Tuesday, February 9, 2010

2010 LSU Baseball Preview

LSU Football is over. LSU Basketball is rebuilding. Football recruiting is wrapping up. If you’re like me, you’re starting to get the itch for the LSU Baseball team to take the field and defend their national championship.

Gone from last year’s team are key players DJ LaMahieu, Ryan Schimpf, Jared Mitchell, Sean Ochinko, and Louis Coleman. However, LSU will have a very strong team that should be a contender nationally in 2010.  Baseball America has LSU ranked as the pre-season #3 team in the nation.  Another trip to Omaha is certainly a strong possibility. 

Let’s take a look at the guys expected to replace those departed stars along with the returning contributors from last year. Many of these guys may shift positions, but this is just my projection on how things may look.

Micah Gibbs - .294 6 HR 42 RBI
Micah Gibbs (pictured) will man the dish for the third straight season for LSU. Gibbs is widely regarded as one of the nation’s best defensive catchers, and he’s not too shabby with the bat either. Gibbs is a guy that can find a home anywhere in the batting order and be effective. I look for some slightly improved batting numbers from him in 2010, and he should be one of the leaders of the team.  He was voted a 1st Team All American by Baseball America. 

Wes Luquette – High School
Luquette is a true freshman that is highly regarded. He was drafted in the 27th round of last year’s Major League Baseball draft and may have been drafted higher if not for an injury. I anticipate that he’ll be the backup to Gibbs and get a handful of starts this year in anticipation of him starting in 2011.

Blake Dean – .328 17 HR 71 RBI
Dean has been the star of LSU’s team over the past two seasons as a designated hitter, and he returns for his senior season where he plans to earn a position in the field. The likely scenario is that Dean lands at first base which should help his draft stock. Dean is the heart and soul of LSU’s team and will be counted on time and time again to come through in the clutch.

Kyle Koeneman – Junior College
Koeneman comes to LSU from junior college where he was one of the best power hitters in the nation. He hit 50 home runs in two seasons. If for some reason Dean can’t cut it as a first baseman defensively, then Koeneman may be the guy to take over. If he continues to hit as he did in junior college, Koneman could find a spot as LSU’s designated hitter as well. It’s not totally out of the question that Koeneman have a Matt Clark-like impact on the 2010 team. 

Tyler Hanover - .321 5 HR 47 RBI 6 SB
Hanover was the team’s starting third baseman for much of 2009, and he’s expected to play his more natural position of second base this year. Despite being just 5’6”, Hanover packs a serious punch at the plate and has good power. His experience last year should benefit him a great deal, and he’s a candidate to be a double digit home run guy in 2010.  He’s also a guy that can bat anywhere from 2nd to 9th in the batting order.

Austin Nola - .240 3 HR 18 RBI 3 SB
As a true freshman in 2009, Nola took over the starting shortstop job halfway through the season. His move into the lineup triggered LSU’s late season run that propelled them to Omaha. Nola is already an outstanding defensive shortstop, and he held his own at the plate for a true freshman. A good hitter in high school, most expect Nola to drastically improve his hitting now that he’s got some experience at the college level. He’s a candidate to really break out in 2010. With good speed, he might be a candidate to lead off this year.

Wet Delatte – Redshirt
Delatte is a redshirt freshman who has reportedly made a move to win the third base job with a strong showing at fall practice.

Beau Didier – Redshirt
Didier came to LSU with high promise last year but required surgery on his elbow. He had one plate appearance in 2009 before the surgery, but he hit a home run in that one at bat. Didier is a lefty batter, and he’ll be in the mix at third base and possibly as a designated hitter. He can also catch and may be the backup to Micah Gibbs if the staff decides to redshirt Wes Luquette.

Grant Dozar - .265 2 HR 6 RBI
Dozar played sparingly as a freshman last year but fared pretty well. He played some first base, and he’s another guy that can catch if called upon to do so. With another year of experience, Dozar could be in the mix at designated hitter or at the corner infield positions.

Matt Gaudet – Out last year
Gaudet came to LSU from Delgado before the 2008 season. He played sparingly in 2008 but sat out in 2009. He’s back in 2010 for his senior season and is supposedly pushing for playing time somewhere on this team. Gaudet is a big kid at 6’2” 220 pounds and is another candidate to be the team’s designated hitter. Gaudet could potentially play in the outfield as well.

Mason Katz – High School
Katz is a true freshman who will ultimately be a middle infielder. He could be the backup to both Hanover and Nola this season, although it’s certainly possible that he redshirts. He’s very similar to Austin Nola coming out of high school.

Leon Landry - .300 12 HR 41 RBI 9 SB
Landry (pictured) had a very productive 2009 season even though he lost his starting job halfway through the season.  Landry plays exceptional defense, and he also had great power numbers. If Landry can be a little more consistent at the plate, he will be a full blown star. Landry struck out 43 times in 170 bats or once every 3.95 times at the plate, and that needs to improve. Landry will be counted on as one of the big sticks in the lineup this year.

Mikie Mahtook - .316 7 HR 38 RBI 9 SB
Mahtook played his way into the starting lineup as a true freshman last year and was the team’s starting centerfielder down the stretch. Even though he’s a big kid at 6’1” 200 pounds, he’s very fast and very athletic. He made a number of highlight reel catches in centerfield last year. Mahtook was fairly consistent at the plate too, and he showed the potential to be a big power guy for LSU. I fully expect him to be a double digit home run guy in 2010 and a mainstay in the middle of the batting order.

Trey Watkins – Junior College
Watkins comes to LSU from LSU Eunice and is expected to win the starting centerfield job. Considering Leon Landry started off 2009 as the starting CF and was replaced by Mahtook…and that both of those guys are still on the team, it speaks volumes to Watkins’ defensive ability. Watkins is a compact guy at 5’8” 185 pounds, but he can really, really move. His stats at LSU Eunice were very impressive. He hit .418 with 7 HR and 71 RBI and stole a ridiculous 58 bases in 61 attempts. He seems like a great candidate to lead off for LSU this year.

Johnny Dishon – Redshirt
Dishon played as a backup outfielder in 2008 but redshirted last year. He was mostly used as a defensive replacement and a pinch runner in 2008 though he did manage 2 HR and 12 RBI. He’ll likely return to a similar role in 2010 as the fourth outfielder and defensive specialist.

Starting Pitching

Anthony Ranaudo – 12-3 3.04 ERA 159 K 50 BB 124.1 IP .209 BA against
Ranaudo (pictured) is LSU’s hoss this year. There’s no doubt that he is the Friday starter, and he’ll be the guy expected to win games in the post season. Ranaudo is a pre-season All American and a projected high first round draft pick in the MLB draft. If there’s something for Ranaudo to improve on, it’s to reduce the number of walks.

Austin Ross – 6-8 5.18 ERA 76 K 22 BB 83.1 IP .305 BA against
Ross was the Sunday starter for most of last season, and he performed OK. At times, Ross looked great and was unhittable. At other times, he got roughed up pretty bad. He needs to become more consistent and a guy that LSU can count on to win games. He’ll get the first crack at being LSU’s #2 starter and if he’s consistent, then he’ll probably stay there.

Daniel Bradshaw – 4-0 3.04 ERA 33K 11 BB 50.1 IP .242 BA against
Bradshaw was mostly used in relief last year, but he was very effective. Down the stretch, he was one of LSU’s most effective pitchers. In his last 19 IP of 2009, Bradshaw only allowed a 0.95 ERA. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he can get the job done. He’ll have every opportunity to land a spot in LSU’s rotation, but he could be awfully valuable coming out of the bullpen too.

Joey Bourgeois – Junior College
Bourgeois also comes to LSU from LSU Eunice and will compete for a spot in the starting rotation. Bourgeois is a big guy at 6’2” 225 pounds and he strikes out a lot of batters. At LSU Eunice, Bourgeois was 12-2 with 98 Ks in 87 IP. He also had a hefty 5.90 ERA. I’m not sure what kind of stuff Bourgeois has, but those numbers tell me that he is a pure power pitcher that is either “feast or famine,” probably throwing plenty of fast balls.

Chris Matulis – 6-2 4.82 ERA 39K 15 BB 46.2 IP .293 BA against
As a true freshman in 2009, Matulis was very effective early in the year. He filled the role of one of the week day starters for LSU and did it well.  As LSU’s only left handed starter, he was useful out of the bullpen on weekends too. But halfway through the season, something happened and he became very ineffective. He really struggled getting outs during the second part of the year. He represents LSU’s only possibility as a left handed pitcher in 2010 and hopefully he’s back on track.

Relief Pitching

Matty Ott – 4-2 2.68 ERA 69K 6 BB 50.1 IP .237 BA against 16 saves
Ott was the surprise of the 2009 season, breaking LSU’s record for saves as a true freshman. He was amazingly consistent in his ability to shut the door on opponents. I’ve heard some discussion of potentially using Ott as a starter in 2010, but most of that has subsided especially when Chad Jones, who could have taken over as closer, decided to go to the NFL. Ott will undoubtedly be called upon to be LSU’s guy in crunch time, and there’s no reason to believe that he won’t be outstanding again. 

Paul Bertuccini – 2-0 3.86 ERA 31K 15 BB 25.2 IP .242 BA against 3 saves
Bertuccini will be one of LSU’s top relief pitchers in 2010. His outstanding curve ball, which he throws almost primarily, really gives hitters a different look when he comes into a game. For that reason, Bertuccini is often called upon to get LSU out of jams with men on base. He should continue that role again this year.

Mitch Moormann – Junior College
I don’t know much about Moormann right now other than LSU signed him out of Junior College where he won 10 games in 13 starts with a 3.40 ERA. I’ll be very interested to see how LSU incorporates Moormann into the mix early in the season. He’s one to keep an eye on.

Shane Riedie, Jordan Rittiner, and Ben Alsup all return some experience as well. Certainly, these guys will be competing for innings and LSU will need one or more to step up and pitch well.

Freshmen Mike Reed, Zach LaSuzzo and Forrest Garrett will be competing as well.


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