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2018 LSU Baseball Preview: The Lineup

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LSU loses a lot, but the bats should be okay

2017 Division I Men's College World Series - Florida v LSU - Game 2
The twins are back!
Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

LSU came up two games short of the national title last season, making a powerful run through Omaha only to be stymied by conference rival, Florida. The most frustrating part of coming that close and losing is not just that we lost to the friggin’ Gators of all people, but that the team lost more than its fair share of talent to graduation and the draft.

That’s the way it goes. Paul Mainieri was building the program to a crescendo that resulted in a legit national title contender last season, and it will take some time to replace the core of that team. That’s the bad news.

The good news is, it’s not like LSU suddenly stinks. The program will likely take a step back, but that means this is a really good top 25 team that should contend for Omaha if things go right. A lot of pieces need to come together to make it back to Omaha, but it is still the goal for a program like LSU.

Let’s look at the offensive side of the ball first, going by position. Lefties are marked with an asterisk (switch hitters with a plus sign) and the slash line reads AVG/OBP/SLG

CATCHER

*Hunter Feduccia (Jr): JUCO transfer
Nick Coomes (Sr): 303/401/402
Braden Doughty (Fr)

Feduccia comes from LSU-Eunice where he provided both excellent defense and middle of the order offensive production. He is slotted right now to be the team’s cleanup hitter, a lot of pressure to put on a newcomer. He has to take over critical defensive and offensive duties right away. How his adjustment goes will tell a lot about how this season is going to go. Feduccia took a bat to his catching hand in one of the first days of spring practice and has a hairline fracture. He might miss the starting weekend.

Nick Coomes doesn’t seem to have a starting job anywhere in the lineup right now, but he posted an 803 OPS in 132 at bats over 37 starts last season. I’ve got a feeling he will force his way into the lineup again. This is a young team, and it’s going to need a senior leader. With Feduccia’s injury, Mainieri is hinting Coomes may start at catcher until the injury clears.

1ST BASE

Bryce Jordan (Jr): Medical redshirt
Jake Slaughter (So): 257/358/351
Nick Coomes (Sr): 303/401/402

There’s a plethora of options at first. Bryce lost a season to injury, so we have the odd circumstance of Bryce being a classification behind his twin brother. Bryce was a 2016 1st team All-SEC player as well as an All-Star in the 2016 Cape Cod League. He’s got more power than Beau and a bizarre knack for getting hit by the pitch (23 in 2016). Bryce is a welcome bat back in the order and he’s going to play somewhere, though his defense is a bit of a concern.

2ND BASE

Hal Hughes (Fr)
Brandt Broussard (Jr): JUCO transfer
*Chris Reid (Jr): 208/394/208

I’m pretty sure Brandt Broussard is penciled in as the starter right now, but I’m making the prediction he’s not going to be hold off the freshman for long. Hughes is an outstanding defender and a bit of a baseball prodigy. He didn’t spurn Oklahoma, located in his hometown and where his dad used to coach, to sit on the bench. However, Broussard was an on-base machine at LSU’s AA JUCO affiliate Delgado CC and has speed to burn on the bases. Those are useful skills to have, and even if he does lose his starting gig, Broussard will still see action as a pinch runner and hitter.

3RD BASE

Jake Slaughter (So): 257/358/351
Hal Hughes (Fr)
*Chris Reid (Jr)

Jake Slaughter was supposed to come in and be a dominant power bat, but it took a while for him to develop as a freshman. He only had 3 homers last season, so I’d look for him to at least double that total and start getting that slugging percentage into the power hitter range. He simply wasn’t ready yet last year, and having a year on campus should foster some improvement at the plate. Moving across the diamond gives him some room to show of his athleticism in the field. Reid is a utility guy who provides a decent emergency blanket. But if Reid is starting at third, something has gone wrong.

SHORTSTOP

*Josh Smith (So): 281/407/409
Hal Hughes (Fr)
*Chris Reid (Jr)

Smith successfully conquered LSU’s traditional demons at third base last season, making the Freshman All-American Team. Now, all he has to do now is get even better, while moving over to shortstop. Smith was one of the Tigers’ best players in the postseason, showing that he still has room to grow and develop. He is currently penciled in as the leadoff hitter, so his list of responsibilities grows even more. He goes from a guy we hoped would give us some lagniappe to a top of the order, middle of the defense player this team is absolutely relying on to produce at an elite level. No pressure.

OUTFIELD

*Daniel Cabrera (Fr)
+Zach Watson (So): 317/376/507
*Antoine Duplantis (Jr): 316/358/400
Beau Jordan (Sr): 268/351/381
*Nick Webre (Fr)

Paul Mainieri is entrusting left field to super freshman recruit Daniel Cabrera. Cabrera is not supposed to be here, as he was a top 100 prospect in last year’s draft who started to slide due to signability concerns. Still, talents like him always sign. Except this time, he didn’t. He played in the Cal Ripken League this summer and hit .339, belted 3 homers with 21 RBI, swiped 11 bases, and was rated the #2 pro prospect in the entire league. The kid can play.

Zach Watson reprises his role as best player in purple and gold this season. As a freshman, he destroyed the SEC and eventually the best teams in the nation at Omaha. Players are supposed to make their biggest improvement between their first and second seasons, but I don’t see how. He arrived fully formed like he sprung forth from the head of Zeus.

Duplantis isn’t chopped liver either. He started 70 games last year and was the team’s second leading hitter behind Watson. He was a plus defender and stole 19 bases on 23 attempts. The infield might have some question marks, but the outfield is set. And that’s not even counting Beau Jordan, who started 48 games last season and will certainly see action if, as nothing else, a right bat to break up this string of lefties. When a virtual starter is forced to the bench after a wave of graduation, that says a lot about the talent on the squad.

DESIGNATED HITTER

Beau Jordan (Sr): 268/351/381
*Nick Webre (Fr)
Nick Coomes (Sr): 303/401/402

Beau Jordan will almost certainly start the season as our designated hitter given that the one thing this team really lacks is senior leadership. Beau has that in spades. He’s three-year letterman and he’s got oodles of starting experience. He’s a good not great hitter, but you’re comfortable with him up in critical spots. Coomes is a similar player to Jordan, only with less starting experience. Though I’m sure, given his druthers, Mainieri would have Webre steal the starting job from the vets. Webre displayed some serious power in the Prospect League, the kind of power stroke you cannot keep on the bench. There doesn’t seem any space in the outfield for him, so Webre’s path to playing time is as the DH.

PROJECTED LINEUP

  1. SS *Smith
  2. CF +Watson
  3. RF *Duplantis
  4. C *Feduccia
  5. 1B Br. Jordan
  6. LF *Cabrera
  7. 3B Slaughter
  8. DH Be. Jordan
  9. 2B Broussard

That’s a pretty deep lineup. I’m not sure I like the concentration of lefties at the top of the order and then none at the back, as it makes it easier for opposing coaches to make situational bullpen changes. Then again, you don’t get to choose the handedness of your best players. But there’s also tons of reliable bats in there and only one real hole in the order, and that’s at the nine hole. This is a lineup good enough to contend. It’s not great yet, but it has the potential to be, which is all you can really ask in February.