Just before his LSU team left for a trip to Hoover, Alabama, that solidified its No. 8 national seed in the NCAA tournament, Greg Deichmann sat with major league scouts.
“They didn’t tell me much,” Deichmann said of the “scout meetings” that take place yearly at college campuses across the country. “It was more of me telling them kind of what I want to do and what I want to do after the season moving forward.”
One day after returning from that 3-1 showing in the Southeastern Conference tournament, Cole Freeman found a questionnaire from the Cleveland Indians. He filled it out, as he had dozens of others, and mailed it off.
“We don’t think much about it,” Freeman said. “I’ve talked to my parents and stuff about it, and they were like, ‘I don’t want you to worry about it; go out and play.’ ”
That’s the task for LSU’s four draft-eligible position players, one starting pitcher and a bevy of relievers who figure to see significant action for the Tigers during this weekend’s Baton Rouge regional. Should the Tigers win the regional, a super regional could begin as early as Friday, June 10 — the second day of the three-day MLB draft.
It’s the ninth time in 10 years the draft will overlap with a regional or a super regional. LSU coach Paul Mainieri has long been outspoken about the draft’s scheduling and how it affects players who are preparing for not only the biggest games of the college season but, perhaps, a life-altering decision.
“It’s the most aggravating thing I have to deal with as a coach,” Mainieri said. “Could you imagine Nick Saban or Les Miles putting up with it? We’re going to have the draft right before you play the national championship game, or right between the semifinal game and the championship game … yet we have to. It’s crazy. It’s just ridiculous that these kids are put in that position.”
Excluding the two seniors on its roster, LSU has 15 draft-eligible players. Two — pitchers Collin Strall and Alden Cartwright — will not be on the Tigers’ postseason roster. Deichmann, who turned 21 on Monday, and Austin Bain are sophomores who turned 21 within 45 days of the draft, making them eligible as well.
Seven draft-eligible LSU players interviewed for this story were adamant that their focus remains solely on the regional. Mainieri lauded his players for “saying the right things” but knows from experience how the next 10 days will weigh on them.
“I don’t care how old you are, how mature you are; it’s going to affect you,” Mainieri said. “I’ve been 21 years old before. And I’ve wanted to play professional baseball. And when you don’t know what’s going to happen, the anxiety of all that is gut-wrenching.”
Ranked No. 86 in MLB.com’s top 100 draft prospects, outfielder Jake Fraley laughed Tuesday as he shaded himself from the sweltering heat. The draft was June 9 at the beginning of the season, he said.
“No different than in the beginning as it is now,” Fraley said. “I’ve grown a lot and gotten able to get a hold of how my mind works, especially on the baseball field. I know how to focus on things I need to focus on, especially when I’m on the field, and make sure I keep my mind as simple as possible and focus on what’s in front of me at the time.”
Since the beginning of the season, Fraley said, he has told Mainieri he’ll wait to see how the draft transpires and will make his decision based on “whatever the Lord has planned.”
Mainieri said in February he gave junior Jared Poché the opening night start against Cincinnati, in part, because it would “probably be his last season at LSU.” Speaking Tuesday following his bullpen session, Poché was short with his answers concerning his future, choosing to shift conversation to the weekend’s games.
“We’ve talked about it with my family and everything, obviously, but we’ll see what happens on draft day,” Poché said. “Early on, I was thinking about (the draft) — it’s hard not to — but right now the next game in front of us is the most important thing. … Let’s go out and enjoy the moment.”
Fraley and Poché are seen as the most likely of LSU’s draft-eligible prospects to leave after this season. The other 13 face decisions that could drag until the July 15 signing deadline.
Shortstop Kramer Robertson has enjoyed the finest season of his three-year college career, punctuated with first-team All-SEC honors last week. He admitted Tuesday that, entering the season, his mindset was “I’ll sign (professionally) for whatever.”
“But as the season’s gone on, I’ve had so much fun and felt what it’s like to have success here,” Robertson said. “This season’s definitely made me want to come back for another season. … I guess just like anybody. I’m not dead-red on signing; it’s got to be a great opportunity, something I can’t turn down. It’s a win-win situation, to play professional baseball or come back to play at LSU. I’m going to be excited either way.”
Freeman, a fellow middle infielder, said he’s “leaning toward” coming back for his senior season.
“It’s been the best year of my life; going out and playing in front of these crowds and stuff is amazing,” he said. “Now we’re starting to roll as a team. Not only this year, but next year, the sky’s the limit.
“I’m not saying I’m not going in the draft, but it’d have to be something that’s definitely life-changing, that’s going to be enough to pull me away from all this.”
Follow Chandler Rome on Twitter, @Chandler_Rome.