The coaches raved about his defensive ability, noting that he made some plays that even Bregman couldn’t make. They did go out this fall to recruit some junior college shortstops that might be better than Robertson, but they didn’t find any because there aren’t many with his defensive skill set.
The one question with Robertson remains at the plate. He struggled as a freshman but performed much better this fall. The coaches said that he’s not over-swinging as much as he did last year and is “learning more who he is.” Expect Conner Hale to be the opening day starter at second base, but Robertson will alternate with him plenty this season.
At catcher, freshman Mike Papierski proved to be an “absolute stud” this fall. He’s already LSU’s best defensive catcher, and his bat started to come along midway through practices. Kade Scivicque also had a really good fall and is probably the more complete package at catcher right now. Scivicque is the “front-runner” but Papierski is right there with him. Both will catch a lot of games this season.
Chris Chinea would be the No. 3 catcher, but most of his time will come at first base and at designated hitter. Chinea and Hale will rotate at first for most of the season.
Now to the mound. LSU was hampered a bit by the injury bug this fall, so the coaches didn’t get a great feel for some of the guys they really wanted to see. Russell Reynolds could compete for a spot in the rotation, but he was sidelined all fall with an injury in his non-throwing elbow. It didn’t require surgery though, and he’ll start playing catch in two weeks.
Freshmen Jake Latz and Austin Bain didn’t throw much this fall either, but LSU is optimistic they’ll have a role this season.
The two freshmen that really stood out were Alex Lange and Jake Godfrey. Lange is a near lock to be in the weekend rotation, possibly even as the Friday night starter. He’s throwing in the mid-90s with a three-pitch mix and killer putaway breaking ball. Lange went undrafted (largely because of his commitment to college), but scouts were commenting to LSU coaches after the summer they wanted to throw as much money as possible at Lange as a free agent. Luckily for the Tigers, that didn’t happen and he should be a big-time pitcher this season.
Jared Poché showed enough this fall to keep his spot in the rotation, but there are still several pitchers that could factor for the third spot. Godfrey is one. He throws hard, fills up the strike zone and controls the run game. His secondary stuff isn’t as good as Lange’s, but Godfrey could also be a back of the bullpen guy if he doesn’t crack the weekend rotation.
LSU still expects Reynolds to compete for a weekend spot once he returns from injury, and Jesse Stallings is another in that mix. He sat out his freshman season after surgery in high school. He’s back now and had a very good fall. He’s throwing 90-92 mph and has the highest release point of any LSU pitcher in recent years. He releases the ball at 6-feet-11, and that angle makes it very tough for pitchers.
Veterans Alden Cartwright, Hunter Devall, Zac Person and Brady Domangue all had good falls and will be counted on for bullpen roles. LSU hoped Parker Bugg would have a bit more velocity this fall, but he’s still sitting at 88-91. They think he could make that jump at any time though, and he’ll still have a key bullpen role this season.
LSU saw enough from the freshmen Latz and Bain to be excited about their potential. Doug Norman impressed as well, sitting 88-90 with a lot of sink on his pitches.
One last interesting note. Walk-on Ryan May from the Dunham School may make the roster this spring. He had offers to pitch elsewhere in college but wanted to go to LSU as a student. The coaches gave him a shot this fall, and they saw enough that May could be on the team this season.
LSU Baseball set for Purple-Gold World Series
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