Now that our preview of the entire roster is complete, let's try to figure out the starters from the bench players, even if just for Opening Day. I realize that the inner machinations of Paul Mainieri's mind are an enigma, but let's give it a shot anyway.
Starting Pitcher - Alex Lange
Catcher - Michael Papierski
Papierski is simply too good behind the plate to leave on the bench. LSU has had good to great catchers in the recent era, dating back to newly hired Coordinator of Baseball Operations Micah Gibbs to Kade Scivicque, who was incredibly rare as an offensive catcher who was also stellar defensively. The
LSU AAA call up LSU-Eunice transfer Jordan Romero's plus .500 OBP was the only real challenger for the position, and he'll be added to the running for the DH spot because of it.
First Base - Bryce Jordan
I think Bryce Jordan will be opening day starter, but the competition between Jordan and Bryce Adams will be ongoing for some time, potentially into conference play. Adams played lights out at Delgado last year, with the exception of his high strikeout number (42). I wrote earlier this week that a strikeout number like that is concerning when a player is making a jump from Junior College pitching to the SEC gauntlet. Sure, Adams may be in a completely different spot in the lineup and his attitude at the plate may be different, but the talent disparity is too big for me to overlook. Adams joins Romero in the running for the DH.
Second Base - Greg Deichmann
It pains me to say, but everything I've heard from fall ball and the feedback from my previous articles leads me to believe that Kramer Robertson likely won't even get a chance to start at second before he gets overtaken for the spot, which so far has happened annually in his college career. Deichmann rarely appeared last year, but is defensively solid and his bat will come around eventually.
Third Base - Cole Freeman
I personally like Brody Wofford, but Freeman's college experience nudges him over the true freshman. Freeman is a solid top of the order guy who flirted with a .500 OBP last year and is a monster on the basepaths. Wofford will get a chance to prove himself, but Freeman brings way to much to the table. 3rd base isn't called the hot corner for no reason, experience goes the further here than anywhere else on the field.
Short Stop - Trey Dawson
The worst kept secret in Baton Rouge, Trey Dawson will be standing where Alex Bregman stood for a while barring a dive south of the Mendoza line and abundant errors, all of which I am willing to bet a large sum of money will not occur with Trey Dawson. Dawson is the real deal, and sure there will likely be some growing pains, that's what naturally happens when a true freshman starts at short, but I think Dawson will do a great job and have a successful year.
Left Field - Antoine Duplantis
Cody Ducote is the obvious choice for this position offensively, but frankly his defense is...not Gold Glove caliber. I definitely think Ducote will get some work both in the field and at DH, but on opening night I can see Mainieri opting to see how the true freshman from Lafayette survives under the lights. Basically, Duplantis is Mark Laird 2.0, a defensive starter who could use some work at the plate.
Center Field - Jake Fraley
The only returning defensive starter from last year, Fraley is sliding over from left to center. Fraley had a solid year last year and only stands to improve on the success he had. He will need to be more consistent at the plate, and that's putting it lightly because for the first few weeks while the rest of the lineup gels, Fraley may be called upon to provide the bulk of the offensive payload.
Right Field - Beau Jordan
Good in spot duty last year, Jordan will likely be your starting right fielder to hide any fielding deficiencies he may have in order to keep his production in the lineup. Mainieri has made it no secret he's a fan of Beau, and really there's not many players that can keep a developed Beau Jordan out of a lineup. It may takes a few weeks for him to get the ball rolling, but I expect big things out of Beau this year.
Designated Hitter - Jordan Romero
So in the end Jordan Romero won the race between him, Bryce Adams, and Cody Ducote, but expect it to be a revolving door this year and will be occupied by many different players. I just think plus .500 OBP is too good to turn down. I'm a huge fan of somebody that has a ton of pop in their bat but understand that getting on base is the name of the game. Like I said before, in an ideal world, there would be a situation where Romero DHs on Friday, sits on Saturday, and plays catcher on Sunday, giving Papierski a day off, turning to Trent Forshag on the midweeks. But as we know, that's not how baseball or the world works.
Now that we have my predictions on who's starting, let's add a layer to
how wrong I'm going to be this by giving you the batting order:
9-Be Jordan (R)
5-Br Jordan (R)
When it comes to building lineups, I'm a huge fan of resetting it after the cleanup batter and treating it like two (or three) different lineups inside of one. Ideally, Freeman works for Duplantis, who offers a bunt option to advance Freeman, and the meat of the lineup with Fraley and Romero knock him in. Then Dawson, a fairly balanced hitter, assumes the same role and philosophy that Freeman had at the plate, and the same with Deichmann/Duplantis. Only difference is after the big bat in Beau Jordan goes up, the lineup resets again, only much more condensed with Papierski and Bryce Jordan. Also, this lineup presents a good alternation between right and left handed batters, forcing the opposition to burn more arms playing the matchup game.