Jalen Rose, Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson. Those are the players that constitute the Fab Five, the 1991 Michigan Wolverines basketball team.
Kramer Robertson, Cole Freeman, Greg Deichmann, and Jared Poche’. Those are the players that LSU head baseball coach Paul Mainieri dubbed “The Fab Four” on the 2017 LSU baseball team. Each players brings something unique to the table. Kramer Robertson originally started his first two seasons at LSU before losing his spot until last year, when he assumed the role as the emotional leader. His double play counterpart Cole Freeman transferred in from Delgado and lead the team in hitting, and Greg Deichmann served as the power bat. The lone pitcher, Jared Poche’, has been a weekend starter for all three years he has been on campus.
All four players spurned major league offers to stay in Baton Rouge to finish their college careers, and Mainieri is mighty glad that they did.
“Having those four guys back just elevates your confidence in your team because of not just the experience and the ability but the leadership that they bring back to your team”, Mainieri said in his pre-season press conference.
Cole Freeman was the highest Tiger picked to return, an 18th round draft pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“It’s LSU. It’s a hard place to leave,” said Cole Freeman when asked about his decision to return. “I had the option of leaving, and we had the talk and the number it was going to take (to get me to leave). Honestly, it was going to take a lot for me to get pulled away from here, but I couldn’t be any more excited about being back for this year.”
Returning some key cogs after having to replace eight starters just a year ago is huge for the Tigers, but some concerns still linger. In the past two years, the Tigers’ lack of a third and fourth starter have cost the Tigers in the postseason, but this year Paul Mainieri looks to make sure that isn’t the case:
“I can tell you with a great deal of confidence, let me say it that way, we're going to develop a third starter, and potentially even a fourth starter.”
The primary candidates for those roles are Zack Hess and Eric Walker, two freshman pitchers. You can read more about Hess and Walker in our season preview here. The skipper for the Tigers stated that the development of a third and fourth starter is more critical to 2018 since they will (likely) lose Alex Lange to the MLB Draft and Jared Poche’ to graduation, but understood the impact it has come May.
With the arrival of media day comes the arrival of the initial depth chart and all the changes it brings. Here’s a rundown of the notables
- Jake Slaughter is projected to be starting at first base. While Bryce Jordan is adept at the position, Slaughter projects to be a much better fielder and despite being a freshman, his bat is perceived as too good to leave on the bench.
- Bryce Jordan assumes the designated hitter spot, behind him newcomers Mason Templet and Rankin Woley. Jordan Romero, who is listed third on the catcher depth chart behind Michael Papierski and LSU-Eunice transfer Nick Coomes, does not appear as a designated hitter on the depth chart.
- Chris Reid is nowhere to found under third base, listed instead as the backup first and second baseman. Freshman Josh Smith is your projected starter on the hot corner with Slaughter as his backup. You can read about the freshman corner infielders here.
- Antoine Duplantis slides over from right field to center, which Mainieri and Duplantis both referred to as his “natural position” to replace the departed Jake Fraley. Taking Duplantis’ place under The Intimidator is Greg Deichmann, the Tigers’ power bat in 2016. Mainieri has a good gut feeling about the move, stating that “the last time I had this feeling about moving a guy to another position was in 2009 when I moved DJ LeMahieu from shortstop to second base.” DJ LeMahieu won a Gold Glove in 2014 and is the reigning NL batting champion.
- Left field is the only position currently in an open competition. Beau Jordan is the returning starter, but he ended 2016 on a cold tear and and as Mainieri put it “had an average summer” up in Cape Cod, while Brennan Breaux’s improvement has been “remarkable, with the sophomore adding 10-15 pounds from his freshman campaign.
Press Conference Transcript (video when availible)
For your eyes only, the rest of the depth chart. pic.twitter.com/BGNyrhmd6K— Adam Henderson (@AdamATVS) January 27, 2017
Here's your first look at the 2017 Fighting Tigers! pic.twitter.com/SofPriKOgJ— LSU Baseball (@LSUbaseball) January 27, 2017
Kramer Robertson wins today's popularity contest pic.twitter.com/G7zgFvo6lx— Adam Henderson (@AdamATVS) January 27, 2017