Mason Katz (US Presswire)
TSD begins its look ahead to the 2014 baseball season by examining who will step in at first base next year. The Tigers will lose one of their senior leaders, but there is a wealth of young talent that will compete for the position in 2014.
2013 Starter: Mason Katz
Stats: .370, 70 RBI, 16 HR, .642 SLG%, 41 BB, 38 K, .464 OBP, .968 FLD%
Katz was one of four position players to return to the everyday starting lineup from the 2012 season. Katz started every game for the Tigers, most of which at 1B, aside from a handful of games at 2B for an injured JaCoby Jones. Offensively, Katz was one of LSU’s primary power threats, holding down the cleanup spot and leading the team in almost every offensive category. Katz was also one of the more consistent infield defenders, showing a great glove at first base.
When Katz moved to second, Tyler Moore slid into the starting lineup at 1B. Though his opportunities were limited, Moore did gain notoriety as one of LSU’s clutch pinch-hitters, but his work in the field left more to be desired. Freshmen Chris Chinea and Michael Barash also saw action at 1B, though neither received playing time on a consistent basis.
Who returns: Tyler Moore, Chris Chinea, Michael Barash
Newcomers: Nick Longhi
Moore will be the most veteran option at 1B for the 2014 season. Moore saw action at both corner infield spots in 2013, but his defensive inefficiencies point to him sticking at 1B if he’s inserted into the everyday lineup. But the coaching staff has given him limited chances against left-handed pitching — he only had nine Abs against LHPs in 2013 — which shows he may not be ready to start every game.
The two freshmen, Chinea and Barash, received equal playing time at both catcher and 1B. It’s unclear whether either player is ready to be an everyday catcher, but both will definitely be in the mix to take over duties at 1B. Of the two, Chinea seems likelier to get into the lineup next season. He has some raw power that LSU would like to have in the middle of the lineup next season in order to provide protection for Alex Bregman. Assuming Chinea can handle the position, he seems most ready to make the jump from reserve to starter in 2014.
But don’t rule out incoming signee Nick Longhi. Assuming the 30th-round draft pick opts for college, Longhi already has the offensive tools to warrant playing right away. If he can make a seamless transition from high school to college, he may be LSU’s best option at 1B. But LSU will definitely sweat his professional decision until the July 12 deadline. Longhi has said the Boston Red Sox are willing to match his desired signing bonus, and if they are, Longhi’s childhood favorite might end up stealing him away from LSU. Still, the LSU staff and current players like Bregman are working to convince him he will drastically improve his stock if he opts for college.
Whether or not Longhi ever arrives in Baton Rouge, LSU will certainly have plenty of options at 1B in 2014. It will definitely be an interesting position battle to watch as we head into the fall.
Projected 2014 starter: Nick Longhi
Who do you think will start at 1B in 2014?