Paul Mainieri’s first goal for his 2014 baseball recruiting class: Sign big arms.
His second goal: Keep the signed big arms.
A month before the June 5 Major League Baseball draft, the LSU coach is confident a good portion of his 12 signees — including six power pitchers — will make it to campus. He won’t know for sure until the signing deadline hits in mid-July.
LSU does not officially release its list of signees until after a signing decision is made.
The six weeks between the draft and that deadline is a nerve-wracking stretch for a coach whose program can be greatly impacted by the choice of a few teenagers.
Imagine if football recruits running back Leonard Fournette and receiver Malachi Dupre didn’t show up in August, instead opting for the professional ranks.
“My expectation is all six are going to show up,” Mainieri said, referring to a group of highly rated pitching signees. “Is that unrealistic? I don’t know.”
Some would say no. But that’s the risk Mainieri and the Tigers take by reeling in the best baseball players in the nation, the ones also being recruited by major league scouts.
So who are these big arms?
The top dog is Georgia native Mac Marshall, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound left-hander who’s hit 94 mph with his fastball and “showed a potential ‘plus’ breaking ball,” according to the scouting site Perfect Game.
He’s projected to be picked in the late first or early second round, a selection that comes with a signing bonus of near or more than $1 million.
Baseball America ranks him as the No. 33 prospect in this year’s draft. For comparison’s sake, Baseball America ranks LSU ace Aaron Nola No. 7.
Mainieri says the chances in Marshall arriving at LSU are 50-50.
“I’ve visited with him. He loves LSU and wants to come to LSU,” Mainieri said. “But what if the Atlanta Braves draft him with the 32nd pick and give the kid $2 million? You can’t blame him for taking it.”
How good is Marshall?
He went the first 33 innings of his senior season without allowing an earned run. His ERA is still well below 1.00 as he leads Georgia’s Parkview High into the state playoffs.
Marshall is just one of six, though. The other five pitchers are projected anywhere from the third to the 10th rounds or beyond.
There are the two Jakes from Illinois: Jake Godfrey and Jake Latz.
Godfrey, a righty, stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 216 pounds. He’s got a fastball that topped at 94 mph, according to Perfect Game.
Latz, 6-2, 185-pound lefty, has a fastball that hovers in the low 90s. Righty Alex Range out of Missouri has hit 94, and Doug Norman, a right-hander from South Carolina, sits in the low 90s as well.
“I don’t think there’s any secret that we need to get some power arms into our program,” Mainieri said. “Our pitchers have done a remarkable job this year, but we really only have two guys that throw the ball 90 miles an hour consistently: Nola and Broussard.
When pitchers don’t throw 90-plus, that doesn’t mean they can’t pitch. They just have to be really fine with what things they do.”
There are six more nonpitchers in the class.
The list includes Brother Martin shortstop Greg Deichmann, twins Bryce and Beau Jordan from Lake Charles and catcher Michale Papierski of Illinois. Also in the group are Gulfport, Miss., native Bobby Bradley and shortstop Grayson Byrd, former LSU pitcher Paul Byrd’s son.
Deichmann made the Perfect Game First Team Underclassmen last year, a list of the top 100 high school underclassmen in the nation.
“He’s a stud,” Mainieri said.
Most expect Deichmann to bypass a pro contract and attend LSU. But who really knows?
It’s all a game of chance — a risky one Mainieri plays every year.
“I can’t just go out and find the best players in the country and recruit them because the best players in the country may sign professionally and never show up to school,” the coach said. “If I get stuck holding a bag with nothing in it, what good did it do to sign all of those great players?
“It’s a challenge,” he said.
Nola, a draft-eligible junior, is expected to forgo his senior season for pro baseball.
Anyone else leaving early? Mainieri doesn’t have answers, but offers suggestions.
Reliever Joe Broussard is a junior whose 90-plus mph fastballs have caught the eyes of scouts. Mainieri said LSU “will probably lose” Broussard to the draft.
Outfielder Mark Laird is a draft-eligible sophomore because he’s turned 21.
Even Jared Foster, the Tigers’ athletic reserve, is a possibility.
“If they make it known that they’ll sign, they’ll probably get the chance,” Mainieri said.
Tuesday game on TV
Cox Sports Television and Jumbo Sports Network Partners have teamed up to televise LSU’s last regular season non-conference home game Tuesday against Northwestern State.
The game can be seen throughout the region on Cox Sports Television affiliates. The telecast will feature Lyn Rollins handling the play-by-play duties and former LSU pitcher Ronnie Rantz providing color commentary.