Today we tackle the outfield, which is a unit so loaded with talent it makes my head spin. Just looking at the possibilities for this year... when is Opening Day getting here? Not soon enough.
Jared Mitchell, Jr., 175 AB, 297/363/469
LSU's top two sport star is showing up on some preseason All-American teams, but he probably needs a little bit more production to justify that. He came on strong in the postseason, and made some terrific plays in the field as well. He stole 16 bases on 18 attempts, so he also has plenty of speed. He will probably be the team's leadoff hitter, but I would like to him draw more walks and get that OBP closer to 400 (3 returning starters had an OBP of 400 or better last year).
Leon Landry, So., 214 AB, 271/308/435
Speaking of someone who should draw a few more walks. Landry steals bases at a 12 of 17 clip, which strangely enough, is the exact stolen base numbers for Helenihi. Landry simply became a different player in the postseason last year, making spectacular play after spectacular play, and was named to the All-Regional Team. If that improvement is for real and not just a two weekend mirage, we have ourselves one hell of a centerfielder. This is as good as place as any to now point out all three outfield starters hit lefty, which should create matchup problems all year. Since Gibbs switch hits, Mainieri can go the entire lineup lefty/righty to make situational relief a nightmare against us.
Blake Dean, Jr., 269 AB, 353/432/665
Simply put, Blake Dean is friggin' awesome. He's one of the very best players in the entire country, and last year he put up video game numbers. He even can steal bases and play good defense. There's nothing Dean can't do short of work the concession stands and valet the cars. Heck, he doesn't even need to improve his numbers, which I'm not sure is even possible. A lot of this year is going to be judged not only on if we get to Omaha, but how well we do when we get there. And a lot of that pressure rests on Dean's very capable shoulders. He is simply the best player at any sport at LSU right now. Let's just enjoy his final year before he goes pro.
Chad Jones, So., 13 AB, 154/214/231
Nicholas Pontiff, Sr., 71 AB, 239/289/338
Johnny Dishon, So., 50 AB, 240/333/500
Mikie Mahtook, Fr., Louisiana All-State
Chad Jones was supposed to be the two-sport star but his baseball career never really took off and it is widely assumed he is not going to be on the team come opening day so he can concentrate on football. There's always room for stud athletes, but there's also a roster cap, and it's pretty likely Jones will be the victim of it.
Which leaves LSU with two options on the bench, both right handed hitters. Combined, Pontiff and Dishon combined for 76 games and 24 starts, so it's not like they haven't gotten a shot. Nicholas simply isn't the player Wally was, and I hate to say it, doesn't add a whole lot of value. Which means Dishon is our only reliable bat off the bench. He has decent gap power and a terrific set of wheels, even if he does strike out in over one-third of his at bats. If he gets that under control, he could compete for more than midweek starts and pinch hitting duties, but a regular starting gig. Dishon's a better hitter than Ochinko, so on the days Gibbs is behind the plate, Dishon may see time in the outfield or at DH. Having too many talented hitters is a good problem to have.