BATON ROUGE, La. — Nearly all sports leagues are copycat leagues, but the LSU baseball team isn’t quite ready to jump on one of the trendier bandwagons in college baseball.
The Golden Spikes Award, the trophy given to the best player in college baseball, went to Louisville two-way standout Brendan McKay this year. McKay was among the most deserving winners you’ll ever see, excelling as Louisville’s best power hitter and best starting pitcher, leading the Cardinals to the College World Series.
But while Louisville was ousted in Omaha, the Florida Gators weren’t. Florida tripled down on Louisville’s McKay strategy, employing three two-way players throughout the 2017 season. While in Omaha, Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan referred to the strategy as his main response to the roster and scholarship limits imposed on college baseball. If you can only have so many players, might as well have a few who can do it all.
Heading into 2018, the LSU baseball team has a few players who could do for the Tigers what Nick Horvath, Austin Langworthy and Garrett Milchin did for the Gators. Namely, incoming freshmen Daniel Cabrera and Nick Storz.
Potentially LSU’s two biggest-name recruits for 2018, Cabrera and Storz were both two-way standouts in high school. But the way LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri sees it, it probably will be best for LSU to maximize their talents on one side of the diamond, at least to start.
You see, Cabrera and Storz both fit a profile of something LSU needs. A rangy left-handed outfielder, Cabrera easily fits the mold to replace slugger Greg Deichmann in right field, no easy task. And at 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds, Storz has the potential to be the overpowering right-handed pitcher that the Tigers may need to call upon as a Sunday starter, or to fill Zack Hess’ role in the back end of the bullpen.
Still, the talent is there.
“If he focused on pitching, if he solely pitched, he’d be one of the best recruits of our pitchers,” Mainieri said about Cabrera. “He’s not an overpowering guy, but you talk about a guy who knows how to pitch, change speeds, command in and out, those sort of things? Cabrera could be a really good pitcher.”
“Last summer at the All-Star Game in San Diego, he was in the home run derby for high school players, one of the two finalists,” Mainieri added of Storz. “He’s a big man and he can hit a ball a long way. But I don’t know if he could hit himself, if you know what I mean.”
With Cabrera, Mainieri said it’s probably best to put the pitching on hold. After all, Mainieri said, it’d be better for him to help the team 70 times a year than 17 times a year. But with Storz, Mainieri seems to be more willing to experiment.
When the team opens up fall practice later this year, Mainieri said he’d be comfortable testing out the big fella at designated hitter and seeing if his prodigious power translates against college arms. If it does, Mainieri likely will have no problem enlisting his power righty to swing heavy against fastballers.
And if not? No harm done.
“If he doesn’t ever swing a bat in a game for me, I think that’ll be fine because I think he’s going to make a huge impact as a pitcher,” Mainieri said.