NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -
1. Overachieved and underachieved at the same time
It's only a number, but the Tigers were at the top of the pre-season rankings for a reason. They returned an immense amount of talent in Zack Hess, Zach Watson and Antoine Duplantis. And on top of that, they landed a top-ranked recruiting class. In that regard, it feels like a missed opportunity for a special season.
On the other hand, given the injuries they dealt with throughout the season to just about every meaningful pitcher at one time or another, it feels like a minor miracle that they were able to scrap out 17 wins in the SEC regular season. From Cole Henry missing more than a month to Landon Marceaux having to find his form late in the year again to Jaden Hill missing nearly the entire season, you could say this team overachieved to overcome those holes.
2. Addressing injuries has to be a top priority
As coach Mainieri says quite a bit, roster limitations have really leveled the playing field for college baseball. That means injuries can be crippling, as we saw often with the Tigers. At this point, I don’t feel like the injuries, particularly to pitchers, are just a coincidence.
You could go back a lot further, but just jumping back to 2017 and seeing Eric Walker go down during the 2017 College World Series, that was one of several injuries to the staff that's plagued LSU for years. Several weren't able pitch that much in the fall or missed time in the spring injured. And then during the season, again, injuries to Henry, Hill, Marceaux and many others made them work a lot harder.
Sometimes it's just a freak injury, but if it's not addressed now, whether it be in the form of training, rehabilitation or pitch count in the off-season, the Tigers can only blame themselves.
3. Antoine Duplantis: Still underrated
He's the all-time leading hitter in LSU history, yet I still feel like we haven't appreciated what he's done enough. Maybe that's just me. Maybe that's because Duplantis only played in one College World Series during his four-year career. By no means is that his fault. In fact, he's been a major reason they've achieved as much as they have, period. That's especially true for his senior campaign in 2019 where he belted out 12 home runs, a stat that no one saw coming.
From his hits, to his personality and quiet lead-by-example attitude, he'll be missed as the ultra-reliable outfielder and clutch hitter.
4. LSU needed one more freshman position player to step up
Cade Beloso locked up his spot at first base very quickly, but elsehwere, nothing really developed. Back at media day to start the season, Mainieri said he expected a freshman to step up, particularly at third base, to make himself a must-start. It never happened. Instead, we're forced to ask the question, "Where would this team be without Chris Reid?"
He delivered quality at-bats while holding down the hot corner at the same time. Drew Bianco was never able to prove he was ready to handle the role everyday. Gavin Dugas, although injured for much of the season, didn't quite develop into what Mainieri billed him to be. And what's most unfortunate, none of the above were able to crack the lineup as a designated hitter as well.
Giovanni DiaGiacomo did earn his playing time and a few starts, but they came with mixed results. I would certainly say he's got one of the brightest futures ahead though. Still, without the classic freshman performances like we saw from guys like Antoine Duplantis, Zach Watson, Josh Smith or Daniel Cabrera in the past, there was something missing.
5. The Tigers should be talented in 2020, but there are significant holes to fill
If the trio of Cole Henry, Landon Marceau and Jaden Hill is healthy, that could be a VERY strong weekend rotation to be reckoned with. That said, as mentioned above, LSU has to prove they can keep pitchers healthy first.
Outside of that, it's never easy to replace the middle infield, with Josh Smith expected to leave and Brandt Broussard departing as a senior. Zach Watson and Antoine Duplantis are two great outfielders to replace as well.
Hopefully, they're able to keep catcher Saul Garza, who was just heating up toward the end of the season.
Regardless, though, the Tigers something to prove. Two years without a trip to Omaha feels like way too long. It’s an unreasonably high standard, yes, but that’s what made LSU into a baseball powerhouse. This year proved that pre-season rankings TRULY don’t mean a thing. Omaha has to be earned.