LSU coach Paul Mainieri is well-connected in the baseball world, so his figure should be fairly close to an accurate representation of what to expect this weekend in Houston.
“I’ve heard scouts tell me there may be as many as 80 professional scouts there this weekend that have asked for credentials from the Astros,” Mainieri said.
Eighty scouts, a number that really stands out considering there are only 30 teams in all of professional baseball. That should speak to the level of talent Mainieri’s team is facing this weekend at the Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic to be played in Minute Maid Park.
The Tigers will draw consensus No. 1 TCU, Baylor and a Texas Tech team that is ranked as high as No. 11. They will not have to face Southeastern Conference foes Ole Miss and Texas A&M, both of whom also ranked in the top 15 of some polls.
The combined record of the six teams going into this weekend’s tournament is 48-5, but that isn’t the reason some six to seven dozen scouts are descending on Houston this weekend.
“I think scouts will tell you this might be the best midseason tournament they’ve seen in the last 10 years in college baseball,” Mainieri said.
Arguably the best of all the prospects showcased in the tournament is LSU right-hander Alex Lange, considered a surefire first-round prospect in June’s MLB draft.
Lange will get an opportunity to showcase his ability in front of those talent scouts against the nation’s No. 1 team, TCU, which has a load of its own prospects to go against LSU’s dominating right-hander.
Among them is sophomore Luken Baker, a hulking power hitter who figures to hear his name called within the first five to 10 picks of the 2018 draft.
This surely won’t be Lange’s first time throwing in front of scouts' eyes, nor is it his first time pitching on a big-league mound. The fourth start of his LSU career came on the mound at Minute Maid Park in this tournament two seasons ago.
It’s also not Lange’s first go-around against a stacked batting order. He insisted he’s going to approach his matchup against the deeply talented Horned Frogs the same way he would any other game.
“If you go in there thinking, ‘This guy’s dangerous, this guy’s dangerous,’ and you go in a little bit timid — even a little bit — that’s where you find trouble,” Lange said. “That’s where you get hurt. I’m not scared of anybody, I’m not intimidated by anybody. They’re getting in the box, they’re trying to hit, and it’s my best vs. your best.”
As far as the rest of LSU’s team, playing in front of scouts eyes doesn’t seem bother them either. Senior shortstop Kramer Robertson is so used to seeing them in attendance with their radar guns drawn every time Lange throws that it’s gotten to the point where he doesn’t notice them at games anymore.
That doesn’t change the fact that they’ll be watching this weekend, though.
“This is a golden opportunity for a lot of our kids to show what kind of players they are,” Mainieri said. “And as I’ve told them, I think this is something you can’t be afraid of — you’ve got to embrace this.
“This is what you come to LSU for, to be in the spotlight, to play against the best teams not named LSU, to play against the best players that don’t come to LSU.”