At the heart of LSU’s run to the College World Series Final were the “Fab Four”, the combination of Jared Poche’, Kramer Robertson, Cole Freeman and Greg Deichmann, all of whom spurned major league offers to return to LSU for their senior year.
Now they have departed from Baton Rouge, and that creates many holes that need to be filled as three of the four players were position players.
Looking ahead, the answers to LSU’s newly-minted holes in the field are returning, for the most part.
Sophomore Josh Smith was impressive in his freshman campaign at third base and serviceable as a hitter considering his experience, in reward for his efforts he is all but a shoe-in to be the successor to Kramer Robertson at shortstop.
Of course, filling that hole creates another. In his press conference Wednesday, LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said that Jake Slaughter will be taking over either second base or third base, filling in the open position there. Exactly what position Slaughter plays will likely be decided in the fall, but I’d imagine Slaughter will take over for Smith at third.
“I certainly feel that Jake Slaughter can play second base or third base defensively and at minimum be adequate,” Mainieri said. “At best, he can be outstanding. I also think his best days with the bat are ahead of him.
“I think Jake has a lot of athletic ability and I think he learned a lot from this year from a mental standpoint, the way to carry himself and how to do different things and I expect Jake to come back just as a more grown up person, more confident in himself.”
This move makes sense because Brandt Broussard is coming in from Delgado Community College. Just like his predecessor Cole Freeman, Broussard is a Delgado second baseman coming up to Baton Rouge and also like Freeman, he is appropriately scrappy at 5-10, 160.
“Broussard had a tremendous year last year for Delgado,” Mainieri said. “Wanna say he hit .425 and led the team in just about every category and only made about five or six errors throughout the season.”
“Cole Freeman hit .380 in his sophomore year at Delgado, Brandt Broussard hit .425. Broussard runs a 6.7 60 and Cole Freeman ran a 6.5 60. So he’s not quite as fast as Cole but a 6.7 is well above average.”
Nick Coomes is expected to hold on to his spot at first base if he can recover from his hip surgery in time for Opening Day, but catcher is open.
LSU brought in three catchers in this class, and the player Mainieri spoke most highly of was Hunter Feduccia, another Barbe product by way of LSU-Eunice. Braden Doughty from Denham Springs and Mason Doolittle also round out the class, but the experience of Feduccia will likely put him ahead of the other two freshman catchers.
Mainieri, who is keeping close tabs on his player’s summer ball assignments, was floored by Feduccia’s summer.
“He is absolutely tearing up the Northwoods League with the Rockford Ricketts,” Mainieri said. “He’s had 10 consecutive games with multiple hits and during that stretch I think he’s hit six home runs. So he’s tearing it up and throwing out base stealers and doing really well.”
In the outfield, Antoine Duplantis and Zach Watson are all but lock ins to keep their positions and the hole left by Greg Deichmann is sure to be filled by highly touted freshman Daniel Cabrera. Cabrera was named the 82nd-best overall prospect in the MLB Draft by Baseball America and is coming off of his senior year at Parkview Baptist (by way of John Curtis) where he batted over .500 and was an all-state selection.
“I think we’re getting a really great ballplayer here,” Mainieri said, bluntly, about Cabrera.
Oh, and Cabrera is also a left handed pitcher, which is an area that LSU needs to shore up somewhere down the line. Mainieri was not committal to playing him both ways, but did imply that Cabrera will be given the chance in fall ball to play both ways.
As far as DH goes, Mainieri will probably just ride the hot bat unless somebody impresses in fall ball. As of now it will be likely be a Jordan, probably Bryce. Bryce Jordan is coming off of a knee injury that caused him to miss the entire 2017 season and Mainieri is not keen to convert a player recovering from a knee injury to catcher, leaving Beau Jordan out of the mix along with Chris Reid. Rankin Woley is having surgery to decrease the pressure placed on his nerves from his massive muscles in his arms, which affects his swing.
Fall ball is still months away and everything is subject to change but as of right now LSU’s lineup should look something like this: