lsufsupreview.060819 HS 077.JPG

Former LSU outfielder and first baseman CJ Willis (23) is part of UL's talent upgrade heading into the fall of 2020 as a transfer.

These days, all situations are “fluid,” but Ragin' Cajuns baseball coach Matt Deggs said it’s possible the team's 2020 fall baseball roster is set.

Like programs all over the country, the roster is going to be very different from the one that ended the shortened spring season.

“Right now, I really like where we are,” Deggs said. “I think we’re basically done (rebuilding roster), unless Nolan Ryan falls into your lap. We know what we have. Now it’s a matter of getting everybody in and healthy and getting to work in the fall.”

There are various reasons for the changes.

There was the draft process which led to starting shortstop Hayden Cantrelle going in the fifth round to Milwaukee and senior pitcher Brandon Young signing a free-agent deal with Baltimore.

Neither of those losses were surprising to the staff. In fact, Deggs said he exited the five-round draft feeling fortunate.

“You kind of figure you’re going to lose X, Y and Z,” he said. “Basically, we got lucky. If we had a normal draft and been able to finish out season and gotten hot, we probably lose five or six guys. That was a gift to our program.”

The Cajuns roster will also include three returning seniors getting an extra year of eligibility because of COVID-19 in outfielder Brennan Breaux and pitchers Jack Burk and Austin Bradford.

There wasn’t anything unplanned about the six Cajuns that entered the transfer portal in Jonathan Windham, Tremaine Spears, Justin Greene, Brock Batty, David Williams and Colton Frank.

All of those developments, however, left the staff with a little bit of work to do.

That process was, as Deggs said, “kind of like an old pickup truck. Just when you think you’ve got it running good again, something happens and you’ve got to get it going again.”

The theme of team's response was to “get more competitive depth, especially in the infield.” The team’s hitting in the shortened spring simply wasn’t good enough.

The first source for solutions came from last year’s recruiting class — one the staff “is very excited about.”

As a reminder, that group originally consisted of six pitchers and five hitters. The pitchers included three southpaws — Blake Marshall of Hinds Junior College, New Iberia’s Chipper Menard and Chad Brown from McKinney, Texas — and three right-handers in Spencer Arrighetti from Navarro JC, North Vermilion High’s Hayden Durke and Peyton Havard of Bridge City High in Orange, Texas.

Those arms are added to a returning staff that only lost Young.

“I really like our pitching coming back,” Deggs said. “In my mind, it was an SEC staff. All we lost was Brandon. Then we added a big arm in Hayden Durke and also guys like the Marshall kid and Arrighetti and Chipper Menard from just down the road in New Iberia.”

Offensively, the class included a trio of potential infield solutions in Sam Bianco from Oxford High, Bobby Lada from Bossier Parish CC and Clayton Dean from Tomball, Texas, and two outfielders in Conor Higgs from Texas City and Carson Raccaforte of Port Neches, Texas.

Since then, the Cajuns have added infielder Anthony Catalano from North Iowa Area CC and first baseman Josh Cofield from Hinds.

Also, three Division I transfers are expected to finalize the roster, including CJ Willis from LSU and Drake Osborn from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

“I still like interchangeable parts with athleticism,” Deggs said.

Willis played outfield and first base at LSU, while Osborn is a catcher scheduled to play for the Round Rock Hairy Men of the Texas Collegiate League this summer. Round Rock is scheduled to visit Fabacher Field in Youngsville the weekend of July 24-26.

While many other players aren’t able to get summer at-bats or innings on the mound because of the coronavirus, catcher and first baseman Julian Brock and Arrighetti are playing in the Collegiate Summer Baseball Invitational.

“I like Julian behind the plate, but I also think he can be a fine first baseman,” Deggs said of Brock’s future. “The key is getting his bat in the lineup. I think we all saw that in the spring.

“Some guys need a chance to get some at-bats and that’s just not the case this summer for a lot of guys. So moving forward, a lot of it will be dictated by what you do individually this summer to prepare for the fall.”


Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.