Andrew Stevenson (US Presswire)
Andrew Stevenson wasn't the opening day starter in 2013, but he was LSU's best defensive option by the end of the season. Though he had his freshman struggles at the plate, his speed and range proved to be a tremendous weapon for LSU in centerfield. After a summer up north, he'll return with hopes of holding onto his starting spot in 2014.
2013 Starter: Andrew Stevenson
Stats: .193, 14 RBI, 1 HR, .218 SLG%, 11 BB, 25 K, .289 OBP, 5 SB, 1.000 FLD% (111 putouts)
Though fellow freshman Mark Laird opened the season as the starter in CF, Stevenson emerged as the everyday option by the end of the year. Stevenson had a handful of appearances early in the season, mostly off the bench, but by the Texas A&M series in early May, he had implanted himself in the starting lineup. He finished the season with 33 starts, all in CF, and will be the incumbent heading into the 2014 season.
Stevenson’s playing time came with his defense. His speed was a major weapon for LSU as his range enabled him to run down balls most other outfielders wouldn’t touch. But a knock can be made against his arm. Though Stevenson went errorless this season, he also didn’t record an outfield assist.
Then there’s his offense, or lack thereof. Stevenson mostly hit out of the No. 9 spot, and never really found his stride at the plate. And while the hits were sparse, so were the walks. Stevenson struggled to reach base where he could actually use his speed.
Who Returns: Andrew Stevenson, Mark Laird, Chris Sciambra
Newcomers: Jake Fraley, Jarrett DeHart, Cade Stone, Charlie Yorks
His offensive deficiencies aside, Stevenson still appears to be Paul Mainieri’s favorite for CF heading into next season. Mainieri swallowed his struggles at the plate in favor of his defense, particularly in those spacious outfields at the Hoover Met and TD Ameritrade. Stevenson will head up to the Northwoods League with hopes that he’ll improve at the plate, which would be a big boost in terms of holding on to his starting spot.
Stevenson’s freshman partner in the outfield could be his biggest competition for that position though. Laird opened the season as the CF starter but moved to RF once Stevenson emerged as the everyday option. Though Laird had struggles of his own at the plate, he was far more consistent and seems the more complete player at this point. Mainieri could opt to place Laird in CF if he can entrust two of the incoming freshmen for the corner spots (I’ll discuss them below).
Outside of Stevenson and Laird, the only veteran with CF experience is Chris Sciambra, who was a starter before his neck injury in 2012. Sciambra was mostly reserved to bench duty in 2013 as the two freshmen supplanted him in the starting lineup. It’s unlikely that changes next season, but Sciambra will certainly be motivated to return to everyday duty.
That leaves the freshmen mentioned above. All four have enough tools to warrant playing time next year. While guys like Fraley and DeHart do have great range, they don’t quite have the speed that Stevenson does, which would make it hard for Mainieri to warrant starting them in CF. But if two of this group do emerge as possible starting corner outfielders, LSU might shift Laird back to CF and send Stevenson back to the bench.
But Mainieri showed a lot of faith in Stevenson in 2013, and there’s no reason that won’t continue into next season. Assuming he can make an improvement from Year 1 to Year 2, he should open 2014 as the starting CF.
2014 Starter: Andrew Stevenson
TSD will preview all eight positions in the field as well as the starting rotation and the bullpen in a 10-part series. You can find all the previous outlooks in the links below: