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Junda and Poseur Preview 2020 LSU Baseball: The Outfield

Part two, we’re going back to the warning track

COLLEGE BASEBALL: MAR 31 Mississippi State at LSU

In 2019, the LSU outfield was a strength of the baseball team. Manning those three spots were Daniel Cabrera, coming off a freshman All-American year in 2017, the uber-talented Zach Watson who could cover every inch of centerfield, and Antonie Duplantis who is only the school’s all-time leader in hits.

Now? Two-thirds of that outfield is gone. Watson was drafted in the third round by the Baltimore Orioles, and Duplantis, who was picked by the New York Mets in the 12th round, graduated.

With Duplantis gone, Cabrera assumes both the coveted No. 8 and the now-vacant right field position. For the uninformed, wearing No. 8 for LSU is the football equivalent of the No. 18 jersey. This is Cabrera’s team now. Today we’ll look at who will man the other two outfield spots along side him.

Left Field

So. R/R Drew Bianco 176/348/353 (68 AB)

Fr. L/R Wes Toups

Fr. L/R Mitchell Sanford

Bianco is almost definitely going to be the starting left fielder for the 2020 season despite being new to the position. Last year, Bianco made 16 starts across the diamond: six at first base, four at third, one at second and was the designated hitter five times. Left field is a new venture for Bianco, but he seems to be adjusting well to it. We know he has a capable bat, hitting three doubles and three home runs in only 68 at-bats, and in the fall he was absolutely crushing the ball. Bianco batted .429 with both a pair of doubles and home runs and drove in nine in LSU’s first 10 scrimmages.

The question for Bianco will be is he athletic enough to play in the outfield. He’s got the arm for the position, he gunned down a runner for the final out of a spring scrimmage, but does he have the speed?

With Bianco assumed to be the starting left fielder, a pair of freshmen will jockey for playing time. Sanford was a quarterback in high school so you know he has the arm to be an outfielder. He’s got more power than Toups, hitting 12 doubles and six home runs his senior year of high school.

Toups, on the other hand, is more of a speedster and defensive specialist. Toups’ 60-yard dash was clocked at 6.5 seconds. Toups gives me Andrew Stevenson vibes. Stevenson wasn’t a great batter his freshman year, but he was so fast and caught everything that he simply had to be on the field. There may not be as pressing a need for Toups’ glove, but who knows if Bianco doesn’t seem to be a good fit in the outfield maybe Mainieri turns to the freshman.

Center Field

So. L/L Giovanni DiGiacomo 275/376/333

Fr. R/R Maurice Hampton Jr.

This is the one real position battle of the outfield. DiGiacomo is probably the starting center fielder in the here and now. He’s just as fast, if not faster than Zach Watson was and has “world-class speed.” DiGiacomo also played in 53 games and got 33 starts last season and showed a little bit of pop with a home run and three doubles.

Mainieri said DiGiacomo had a slow fall at the plate and that’s going to have to change because Mo Hampton Jr. is just a total freak of an athlete, and turned down $1.8 million from pro baseball to come to LSU.

Hampton would have been a first-round pick had he focused solely on baseball. He was ranked the 23rd overall prospect by Perfect Game and No. 40 by Prep Baseball Report. But Hampton didn’t get quite a big enough offer to turn down the allure of playing both baseball and football for LSU.

But because of playing football, Hampton is behind the baseball learning curve. That’s coming from both him and Mainieri.

“I know I’m behind, Hampton said. “I know these guys have put in a lot more time. I’m trying to make up the time that I’ve lost as much as I can, so putting in the extra work is what I have to do.”

He has indeed put in extra work. Hampton didn’t want to go with the football team to the White House. Mainieri insisted that he indulge in that experience. So Hampton, ever committed to his craft, was in the batting cages hours before the football team departed to Washington, and he was back in the cage at 10 o’clock the following night with hitting coach Eddie Smith.

Regardless of how many hours he spends in the batting cages, Hampton still hasn’t been exposed to collegiate pitching. Poseur and I agree that Hampton finding his way onto the field is a when not if situation but for now expect DiGiacomo to be the center fielder on weekends and maybe we’ll see Hampton in the outfield for midweek games.

Right Field

Jr. R/R Daniel Cabrera 284/359/516

So. L/R CJ Willis 212/311/211

There’s no such drama in right field. This is Cabrera’s spot and this is Cabrera’s team. He’s a five-tool guy and could be a day one pick in this upcoming draft. Cabrera can hit for average and power and has really developed on the defensive end. He ran a 6.6 60-yard dash over the summer in the Cape Cod League scout day and stole 10 bases in 33 games. If Cabrera can become just as big a threat on the basepath as he is at the plate, he’s a potential All-American at season’s end.

Willis, as Poseur noted yesterday, is a man in search of a position. He’s probably not going to unseat Cade Beloso at first base, nor will he take Cabrera’s position in right field. Maybe he finds his way into the lineup as the Tiger DH. He started 11 games last year and showed some power at the plate with four doubles. But he really flashed his bat over the summer in the Northwoods League, hitting for both power (six doubles, two home runs) and average (batting .362) in 24 games.

As for a DH, count me in Poseur’s camp. I’m in favor of getting Hayden Travinski’s very capable bat into the lineup. Especially if he can add some protection for Cabrera. And as a Denham Springs High School alum, I’m also all in on the idea of making Gavin Dugas the DH to make way for future greatest baseball player of all time Cade Doughty.

Tomorrow Poseur gets to the strength of the LSU baseball team, the starting pitching.