The potential of sophomore infielder Jake Slaughter was on full display at a scrimmage Tuesday in Alex Box Stadium when he rudely greeted left-hander Brandon Nowak with missile to left field.
The home run, Slaughter’s second of the fall, clanged off the light pole beyond the left field bleachers. LSU’s TrackMan ball-tracking system recorded an exit velocity of 109.3 miles per hour, making it the hardest ball hit by an LSU player this fall.
“With the bat, on a given swing, he looks as good as anybody you’ve ever seen in these parts,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri.
Mainieri knows Slaughter is capable of the greatness he showed in Tuesday’s scrimmage. What he wants to see now is for Slaughter to shrink the gap between the extremes.
“The wide range of what you’re going to get out of him is still a little bit perplexing,” Mainieri said.
Slaughter is LSU’s presumptive starter at third base going into the 2018 season. He spent the first half of the 2017 season as the Tigers’ starting first baseman, but a prolonged slump at the plate eventually led him to the bench.
In 53 games (with 40 starts), Slaughter batted .257 with 3 home runs and 26 RBIs.
“I think last year was good for me because I really learned how to deal with failure, a lot of adversity,” Slaughter said. “Failure teaches you something, and you’ve got to be ready and figure out what it is."
Consistency is at the top of Mainieri’s wish list for his sophomore infielder, both in the field and at the plate.
“I just need him to become more consistent,” Mainieri said. “He’s got the tools to do it, I know he’s got the hands and the arm. He hasn’t had a lot of chances, but I’m striving for a really high level out of each of our positions, and he hasn’t met the level that I expect yet.
“But he’s got the tools, he works really hard at it, and hopefully it’ll keep coming.”
Slaughter’s goal going into the 2018 season is simply to be a well-rounded player.
He grew up playing the left side of the infield and relishes the opportunity to return to third base, where he competed with Josh Smith last fall before taking over at first base.
He spent his summer studying Colorado Rockies gold-glove third baseman Nolan Arenado, who spent an offseason training with one of Slaughter’s friends.
Slaughter’s friend told him about Arenado’s work ethic, and Slaughter is hopeful to model himself after one of the Major League’s best at the position.
“You can tell how much (Arenado) focuses and cares about fielding,” Slaughter said. “I want to take thousands of good quality ground ball reps and be ready to make every play possible.”
The key for Slaughter is to develop an ability to keep an even keel. Mainieri said Slaughter would let his emotions from a bad play carry over at times last season.
“We can’t have that,” Mainieri said.
Slaughter is hopeful he can find the opportunity in those mistakes.
“There were a lot of things I learned from last year that I wouldn’t have learned if I wouldn’t have had the adversity,” Slaughter said. “I’m not happy that it happened to me, but I’m happy that I had the opportunity to learn.”