LSU is one of the few programs in the country that consistently restocks when losing players to the MLB draft.
Despite losing four starters in the field and the three starting pitchers from a year ago, LSU Coach Paul Mainieri feels that the new wave of 17 players can contribute in a variety of ways right off the bat.
A player who has already received high praise from his teammates is left fielder Daniel Cabrera. Cabrera was drafted in the 26th round of the 2017 MLB Draft, but decided to forego the pro-level and come to LSU to polish his game.
Batting .510 his senior season at Parkview Baptist while earning First Team All-State recognition, Cabrera has impressed sophomore right fielder Antoine Duplantis because of his work ethic and how quickly he has picked up on the game at the college level.
“He looks really good out there in left,” Duplantis said. “I think he’s going to be a great player for us. He has that confidence where you know he’s going to do well.”
Cabrera is expected to also provide a role in the pitching rotation but in those scenarios, he would have to be a designated hitter with a candidate such as junior Beau Jordan playing in left field.
Another freshman on most player’s watchlist has been pitcher Ma’Khail Hilliard. Hilliard has dazzled the team with his curve ball, which some players admit, is the hardest pitch to hit out of all the players.
Hilliard is expected to be a bullpen pitcher out of the gate, but if his breaking ball is as nasty as the reports say, a larger role could be carved out as the season progresses.
“There is a device that is called the Gametracker,” Mainieri said. “It gives you the spin rate of the ball. A good curveball by a major league would player would be about a 3,000 rpm. We only have one pitcher who has touched 3,000 and that’s Hilliard. That means he can spin that thing even tighter which makes it break that much more. Even former Tiger Alex Lange didn’t have that kind of a spin break on his curve ball.”
An important blueprint Mainieri has used to be successful at LSU is recruiting at the junior college level.
Guys like Kade Scivicque and most recently Cole Freemann have had successful careers at LSU leading them to early round draft picks in the MLB.
This season, the new crop of transfers is headlined by second baseman Brandt Broussard and catcher Hunter Feduccia.
Broussard comes from Delgado, the same JUCO Freeman attended and is viewed in the same way. Broussard is a contact hitter with defensive range, but certainly wants to write his own chapter at LSU.
“A lot of people say I’m similar to Cole,” Broussard said. “I’ve talked to him a couple of times. Handling the bats, good defense is what they are kind of looking for out of me.”
Feduccia is replacing one of the best defensive catchers in the nation from a year ago in Michael Papierski. Feduccia is a transfer from LSU-Eunice where he batted .394 with seven home runs and 41 RBI’s in 2017.
“He is going to be our No. 1 catcher,” Mainieri said. “He played last summer in the Northwoods League with a wood bat. In 50-55 games, he hit seven or eight homeruns. I would expect him to have the ability to do that.”