2020 ended up being a big letdown for College Baseball fans. With COVID-19 beginning to spread fast across the United States, College Baseball was ended after only 1/3 of the season. Not only was College Baseball cut short, but also the MLB draft reduced, which led to more elite players than normal heading to the college ranks. The biggest name on that list was Longwood, FL’s Dylan Crews, who ranked number 13 overall in the country according to Perfect Game.
Dylan Crews arrives to Baton Rouge as one of the highest ranked prospects in LSU history, and is already listed as the number one prospect for the 2023 MLB draft, while fellow highly touted incoming freshman, Tre Morgan is ranked #8 on that list by Perfect Game.
Those two names alone barely scratch the surface on the level of talent that is in Baton Rouge. This 2021 season has a chance to be special for the Fighting Tigers of LSU, but they will have to go through some growing pains to get there.
When it comes to pitching, this could possibly be the best pitching staff that LSU has had in years. Led by 1st team Preseason All American, Jaden Hill, the Tigers sit on a veteran pitching staff with some highly talented young arms to follow. The expected rotation will more than likely be Jaden Hill, Landon Marceaux and AJ Labas. For mid-week match ups I would personally expect someone like Brandon Kanimer or even Ty Floyd to be the starter, but if you have followed LSU baseball closely over the last few years, you will know that Paul Mainieri tends to go “Johnny Wholestaff” in those games.
The bullpen will feature some very talented and experienced veterans, including Closer Devin Fontenot as well as set up guys Ma’khail Hilliard, Matthew Beck, Trent Vietmeir and Aaron George. This is a pitching staff that fans should be excited about and could have some freshmen make a nice impact that could be beneficial as the season goes on.
Now on to the everyday players, this will be a season where you will have to learn a few new names in the starting lineup. Cade Beloso will lead the offensive charge as he moves to left field. To determine the everyday starters at this point has some huge question marks. The following seem to be set as everyday players: Cade Beloso(LF/DH), Tre Morgan(1B), Cade Doughty(2B), Gio DiGiacamo(CF/DH), Mo Hampton(CF/DH), Dylan Crews(RF/DH), Collier Cranford(SS/3B), Zach Arnold(SS/3B), and Alex Milazzo(C). With this line up being so young, it wouldn’t be surprising to see multiple changes in the line up leading to SEC play.
The big advantage LSU has, is with the pitching being as good as it is, the offense will have a little time to find it’s stride.
So now, let’s talk about a few guys that should have a real breakout season this year.
Gavin Dugas, aka Mr. 109MPH exit speed on a 454 foot bomb that he hit in a scrimmage the other day. Gavin suffered a hand injury during his freshman season with the Tigers but when he was playing he showed a ton of promise at the plate. He entered the 2020 season, and played in 13 games with 7 starts and hit .286 with 3 homeruns, but also had 10 strikeouts. Gavin more than likely will be in contention to be a DH this season.
Cade Doughty. Tiger fans were extremely excited when he made his way on campus. Tiger fans were even more excited when he hit a homerun in his first career at bat as a Tiger. He had an early adaption phase but closed out the short season as one of the hottest hitters on the roster. He has had a wonderful offseason, and is set to resume his duties at second base. If he performs the way he did to close the season and throughout spring ball, expect to see him hit north of .300 this year.
Lastly, let us look at the pitching staff and highlight Brandon Kanimer. He was a junior college transfer that came in when LSU needed a lefty the most and really provided some very good innings on the mound. He finished 2020 with a 3-1 record and a 2.84 ERA. He threw 12.2 innings and gave up 12 hits, 8 runs(4 earned), 5 walks and 12K’s. He could be a starter, but he could also provide some critical innings as a set up man. There is a good chance that he really boosts his draft stock this season.
That is a quick overview of your 2021 LSU Fighting Tigers, now we will close with expectations and predictions. Expectations are always Omaha or bust, there is nothing else to say about that. I believe that this team has all of the talent to make it to Omaha this season. Pitching wise, this could be the best staff in school history. Offensively, this is a young team that will more than likely go through some early growing pains, but gel when it matters. Defensively, while young, this team is extremely athletic and should produce minimal errors this season. Personally I see this team winning a ton of games, and having a ton of stellar pitching performances. Dylan Crews will be your SEC Freshman of the Year. Get ready Tiger fans, this team will be in Omaha.