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LSU's Lineup & Batting Order Probability

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1. Jared Mitchell, right field - Mitchell is playing baseball full-time this spring, which pretty much everybody associated with LSU Baseball thinks is his ticket to being a dominant player. Mainieri is telling people he'll be a first-round pick in June, and I've seen a couple of mock drafts which have him close (one I saw had him a second-round pick and one had him as a sandwich pick). The way Mitchell came on at the end of last season, it is by no means unreasonable to think he can't hit .340-350, steal 20 bases and get 20 doubles and 6-8 homers. He does that and he'll be one of the most dominant leadoff men in college baseball.

2. D.J. LeMahieu, shortstop - LeMahieu will be eligible to go out after this year, so this is a money season for him. The coaches are looking for a little more home run production from him, but he proved last year that he can drive in runs and hit for average. It would not be a surprise if he hit better than .350 with double-figure homers this year.

3. Blake Dean, left field - Everybody seems to want Dean to play first base, and if he could stick there it might really help his draft stock (the major-league guys don't know where to put him, and that's an anvil around his neck). But at least to start off with Mainieri is going to let him play where he's used to playing so that he can focus on hitting the ball - which he does as well or better than anybody we've had through here in a good while. Dean is a potential .400 guy, and if he gets help behind him in the order he can hit another 20 homers this year, easily.

4. Micah Gibbs, catcher - Besides being one of the best defensive catchers in the game, Gibbs is a terrific RBI man for the cleanup spot. What will be interesting to see, though, is whether they've done anything with his swing in an attempt to get more lift on the ball and produce more homers. He's a line-drive hitter which means he'll hit doubles in the gap all day long, but without Matt Clark in the lineup to scare opposing pitchers it will be interesting to see if Gibbs can get away with being a line-drive guy in the 4-hole. Either way, he's going to hit for a good average and drive runners in; he's already established that.

5. Sean Ochinko, first base - Mainieri loves Ochinko, whose season last year fell off a good bit after he suffered a knee injury which limited him. He's a solid defensive first baseman despite a lack of height, and the coach thinks this is going to be the year he finally breaks out and becomes a big power hitter. So far Ochinko has shown he's a guy who will hit .280 or so with 6-8 homers; if he can't make a jump beyond that he's likely going to end up batting later in the order by midseason.

6. Ryan Schimpf, second base - Batting Schimpf here rather than earlier in the order should give you an indication of how deep LSU is. Of course, last year he was ninth for most of the postseason and that was just about unfair. Schimpf gives LSU another guy who can hit double-figure home runs; if everything goes well it's possible that the Tigers could go 2-through-6 in the order with double figure home run hitters, and that's the kind of Murderer's Row you want when you go up against the top pitchers.

7. Derek Helenihi, third base - Helenihi moves in from right field to take over for Mike Hollander, and Mainieri loves his defense at third. For good reason; when Hollander was hurt last year, Helenihi took over for him and he was really outstanding. And the Schimpf-LeMahieu-Helenihi trio at the three mobile infield spots looks to be as good as anybody in the country will have. At the plate, Helenihi is a guy who does an OK job of getting on base and he'll put a double down in the gap pretty well. Not much power, but if he can avoid a late-season slump like he had last year he'll make up for that with a very solid batting average.

8. Mikie Mahtook, designated hitter - LSU is likely to use a bunch of different people at the DH spot, but Mahtook's big fall-ball performance gets him the first nod here. Mahtook combines a BIG stick with 4.4 speed, so he's a guy who can be a threat on the basepaths when he doesn't knock the ball out of the yard. The coaches think he's got an All-American type future at LSU, and it wouldn't be a colossal surprise if he ended up playing either left or right field and Dean settled in as the DH. Look for other guys like Tyler Hanover, Nick Pontiff, Johnny Dishon or Matt Gaudet to get a chance at the DH job from time to time as well.

9. Leon Landry, center field - Schimpf got to take advantage of being the bottom guy in the order last year, and this year it's apparently Landry who'll start out in the 9-hole. Landry struggled toward the end of the season after a hot start, which is not uncommon for a freshman unused to the length of a college season. But he's a guy who can hit for some power, he has great speed, he's as good a center fielder as you'll find and he's got the potential to develop into a guy who'll hit for a high average. Schimpf parlayed the 9-hole into a big batting average last year; we'll see if Landry does the same. In any event this is as good a 9-hole hitter as there is in the country.


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