Paul Mainieiri has two things in the bullpen he almost never has: a ton of returning experience and some left-handed pitchers.
LSU’s lack of left-handed pitching has almost taken on mythic proportions over the years, especially the 2018 team which did not have a single appearance all season by a left handed pitcher. Look, I can understand some lack of depth, but that was almost criminal roster mismanagement.
Well, it took a few years, but Maineiri has finally built up a solid, balanced stable in his pen. Look, the starters will always be the show for obvious reasons, but this is an impressive looking bullpen on paper.
Devin Fontenot (Sr) 0.90 ERA, 4 Saves, 17/4 K/BB in 10 IP
So, of course we’re gonna talk about righties first. Fontenot is an elite closer who seems to raise his game in tense situations. Some guys just have that undefinable quality of a closer, and Fontenot has it. His Super Regional performance against Florida St. might have earned him a loss in the records book, but it showed off everything about the kid, as he fought them off for over six innings in relief. He’s the pitcher you want on the mound with the game on the line.
Matthew Beck (Sr) 0.00 ERA, 11/7 K/BB in 12 IP
Before you can get to the ninth, you need a guy who you can call on in any circumstance. You need the fireman to come and put out the fires. Beck is that guy for this team, used liberally in almost every gut-wrenching scenario. I wish he had better peripherals, but he keeps the ball down and in play. He doesn’t overpower you, instead relying on a massive 12-6 curve which ties up hitters and creates more ground balls. Beck gets an extra year of COVID-related eligibility, and will wear the fabled #8 jersey.
RIGHT HANDED RELIEF
Ma’Khail Hilliard (Sr) 0.00 ERA, 1/1 K/BB in 1 IP
Trent Vietmeier (Sr) 3.38 ERA, 3/2 K/BB in 5.1 IP
Blake Money (Fr) Perfect Game #114 HS prospect
Ty Floyd (Fr) Perfect Game #28 HS prospect
I’ve been a huge fan of Ma’Khail Hilliard, but time is beginning to run out. This is his last chance to emerge as a the big bullpen arm he has the potential to become. Vietmeier has added some velocity to his fastball, and he’s one of those reliable arms in the pen who feels like he’s been in Baton Rouge forever.
There’s a ton of freshmen on the roster to fill out the bullpen, but let’s highlight the two most high-profile additions. Blake Money is 6’7” monster who looms over the mound but then has the potential to get hitters with a deceptive changeup. I love that sort of misdirection.
Ty Floyd is the highest rated high school prospect to make it to a college campus this year. There’s really no reason a guy this good should play in college, but thanks to the weird draft due to COVID, Floyd didn’t play his final season, saw his draft stock tumble a bit, and decided to instead head off to school. He is a future ace, but the LSU rotation is so crowded that he can’t break in this season.
That’s one of them good problems.
LEFT HANDED RELIEF
Brandon Kaminer (Sr) 2.84 ERA, 3-1, 12/5 K/BB in 12.2 IP
Jacob Hasty (So) 1.71 ERA, 4/7 K/BB in 4.2 IP
Alex Brady (So) 1.16 ERA, 6 Saves, 38/14 K/BB in 31 IP (JUCO)
Javen Coleman (Fr) Perfect Game #343 HS prospect
Brody Drost (Fr) Perfect Game #100 HS prospect
Just look at it. Five lefties. OK, Kaminer will likely be a midweek starter and should be unavailable for too much work on most weekends, but still… Mainieri has actual options in his bullpen for the first time in over half a decade.
Adding Alex Brady from JUCO was an astute move. He was Lower Columbia’s closer, and excelled in the role. He’s not the hardest thrower on earth, but he has a track record of making outs. He’ll joim Hasty in the pen as the go-to lefty option. Hasty has some movement on his fastball and uses his curveball as an out pitch which… well, it always makes me nervous for a reliever with runners on.
Coleman’s not the prospect Money or Floyd are, but he was still rated the #2 LHP in Texas last year. He can throw. He also has a full arsenal of pitches which profiles as a future starter, so he’ll get every chance to develop.
Brody Drost, on the other hand, is a huge prospect who also has a chance to develop as a power bat. Daniel Cabrera came to the program with the same reputation, and he was eventually moved full-time to the field, so there’s no way to project Drost as well. But he’s a prospect for whom the sky is the limit, even if he is virtually unprojectable right now due to all of the possible outcomes.
Hold on to your butts.