LSU junior catcher Mike Papierski wanted to make switch-hitting work.
He had honed that skill for more than a decade, and he didn’t want to give it up. Even after ditching his left-handed approach at the plate late last season, largely with positive results, Papierski went back to switch-hitting this fall.
Like a bad habit, he couldn’t quit it.
At batting practice before Tuesday’s practice, LSU catcher Mike Papierski deposited two cons…
“It was a little hard at first,” he said. “I’ve been doing it since I was 8 years old.”
But after a conversation with head coach Paul Mainieri and then-hitting coach Andy Cannizaro toward the end of fall practice, Papierski relented. From this point on, he will only swing the bat right-handed.
“We had a little meeting at the end of the fall,” Papierski said. “We talked about it, and I had better at-bats righty. I stay on the barrel and drive the ball. Coach feels I can help the team win that way, and that’s what I’m going to do — try and help this team win."
If it pans out, this move could be beneficial to Papierski and his squad.
Baseball America pegged Papierski as the No. 79 draft-eligible college baseball prospect earlier this year, despite the fact that the Illinois native carries a .235 career batting average into his junior season. An improved season could bolster his draft stock.
Though he's been inconsistent at the plate, Papierski (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) has prototypical size and standout defensive ability behind it.
LSU juniors Alex Lange, Mike Papierski and Greg Deichmann cracked Baseball America's top 100…
“Defensively, I wouldn’t trade him for anybody,” Mainieri said. “He’s the leader of our team back there, handling the pitching staff. His catching and throwing have been as good as anybody’s, (and) his blocking skills have gotten a lot better.”
But Mainieri said he wants more out of Papierski than the .242 batting average he compiled in 40 starts a year ago. He wants more because he thinks Papierski is capable of more.
“I don’t want him to be an automatic out at the plate — he’s better than that,” Mainieri said. “I don’t expect him to go out and hit .390 with 20 home runs — that would be unbelievable. But if he can just be a good, solid offensive player — be a tough out, drive in some key runs, make a pitcher work — he becomes an asset for us offensively.”
Which is why Mainieri wanted Papierski to leave his switch-hitting approach in the past. In 131 career at-bats as a switch-hitter, Papierski only collected 29 hits — a .221 average. Although the sample size is small, Papierski managed more than one-third of that hit total (10) in 35 at-bats after deciding to swing strictly as a right-hander late last season.
That includes his outstanding postseason run, when he hit .364 in LSU’s six NCAA regional and super regional contests.
The way Mainieri sees it, the modern age of college baseball, in which baseballs more often than not stay in the park, requires a tough lineup from top to bottom.
“It’s more important that we have consistency throughout the lineup,” he said. “We’re going to have to string some singles and doubles together, run the bases, steal some bags, that kind of thing. So you don’t want to have any holes in your lineup.
“If you get a couple hits in an inning, then a guy comes up who is an automatic out, the whole inning comes to a screeching halt. You want everybody in the lineup to be some degree of a tough out and a threat. I think Michael will do that.”