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2016 LSU Baseball Season Preview: Infield

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No returning starters, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Papi
Papi
Adam Henderson

LSU was absolutely loaded on the dirt last year. Obviously there was Bregman who deserved all the hype he got (he's already gotten a spring training invite from the Astros), but there also was the vastly underrated Connor Hale. Chis Chinea and Jared Foster didn't exactly play sterling defense, but their bats more than made up for their shortcomings. And of course, the Maurepas Masher, Livingston Parish's own Kade Scivicque, who was an offensive catcher, and we all know how rare those are.

But...they're all gone. And that's not a bad thing at all. The new infield this year has more experience than you realize.

#2 Michael Papierski (SO, S/L)

2015: .214 AVG, .333 SLG, .426 OBP, 10 RBI

Even last year, there was no doubt that Papierski was going to be the heir to the catcher position. Defensively he may be better than Scivicque, and that is not something I'll say lightly. He's good at blocking balls, but his real strength is his pinpoint aim on the ICBM he calls his right arm. As a part of my job on the Tarp Crew, I'd arrive to the Box when Scivicque and Papierski would be running though catching drills and I don't recall a single ball getting past him. I'm quite sure he'd reach the low 80's from his knees if he completely decides to forgo accuracy. It will not take long for teams to realize stealing bases is going to be a futile effort.

However, Papierski is a catcher and at the end of the day guys like Scivicque are the exception and not the rule. Don't expect a 6-7 home run year out of Pap, he's still a catcher and that's still a defensive position. What the switch-hitter can do is work counts, drawing 21 walks to just one single strikeout in 42 plate appearances. That's how you get the disparity between a .426 OBP and .214 AVG.

Another plus to Papierski is that for a catcher, he's relatively quick. His 6'3" 204 frame doesn't scream catcher, and on the basepaths that's evident. He's not Mark Laird fast, but if a ball gets into the gap, he can get to second standing up and can get to third.

#28 Jordan Romero (JR, R/R)

2015: .321 AVG, .458 SLG, .516 OBP, 33 RBI

Yes, he had an OBP that's above the .500 mark at LSU-Eunice last year. No, your Scivicque comparisons are not completely wrong. The former Louisiana 5A Player Of The Year knocked 13 doubles and 6 homers (the same amount Kade had) at Eunice last year on the way to the Bengals' NJCAA Division II National Championship.

Despite being the NJCAA Div II Gold Glove winner, Romero is the most likely candidate for the DH spot in the lineup because his bat is too valuable to lose but Papierski just may be better at playing catcher. Either way, look for Romero to have an immediate impact on the lineup. Another possibility is that Papierski will catch on the weekends and be given the midweeks off, allowing Romero to get some time behind the plate in.

#25 Bryce Jordan (SO, R/R)

2015: .130 AVG, .261 SLG, .290 OBP, 6 RBI

Outfielder Beau's twin, Bryce is a catcher by trade who may be squeezed out of that spot due to Papierski and Romero showing more promise at the position. If I had to guess where he'd land, it would probably be 1st or 3rd base, with a lean towards first, to better mask and fielding deficiencies he may have in the transition.

CRAZY STAT ALERT

Granted he had a limited number of appearances, but last year Bryce was hit by pitch in well over 10% of his plate appearances and in high school set a record for being hit by pitches. Dude is a ball magnet.

#21 Trent Forshag (FR, R/R)

A preferred walk-on from Jesuit, the New Orleans native will largely serve as a four-year developmental player at catcher. I hate to call him a "project" but that label isn't incorrect. Likely won't see the field much outside of a few midweek appearances, maybe a start if he earns it.

#17 Chris Reid (FR, L/R)

Okay, Chris Reid is a project, full stop. The St. Michael product played third and short in high school and Mainieri has every intention of building him into a catcher to add depth at the position in further years. I think Reid will be ok with that for now, as he will also play punter for the football team.

#3 Kramer Robertson (JR, R/R)

2015: .232 AVG, .282 SLG, .338 OBP, 5 RBI

Kramer Robertson's time at LSU thus far has been...embattled. He's played in the purple and gold for two years now, and in both years he has lost his starting job at second base. His freshman year was going fine until he started to get the yips and Connor Hale started getting the nod more and more at second. Last year Kramer was much better on defense, but Jared Foster's bat was seen as too great to lose and was converted to second base when Kramer just didn't seem to be coming around as a hitter. That added with an elbow injury was too much to overcome.

If there's ever a time where Kramer can bear down and lock up his starting spot, it's now. He's not going to be asked to hit .350 and send balls to the batter's eye, just be consistent at the plate and play the defense he is well and capable of playing.

#7 Greg Deichmann (SO, L/R)

2015: .000 AVG, .000 SLG, .273 OBP, 0 RBI

The Citizen Snips of 2015, Deichmann played in just 10 games last year. Walking three times in eight at bats (scoring once), the sophomore is all but guaranteed to have more of an impact this season. If there is someone likely to show up and overtake Kramer at second for a third straight year, it's likely to be Deichmann.

#4 Bryce Adams (JR, R/R)

2015: .417 AVG, .667 SLG, .468 OBP, 45 RBI

Cody Ducote was the power bat of Delgado last year, but Bryce Adams was a loud second place. Adams was just shy of Ducote's mark by one home run, one triple, four doubles, and two singles. Adams will come in immediately and compete for a spot in the lineup, likely dueling with Romero for DH duties while throwing his hat in the ring for first base. The only downside to Adams' game is that he strikes out...a lot. Like 42 strikeouts in 2015 a lot. And he'll be face much tougher competition on the mound, which is slightly troubling for a guy who was feast or famine at the JUCO level.

#22 Cole Freeman (JR, R/R)

2015: .385 AVG, .515 SLG, .475 OBP, 23 RBI

Mainieri chose the right word when he called Freeman a "table setter". Freeman is great at applying pressure on a pitcher and his defense as well as ratcheting down and increasing the pressure. The teammate of Ducote and Adams stole 15 bases last year for a Delgado team that didn't run a lot, especially when compared to LSU (Bregman lead the team with 38 steals on 48 attempts). Should Wofford not be able to start at third, Freeman will likely man the hot corner.

#10 Trey Dawson (FR, R/R)

Everybody, meet the man who will stand where Alex Bregman stood. He's good, good enough to have the potential to be as good defensively at short as Bregman was. And he's proficient with a stick in his hands, but stands to add some development to his swing. I usually have a rule about utterly ignoring high school stats, because it's nowhere near the quality of play of a power five conference, but I'll pull that curtain aside to present this wonderful nugget: In his entire high school career, Dawson only struck out 50 times. He had 488 plate appearances. That's barely above .102 and what you look for out of a freshman when recruiting.

Now again, he is a freshman and you should not treat him the way you look at Ben Simmons, but relish the opportunity to watch him wear purple and gold for three years.

#9 O'Neal Lochridge (FR, R/R)

First off, I'm going to start off by swearing to you that this ISN'T Mark Laird:

I swear. Yes he wears the same number and bears an incredible resemblance to him, but I repeat, this is NOT Mark Laird.

Now, O'Mark Lairdridge (h/t zrau) possess a good pinpoint arm and is a good enough hitter for a freshman. By all intents and purposes, Notmark Notlaird is good with a bat and will be a key player for the Tigers at third. Just likely not in 2016 because there is just too much depth and experience on the table. He'll play, but his freshman year will likely be a developmental year.