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Position Outlook: Third Base
Stats: .305, 39 RBI, 6 HR, .462 SLG%, 36 BB, 37 K, .414 OBP, .934 FLD%
Ibarra was one of the many pleasant surprises on LSU's 2013 roster. The junior-college transfer from Rio Hondo College (CA) stepped right in to answer the demands that the coaching staff had of him. Ibarra flashed great abilities at both the plate and in the field throughout the regular season for the Tigers. However, the rising senior did have a very rough end to his spectacular junior year. He went hitless in Omaha and was responsible for numerous errors in the postseason as a whole.
Aside from the postseason, it was very apparent just how consistent Ibarra was throughout the regular season. He was consistently someone that LSU could count on when a run needed to be produced. Ibarra is a max effort kind of guy at the plate, much like someone like JaCoby Jones. Also, considering he has been a shortstop all of his life, some inconsistency on defense should have been expected when he made the move over to third base. Ibarra will need to continue to develop those skills in order to remain at that position next season.
Who returns: Christian Ibarra
Newcomers: Connor Hale and Danny Zardon
Ibarra will return to the Tigers for the 2014 season despite being drafted in the 32nd round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. There is the possibility that some shuffling in the LSU infield could happen that could result in Ibarra at either shortstop or second base. If any of those scenarios play out, LSU will be just fine if they have to find a third baseman to replace Ibarra.
The LSU coaching staff signed two third basemen in their 2013 signing class. The first player, and perhaps the most likely to see playing time is junior-college transfer Connor Hale of the State College of Florida. Hale will arrive at LSU with experience against good competition. He is also a guy that is a big-bodied (6-2 180 pounds) prospect that will fit very well into a role at third for the Tigers. In 2013, Hale finished by hitting .366 with 65 RBI. He definitely has the ability to hit for a high average and he is a very capable defensive player. The LSU coaching staff was very concerned about losing him to professional baseball leading up to the 2013 Draft, but signability issues led to him not being drafted.
The other potential third baseman for the Tigers is incoming freshman Danny Zardon. Zardon will get a shot to play multiple positions once he is on campus in Baton Rouge, with third base being the position that he has played his entire career. Like Hale, Zardon possesses a much larger frame than Ibarra. Zardon also has the potential to be a serious power threat in the LSU lineup, something that differs a bit from Hale who doesn't necessarily hit for a lot of power. With it being his natural position, Zardon will get his first crack at third while the staff attempts to figure out what to do with the second base position.
At the end of the day, it seems as though the LSU infield is set, but a lot of different scenarios could play out. It all depends on if the staff wants to make moves from what the infield looked like in 2013. If that happens, it should be expected that Zardon and Hale will get a solid look at third base.
Projected 2014 starter: Christian Ibarra
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