LSU infielder Josh Smith (4) makes his way to first base during game one of a double header against California at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge on Saturday, March 9, 2019. The ball was called foul. California defeated LSU 5-2 in game one. (Photo by Brett Duke, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
It kept three high-profile arms in Cole Henry, Landon Marceaux and Jaden Hill, all turning down seven-figure signing bonuses to come to campus. Injuries led to Draft prospects like C.J. Willis and Saul Garza arriving at LSU, as well. It brought in the No. 1 signing class in the country.
LSU signee Maurice Hampton announces hes coming to LSU
Then, Antoine Duplantis, Zack Hess and Zach Watson all turned down MLB offers to stay for one final run toward a College World Series.
Almost everything broke right for LSU, only losing out on one major signee: Brice Turang. The California shortstop was a first round pick who signed for $3.44 million. LSU couldnt have expected to win that battle.
This year will have a very different feel from last years anomaly. LSU expects to lose four major underclassmen, and it has seven signees ranked in MLB Pipelines top-200 draft prospects. Three of those signees could go as high as the first round.
So heres a rundown of what LSU names to watch in the MLB Draft, which begins with the first two rounds 6 p.m. Monday on MLB Network. The final two days will air on MLB.com.
LSU Zack Hess (38) throws against ULM during the game at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. Friday, Feb. 15, 2019. (Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Josh Smith, SS: Expect the junior LSU shortstop to be the first current LSU player off the board. He is hitting .346 with nine home runs and 41 RBIs this season, and hes played a good shortstop. He has a solid chance at being selected Monday in those first two rounds. Mainieri even whispered in his ear during LSUs press conference after winning the Baton Rouge regional Sunday, Now you get to enjoy it and not worry about anything else.
Zach Watson, CF: LSUs speedy, high-upside centerfielder was once ranked as LSUs top draft prospect as a draft-eligible sophomore last year. The past two years havent gone exactly as expected for his draft hopes, but hell likely go early on Day Two somewhere in the 3-5 rounds. Hes hit .310 with seven home runs, 41 RBIs this season and is one of LSUs best defensive players.
Zack Hess, P: Hess is more difficult to predict, because teams might have such ranging opinions of him. He has a fastball that can hit 98 mph. He has an effective slider. He has been a decent starting pitcher, and hes been a dominant closer. The stuff is there, but his results have been up and down. He turned down $600,000 last year. He could fall as low as the sixth round, or a team could fall in love with him as early as the third.
Antoine Duplantis, RF: He is LSUs all-time hits leader. Hes a model of consistency and structure, but he doesnt have as much upside as some others. Thats why he didnt receive the offers he hoped last year, turning down a potential seventh round offer to return to LSU. In general, hes considered a back of the top-10 rounds prospect, but he also could go higher as an easy to sign senior teams.
Todd Peterson, P: LSUs goofy, charismatic reliever has had his own up-and-down season. Hes had some great heights, throwing 98 mph and starting the season as LSUs top closer, and hes had stretches where teams hit his stuff with ease. Look for him to go in rounds 5-7.
Saul Garza, C: Garza is a massive 6-foot-4, 220-pound catcher with impressive athleticism and a big bat. After dealing with a meniscus injury, Garza had a very disappointing first three months to the season, but hes taken off lately. Hes batting 22-for-42 (.523) with nine RBIs the past 11 games, and he was the regionals most outstanding player.
Word from people close to Garza and LSU is he wants to come back for another year. Hes a draft-eligible sophomore, so he has two more years of eligibility.
Daniel Espino, P: LSU does not expect Espino to show up on campus. The Panama native now playing in Georgia has hit 100 mph, and some projections have him going as high as the top-20 picks. It would be a major surprise if he doesnt sign.
Rece Hinds, INF: Heres another player LSU expects to go pro. Hinds is a 6-foot-4 infielder from IMG Academy in Florida with raw power and tons of upside. He shot up the boards in the past year. Expect him to also be picked in the first two rounds, potentially in the first. LSU assumes both Espino and Hinds are going pro. If they come to school, it would give LSU a lot of talent but would create some roster management difficulty since its expecting them gone.
Maurice Hampton, OF: Heres the most intriguing prospect to follow. Hampton is a major LSU football signee, a top-150 defensive back. Hes also one of the top-25 baseball prospects in the country. He plans to play both sports at LSU, and the word through the entire process has been Hampton has a very large signing bonus request since he wants to come to LSU.
Theres been more discussion lately that Hampton might go to the MLB, with projections having him as a potential late first round pick. Theres buzz that it might take less to sign him than previously thought.
It would sting for baseball, but the greatest impact would be to the LSU football program. If Hampton doesnt come to LSU, Ed Orgeron cant use that scholarship slot on anybody else in this signing class. Its a wasted spot for LSU. If he does come to LSU, though, the Tigers might have one of the best outfields in the country in 2020 with Hampton, Daniel Cabrera and Giovanni DiGiacomo.
Inside the LSU football and baseball meeting that was the turning point in signing Maurice Hampton
Its a very difficult thing to do, to play the two sports plus the academics, plus having a social life, Mainieri said. It takes a really special athlete to be able to do that.
Cade Doughty, SS: The Denham Springs native and brother of LSU catcher Braden Doughty, Cade is one LSU and its fans have closely followed. MLB Pipeline has him as the No. 109 player in the Draft, but recent indications are he plans to come to LSU and play for the Tigers.
Hes an advanced hitter, and he would likely compete for the LSU shortstop job as a freshman. He could play third base or second base, as well.
Connor Phillips, P: Phillips had a breakout year pitching against some of the best talent in Texas, and now hes expected to be a likely MLB signee. LSU isnt counting on him showing up, but after keeping all its pitching prospects last year LSU can live with losing some arms to the draft.
Christian Cairo, INF: This is another of the most important prospects to follow. As previously mentioned, LSU can live with losing some power arms, but it needs infielders. Cairo, the son of longtime MLB player Miguel Cairo, is a top-100 prospect who seems like a toss-up. Infield is LSUs greatest opening next season, and LSU really wants Doughty and Cairo competing for some of LSUs three open infield spots. Losing Cairo would hurt for LSU.
Jimmy Lewis, P: LSU signed two power arms from Texas this class in Lewis and Phillips. Both shot up the draft ranks this season, and Lewis is ranked as high as No. 31 overall and a consensus top-100 prospect. But Lewis suffered a season-ending injury a month ago, and that might be giving some teams pause. Suddenly, LSU is more optimistic it can keep him.
Hayden Travinski, C: Travinski is a large 6-foot-3, 234-pound star from Bossier Citys Airline High School. LSU needs infielders, and it needs catchers. Travinski can play catcher or first base, Hes expected to come to school.
Edit Slot to 247Sports Home Slot to LSU Tigers Newsletter Slot to LSU Links 2019 LSU football signee and Memphis (Tenn.) University School defensive back Maurice Hampton made the announcement Monday night during the 2019 MLB Draft that hes coming to Baton Rouge on Twitter. The two-sport star will suit up for both the baseball and football team this fall.
“God knows my worth and has a plan for me,” Hampton said in the tweet. “Baton Rouge I’m coming home and I’m ready to work. #ForeverLSU
Another LSU signee, Georgia Premier Academy pitcher Daniel Espino went No. 24 overall to the Cleveland Indians, which has a slot value of $2,381,300. The right-handers fastball sits between 94 and 96 mph, but has hit 100 mph before in competition. With the No. 49 overall pick, Cincinnati selected LSU signee and IMG Academy third baseman Rece Hinds, who is expected to sign with the Reds, where his slot value is $1,507,600.
For the 6-0, 205-pound safety and outfielder, hes one of the top athletes in the country on 247Sports, ranking as the No. 90 overall prospect in the country, No. 12 overall cornerback nationally and the No. 1 overall prospect in Tennessee. The four-star prospect picked LSU over Auburn, Ole Miss and plenty of others during the recruiting process. Hes told his dad a simple message ahead of the draft.
“He always says, ‘Dad, going to LSU isn’t such a bad thing at all, his father added.”
His father, Maurice Sr., told Geaux247 before the draft that he wasnt expected to last past the first 41 picks in the draft. The slot value of the No. 41 overall pick is $1.8 million, but teams dont have to spend that amount. Theres not a magic number for his son in terms of what hes looking for to go pro, his father reported, but that pick had come and gone and Hampton had not been selected.
“It’s one of those things where if they give you an amount you can’t refuse then you have to go,” Maurice Sr. told Geaux247 last month. “But, if they give him a small amount then he understands his worth and knows what is waiting for him in Baton Rouge and the opportunity to play both. He’s not looking for a reason to go straight to work. It has to be a reason for him to not go to LSU.
“But, it’s not just about money. It’s got to be the right situation with who he goes to and the opportunity has to be there for him to advance professionally.”
The Under Armour All-American projects as a second to third round pick on 247Sports, comparing favorably to Tampa Bay Buccaneers defender M.J. Stewart. 247Sports director of recruiting Barton Simmons broke down Hamptons game in his scouting report:
“Stocky, thick defensive back with limited length but versatile enough to play multiple positions in the secondary. Elite baseball player that has played safety and corner in high school and has been dominant at wide receiver. Outstanding ball skills with the ability to win 50-50 footballs. Excellent acceleration and long speed. Regularly runs past and away from defenders at receiver. Speed in pads is much better than documented track times. Has special teams value as a very productive returner. Linear athlete. Can be physical when he wants to be. Can play cornerback but may project better long term as a safety. Does have some hip stiffness. Multi-year Power 5 starter that can impact the game in all three phases. Potential high-round NFL Draft pick.”