Saturday, June 27, 2009

LSU Baseball 2010, A Look Ahead

While we've all enjoyed basking in the championship glory over the last few days, many people's attention has immediately turned to next year. Does LSU have a realistic chance of returning to Rosenblatt Stadium one last time before the College World Series moves to Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha? Can LSU repeat as national champions? I think the answer is a resounding YES. To see what the Tiger Baseball Team may look like next year, we must first take a look at the players who are leaving.

LSU loses seniors Derek Helinihi, Louis Coleman, and Nolan Cain. They're also almost certain to lose Jared Mitchell, Sean Ochinko, DJ LaMahieu, and Ryan Schimpf. Those guys were all drafted high and are expected to turn pro. Those 4 players represent 47 home runs and 220 RBIs lost from 2009. Needless to say, that's a lot. Junior Blake Dean was drafted in the 10th round which presents him with a difficult decision. Being drafted in the 10th round had to be a little disappointing for Dean. He could return, work hard in the off-season, earn a position in the field and improve his draft positon. Or, he could leave now and not risk an injury or a downgrade in draft position. It will be something we'll follow closely until August, when a decision must be made. Many seem to think Dean will return to try and show pro scouts he can play in the field, and we'll go with that assumption for now.

LSU still returns quite a bit of talent. And a lot of the projected everyday players in 2010 were true freshmen in 2009, so it's reasonable to expect significant improvement from those guys. Here are some returning position players that you can pencil into the mix for the start of next year:

OF Leon Landry
OF Mikie Mahtook
SS Austin Nola
INF Tyler Hanover
C Micah Gibbs
DH/1B/OF Blake Dean

That leaves a few spots "open", and here are some candidates to fill them:

OF Johnny Dishon - Dishon played quite a bit in a reserve role on the 2008 team, but then redshirted in 2009. The speedy outfielder will be on the roster next year and will be one of the top candidates to win the third outfield position.

INF Grant Dozar - Dozar, a freshman in 2009, played quite a bit earlier in the season. He has impressed in practice all year and those who saw him in Omaha said he really stood out when taking batting practice. He played some first base this year, so he could be a candidate to play there in 2010. He may be a candidate for the outfield as well. I do expect he'll be in the mix somewhere.

INF Beau Didier - Didier, also a freshman in 2009, required surgery this year or else he may have been a familiar name by now. He did manage one plate appearance this year before his surgery, and he hit a home run. Didier is a good candidate to play third base, as I expect Tyler Hanover may get a look at second base.

1B Kyle Koeneman - Koeneman comes to LSU from a junior college, where he hit 50 home runs in two seasons. If he can transfer his power from junior college ball to the SEC, then Koeneman will be tough to keep off the diamond. While probably not as good a prospect out of JUCO as Matt Clark was, Koeneman is close. I wouldn't be surprised if he's LSU's first baseman or designated hitter next year.

C Wes Luquette - Luquette will be a true freshman in 2010, and he's a very good talent. He was drafted in the 27th round out of high school, and he would have been drafted higher if not for an injury. While we know that Micah Gibbs is LSU's catcher next year, Luquette could be his top backup and he could compete for a spot in the lineup as a designated hitter. He will most likely take over as LSU's full time catcher after Gibbs leaves the program.

OF Chad Stang - Stang signed with LSU out of a JUCO in Texas, and he's the best bet to win the third outfielder spot for the Tigers....IF he comes to Baton Rouge. He was drafted in the 8th round, and the odds are very high that he'll go pro. This interview indicates that he's leaning strongly towards signing with the Brewers.

OF/DH Chad Jones - We all know that Jones may be forced to miss a big chunk of the season due to spring football next year. He also may be finished with his career at LSU and preparing for the NFL Draft. We won't know until next year. But we do know he's a heck of a talent. Several accounts from Omaha have Jones hitting 450 foot bombs in batting practice at Rosenblatt. He could be an option late in the season in the field and on the mound. Being a 6'3" lefthander, could Jones learn how to play 1B?

Looking to the mound, LSU's pitching staff looks like it will be a strength once again. Leading the way will be unquestioned leader of the staff and team ace Anthony Ranaudo. LSU will no doubt lean on him to win each weekend. The rest of the starting pitching staff is up for grabs, but here are some candidates:

RHP Austin Ross - Ross was the Sunday starter all year in 2009 and performed adequately. He was 6-8 with a 5.18 ERA. However, in some starts he showed really good stuff. Dominating stuff. In other starts, he got roughed up pretty bad. If Ross can work on being more consistent, then he could emerge as LSU's #2 guy in the rotation. If not, then he could find himself in the bullpen. He has a good fastball and is pretty effective with his off speed pitches. Consistency is the key.

RHP Daniel Bradshaw - Bradshaw was outstanding down the stretch in 2009. He finished the season with a 4-0 record and a 3.04 ERA. Towards the end of the season, Bradshaw allowed just 10 hits and 2 earned runs in his final 19 IP. That comes to a 0.95 ERA. Included in those 19 innings were two starts, where Bradshaw threw 10 shutout innings. He has certainly earned the right to be considered a starter next year. He may be a good candidate to be LSU's mid-week starter. Those mid-week games are important for RPI purposes and helping ensure a National Top 8 seed.

RHP Zach Von Rosenberg - Von Rosenberg will be a true freshman in 2010, but he'll probably be a darn good one. He's a big kid at 6'5" and has a fastball that gets up around 90 MPH. He was drafted in the 6th round in the Major League Draft, but most reports have him coming to LSU. He's from Zachary and comes from an LSU family.

RHP Brody Colvin - Colvin is another true freshman that may be in the mix. Like Von Rosenberg, Colvin was highly drafted being a 7th round selection. I haven't heard much on Colvin's intentions. He's 6'4" and gets his fastball up to 92 MPH. He's also a pretty good hitter. We'll cross our fingers that Colvin comes to LSU.

LHP Chris Matulis - Matulis, a freshman in 2009, started the season off great. He earned the role of being LSU's mid-week starter and was outstanding earlier in the year. About halfway through the season, Matulis started to struggle and by the end of the season, he was nailed to the bench. He finished the season with a 6-2 record and 4.81 ERA. If he can re-gain his early season form from 2009, then he could be in the rotation. He currently looks like LSU's only option as a left handed starter.

RHP Matty Ott - We all know Ott was outstanding as a closer in 2009. He was a First Team All-American as a true freshman. He will most likely continue to be LSU's closer, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Ott take on a role similar to what Jared Bradford did for LSU a couple years back. He could be a closer, a spot starter, or a "fire extinguisher" that could take over when a starter gets into trouble and go the distance. I don't think Ott will be a regular weekend starter, but the coaches may want to utilize him in different roles in 2010.

LSU also returns a lot of experience to the bullpen. We already talked about Ott and the possibility that Ross and/or Bradshaw could pitch in relief. Bascially, any of the above guys who don't find themselves in the starting rotation will work out of the bullpen. The Tigers will also have the following options:

RHP Paul Bertuccini - Bertuccini will return as a middle relief guy for LSU that can be counted on. He is more of a specialty pitcher that thrives on getting the team out of jams. Bertuccini throws almost exclusively curveballs, which makes him ideal to show the hitters a different look at key times. He was 2-0 with 3.86 ERA in 2009.

LHP Chad Jones - We talked about Jones above as a batter, but he'll certainly be used as a relief pitcher as well if he's on the team. Jones showed some great stuff at the end of the year, and his dominating performance in the Championship Game crushed the will of the Texas Longhorns. While used as a specialty guy to go against left handers, Jones showed he can be effective against righties too. He looks like he has stuff to be a great closer, but it will be difficult for him to fill that role if he misses a large chunk of the season for spring football.

A couple of other options may join LSU's team from the JUCO ranks:

RHP Bret Bruening was drafted in the 35th round, but it sounds like he's very open to signing a pro contract. However, Bruening was drafted in the 30th round a year earlier and decided to not turn pro, so simple logic says that if the 30th round wasn't good enough, then the 35th round shouldn't be good enough either. We'll have to see what happens. Bruening has great stuff though with a fastball that can get into the mid-90s and would be an asset to LSU's team in 2010.

RHP Mitchell Mormann was drafted in the 20th round, and I haven't been able to find much on him and his intentions. He's another real big guy at 6'6" 220 pounds. All I could find was that Mormann won 10 games in 13 starts with a 3.40 ERA last year for Des Moines Area Community College.

While a lot will certainly change, predictions are fun and I'll give my guess at a line-up and rotation for next year:

Batting Order:

SS Austin Nola
CF Leon Landry
LF Blake Dean
1B Kyle Koeneman
RF Mikie Mahtook
3B Beau Didier
C Micah Gibbs
DH Grant Dozar
2B Tyler Hanover

Starting Rotation:

Anthony Ranaudo
Zach Von Rosenberg
Daniel Bradshaw

All in all, LSU most certianly has the talent to be outstanding again in 2010. As you can tell, a lot of things depend on who signs pro contracts and who decides to be at LSU next year. Many of those decisions will go all the way to August. This blog will be in full football mode by then, but I'll try to update everyone as players sign or decide to go to LSU.


Anonymous said...

Very informative. Thanks. PG

Anonymous said...

very good post

Saturday Night Slant said...


A quick update here: JUCO OF Chad Stang signed a pro contract so he's out of the picture for next year. He was leaning heavily to going pro, so this is no big surprise.

No other LSU players or signees have signed yet. August 15th is the deadline.

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