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LSU Baseball Tigers boast imposing lineup

Kristian Garic
February 12, 2019 - 2:07 pm
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As the LSU baseball Tigers ready for the season opener Friday night against ULM, you can look at their lineup and see why the national experts expect big things from the Bayou Bengals this year. LSU will feature power and clutch hitters. Oh, by the way, when they get on base, the Tigers will be a nightmare with speed throughout their lineup. Let’s take a look at how the batting order could look like this season.

Senior Antoine Duplantis: The senior outfielder is the best pure hitter in LSU’s every day lineup. Time and time again he comes up with clutch hit after clutch hit. I love watching Duplantis at the plate. He doesn’t chase pitches out of the zone, and patiently watches for the exact pitch he wants to hit. Duplantis is extremely difficult to punch out on strikes. I would expect him near the top of the line perhaps at the leadoff spot. Antoine Duplantis gives the Tigers plenty of speed on the bases. He’s a career.324 hitter with 55 extra base hits. If you’re trying to teach a young baseball player the art of hitting, just tell him or her to watch Duplantis.

Defensive position: Outfield

Junior Josh Smith: Smith missed most of last season with a back injury, but he gives the Tigers some power and finesse hitting capabilities. Coach Paul Mainieri loves to employ the hit and run, and Josh Smith is excellent at executing that strategy. Smith has made 258 plate appearances hitting .279 and 7 home runs. Keep in mind he only played in six games last season. When healthy Smith is one of the most exciting hitters in the LSU line up.

Defensive position: Short Stop

Sophomore Daniel Cabrera: Is the next great slugger to emerge in an LSU Baseball Tigers uniform. He also hits for average. Last season as a true freshman Cabrera had a .315 batting average with 8 home runs, 54 RBI and slugging % of .525. Any slugging % over.500 is elite power. As a sophomore I expect Daniel Cabrera to be even better. He has great discipline at the plate, but sometimes can be prone to strike out.

Defensive position: Outfield

Sophomore Saul Garza: This junior college transfer is chalked full of raw brute power. Last season at Howard Junior College Garza hit .378 with 23 long balls. During fall & spring, he routinely bounced baseballs off the giant scoreboard in left field at Alex Box Stadium. Coming from a junior college Saul Garza will have to adjust to the level of pitching in the SEC. Coach Paul Mainieri expects him to make that adjustment quickly. I expect him to hit in the middle of the order. Coach Paul Mainieri says Garza will start out the season only as the designated hitter, while he works his way back from injury, and will likely make his first appearance behind the plate sometime in March.

Defensive position: Catcher

Junior Zach Watson: Is a five tool player; he can hit for average and power. Not to mention Zach Watson can absolutely fly on the base paths. Even though Watson’s production dipped a tad last season, he still hit .308 with 7 home runs. Not too bad. After his freshman year Watson hit .317 with 9 home runs. I see why Watson should bat fifth behind Garza. It ensures a little protection for Garza. The opposing pitcher can’t pitch around him, because Watson is no easy out. After hitting so well as a freshman, last season pitchers showed Watson a lot more off-speed pitches. Zach told me he’s adjusted to that approach and will be ready for more breaking balls.

Defensive position: Outfield

Sophomore Brock Mathis: Another Junior College transfer will find his way into LSU’s lineup. Brock has superior defensive skills. But, don’t make the mistake of just thinking he’s a defensive player. At Northwest Florida State Junior College Mathis batted .270 with four home runs. He will pay dividends at the plate and behind the plate for the Tigers.

Defensive position: Catcher

Freshman Drew Bianco: The son of Ole Miss Head Coach Mike Bianco; Drew Bianco played middle infield in high school, but as a freshman he’s being auditioned at first base. Right now Bianco is the leader in the club house to land the starting first base position. At Oxford High School in Mississippi Drew Bianco batted .409 with six home runs as senior and was voted as the 2018 Class 5A player of the year. Bianco is a power packed hitter. As is the case with most freshmen, Bianco will have to adjust to the quality of pitching of the SEC. The seventh spot in the lineup seems like a good spot for him. Bianco will be the only freshman in the lineup, when the Tigers open the season Friday night against ULM.

Defensive position: 1st base

Sophomore Hal Hughes: Hughes did an admirable job filling in defensively at short stop last season, when Josh Smith sustained a back injury that limited his play to just six games. Hughes is a valuable defensive player, but should improve at the plate this season. In 190 at bats, Hughes struggled posting a .221 average with just 1 home run. Hughes will be called upon to do some situational hitting, an occasional sacrifice bunt, hit and run, or perhaps bunting for a base hit.

Defensive position: 3rd base

Sophomore Brandt Broussard: Broussard started 51 games at second base last season. Broussard improved as a hitter this off-season as a member of the Wisconsin Woodchucks of the Northwoods summer league. Brandt batted .317 and scored two home runs this summer. He’s a perfect candidate at the bottom of the lineup who can provide the Tigers with speed on base and turn over the lineup. In college baseball, the No. 9 hitter is typically viewed as a leadoff type hitter.

Defensive position: 2nd base

What the lineup looks like now, won’t be the lineup the LSU Baseball Tigers will use once SEC play starts in mid-March. Head Coach Paul Mainieri is constantly juggling the lineup, even switches guys out, if production is not up to par. Here are a couple of names to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

Freshman Giovanni DiGiacomo: First off, DiGiacomo might have the coolest name ever. Paul Mainieri told me that Giovanni would have been the starting center field, if Zach Watson bolted this summer for pro baseball. He’s virtually a clone of Watson, except DiGiacomo is a left hander. The Tigers expect him to develop into a table-setter type hitter with some power. Sounds exactly like LSU’s description of Watson. DiGiacomo will be an elite defensive player in centerfield when his time comes.

Defensive position: Outfield

Freshman CJ Willis: This Ruston Louisiana product is immensely talented defensively and offensively. Willis is a straight up athlete, who can really swing the bat from the left side of the plate. He was selected in the 39th round of the MLB draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. His ability to hit, and his versatility defensively will get him some playing time this year. Willis can slide behind the plate and catch. He can also play both corner infield positions as well as the corner outfield positions. That kind of versatility is hard to find.

Defensive positon: Utility

LSU will once again be one of the better hitting teams in the SEC and throughout the country with speed, power, and clutch hitters throughout the lineup. The first five projected hitters are an absolute menace for opposing pitchers.

 

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