When Jay Johnson made the move from Arizona to LSU, he brought All-American freshman Jacob Berry with him in the single biggest transfer of the offseason.
Here’s the thing though: you can’t be sure he’s the best sophomore infielder LSU has, because Tre Morgan is still here.
Both hit in the .350s as true freshman, although they reached those numbers very differently. Morgan had the higher average by a few points, but Berry absolutely mashed, hitting 19 doubles and 17 home runs while Morgan hit 16 doubles to just six home runs. But what Morgan lacked in power he more than made up with his glove, stepping on to the field and wowing with some of the best defense the new Alex Box has seen, and it's seen some good ones.
What’s interesting is that both are locks in the lineup, but we’re not sure how Johnson is going to play them defensively. Morgan should be a lock at first as a left hander, but Berry may not be the best option defensively at third base, so there have been some mentions of Morgan playing the outfield or Berry just taking the DH duties.
No matter where they actually find themselves at on Opening Day and the rest of the season, the fact of the matter is that LSU has two All-Americans who hit .350 coming in as sophomores. That’s an impossibly solid foundation to build upon.
Now, as for the rest of the lineup...your guess is as good as mine, and I get the feeling it’s a only slightly less than Johnson’s. But this isn’t an “LSU is bereft of talent” issue, it’s a “what is the right combination of talent” issue.
I think banking on Cade Doughty and Jordan Thompson is probably your best bet. Thompson is likely the shortstop, but Doughty’s destination really depends on Berry’s landing spot. Like Berry, Doughty carries a big bat but his defense in the past hasn’t been airtight. I thought Doughty adjusted very well to third base in 2021 and it would make a lot of sense to retain him there, but we’ll see how Johnson assesses it.
Cade Beloso is still here and may factor into the equation at designated hitter somehow, but with Bianco likely getting shuffled out of the outfield and Berry arriving, he may get shuffled out. LSU also returns Collier Cranford and Will Safford while also adding Brennan Holt, Luke Leto, Connor Simon, and Jack Merrifield.
As for catcher...hoo buddy. LSU is currently carrying six, count em, six catchers and if that doesn’t speak volumes about the plans behind the dish.
Alex Milazzo is by far one of the best defensive catchers you’ll see playing college baseball. He’s an absolute wizard. The thing is, he hit a paltry .135 last year. You know the Disney propaganda cartoon where Mickey cuts the turkey as thin as he can and it floats away? That was Milazzo’s offensive contributions to the team last year. There’s a value to being a great defensive player, but that value was far outweighed by the offensive void.
Hayden Travinski filled that void well last year, but his defense wasn’t quite Milazzo’s. It wasn’t bad, but he couldn’t really make it his. Tyler McManus was brought in from Samford where he hit .346 with 13 doubles and 11 home runs, but we’ll see how that translates to SEC ball. Jacob Wyeth and Braden Doughty are still here, joined by freshman Blaise Priester from THE Live Oak High School in Watson, Louisiana.
So, all that to say that catcher is the only glaring hole in the lineup and something we may not get an answer to until SEC play starts.