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2024 LSU Baseball Preview: What I think and What I know

Jay Johnson’s second year in Baton Rouge literally couldn’t have gone any better. 

54 wins, a National Championship, the Golden Spikes Award Winner and the top two overall picks in the draft. 

Now, the question heading into the 2024 season is what the hell does Jay Johnson and the Tigers do for an encore? 

As was the case last year, I’m going to do a “What I Think and What I Know.” for the 2024 season. 

Now, for those of you that are new to Culture Media wondering what this is, it’s a mix of what I have learned talking to numerous sources around the program mixed with my opinion of the 2024 Tigers. 

So, here we go….





OVERALL THOUGHTS


Make no mistake, the 2024 Tigers are going to be damn good. There is talent at every single position, maybe not as much quality (and what I mean by that is experience) depth, but LSU can hang with any team in the country.

With not as much experienced depth in 2024, the goal for LSU is to have figured out everything by the start of Southeastern Conference play the weekend of March 15 when they travel to Starkville. 

The biggest difference that I see at least pre-season wise at LSU compared to 2023 is the pitching. Everything that I mentioned before about quality and experienced depth in terms of the bats and in the field doesn’t apply at all to the pitching staff. LSU has pitching coming out of their ears. 

The quality pitching depth will keep them in every game this season and there won’t be a game that they won’t be going for with gusto. 

In terms of names to keep an eye on, everyone has heard about freshman Jake Brown and the impact he is making in the outfield (more to come on that later). 

But, the name I keep hearing with a ton of excitement behind it actually surprised me. 

Hayden Travinski. 






Honestly, I didn’t expect Travinski to come back for the 2024 season. He had a great end to 2023 and you got the feeling it may have been a fluke. Boy, was I wrong. 

Multiple people around the program couldn’t stop raving about the senior catcher/first baseman/designated hitter. They expect a big season from him.  Like a high double-digit home run kind of season after hitting 10 home runs in only 104 at-bats in 2023. 

Last thing in the overall thoughts.  LSU scored a ton of runs in 2023 and hit 144 homers. Johnson and staff didn’t have to get that creative. You didn’t want to run yourself out of a big inning with a hit-and-run or bunt, etc. 

Look for that to change this season. I expect Johnson to be a lot more “creative” when it comes to producing runs in 2024. 



Expectations for LSU Baseball

  • Title or Bust

  • Omaha or Bust

  • Top 8 National Seed or Bust



THE OUTFIELD


Everything when it comes to the outfield revolves around Paxton Kling. If he has a big year, LSU will have a big year. 

A season ago, the now sophomore outfielder struggled at times at the plate. Limited to only 90 at-bats, Kling only hit .289 in limited action to a mixture of injuries and just being ineffective at the plate. 

Looking back on the 2023 season for Kling, I fell into the trap that a lot of people did. We crowned him as the “Next Dylan Crews.” That simply wasn’t fair to him. 

Nobody is the next Dylan Crews. Dylan Crews isn’t even the next Dylan Crews. Does Kling’s build and talent remind you of Crews? Absolutely, but we have to remember that we are talking about an 18 year old kid that had less than 30 games as a high school senior (Pennsylvania weather is really cold). It would take anyone time to adjust to the collegiate level. 

What I’m excited to see with Kling this year is the fact that he will be in centerfield every game, at least three at-bats a game. He is going to be given every single opportunity to shine in the outfield and hit his way out of struggles and slumps.  Ask any baseball player, knowing you will be in the lineup every day can do wonders for calming the nerves and making you that more effective at the plate. 

In right field, it’s Brown’s job to start the season. The 6-2, 190-pound freshman out of Sulphur may be the most gifted athlete to put on the purple in gold in quite a while.  Think Mikie Mahtook with some Tre’ Morgan. Brown can literally do it all. But who the hell thought any of his impact would be in the field? Not me. I thought he was going to do it all on the mound. 

Brown continues to shine and I expect to see him starting in the outfield in game one. 

In leftfield it’s a little more complicated. I think senior Mac Bingham is going to be out there to start. The Arizona transfer hit 10 home runs and drove in 51 with a .360 average. Is he going to follow in the footsteps of another Arizona transfer that came to LSU in Jacob Berry? Probably not, but he is a quality bat for sure. 

You could also see a little mix of Josh Pearson in the outfield, in particular leftfield in late game situations if LSU were to go a little more defensive in the infield. Remember that “creative stuff” I talked about earlier? That holds true in the field too. 

I’m also interested to see the progression in year two for sophomore outfielder Ethan Frey. A monster prospect coming out of Rosepine High School a season ago, Frey struggled to make the adjustment at the plate last season for the Tigers. After a complete off-season and another fall, can he take the next step at the plate for LSU in 2024? 


THE INFIELD


Around the infield, it starts and stops with Tommy White. The junior third baseman is coming off of a phenomenal season in which he hit 24 home runs and drove in 105 runs, the most since Brad Creese drove in 106 back in 2000. White missed all the fall recovering from minor shoulder surgery, he is healthy and throwing, which is a great sign and should be a full go by the start of the season. 

There will be a new face at shortstop for LSU as South Carolina transfer Michael Braswell is slated to take over. I got the chance to see Braswell multiple different times this fall in practice as well as the Purple and Gold World Series. The kid can flat out hit and is more than adequate in the field. Braswell comes to the Tigers after starting 37 games last season for the Gamecocks and playing in 51 games. The experience is there. 

Second base is where it starts to get interesting. Pearson is going to get the first chance at it and Johnson and staff hope they find Gavin Dugas 2.0 there.  There is no question that Pearson can hit, but can he play a quality enough second base not to become a hindrance for LSU in the field? If he can, fantastic. 


You also have to throw Steven Milam into the mix at second base as well at shortstop. Young freshman with tons of potential, can play both spots in the middle infield and is a switch hitter. 

Remember when I was talking about Bingham in left field? This is the second part of this discussion. If Pearson has to move back to left field at times, you can see Milam, Ben Nippolt and another freshman, Ryan Kucherak, see time there; in particular in late inning situations. Hopefully LSU has this figured out by the start of Southeastern Conference play. 

Jared Jones is set at first base. A monstrous 6-4, 230 pounds, Jones hit 14 home runs last season, but late season struggles saw him all but disappear from the lineup late in the season. Jones took the league by storm to start the year, but the book on him may have gotten out in the second half of the season. He will get every opportunity to keep the job at first base and after a year of SEC play under his belt and teaming with arguably the best hitting coach in the country in Jay Johnson, I expect a much better all-around season from Jones.  

If that doesn’t happen, Brown is the back-up plan and could see time early in the season in situational moments to gain experience. 

Behind the plate, now 100-percent healthy, I expect Brady Neal and Alex Milazzo to compete for the starting spot. Neal, switch-hitting catcher who should have been a senior in high school a year ago, now



has a year under his belt behind the plate for this program, but must prove that he can stay healthy for an entire season (he struggled with injuries this summer). 

Alex Milazzo is also fully recovered from his horrific injury suffered in the College World Series and will provide a valuable defensive replacement that can also rotate with Neal at times throughout the year. 

That brings us back to Travinski. I was blown away when every source I talked to said they expect him to be the starting designated hitter and how big of a year they think he can have at the plate. 

Good for Hayden, and the more people I talk to about Travinski, the more Cade Beloso 2023 vibes I’m starting to get. If Hayden can provide the offensive firepower that Beloso did a year ago and can help protect White, Jones and Kling in the lineup, watch out. Look for him to also provide some depth and some spot duty behind the plate at times too. 


THE PITCHING


Let’s get this part out of the way now. Paul Skenes is gone and he is not coming back to pitch for LSU in 2024. While we are at it, and this is not a shot at the kid, Cameron Johnson is NOT the left-handed version of Paul Skenes. 

Do not put that kind of pressure on the kid. He is going to be an absolute stud for LSU and Jay Johnson is right when he told me he could be the first overall pick in the coming years, but he is not there yet. 

The situation that Skenes put the Tigers in last season was one of the most unique that I have ever seen in college baseball. Team literally would pitch backwards against LSU and virtually give the Tigers the Friday night game because they knew that they had no chance to not beat LSU, but beat Skenes. 

That won’t be the case in 2024 and that isn’t a shot against anyone on the 2024 staff. There simply isn’t that “BIG DOG” that is going to scare the crap out of opposing hitters. 

At least, not yet. 

If there was an SEC series this weekend, I think Johnson and staff would throw Thatcher Hurd, Gage Jump and Luke Holman in that order. 

Outside of Skenes himself, perhaps no other pitcher was as hot as Hurd at the end of the 2023 season. The UCLA transfer was nearly unhittable coming out of the pen. 

It took a little while for Hurd to get his SEC sea legs under him, but boy once he did he was quite impressive. I mean, six innings of two-run ball against Florida in the National Championship Game stands on its own pretty damn strong. 

Jump is the question mark, but not really. Highly decorated coming out of high school, he was the top-ranked pitcher in the State of California as a high school senior. The lefty made seven appearances in 2022 for UCLA as a freshman, but had to undergo Tommy John surgery the second half of his first season as a Bruin and missed all of the 2023. 

All signs point to him being healthy for 2024. 

Holman is another transfer. The ace from Alabama a season ago, he went 7-4 and finished second in the SEC in WHIP (1.05). By the way, I still don’t know what WHIP means, but second in the SEC is second in the SEC. 

While Travinski is the name that all my sources are saying to expect a big year at the plate from, those same people are saying that they wouldn't be surprised if by conference play that freshman left-hander Kade Anderson isn’t in the rotation. Something to keep an eye on. 



So, I know after reading this you are asking, but what about Cam Johnson. Johnson has talent coming out of his ears and will be a stud, but they are taking things very slow with him in terms of his overall development. I think by SEC play, he will be a much relied upon arm. 

In the bullpen, the names I continue to hear are Nate Ackenhausen, Gavin Guidry, Justin Loer and Micah Bucknam. 

At the end of the season, Guidry was the closer (still can’t get over that one, it’s like Jake Brown in reverse, I thought Guidry was going to be the starting shortstop). He was on the mound and got the last out of the 2023 season to seal the National Championship. 

Ackenhausen proved to be a pivotal member of the bullpen a season ago and his six innings of work against Tennessee in Omaha will forever go down in LSU lore. I really see Ackenhausen sliding into the role Riley Cooper had the past two seasons. 

Bucknam is a hard-throwing right-hander that continues to improve and then there is Justin Loer. 

The crafty left-hander out of Xavier (Ohio) had a great year up north in 2023, posting a 6-2 record, a 1.89 ERA and seven saves in 57.0 innings with 63 strikeouts and a .182 opponent batting average. I actually think he will start as the closer to begin the season. 





PREDICTION TIME


So, no I’m not predicting an LSU repeat championship. It doesn’t mean they can’t do it and by mid-season I may be saying exactly that. What I’m going to say is pretty much the same thing I say every year with this program. Barring season ending injuries (knock on wood everyone), this should be a program that gets a Top 8 National Seed and be in a Super Regional. Anything less than that would be a disappointment. Then after that, roll the ball out there and see what happens. Don’t be surprised to see the Tigers back in Omaha!

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