It’s never too early to look ahead to what’s next for the Tigers. LSU has a lot to replace in its starting lineup, though the pitching staff returns almost entirely intact. A lot will be determined this summer and fall in deciding who takes over as LSU’s newest batch of starters.
TSD breaks down who LSU loses, who’s in line to replace them, and offers up our prediction for the Tigers’ starters in the field and in the weekend rotation.
WHO LSU LOSES: Kade Scivicque – He was the senior leader of this team and an absolute workhorse behind the plate. He started 60 of the Tigers’ 66 games this season, including every postseason contest and all but one SEC game at catcher. He also led the team in batting average, finished second with 21 doubles and third with a .521 slugging percentage. He also struck out the fewest times of any starter.
POTENTIAL REPLACEMENTS: Mike Papierski will be the most likely candidate to take over for Scivicque behind the plate. He was the most highly touted position player of LSU’s 2014 signing class and received a lot of praise in fall practice. He needed some seasoning as a freshman, but a successful summer should set him up well to be the Tigers’ No. 1 catcher in 2016. LSU also has LSU-Eunice transfer Jordan Romero coming in, and he’ll be a solid backup or a potential starter if Papierski isn’t ready.
PREDICTION: Mike Papierski
WHO LSU LOSES: Chris Chinea – LSU converted him from catcher to first base to get him on the field. While he never set the world on fire at first, he did improve as the season went on and was more than serviceable. He was also one of LSU’s biggest weapons at the plate for most of the year. He improved his batting average almost 80 points from March 21-May 16, but a late slump left him at .344 to end the season. His 11 home runs, seven of which came in a month’s span, led the team.
POTENTIAL REPLACEMENTS: Danny Zardon started seven games for LSU at first base, while freshman Bryce Jordan also spent some time there. Zardon will likely also be a candidate at a couple other infield positions, and LSU’s best option at 1B is likely Delgado transfer Bryce Adams. He hit .417 for the Dolphins this season, with a .667 slugging percentage, seven home runs and 45 RBI. Those numbers were all second most on the team.
PREDICTION: Bryce Adams
WHO LSU LOSES: Jared Foster – The high school infielder made the move back in from the outfield with LSU wanting to get his bat in the everyday lineup. He looked like a natural and played better-than-average defense for the Tigers. He also had his best season at the plate, though a late slump left him with a .278 batting average. He did hit 10 home runs and had the third best slugging percentage at .495.
POTENTIAL REPLACEMENTS: Kramer Robertson, Grayson Byrd and Danny Zardon all started at least one game at second base this season. Robertson fell out of the starting lineup early in the year before an arm injury ended his season late. He’ll need to show serious improvement at the plate to get in the everyday lineup. Byrd showed some potential as a freshman and a big summer could give him a chance to start. Greg Deichmann didn’t play in the field as a freshman, but second base would be his most natural position. He’s likely the Tigers’ designated hitter next year though. Also keep an eye on Delgado transfer Cole Freeman. He hit .385 for the Dolphins with a .979 fielding percentage.
PREDICTION: Cole Freeman
WHO LSU LOSES: Alex Bregman – This will be the toughest position to replace for LSU next season. Bregman was the heart of this team for his three years in purple and gold. He was one of the best defensive shortstops to ever play for LSU and also one of the most productive hitters. The Tigers have been blessed at that position with Bregman, preceded by Austin Nola, and those shoes will be tough to fill.
POTENTIAL REPLACEMENTS: LSU signed Mitch Piatnik to be the next shortstop, but he decided to join the Cincinnati Reds organization and left the Tigers looking for a Plan B. Guys like Kramer Robertson and Grayson Byrd will probably get a shot in the fall, but they’re not likely to be LSU’s best options. Incoming freshman Trey Dawson may have the best chance. The LSU coaching staff thinks very highly of him, and he would’ve been a third-round draft pick had he been willing to sign. That shortstop competition will be very interesting to watch this fall.
PREDICTION: Trey Dawson
WHO LSU LOSES: Conner Hale – He took over at third early in the season and steadied a position that was inconsistent in the first few weeks. While Hale did have some costly errors throughout the course of the season, he was the Tigers’ most consistent option and was a solid third basemen for them. Excluding the College World Series, he was a solid bat in the heart of the lineup, racking up 56 RBI.
POTENTIAL REPLACEMENTS: Danny Zardon will likely get the first crack at the position after starting 11 games there this season. If Zardon doesn’t start at first base, third will be his best path to the starting lineup. He’ll just need to show much more consistency in the field, as that was what cost him his spot early this season. Grayson Byrd and Bryce Jordan also played some third base, but they have room for improvement this summer.
PREDICTION: Danny Zardon
WHO LSU LOSES: Andrew Stevenson, Mark Laird – LSU will lose two of the best defensive outfielders in the game. Their highlight catches will be sorely missed, and it’ll be tough to find two people that cover as much ground as they did for the Tigers. They were also productive offensively, each hitting higher than .323 while stealing a combined 50 bases.
POTENTIAL REPLACEMENT: Jake Fraley is the only outfielder returning with significant experience. He’ll also be the most veteran guy in LSU’s everyday lineup with loads of expectations, taking over the traditional No. 8 jersey from Alex Bregman. He’ll likely replace Stevenson in center field, leaving the two corner spots up for grabs. Beau Jordan started four games as a freshman, and he’ll likely have a good shot at starting in 2016. Also look for Delgado transfer Cody Ducote to land a spot because of his bat. He led Delgado with a .442 batting average, nine home runs and 68 RBI this past season. A darkhorse candidate, freshman Brody Wofford, one of the more athletic guys in the class could be better defensively than Jordan or Ducote.
PREDICTION: Jake Fraley (centerfield), Beau Jordan and Cody Ducote (corner outfield)
WHO LSU LOSES: Nobody – The most encouraging thing for LSU next season is what it returns in the pitching staff. Alex Lange and Jared Poché will both be back in their Friday/Saturday night roles. But the third starter, as it was all this season, will still be a question mark entering 2016.
POTENTIAL REPLACEMENT: LSU will have a ton of candidates to be that third starter. Austin Bain, Doug Norman and Jake Godfrey all got some legitimate experience as freshmen, and big summers could put them in good shape. Everyone’s excited to finally see what Jake Latz can do after he missed all of his freshman season with injury. He was the most highly regarded freshman pitcher behind Lange, and if he rebounds from the injury, he might be LSU’s best option.
PREDICTION: Alex Lange, Jared Poché, Jake Latz