Andrew Stevenson wasn't the opening day starter in 2013, but he was LSU's best defensive option by…
Position Outlook: Left Field
Stats: .331, 46 RBI, 4 HR, .445 SLG%, 28 BB, 30 K, .401 OBP, 1.000 FLD%
Raph Rhymes finished up a historic career with the Tigers in 2013. Throughout his time in Baton Rouge, Rhymes was one of the most consistent hitters that has ever passed through the program. He also had versatility to play several positions before finally settling on left field for his primary spot. Rhymes didn't have the same kind of season in 2013 that he had in 2012, but it was still a very productive one.
Rhymes finished 2013 with a .331 average and played flawless defense in left field throughout the entire season. He was routinely one member of the LSU lineup that could be counted on to come through with a big hit when it was needed most. However, it seems as though his 2013 season will be completely judged on how he ended it in Omaha by going hitless and being a part of arguably the most controversial moment of the season against UCLA. With that being said, Rhymes still had a very good season and will be extremely difficult for the Tigers to replace.
Who returns: Chris Sciambra, Mark Laird, Jared Foster, Sean McMullen
Newcomers: Jarret DeHart and Jake Fraley
Even though LSU loses Rhymes for the 2014 season, the Tigers will have plenty of talent to choose from when replacing him. In terms of returning possibilities, there are several.
First, LSU has Chris Sciambra as an option in left field. Sciambra got off to a very hot start in 2013, but faded quickly and never really worked his way back into the lineup in the later parts of the season. The next possibility would be to move rising sophomore Mark Laird from right field to left field. The move makes sense given the fact that the only thing holding back the defensive abilities of Laird is arm strength. The left-handed speedster would fit in well in left for the Tigers and would give them speed at the position that has not existed for quite some time.
LSU also has two other options currently on their roster. Senior Sean McMullen practiced for a majority of the season in right field and even split time between DH and the position from time to time. McMullen is another player that lacks the arm strength to play right field on a consistent basis for the Tigers. The final option on the LSU roster would be Jared Foster. Foster saw his role expand as the season wore on and as the production of Laird began to dip a bit. Out of all of the possibilities, Foster easily has the strongest arm in the outfield. However, because of this, it is likely that Foster remains a spot player or a potential starter in right field.
Now on to the newcomers. LSU's 2013 signing class featured a bevy of outfield talent for the coaching staff to choose from in the coming months. As of right now, it seems that two names are likely candidates to handle the left field duties for the 2014 season. First, there is Jarret DeHart out of New Jersey. DeHart is a combo player that stars on defense and offense. He would add an element of power to the LSU lineup from the outfield that has not been seen in quite some time. He is also an exceptional defender. DeHart has a very good chance of taking over for Rhymes in 2014.
While DeHart has all of the tools to be an immediate contributor for the Tigers in left field, another signee stands out above all of the other possibilities. Jake Fraley out of Delaware is a five-tool player that Paul Mainieri poured a lot of time and effort into to try to get to campus. It eventually paid off as Fraley told professional scouts that he would not entertain being drafted and would play college baseball. He is also likely a player that will be in the program for three years and then possibly be a top round pick after his junior season. Fraley is excellent arm strength from the outfield and will fit right in with the speed of Laird and Andrew Stevenson right away. Offensively, it's more of the same for Fraley. He is a power hitter that hits for average from the left side.
Fraley has the ability to excel at any of the three outfield positions, but left field will allow him to progress slowly. All in all, it will be hard to keep him off the field next season.
Projected 2014 starter: Jake Fraley
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