BATON ROUGE, La. — D1Baseball released its preseason Top 25 for 2018 on Tuesday, and the defending national runner-up LSU baseball team is a little bit lower than where it finished last year.
Paul Mainieri’s LSU baseball team came in at No. 16 in the preseason poll, 14 spots lower than where the Tigers finished 2017. Even at No. 16, this put LSU as the eighth-ranked team in a stacked SEC, behind No. 1 Florida, No. 4 Arkansas, No. 8 Kentucky, No. 9 Ole Miss, No. 10 Texas A&M, No. 12 Mississippi State and No. 14 Vanderbilt.
LSU’s drop makes logical sense. The Tigers have a lot of talent to replace from 2017’s College World Series squad. Namely, the Tigers have to fill all three slots in the weekend pitching rotation with Alex Lange and Jared Poché moving on to pro ball and Eric Walker rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. LSU also has to replace second baseman Cole Freeman, shortstop Kramer Robertson, right fielder Greg Deichmann, catcher Michael Papierski and relief ace Hunter Newman. That’s 43 percent of the team’s hits and 58 percent of the team’s home runs in need of replacing, not to mention 76 percent of its games started by pitchers.
Still, the Tigers have plenty of talent with which to reload. The outfield should be stout, with junior Antoine Duplantis taking over the team’s famed No. 8 jersey in left field and sophomore Zach Watson attempting to build upon his team-high .317 batting average from 2017. Sophomore Josh Smith should move from third base to shortstop, taking over for Robertson and bringing his All-SEC defensive skills with him. And the Tigers return designated hitter and infielder Bryce Jordan from knee injury. Before missing 2017 with the injury, Jordan was an All-SEC performer in 2016.
The LSU baseball season begins on Friday, Feb. 16 at 7:00 p.m. CT at Alex Box Stadium when the Tigers host the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.