LSU baseball season is here, so welcome to “Out of The Box,” SEC Country’s weekly column covering all things Tigers baseball. Check out SEC Country every Monday at noon ET for your dose of news, notes, updates and analysis on Tigers baseball.
Heading into the 2018 season, the LSU baseball team has to replace virtually all of its power production from 2017. Led by Greg Deichmann, Kramer Robertson, Michael Papierski and Cole Freeman, seniors, departing juniors and transfers combined to knock 44 of LSU’s 69 home runs and 63 of the team’s 120 doubles.
That said, if LSU’s preseason scrimmages have been any indication, it looks as if the Tigers should be able to make up for this. At least when it comes to hitting the ball hard.
In once scrimmage alone last weekend, LSU’s lineup smacked six balls 98 mph or harder, including two lasers from sophomore Jake Slaughter that peaked over 104 mph. One of those six, a 99.2 mph sizzler from freshman Nick Webre, went for a home run.
Top exit speeds from today's scrimmage:
Jake Slaughter 107.1 mph
Jake Slaughter 104.1 mph
Nick Coomes 100.9 mph
Daniel Cabrera 100.5 mph
Nick Webre 99.2 mph
Antoine Duplantis 98.8 mph
— LSUBaseballData (@LSUBaseballData) February 3, 2018
The encouraging sign is the way LSU is spreading out this power. Slaughter and Nick Coomes bat right-handed. Webre, Antoine Duplantis and Daniel Cabrera bat left-handed. Outfielders and infielders alike. And this isn’t mentioning sophomore Zach Watson, the switch-hitting preseason All-America centerfielder who hit 9 home runs in 2017 and is expected to lead the team from the No. 2 hole this season.
Will LSU have a Deichmann-esque figure who cracks 19 home runs again in 2018? Probably not. LSU coach Paul Mainieri would surely welcome it, but LSU’s power numbers figure to be more spread out. Watson and designated hitter Bryce Jordan will get their extra-base hits, as will holdovers from last season such as Duplantis, Slaughter and Josh Smith.
But the interesting names will be Cabrera and Webre. If the freshman can contribute to the power cause, this lineup could be filthy by the midseason.
Last week, Todd Peterson, LSU baseball’s third starter, took me through his borderline-insane offseason workout program. On busy days, it would involve running 7 miles, biking 20 miles and spending 5 hours in the gym.
The result? Peterson shaved about 15 pounds off his physique. He weighs about 220 pounds now, and he hopes he’ll get down to around 207 by midseason.
You’ve got to hand it to Peterson. This plan is the exact opposite of the “lose weight fast” sort of plans some people would have. Being able to do this sort of thing more than two days in a row without giving up makes him a stronger man than most.
Here’s waiting to see how his hard work pays off.
Thoughts from Mainieri
With the season less than two weeks away, LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri is putting his team together. Here are some miscellaneous thoughts from Mainieri on Thursday about the state of his team:
- The bullpen is taking shape: Freshman Ma’Khail Hilliard looks like the strongest option to work as a closer this season, but don’t count out freshman right-hander Devin Fontenot. He’ll also get some reps in the back end early in the season.
- Look out for Matthew Beck: Sophomore right-hander Matthew Beck fell out of favor late in 2017, so much so that Mainieri advised him in the offseason that it might be best for him to transfer. But Beck took that as a challenge to get better and he has, adding up to 8 mph of velocity on his fastball from June to January.
- Slaughter is transitioning well: After playing mostly first base last season, Slaughter is moving across the diamond to play third base in 2018. On this transition, Mainieri said: “I have no doubt in my mind he can play credible, if not outstanding third base.” Slaughter hasn’t had many opportunities to field balls in scrimmages, but Mainieri said Slaughter has played well when he has.
LSU baseball at the gym
The LSU baseball team spent Friday night at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, throwing out t-shirts to students and fans in attendance for LSU’s sold-out gymnastics meet versus No. 6 Kentucky.
In case you missed it, here’s proof:
— LSU Gymnastics (@LSUgym) February 3, 2018
When does the season start?
We’re almost there. LSU’s season-opener versus Notre Dame is on Friday, Feb. 16 in Alex Box Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT and you’ll be able to watch a stream of the game through WatchESPN or listen to it through the LSU Sports Radio Network.
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