Key Relievers in 2013: Chris Cotton, Will LaMarche, Nick Rumbelow, Joey Bourgeois
LSU’s bullpen was one of the strongest points on the team throughout the 2013 season. They will enter the 2014 season with the tall task of replacing all major contributors to the position from a year ago. Chris Cotton, who was one of the top closers in college baseball, concluded his award filled career this season for the Tigers, leaving perhaps the most important position on the pitching staff up for grabs.
The Tigers will also have to replace both Will LaMarche and Nick Rumbelow in 2014. Both players were dependable guys out of the pen that had the ability to enter a game and end any scoring opportunities that opponents of LSU might have had. Both were also very hard throwers with power arms that will be hard for the LSU staff to replace. They both passed up the opportunity to return for their senior seasons after being chosen in the top ten rounds of the 2013 Draft.
While he typically only pitched one inning at a time, Joey Bourgeois will also be sorely missed. He made a name for himself during his senior season as one of the top setup men in the SEC and typically set the tone for Cotton to enter the game.
Who returns:Hunter Devall, Russell Reynolds, Mitch Sewald
Newcomers: Alden Cartwright, Christian Pelaez, , Zac Person, Jared Poche
If there was one position that LSU lost a lot of talent at it would be the bullpen. The Tigers return a few viable options to handle the duties in 2014, but there is a ton of uncertainty with those candidates. The first one would be rising sophomore Hunter Devall. The talented lefty caught the attention of the LSU staff early in the season because of his ability to throw strikes. He was fairly successful throughout most of the season when he was on the mound, but also showed some inconsistency. Devall doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but is more in the mold of a Chris Cotton. Devall will have to become better at throwing strikes and work on his off speed pitches in the offseason to have a chance to break into the bullpen.
Russell Reynolds will likely start the season in the bullpen after missing most of his freshman season with a torn labrum. If his recovery goes as planned, he could be a very effective option out of the pen early on for the Tigers. He has a power arm with good stuff to go along with his fastball. He showcased that during his midweek starts before his injury. He would be a long relief candidate in 2014. Finally there is Mitch Sewald. Sewald never really saw the field in 2013 as he struggled with several different aspects of his game early on, mainly control. If he can get that down, he will have a chance to be a dominant bullpen guy for LSU moving forward.
The newcomers to the LSU program have a very good chance at seeing the field early for the Tigers out of the bullpen. Alden Cartwright is a right-hander from Baton Rouge that has a plus fastball to go along with a good breaking ball. He has been known for his control throughout his high school career and should get an opportunity early. Christian Pelaez is another candidate to break into the bullpen very early in his career. He isn’t overpowering, but is extremely focused on control and staying down in the zone. He was offered by numerous major programs out of high school and was one of the true steals in the 2013 class for the Tigers. He should see the mound early and often for LSU.
The next two candidates have realistic chances at grabbing the third starter spot in the rotation upon their arrivals at LSU. Jared Poche of Lutcher High School was named as Player of the Year in Louisiana as a senior and has everything that could be wanted in a left-handed starter in college. However, with as much competition as he will face for that role, it is more realistic that he starts out in the bullpen as a long relief option for the Tigers. Zac Person of LSU-Eunice is another option for the bullpen. Person lacks the control to be an immediate starter at LSU, but getting work out of the bullpen will do nothing but benefit him. Look for both players to see significant time early in their careers.
Overall, LSU’s bullpen will lack the experience to be as effective early on as the 2013 bullpen was. However, with a bevy of left-handers, the potential is definitely there for LSU to once again have one of the top bullpens in the SEC.
Projected 2014 bullpen: Hunter Devall, Zac Person, Christian Pelaez, Jared Poche