LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri does not like to discuss specific players and their MLB draft stock. He made an exception to his rule Thursday, just before the draft began.
“He has the chance to be the best power hitter in the country,” Mainieri said of Greg Deichmann. “Personally, I hope he comes back for one more year, because next year I think he will be. I think he’ll be a top draft choice and the best power hitter in the country.”
Deichmann, the Most Outstanding Player of the Baton Rouge regional, will get a chance to do just that. The Tigers first baseman will return to school for his junior season, he told The Advocate on Monday.
A draft-eligible sophomore, Deichmann was selected in the 26th round by the Minnesota Twins.
“I was going to make them take me away from school this year,” Deichmann told The Advocate on Monday night. “And I had a pretty good idea that that wasn’t going to happen just because I had only played one year here so far.”
He said he will play summer baseball in the Cape Cod League.
“I think it’s the best thing for me at this point,” Deichmann said of returning. “I’m going to be older next year, (and) I finally have a season’s worth of at-bats under my belt, SEC experience. It’s the right thing for me to continue to grow as a player here.”
Rotating between first and third base, Deichmann started 62 of LSU’s 66 games, leading the team with 11 home runs and 57 RBIs. He ended the season on a six-game hitting streak, including four home runs in the Tigers’ six-game NCAA tournament run.
Deichmann’s .225 isolated power average — an advanced statistic subtracting batting average from slugging percentage — was the highest among LSU players who started 40 or more games.
Deichmann had his annual exit meeting with Mainieri on Monday, and the two talked about shoring up defense for the Brother Martin product. Deichmann said he may “move around” in the Cape Cod League, working at first, second and “maybe some outfield.”
Smith will sign
Right-hander Riley Smith, who began the season as a favorite to crack the rotation but dealt with nagging shoulder soreness that set him back, announced on Instagram that he will forgo his senior season and sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“Coming to LSU was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, I met so many great people, made lifetime memories, and was a part of one of the best experiences in college baseball,” Smith wrote. “I can’t thank the fans, coaches and members of the LSU baseball program enough for such a special season! I will miss playing under the lights at Alex Box Stadium but am very excited to start my professional career with the Arizona Diamondbacks.”
Smith, a junior-college transfer who was selected in the 31st round of the 2015 draft and came close to signing, threw just 22.1 innings all season with a 7.66 ERA. He made one start — the resumption of a rain-halted game against Florida in the last week of the season — and had 11 appearances out of the bullpen.
Arizona selected Smith in the 24th round with the 719th pick this year.
With Smith’s and Deichmann’s decisions made, the Tigers now wait on five other drafted players: Jared Poché, Kramer Robertson, Cole Freeman, Parker Bugg and Jesse Stallings.
Jake Fraley, who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays with the No. 77 pick Thursday, told The Advocate that night that he plans to forgo his senior season and sign professionally.
Another honor for Duplantis
Antoine Duplantis, already a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American, added a second-team All-America honor from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association on Monday.
After beginning his career with a 19-game hitting streak, Duplantis finished 2016 with 89 hits — second in the SEC — while playing right field at a .987 fielding percentage.
He was one of four LSU players, and the only freshman, to start all 66 games. Duplantis’ hitting streak was the third-longest to start an LSU career over the past 20 seasons.
Follow Chandler Rome on Twitter, @Chandler_Rome.