One of the things that gets LSU recruiting coordinator Nolan Cain excited about LSU’s new catcher, Hunter Feduccia: boring batting practice sessions.
This should come with a disclaimer explaining that boring is in the eye of the beholder. To a casual fan, Feduccia’s sessions surely are not as entertaining as the shows of force put on by former LSU slugger Greg Deichmann, effortlessly pounding baseballs over the Alex Box fences.
But Cain appreciates the more nuanced aspects. Instead of a boring BP session, Cain sees a simple, compact swing sending line drives to all fields. And, better yet, he sees that approach translate into competitive situations during scrimmages.
Cain is not the only one excited about Feduccia, who will take over as LSU’s top catcher and potentially bat cleanup in the opening-day lineup in 2018 after transferring from LSU-Eunice.
“He doesn’t really have a weakness at the plate,” coach Paul Mainieri said. “He handles all kinds of pitchers, he handles all kinds of pitches, he covers the whole plate with his swing and uses the whole field.
“He has occasional power, he’s not going to strike out much and he hits in the clutch.”
LSU has proposed a one-year contract extension for pitching coach Alan Dunn that will run through the 2020 season.
The simple swing, Mainieri said, allows Feduccia to avoid cheating, or starting his swing early while anticipating what the opposing pitcher is going to throw.
It's a swing that allows Feduccia to avoid getting fooled on off-speed pitches out of the strike zone, or getting started too early in a swing against a pitcher who throws hard.
“Whoever taught him to hit at a young age certainly knew what they were doing,” Mainieri said.
Feduccia is something of a late bloomer. He didn’t start until his final season at Barbe High School’s powerhouse program in Lake Charles.
And while he has hit successfully at every level, he has steadily improved at the plate as the competition has gotten stiffer. He hit .353 in his senior year at Barbe, .385 in his freshman season at LSU-E, then .391 as a sophomore.
After signing with LSU, Feduccia mashed during the summer with the Northwoods League, hitting .348 with eight home runs and 18 doubles in 184 at-bats.
None of this surprises Jeff Willis, who coached Feduccia at LSU-E.
“I thought last year he was the best catcher in junior college baseball, not just from the catching standpoint, but he supplies a power bat in the middle of somebody’s lineup,” Willis said. “To be able to get the combination of those two things is very rare in that position.”
He was also perhaps the most critical addition of the offseason for an LSU team that is replacing a highly qualified defensive catcher in Michael Papierski from the 2017 team.
It sounds odd, but Micah Gibbs said he did not feel much pain.
Though Feduccia was one of three catchers signed by LSU this offseason, one — Mason Doolittle — has already transferred.
“It was the most important thing we did with last year’s class,” Cain said.
Feduccia has also impressed with his ability behind the plate. Though his arm is not quite as strong as Papierski’s, he makes up for it with a quick release and a high degree of accuracy.
“He throws the ball as accurate as (Papierski) did … and he’s got a good release,” Mainieri said. “There might be better throwers in the country, but he’s going to be able to stop other team’s running games in the SEC.”
LSU Catcher Preview
7 Hunter Feduccia, Jr., L/R, .391/.514/.609 (JUCO)
13 Nick Coomes, Sr., R/R, .303/.401/.402
20 Braden Doughty, Fr., R/R, No statistics
Top bat: Coomes was a steady offensive player for LSU last season, but coaches are anticipating Feduccia to be a force in the middle of LSU’s order this season.
Top glove: Feduccia has shown himself to be a well-rounded defensive player at a difficult position. His quick release and accurate arm should help control opponent run games.
Final thoughts: Feduccia is the clear-cut starter, but don’t be surprised to see LSU give him a day of rest every now and then. After having offseason hip surgery, Nick Coomes has impressed both at the plate and behind it.
ESPN released its 2018 college baseball television schedule Monday, and it features a dozen appearances by LSU.