In an effort to upgrade its defense, Louisiana State has installed freshman Austin Nola at shortstop and moved D.J. LeMahieu from short to second base and Ryan Schimpf from second to the outfield.
LeMahieu played a solid shortstop as a freshman for the Tigers and again last summer in the Cape Cod League, where we ranked him as the No. 6 prospect. Though some scouts thought that he’d have to switch to a less demanding position once his 6-foot-4 frame filled out, others believed he had the fluid actions, first step and range to handle shortstop.
Projected as a mid-first-round pick by Baseball America at the outset of the season, LeMahieu has frustrated some scouts. A draft-eligible sophomore, he hasn’t shown as much power as hoped because he doesn’t turn on pitches with much consistency. He’s hitting .366/.444/.506, and while he leads LSU in batting, he has just three homers and 14 extra-base hits in 44 games. LeMahieu still could go in the first couple of rounds of the draft. He has a track record of performing at a high level while possessing average speed and projectable power, he may be signable in the top three rounds and the college middle-infield crop is extremely thin.
Schimpf, a junior, packs a lot of punch for a 5-foot-9, 181-pounder. We rated him as the No. 1 prospect in the Valley League last summer, and he’s hitting .318/.443/.617 and leading the Tigers in slugging, doubles (10) and homers (12). He could move back to second base in pro ball or serve as an offensive utilityman, and he could go as high as the fourth or fifth round. He has nice pitch recognition and plate discipline, slightly above-average speed and sure hands in the field.
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