Draft : : State Preview
Tuesday, May 17, 2011

State Preview: Louisiana

Allan Simpson         David Rawnsley        
In the weeks leading up to the draft, Perfect Game will be providing a detailed overview of each state in the U.S., including the District of Columbia, as well as Canada and Puerto Rico.  These overviews will list the state's strengths, weaknesses and the players with the best tools, as well as providing mini-scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players.
Louisiana State-by-State List
Louisiana Overview:
As LSU Goes, So Go the Fortunes of Draft Talent in State of Louisiana
There is a very set and defined distribution of talent in Louisiana’s 2011 draft crop, to a point where there may be as many college pitchers selected in the first 10 rounds as high-school position prospects. That is to say, in each case, perhaps none.
There is an outside chance that a couple of Louisiana State righthanders, deposed starter Tyler Jones and three-year closer Matty Ott, and even inconsistent Louisiana Tech lefthander Mike Jefferson could sneak into the picture, but otherwise the college talent in the state is very top-heavy in position prospects.
The opposite situation exists at the high-school level. There are two high-school position players whose tools and overall evaluations would normally warrant being drafted in the top 10 rounds, but that is unlikely to happen.
Franklinton High outfielder Terrance Magee definitely has the tools to be a premium pick, but he’s also a stud running back with a strong commitment to LSU to play football. His talent on the gridiron has been compared to Alabama 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. Evangel Christian High third baseman Connor Castellano played well on the showcase circuit last summer and has nice offensive potential, but his 4.4 GPA and Vanderbilt scholarship, along with his inability to profile a position in the field, will make scouts take a cautious approach on his signability.
Those significant gaps in the 2011 talent supply essentially leaves Louisiana, normally a deep, well-rounded state, with the equivalent of half a prospect class—college position players and high-school arms.
The reality of baseball in Louisiana, at every level, is that the state is closely intertwined with the success of its signature program, LSU. As the fortunes of the Tigers go, so goes the fortunes of the rest of the state.
Colleges like Southeastern Louisiana (34-19), Tulane (30-21) and Louisiana-Lafayette (34-23) have solid programs and are enjoying successful seasons, better perhaps than even LSU. There was also a time, in 2005, when Tulane may have actually eclipsed LSU as a baseball program as it entered that year’s College World Series with a 55-10 record and No. 1 national ranking.
Three months later, Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed the city of New Orleans and the Green Wave program hasn’t been the same since. It has barely been a .500 team in Conference USA play over the last six years. Even more significant, the University of New Orleans’ once-thriving program was reduced in status to an NCAA Division III program in the wake of all the fallout from Katrina.
But the state-wide focus and attention week-in and week-out is on the Tigers, six-time national champions over the last two decades. But quite frankly, the news on that front hasn’t been overly positive over the course of the last year.
LSU was 32-6 in mid-April of 2010 and seemed to be on pace for a second consecutive national championship. Over their next 74 games, though, the Tigers were just 39-35 overall—and that included a 4-14 record through the first six weeks of this year’s Southeastern Conference schedule. After an 18-1 start against a weak non-conference scheduled, they were summarily dismantled on the opening weekend of SEC play by then-No. 1-ranked Florida, and quickly got into the same funk that killed their season a year ago.
Although the Tigers are 33-19 overall, have a national RPI rank of 27 and won seven of their last nine conference games, they were in the unenviable position of having to sweep Mississippi State in the final SEC series of the year just to make the eight-team SEC tournament.
Their SEC record could put an NCAA tournament bid for LSU into question. In head coach Paul Mainieri’s defense, he has started freshmen in 32 of the team’s 51 games thus far, a true sign of a rebuilding year if there ever was one. Three of the freshman, though, righthanders Kevin Gausman, Kurt McCune and Ryan Eades, are all top-notch prospects, and should put the program in a considerably different position in 2012, and even 2013.
Led by multi-talented LSU center fielder Mikie Mahtook, a sure-fire first-rounder and easily the best prospect in the state, Louisiana’s crop of college position players certainly has lived up to its end of the bargain. Mahtook leads LSU by wide margins in every meaningful offensive category—average (.370), homers (13), RBIs (50), walks (37) and stolen bases (28)—and he has played an errorless center field. His best tool may be his overall athleticism, which encompasses his power, speed, hitting ability and defensive prowess. Mahtook’s throwing arm is his only tool that doesn’t rank significantly above average.
While Mahtook, who had more of a football than baseball background when he enrolled at LSU three years ago, has been well known to scouts since he was a freshman starter on LSU’s 2009 College World Series championship team, McNeese State shortstop Jace Peterson has been a revelation this spring. He is seen as the only other player in the state who could go as high as the third round, possibly even second.
Peterson has a significant football resume himself as he is a defensive back on the McNeese State football team. As a result, he hasn’t been heavily exposed because he hasn’t played in summer-league competition. He is one of the top speed players in this draft and is hitting .325-2-33 with 42 walks and 27 steals; he also ranks among the national leaders in runs scored with 63. While he plays shortstop for the Cowboys, scouts believe he’ll need to move to second base or even center field at the pro level, primarily because of marginal arm strength.
Peterson is one of three college shortstops from Louisiana who should factor prominently into the draft. He is the most athletic of the trio and the best base-stealing threat, while LSU’s Austin Nola is the best defender and the most likely to remain at shortstop at the pro level, and Southeastern Louisiana’s Justin Boudreaux is the best hitter.
Nola was the most established of the three shortstops entering the season, primarily because of his LSU pedigree and superior fielding skills, but he hasn’t had a particularly good season at the plate (.292-2-37) or in the field (13 errors), and his chances of going in the top 2-3 rounds are pretty much gone. Boudreaux is easily the weakest defender of the three, as his 26 errors attest, but his actions at the position are considered satisfactory. His ability to swing the bat, though, should facilitate an easy transition to another position.
There has been little to distinguish the best high-school pitching prospects in the state from one another all spring, though it appears that Nola’s younger brother Aaron may have taken a slight lead with the draft in sight. He lost his only game in two years, however, as Baton Rouge’s Catholic High, the state’s top prep team and defending 5-A champion, bowed out in the state semi-finals.
Nola is targeted to attend LSU in 2012, where the distinct possibility exists that he would play on the same team as his brother. It will be a toss-up who will be drafted first among the two, and the prevailing wisdom is that both players will be at LSU next season, or neither will.
Nola and his Catholic High teammate, Tulane-bound righthander Alex Massey, are considered the most polished of the state’s top half-dozen prep pitching prospects, but Massey’s performance slipped later in the 2011 season, and he and Nola are no longer expected to go as a package as the first pitchers drafted.
Both are physically-similar prospects with the same type of projection. Nola and Massey check in at 6-2/175 and 6-2/165, respectively, and have loose, fast arms. They can normally bump their fastballs into the low 90s and have very polished deliveries. They also project above-average off-speed pitches—in Nola’s case his changeup; for Massey, his curveball. Not surprisingly, Catholic High was the state’s top-ranked high-school team most of the season, with Nola and Massey combining to go 15-0 until Nola’s demise in his final outing.
Early in the season, Salmen High righthander Taylor Nunez and Parkway High righthander Carson Baranik flashed the best fastballs in the state, but the velocity of both pitchers slipped noticeably—Baranik mainly because of some shoulder issues. His lively mid-90s fastball also ended up at the backstop on a recurring basis because he had no one to catch his superior stuff. Baranik is an LSU recruit, while Nunez is committed to Southern Mississippi.
To test scouts and their willingness to project young pitchers physically, Zachary High lefthander Taylor Guilbeau and Notre Dame High righthander Austin Robichaux are also tall, slender arms who project to improve their raw stuff over the next few years as they get bigger and stronger.
Louisiana in a Nutshell:
STRENGTH: College position players, high-school arms.
WEAKNESS: College pitching, high-school position players.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 3.
BEST COLLEGE TEAM: Louisiana State.
BEST HIGH-SCHOOL TEAM: Catholic HS, Baton Rouge
PROSPECT ON THE RISE: Jace Peterson, ss, McNeese State University. Peterson is a defensive back on the McNeese State football team, and has the type of athleticism that is rare in a college prospect. Some scouts have acknowledged that he may be the best of an admittedly-thin crop of college middle infielders. He should quickly tap into his upside once he gets more baseball repetitions.
PROSPECT ON THE DECLINE: Carson Baranik, rhp, Parkway HS, Bossier City. The LSU signee started off the year touching 95 mph and generated substantial draft interest early, but has been slowed by a tender shoulder and the inability of anyone to catch his superior stuff.
WILD CARDS: Aaron Nola, rhp/Alex Massey, rhp, Catholic HS, Baton Rouge. The prep teammates are similar prospects with their tools and physical projection, and could make a case for being the two best pitching prospects in the state—regardless of type. But will they pass up scholarships to LSU and Tulane, respectively?
BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Louisiana Connection: Taylor Dugas, of, University Alabama (attended high school in Lafayette).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT: Kevin Gausman, rhp, Louisiana State University.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT: Garrett Williams, lhp, Calvary Baptist HS, Shreveport.
Draft History: Danny Goodwin, c, Southern U. (1975, Angels/1st round, 1st pick); Ben McDonald, rhp, Louisiana State U. (1989, Orioles/1st round, 1st pick).
2006 Draft: Ryan Adams, 3b, Jesuit HS, Mandeville (Orioles/2nd round).
2007 Draft: Brian Rike, of, Louisiana Tech (Rockies/2nd round).
2008 Draft: Shooter Hunt, rhp, Tulane U. (Twins/1st round, 31st pick).
2009 Draft: Jared Mitchell, of, Louisiana State U. (White Sox/1st round, 23rd round).
2010 Draft: Anthony Ranaudo, rhp, Louisiana State U. (Red Sox/1st round, 39th pick).
Best Hitter: Mikie Mahtook, of, Louisiana State University.
Best Power: Mikie Mahtook, of, Louisiana State University.
Best Speed: Jace Peterson, ss, McNeese State University.
Best Defender: Austin Nola, ss, Louisiana State University.
Best Velocity: Aaron Nola, rhp, Catholic HS, Baton Rouge.
Best Breaking Stuff: Taylor Guilbeau, lhp, Zachary HS.
GROUP ONE (Projected ELITE-Round Draft / Rounds 1-3)
1. MIKIE MAHTOOK, of, Louisiana State University (Jr.)
++ all-around package, hits (.370-13-50), + approach(37 BB:29 K), runs (26 SB), fields (0 errors, + range).
2. JACE PETERSON, ss, McNeese State University (Jr.)
+ athlete, limited baseball reps; ++ speed, L-D hitter (.325-2-33, 64 R, 27 SB), so-so arm, may be a 2B/CF.
GROUP TWO (Projected HIGH-Round Draft / Rounds 4-10)
3. AARON NOLA, rhp, Catholic HS, Baton Rouge
Brother of LSU’s Austin, slender build/loose arm, 88-92 FB, big-breaking CU, outstanding CH, + projects.
4. AUSTIN NOLA, ss, Louisiana State University (Jr.)
+ Defensive SS, smooth actions, excellent arm; bat has improved (.292-2-37), solid approach, some gap pop.
5. JUSTIN BOUDREAUX, ss, Southeastern Louisiana University (Jr.)
Solid tool set, bat speed/power potential (.338-8-47), average MLB runner, SS now, 3B/corner OF in pro ball.
6. AUSTIN ROBICHAUX, rhp, Notre Dame HS, Crowley
6-5/180 RHP, son of UL-L coach Tony; loose arm, multiple release points, + FB life, tops at 93, good CU.
7. TAYLOR NUNEZ, rhp, Salmen HS, Slidell
6-4/175, raw mechanics, loose ¾ arm, 88-91 FB/touches 93-94, power CU at 78 with depth; high-ceiling arm.
8. TAYLOR GUILBEAU, lhp, Zachary HS
Projectable 6-3/175 lefty, upper 80s FB now with extended ¾ release; 78 mph SL is best pitch, big/deep CH.
9. LEE ORR, of, McNeese State University (Jr.)
4th yr-junior, + tools, easy power (.323-8-53, 20 2B),+ speed, CF skills, questionable contact (62 K’s) is issue.
10. JEREMY SCHAFFER, c, Tulane University (Jr.)
Strong, offensive-minded C (.365-6-37/23 2B, 33 BB), + approach, + strong, 32 career HRs, fringy defender.
11. ALEX MASSEY, rhp, Catholic HS, Baton Rouge
Slender 6-2 build, but loose arm, 88-91 FB, potential +CU in mid-70s, minimum-effort delivery, throws K’s.
12. CONNOR CASTELLANO, 3b, Evangel Christian HS, Shreveport
Strong build, LH hitter with impressive bat speed, LD stroke, gap power, 6.9 runner, quick feet, may play 2B.
13. HOMMY ROSADO, 1b, LSU-Eunice JC (Fr.)
Rockies’ 11th-round in 2010; big bat speed/lift in swing (26 HRs as HS SR), .349-7-42 in 2011, limited on D.
14. MATT THRELKELD, 3b, Louisiana Tech (Jr.)
Tough to see with team’s West-Coast schedule; big raw power is best tool (.318-7-36), profiles as corner OF.
15. TERRENCE MAGEE, of, Franklinton HS
4-star football RB, headed to LSU (54 TDs in 2010); has ++ baseball tools/skills, quick bat, + arm strength.
16. CARSON BARANIK, rhp, Parkway HS, Bossier City
Polished 6-3/205 pitcher, FB in low-90s/T-95 mph, good CU/CH, but stuff inconsistent, had shoulder issues.
17. TYLER JONES, rhp, Louisiana State University (Jr.)
Potential Group-1 talent at outset of season with 96-97 FB; struggled to throw strikes (31 IP, 33 H/22 BB).
18. MATTY OTT, rhp, Louisiana State University (Jr.)
Struggled to match FR hype (16 SV, 6 BB/69 K for CWS champs); better prospect now with 88-92 FB/+ SL.
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