From last year’s infield preview:
2016: .324 BA, .440 SLG, .417 OBP, .740 K/BB (20/27), 39 RBI, 2 HR
Well, he did it. His stats take a back seat to the presence he brought to the team, however. Last year’s team DESPERATELY needed a veteran to lead the team emotionally and Kramer did that exceptionally. When things were going good for the Tigers, Kramer was right there being vocal and charging the entire dugout up. When things weren’t, Kramer (who had unfairly been stuck as the whiny coaches’ kid) instilled a quiet confidence to the team. If you don’t believe me, look no further than the infamous Rally Possum game: First, he catches a Jake Fraley frozen rope with his mouth, spilling blood on the Alex Box Stadium/Skip Bertman Field dirt and refuses to leave the game. He would later have to get braces to correct the impact. Kramer would single to extend the bottom of the 9th rally and beat out an infield single in the 10th that would force a bad throw to third that would end the game and thrust the Rally Possum into internet lore.
While he didn’t break any records, Kramer improved in literally every category possible: not only was he consistent at the plate, he was consistently good. And as good as he was at the plate, he was even better in the field, picking right up where Alex Bregman left off with sterling shortstop play. I think the old Kramer who was overaggressive and underpowered at the plate and prone to the yips in the field is long gone, and that’s possible the best news for LSU possible.
2016: .329 BA, .403 SLG, .427 OBP, .719 K/BB (23/32), 27 RBI, 1 HR
We knew that Cole Freeman was a solid table setter coming in from Delgado Community College, but nobody pegged him as the team leader in two of the three slashes, batting average and on base percentage. If anything Tiger fans were ready to see Cole’s stellar fielding that won him a Golden Glove at the JUCO level. His fielding was indeed solid, but from time to time he let a ball eat him up. The 5’9” second bagger has a natural chemistry with his shortstop Kramer Robertson and serves as a catalyst for Robertson’s confidence and demeanor for the whole team to follow after, in addition to combining for some pretty sweet double play turns. Freeman’s consistent bat and light feet put pressure on opposing pitchers early on, stealing 26 bases on 35 attempts, good for second on the team behind Jake Fraley and third in the SEC.
Speaking of Fraley, Freeman will be wearing the #8 jersey for the 2017 season, a number handed down from player to player ala #7 in football that started with Mikie Mahtook giving it to Mason Katz, who left it for Alex Bregman, who begat Jake Fraley.
2016: .293 BA, .410 SLG, .419 OBP, 1.40 K/BB (28/20), 33 RBI, 5 HR
Part of the “Bad At Trivia” squad, Bryce Jordan probably has you beat on the weirdest claim to fame: he holds the national high school record for hit by pitches, both in a season (35) and all-time (67).
That...propensity followed him to LSU, taking his complimentary base 23 times last year That placed him third on the most sought-after list in the college baseball world. If HBPs counted in K/BB ratios, his would skyrocket all the way to .651. Some say that drinking an inordinate amount of water from Lake “Lake Chuck” Charles has developed an element called Barbinium in his bones, to which cork is magnetically attracted to.
It doesn’t matter how he gets on base, so long as he does.
Like his outfielder twin, Bryce is pretty feast or famine at the plate. When he’s on he can really turn on one and hit the cover off of the ball, but last year he didn’t drop as many balls into the Left Field Landing as he probably would have preferred. Still, his bat is too good to keep out of the lineup. Because of that and the fact that he’s fairly handy in the field, BryJo assumes the first base position. He won’t make any Freddie Freeman stretches, but for an offensive player he can flash some leather.
2016: .287 BA, .371 SLG, .417 OBP, .656 K/BB (21/32), 14 RBI, 1 HR
For a position that has been a black hole for a vast majority of this decade (Christian Ibarra notwithstanding), Chris Reid brought some relative consistency to third base as a freshman. There were some rough patches as Reid ended the season with a .909 fielding percentage, but sticking a freshman on the hot corner is a good way to find those patches.
Whatever growing pain Reid had in the field was made acceptable with his bat. Again, that line is pretty good for a freshman to post in the SEC. Reid wasn’t great in any one area, he was just solid all across the board. Which is fine! At some point in building your perfect lineup you’re going to need a guy that can do a little bit of everything. Ok, so maybe he could use a little more pop in his bat. Again, freshman. If Reid continues along his current development, he could be raking on a daily basis by May.
2016: .150 BA, .350 SLG, .227 OBP, 2.00 K/BB (4/2), 6 RBI, 1 HR
Bryce Adams got limited work in 2016, appearing in 13 games and only starting three. Adams has some serious pop to his bat, with his only home run in 2016 plating four runs against Cincinnati during the opening series. Adams just doesn’t have one position that he plays well enough to crack the starting lineup. However he is a pretty big weapon to have on the bench and could see an uptick in playing time as a pinch hitter or a emergency plan.
Bryce Jordan’s spot at first will be challenged by Slaughter, the #1 prospect in the state of Louisiana last year. Slaughter is an athletic defender who can rake.
No, Jake Slaughter is an ATHLETIC DEFENDER. WHO CAN RAKE.
Still, I’m skeptical of Slaughter starting over BryJo on Opening Night. I think to see that Slaughter will have to crush pre-season practice while Jordan starts off in a funk. Either way, you’ll see a lot of Slaughter this year and hopefully he lives up the billing.
Chris Reid’s job at third isn’t safe either.
Smith is a smooth fielder, like really damn smooth. If he doesn’t win the Opening Day spot, he will get midweek starts and relief appearances. Not as sold on his hitting as I am with Slaughter’s, but I trust his CALLICK HIGH pedigree, even if I don’t personally respect it.
Templet likely won’t figure much into the mix in 2017, but he projects as a power hitting corner outfielder, which seemed to be a theme with Mainieri this recruiting cycle. In addition to his pop, Templet is an excellent judge of balls and strikes. Templet needs some more development before he can reach his full stride at the plate, but you’ll see him get some work during the midweeks.