Fall Report: LSU
BATON ROUGE, La. – LSU coach Paul Mainieri and his coaching staff had an ample amount of time to prepare for the exciting, but very much new-look Tigers this fall.
As the curtain dropped on the 2015 season in Baton Rouge, Mainieri, following a super regional series win over Louisiana-Lafayette, was rather honest. Things were going to feel weird the first day of fall workouts. There’d no longer be an Alex Bregman, Kade Scivicique or Andrew Stevenson, among others on the team. And, he admitted at the time it would take some getting used to, but would also set the stage for the most intense and intriguing fall workouts in years.
Mainieri was right on with the latter. Sure, some of the stars of yesterday in the LSU program are gone and having success at the professional level. But, starting pitchers Alex Lange and Jared Poche are back and better than ever, and boy, do the Tigers have some young hitters with big-time upside, along with the return of outfielder Jake Fraley, who had the type of fall that, frankly, the Tigers needed Fraley to have.
Everyone in college baseball knows this by now, but LSU isn’t a place where the word “rebuild” is in anyone’s vocabulary. It’s reload at all costs, and first impressions from LSU’s workouts last week painted a positive picture for the 2016 season.
“We’ve got some pretty good arms, and we’ve gotten some pretty good starting pitching performances this fall. Some of these guys have really answered the call, so to speak,” Mainieri said last week in Baton Rouge. “We’re about 10 or 11 deep on the pitching staff, and I think we’re looking pretty from a defensive standpoint, too.
“The other thing about this team so far is I think we’ve hit better this fall than I had anticipated,” he continued. “As a whole, our guys just need to keep learning from these opportunities. We’re better today than we were a month ago, and we’ll be better in February than we are today, and so on. The big key is these guys just have to learn how to win going into the spring.”
The position battles are fascinating this fall. Former West Virginia prep star Trey Dawson is getting a strong look at shortstop to replace departed Alex Bregman, while Mike Papierski and others are in the mix to replace Scivicique behind the plate. Then, the outfield is young but very athletic with Lafayette, La., product Antoine Duplantis dazzling scouts and other observers so far this fall. Meanwhile, on the mound, Lange and Poche, if you can imagine that, have only improved, while junior college transfer Riley Smith is making a strong push to be a part of the weekend rotation, while others also are in the mix.
The Tigers are likely to be a much different team in the spring. On the surface, this looks like a team with a bevvy of big-time arms, while offensively, there’s a lot of potential and talent. But, again, how will the young players make the transition once they’re playing the SEC juggernauts in March?
Those are valid questions, and a big reason why this has been an entertaining fall at Alex Box Stadium.
Who’s rising and making strong impressions for LSU this fall? We breakdown several standouts and unveil some other nuggets.
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