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2023 LSU Baseball Preview: Infielders

Defense was a sore spot in 2022, can the Tigers improve in the field?

Okay y’all the time for talking about polls and whatnot is over: let’s actually preview this 2023 LSU baseball team.

Jay Johnson’s first LSU team was maddening at times with just atrocious play defensively. Johnson’s teams have always been offense first, but a .962 team fielding percentage and 82 errors won’t cut it if this team is to survive a once again loaded SEC.

The surest of bets in the Tiger infield will be Tre’ Morgan once again manning first base. Thank the gods Morgan is as gifted with a glove as he is because LSU’s fielding percentage could’ve been even worse without it. Morgan’s numbers at the plate dipped a bit from his freshman year (.357/.441/.526) to his sophomore year (.324/.414/.462) but with the power elsewhere in the lineup he won’t need to mash. Morgan will still likely bat either first or second in the lineup and I would love to see him be a little more aggressive on the base path though that just doesn’t seem to be the way Johnson rolls. Behind Morgan is likely Cade Beloso who had a freak knee injury in the pregame huddle on opening night and was lost for the entire 2022 season.

Second base is probably the biggest question mark in the entire infield. In fact Jay Johnson said there won’t even be a starter there.

“There’s not going to be a starter at second base,” Johnson said. “They all have to help us win and are going to have opportunities in different ways.”

It looks like second base could go one of four ways: Jack Merrifield who was the 2021 JUCO defensive player of the year at LSU: Eunice; VCU transfer Ben Nippolt, an All-Atlantic 10 selection last season; true freshman Gavin Guidry, the state of Louisiana’s No. 1 prospect and seeming heir apparent to start a shortstop in 2024; and veteran Gavin Dugas who is the only one who’s actually played second while at LSU.

At shortstop Jordan Thompson will be the man for the third year in a row. I’ll say this: 2023 can’t be any worse for JT than 2022 was. Thompson had 18 errors last season but his bat improved in every category except home runs.

The play of the middle infield is going to be under a giant microscope this season. Remember, Jay Johnson brought in Jack Pineda (shortstop from Baylor) and Carter Young (second baseman from Vanderbilt) from the transfer portal to compete for the starting second baseman and shortstop jobs. The only reason they aren’t in Baton Rouge is that they signed with the teams who drafted them (Kansas City and Baltimore respectively) this past summer. Thompson and whoever emerges as the guy at second base is going to have to improve their game.

At third base LSU’s excited to welcome in North Carolina State transfer Tommy White aka TOMMY TANKS and he’ll get first dibs at third base. White is sort of like this season’s Jacob Berry: his bat is too good to not be in the lineup. If White can’t handle third maybe he plays first or maybe he DHs but you’re going to see this dude no matter what because of what he can do at the plate. White hit an NCAA freshman record 27 home runs and had an absurd .757 slugging percentage.

Catcher might have been the worst spot for LSU last season as Tiger catchers were tagged for 18 passed balls last season. That hopefully improves in 2023 with the return of a healthy Alex Milazzo. Milazzo is as good a defensively as any catcher in the country but a knee injury limited him to just 12 games last season. His bat’s not the greatest—a career .157 hitter—but I’m sure Johnson is willing to sacrifice some offense for Milazzo’s elite defense.

If you’re keeping an eye toward the future be on the lookout for true freshman Brady Neal who surprisingly made it to campus. Neal was the No. 2 catcher prospect and No. 29 overall by Perfect Game and despite being selected by the Brewers in the 17th round of last summer’s draft, Neal enrolled at LSU. Neal reclassified from 2023 to 2022 and is still just 17-years-old.