Mandeville native Andy Cannizaro, the recruiting coordinator and hitting coach for the LSU baseball team, recently spoke to area Rotarians about the 2016 roster and season, which begins at 7 p.m. Friday in Alex Box Stadium against Cincinnati.
Cannizaro, a former all-American shortstop at Tulane who played in the Major Leagues for the Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, worked as a scout for the Yankees for five seasons, evaluating and recruiting amateur players in preparation for the annual MLB Draft.
“The Tigers this year are going to be as skilled and as good as last season’s roster, which included five All-American players,” Cannizaro said Feb. 11 at the Zachary Rotary Club.
Nine players were drafted into the Major Leagues, including Alex Bregman, who is touted as one of the most dynamic players in LSU history. Bregman was selected in the first round by the Houston Astros in the 2015 MLB Draft. He signed with the Astros over the summer.
“Returning pitcher Alex Lange, a first team All-American, will be a workhorse for us, so to speak,” Cannizaro said.
The Tigers also are expecting big things from left-handed pitcher Jared Poché, of Lutcher, who has won 18 games in two years.
“We’ll have a group of starters who are not part of the everyday lineup, and these guys are talented and have the ability and same performance level as the 2015 faces and names. We’re excited and looking forward to playing against new players, someone other than ourselves during practice,” joked Cannizaro.
In five major college baseball pre-season polls, LSU ranks fifth in two of them, seventh in two additional polls and 11th in another.
“Our goals are to win a national championship, make it to Omaha and get better every day along the way,” Cannizaro explained. “Coach (Paul) Mainieri is always saying, ‘If you want to win, win the drill.’
“What he means by that is, don’t worry about the bigger picture, but instead, focus on how to get there, focus on the shorter, more obtainable goals, and the rest will take care of itself.”
“I like our lineup. It’s got guys who can run, followed by guys who can hit home runs followed by another group of power runners,” Cannizaro said. “Also, we’ve made it a priority to develop several backup starters with our pitching.” Filling those roles, Cannizaro predicted, will be Riley Smith, of Lufkin, Texas, and right-handed pitcher Austin Bain, a Dutchtown grad.
“Look, I want LSU to be loaded with Louisiana kids,” Cannizaro said, after someone asked what percentage of LSU’s roster includes Louisianians versus out-of-state players. “It’s about 50-50.”
Friday’s lineup also includes Trey Dawson, Cole Freeman, Michael Papierski, Chris Reid and Kramer Robertson.
“We’re very excited about our club this season,” Cannizaro said.
To learn more about the LSU Tigers baseball program, visit lsusports.net/.