The LSU offense enters the season with some uncertainty. LSU’s 2015 offense was powered by a .523 slugging percentage and a .355 average, which produced 6.5 runs per game. The 2016 Tiger offense slugged just .475 and hit .316 and averaged 5.7 runs per game.
To make matters worse, there isn’t an apparent solution to LSU’s offense, especially in the power department. The departures of Bianka Bell, Sandra Simmons and Kellsi Kloss leave a large vacancy in the Tiger lineup. Bell and Kloss in particular were two of LSU’s three power bats accounting for 45% of 63 home runs the Tigers hit last season. Simmons was not a big power threat, but became the LSU leadoff hitter in the middle of the season and jump started what was a struggling Tiger offense.
Even with those departures, the Tiger lineup isn’t going to be nine new faces. Five starter return from last year:
Sahvanna Jaquish (SR, R/R)
Although Beth Torina has not hinted at a batting order, you can probably pencil in Jaquish for the three spot. Jaquish is the returning leader in almost every major offensive category. Her power totals took a bit of a dip, but she still finished second on the team with 13 home runs and a .632 slugging percentage. Even with that power drop, Jaquish had a career best 44 walks and .463 on-base percentage. If there is a concern going into this season it is, as LSU's most established power threat, opposing teams will pitch around her in favor of a less threatening matchup.
Bailey Landry (JR, L/R)
Landry was a solid hitter, adding value at the top and in the middle of the lineup. Her average suffered an eye-popping decline, going from .426 in 2015 to .324 in 2016. However, she was more of a speed threat with a career best 11 steals. Landry will hit some doubles but hasn’t put up high home run totals in her time with the Tigers. The hope for 2017 would be that she can regain more of her 2015 form and set up for Jaquish at the top of the lineup.
Amber Serrett (SO, R/R)
One of the surprises from 2016 was the play Serrett. The freshman was one of LSU’s hottest hitters in the first part of the season going 23-of-47. Unfortunately, she hit just 7-of-35 during the postseason. Serrett did not show a ton of power with a just .398 slugging percentage but still found ways to consistently reach base. Serrett was almost always used in the bottom of the lineup but could be given a shot higher in the order considering she is one of the better returning hitters.
Connie Quinn (SR, R/R)
Quinn started out the year strong with a hit in 25 of her first 47 at bats. Although she was not able to maintain that pace, she had a career best 31 walks and her .403 on-base percentage is 2nd best amongst the returning starters. Quinn’s hot start and her speed (11 steals) put her at the top of the Tiger lineup for a chunk of the season, before being replaced by Simmons. With Simmons graduated, Quinn is a favorite to leadoff this season.
Emily Griggs (JR, L/R)
One of the few locks in the Tiger lineup last year was Griggs hitting in the two spot. Griggs wasn't an offensive force, but she split up the righties at the top of the lineup and hit a respectable .294 while stealing six bases. Griggs is another player who will make a case for hitting in the one or two spot. If she can’t lockdown one of those top two slots, Griggs will probably be moved to the bottom of the lineup as she hasn't demonstrated the power needed for a spot in the middle of the lineup.
Those make up the returning players. Now it might be first instinct to think that, because a bulk of the power has departed, LSU’s offense is going to struggle. However, Torina has dropped hints about a potential shift in offensive philosophy, with more emphasis on speed. Without considering the defensive implication for the moment, there are favorites for the for the remaining spots.
Allie Walljasper (JR, R/R)
The pitcher was also a valuable hitter off the bench. She went 18-for-81 with three home runs and nine walks, seeing some spot action as LSU’s DP. Walljasper wasn’t really taken as a serious option as a hitter until April when LSU’s offense went into the tank, but she filled in admirably when called upon.
Elyse Thornhill (SO, L/R)
Thornhill's .242 average and .323 slugging are concerning. She played 34 games last year including the postseason, most of any non starter. Optimistically, Thornhill used her freshman season to build up some confidence, which will translate to more success at the plate this season.
Shemiah Sanchez (SO, R/R)
At the start of last season, Sanchez was battling Quinn for the job at second base and was one of the more highly regarded freshman in her class. When Quinn got off to a hot start, Sanchez never found a regular spot in the lineup. Sanchez wasn’t terrible, going 4-of-17 with five RBI’s in her first seven games played, but those totals weren't nearly enough to overtake Quinn.
Nicky Dawson (FR, L/R)
Dawson is probably the biggest name in a very good recruiting class. The Baton Rouge native has been has been praised for her freakish athleticism, most notably by former LSU safety Ryan Clark. She is a decorated basketball and track standout, and holds a blackbelt in taekwondo. Her best tool is her speed, with a Louisiana record 49 triples. As a senior in high school, Dawson led the nation in steals with 58.
Aliyah Andrews (FR, L/R)
Aliyah is the younger sister of former LSU standout AJ Andrews. The senior Andrews had 25 steals her final season in Baton Rouge, a total which no Tiger was able to replicate in 2016. This isn’t to say that Aliyah will be that much of a threat on the base paths. However, Torina did mention Aliyah (and Dawson) when discussing how this could be one of her fastest lineups, perhaps meaning Aliyah is a candidate for early playing time.
Amanda Doyle (FR, R/R)
Doyle was recently invited to continue training with the USA junior national team. The invitation puts her in a position to make the final roster later in the summer of 2017. The infielder potentially brings some much needed power. Doyle comes to LSU after logging a .775 slugging percentage and .449 on-base percentage as a senior in high school.
Sydney Springfield (FR, R/R)
When Springfield signed with LSU, Torina was quick to point out Springfield’s power. Springfield was the offensive player of the year in her district as a senior in high school, after hitting .514 with five home runs and 20 RBI’s.
Those are probably the favorites to see regular playing time this season. Keep in mind, not every player was listed. A Randi Provost or a Sydney Loupe could factor into this equation too, but they don’t have a substantial body of work to examine nor the potential upside of the freshman. Of course, defense (subject of the next post) will have a heavy influence in who starts.
Optimistically, this could be an amazing offense. LSU returns several solid hitters and combined with a little speed or power from the freshman, could be a decent offense. The 2017 team probably wont be as powerful as the 2015 or 2016 teams, but could be just as productive even if the runs have to be more “manufactured.”