With so many seniors and juniors serving as the foundation of the 2015 team, the Draft should lead to some major turnover with LSU expecting to lose most of its draft-eligible players.
The Tigers entered this season with four juniors projected among the top college prospects in the country — Alex Bregman, Andrew Stevenson, Chris Chinea and Mark Laird. All four ranked in the Top 150 of D1Baseball.com’s midseason ranking of college prospects, and LSU coach Paul Mainieri still expects those players to sign.
“I feel like they will,” Mainieri said. “I’m expecting to lose those four guys. It’s going to be a lot of turnover from this year’s team.”
Bregman leads the group as a sure-bet to be a first-round pick, likely within the first 10 selections. He ranked as the No. 3 college prospect, according to D1Baseball, and most every other publication has him in the Top 10 overall. The only question is which position he’ll play.
Many consider his future to be at second base. It’s clear where he stands on that issue, and with his strong defensive play this season, some pro clubs are ready to start him out as a short stop as well. What’s guaranteed though is that Bregman will be one of the first guys taken in this year’s draft.
The two wild cards in the junior class are Chinea and Laird. Both have told the LSU coaches they’d like to sign, and both should get drafted within the first 10-15 rounds, but projections vary.
Chinea really just has one tool right now that’s pro-ready, and that’s his power. But even that has only shown in glimpses this season. He hasn’t gotten a chance to catch, and that may be the best position for his future. So while there’s still more to be desired in his game, scouts do seem to like him enough to draft him early, and Chinea would be expected to sign.
Laird doesn’t hit for power and doesn’t have a particularly strong arm. But he does have elite speed, and hits so consistently that he’s still promising offensively. Laird may be the last of the four juniors taken, but he too is expected to sign.
LSU doesn’t expect to lose any of its underclassmen pitchers. Hunter Newman and Russell Reynolds are both draft-eligible as redshirt sophomores, but neither are expected to be drafted high enough to warrant signing.
LSU’s seniors should also be high selections. Jared Foster might be the best prospect. He received interest as a junior, though his poor offensive production kept teams away. He’s shown tremendous improvement this year, and teams are still in love with his athleticism.
Conner Hale also ranks among the top college prospects for the draft. His consistency at the plate and versatility in the infield make him attractive to clubs. Kade Scivicque might even be the first of this group to get taken. This year’s draft is light on catchers, and there aren’t many like Scivicque that do so much both behind and at the plate.
From the pitching staff, look for Zac Person to get drafted in the first 10 rounds. A lefty like him with a big slider is very valuable to pro clubs, and he could be someone that moves quickly through a team’s organization.
With such a large chunk of this year’s club expected to leave in the draft, LSU will have a lot of fresh faces in next year’s lineup. That’s why LSU has one of its largest signing classes in recent years, with 17 currently signed in 2015, including seven junior college transfers.
Click here to see LSU Baseball's full commit/signee list.
“There’s no time to rebuild around here,” Mainieri said. “You have to be ready to have a good team every year. We have some good freshman coming in. I’ve probably gone heavier on the junior college route than I typically would because of us losing so many guys.”
It’s no guarantee that entire class makes it campus, as there are a handful of draft risks.
The biggest is right-handed pitcher Cole McKay. Baseball America ranked him as the No. 93 overall prospect. LSU thinks he could go as high as the sandwich picks between the first and second round. He’s told LSU that he wants to come to college, but a big enough offer would be hard to decline.
The other big draft risk is junior college pitcher Jacob Taylor (Pearl River CC). He came in at No. 94 in Baseball America’s rankings, and has been clocked as high as 97 mph with his fastball this season. JUCO pitchers aren’t typically taken as high as high school or four-year college guys, and he too has given the indication he wants to come to school.
One other signee to watch is catcher Ryan January. Originally a member of the 2016 class, he reclassified to 2015 in the fall. He was one of the top overall prospects in the 2016 class, and is still a Top 150 guy in 2015. With the draft pool light on catchers, January could creep up draft boards, but teams won’t have had as much time to scout him as some other options.
There’s still a lot to sort out over the next month, and things will really heat up in the couple weeks leading into the draft. We’ll keep you clued in on who’s expected to be taken where, and LSU’s chances at keeping their team and signing class intact.