SEC League Play Primer: Everything You Need To KnowAnalysis
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SEE TEAM-SPECIFIC PRIMERS:
- Mississippi State
- Ole Miss
- South Carolina
- Texas A&M
SEE ALSO: SEC Opening Weekend Preview
MOST IMPROVED TEAM
There’s no doubt that LSU is much better than it was last season at this point. The Tigers went out during the offseason and made sure to patch up any holes they had both offensively or on the mound. The impact of the newcomers is most felt on the mound, where Paul Skenes has evolved from an All-American into potentially the best pitcher in Division I Baseball, while UCLA transfer righthanded pitcher Thatcher Hurd will be one of the best Sundays in the land with his elite spin rates on his breaking ball to go with an explosive fastball as well. The contributions from newcomers goes much deeper than those two as well. Offensively, it’s either LSU or Ole Miss for me in terms of nation’s best offense, and the Tigers probably have more firepower at the top. Tommy White and Tre Morgan are stalwarts in the offensive lineup, while veteran slugger Gavin Dugas has risen to the occasion so far this season. LSU was already a scary team offensively coming into the season. Now, the pitching staff is striking up some of those same fears.
BEST OPENING WEEKEND MATCHUP
No. 1 LSU at No. 15 Texas A&M
It’s tough to go against Ole Miss and Vanderbilt for the best series of Opening Weekend, but to me, there’s more intrigue with the showdown between the Aggies and Tigers. For A&M, you kind of wonder if it’s deja vu all over again. If you remember last season, the Aggies were a little iffy at times during non-conference play, but went on the road against LSU early in the SEC schedule and won two of three. This go-round, the Aggies have been playing better, but still are far from a finished product. LSU looks like the more finished product right now with a strong weekend rotation and an offensive lineup that is flat-out ridiculous — the Tigers have scored double digit runs in eight of the last nine games, and that one game where they didn’t was a nine-run output against Lamar in a midweek contest. A&M has the weekend rotation to keep the Tigers somewhat at bay with Nathan Dettmer, Troy Wansing and Chris Cortez. But can the A&M offense keep up? That’s the question this weekend in blistery College Station.
Dylan Crews, LSU
I mean, who else would belong in this category? Crews entered the season as the nation’s premier hitting prospect, and he has continued where he left off last season and then some. Crews has been incredible so far this season and is exceeding expectations. He’s hitting .519 with seven doubles, five home runs and 23 RBIs, along with 18 walks and nine strikeouts. He has an insane .653 OBP to go with an incredible 1.579 OPS. There is not a weakness in Crews’ game, and for that reason, he’s not only the best hitter in the SEC, he’s the best player in Division I Baseball.
Paul Skenes, LSU
The 6-foot-6, 235-pounder, put together a strong 2022 campaign with Air Force, but he has clearly taken his game to another level under the direction of LSU pitching coach Wes Johnson. Skenes, who was up to 101-102 mph with his fastball in the fall, along with a low-90s changeup and an upper-80s slider in the fall, has continued where he left off a few months ago with an insane start, compiling a 0.75 ERA in four starts and 24 innings of work. He also has struck out 48, only walked four and he has a laughable .099 OBA to go with a .500 WHIP.
You can read much more on Skenes from our Mark Etheridge, here.
Charlie Condon, Georgia
The Bulldogs have been one of the surprises of the SEC so far this season, and Condon is a big reason for that. The talented 6-foot-6, 215-pounder, has been an absolute force at the plate from the right side, hitting eight home runs and knocking in 34 RBIs already this season. What also has been impressive about Condon’s game is that he has been ultra-consistent, hitting .531 with six doubles, a triple, along with nine walks and eight strikeouts and a ridiculously impressive 1.629 OPS. Condon’s numbers will certainly trickle down in SEC play. But how much? We shall soon find out.
You can read much more about Condon’s rise from Joe Healy,here.
Tommy White, LSU
The sophomore sensation was a little banged up earlier this season, but he’s still having a strong offensive campaign for the Tigers. White hit .360 with 27 home runs and 74 RBIs at NC State last season. I’m not sure he will get to 27 home runs this season, but he has been more consistent overall, hitting .396 with seven doubles, six home runs and 27 RBIs. He also has walked and struck out five times each, while also sporting a 1.425 OPS. White is just getting started and is expected to have a monstrous SEC campaign.
You can read more about White’s move to LSU from Joe Healy, here.
TOP RISING PROSPECT
Kemp Alderman, Ole Miss
Alderman was ranked the No. 66 prospect in our Preseason College Top 100, and he’s a guy who could certainly see himself climbing up draft boards with a strong showing during conference play. Alderman, a 6-foot-3, 250-pounder, has formed from a power hitter into a complete hitter with massive raw power. How good has Alderman been so far this season for one of the nation’s premier offenses? He’s hitting .391 (he hit .286 last season) with three doubles, eight home runs and 28 RBIs. He also has walked 11 times and struck out just 10, and is carrying a 1.287 OPS. His OBP is almost 100 points better than where he finished last season as well. It’s an expected rise for the talented junior slugger.
Jac Caglianone, Florida
There’s no player in college baseball who has become this much more impactful since last season. The talented 6-foot-5, 245-pounder, showed plenty of flashes of this greatness last season when he hit .288 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs. But to be this dang good as a sophomore? Astonishing. Caglianone has been a force both offensively and on the mound, hitting .408 with six doubles, a triple, 13 home runs and 30 RBIs, while also carrying an impressive 1.497 OPS. On the mound, Cags has a fastball up to 97-98 mph along with strong overall numbers — he possesses a 1.77 ERA in 20.1 innings of work, along with 26 strikeouts and eight walks.
BIGGEST SURPRISE TEAM
The Bulldogs were one of those teams coming into the season that you weren’t really sure what to expect. A lot hinged on guys like Jaden Woods making a smooth transition to the starting rotation and Liam Sullivan rising to the occasion. Well, it has been so far so very good for Woods, who has tallied a 2.60 ERA in 17.1 innings of work and four starts. He also has struck out 30 and walked 11 along with a .167 OBA. As for Sullivan, he has a 0.44 ERA in four starts and 20.1 innings of work. He also has struck out 27 and walked six, while teams have an .091 OBA. Offensively, we mentioned superstar freshman Charlie Condon earlier in this feature, but Connor Tate is an ultra-experienced bat who has a .486 average to go with eight home runs and 24 RBIs, while Parkers Harber has been a power producer and Mason LaPlante, Corey Collins and Ben Anderson are off to solid starts. SEC play will be interesting for this Georgia club, but they do have a series win over a good Georgia Tech team and a midweek series sweep over Georgia Southern, so it’s not like it is entering league play without any tests.