State Report: Louisiana

Both preps and colleges are down on the Bayou




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THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
Rating compares this year's group to what a state typically produces, not to other states
Every area goes through talent cycles, and this year, two premium Southern states for producing baseball talent are at low points: Georgia and Louisiana.

In Louisiana, the main draw for scouts and fan interest is Louisiana State, and the Tigers produced five players drafted in the first 10 rounds last year and four in 2009, when they won the most recent of their six College World Series championships. This year, only outfielder Mikie Mahtook is a lock to go in the first 10 rounds. LSU's pitching staff was dominated by freshmen, while veterans such as junior closer Matty Ott (28 IP, 6 SV) and righthander Tyler Jones (4-0, 5.22) had modest seasons after flashing intriguing talent earlier in their careers.

College baseball in the state was down in terms of draft talent and wins. None of the state's 12 Division I teams made it to the NCAA tournament, and two—Centenary and New Orleans—were dropping out of Division I. Centenary was going to Division III, while UNO was headed to D-II.

The high schools in the state didn't step forward to fill the void. Only a handful of Pelican State prospects were sure bets to be drafted in the first 10 rounds.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Mikie Mahtook, of, Louisiana Sate (National Rank: 21)
2. Jace Peterson, ss, McNeese State (National Rank: 71)
3. Aaron Nola, rhp, Catholic HS, Baton Rouge (National Rank: 163)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

4. Justin Boudreaux, ss/3b, Southeastern Louisiana
5. Austin Nola, ss, Louisiana State
6. Terrance Magee, of, Franklinton HS
7. Chaz Hebert, lhp, Breaux Bridge HS
8. Hommy Rosado, 3b/1b, LSU-Eunice JC
9. Taylor Nunez, rhp, Salmen HS, Slidell
10. Austin Robichaux, rhp, Notre Dame HS, Crowley
11. Drew Gagnier, rhp, Louisiana-Monroe
12. Tyler Jones, rhp, Louisiana State
13. Carson Baranik, rhp, Parkway HS, Bossier City
14. Lee Orr, of, McNeese State
15. Frazier Hall, rhp/1b, Southern
16. Brett Bonvillain, lhp, Delgado JC
17. Matty Ott, rhp, Louisiana State
18. Jeremy Schaffer, c, Tulane
19. Alex Massey, rhp, Catholic HS, Baton Rouge
20. Drew Zizinia, rhp, Tulane
21. Brandon Efferson, rhp, Southeastern Louisiana
22. Seth Webster, rhp, Nicholls State
23. Taylor Gilbeau, lhp, Zachary HS
24. Josh Burris, rhp/c, LSU-Eunice JC
25. Joey Rapp, 1b, Louisiana-Monroe
26. Cody Hall, rhp, Southern
27. Nick Pepitone, rhp, Tulane
28. Matt Threlkeld, 3b/of, Louisiana Tech
29. Jeff Harkensee, of, Southeastern Louisiana
30. Stone Speer, lhp, Delgado JC
31. Chase Jaramillo, ss, Nicholls State
32. Mike Jefferson, lhp, Louisiana Tech
33. Wilmy Marrero, 3b/of, Southern
34. Connor Castellano, 3b, Evangel Christian HS, Shreveport
35. Ben Alsup, rhp, Louisiana State
36. Clint Ewing, c, Louisiana Tech
37. Kevin Barry, rhp, Louisiana State
38. Conrad Flynn, rhp, Tulane

SCOUTING REPORTS

Mikie Mahtook, of
Louisiana State

Mahtook burst onto the scene as a freshman, earning a starting spot midway through the 2009 season and helping to spark Louisiana State to the College World Series championship. He was good enough in center field to push premium athletes Leon Landry and Jared Mitchell to the outfield corners, yet at 6-foot-1, 192 pounds, some scouts are still skeptical whether he can play the middle garden in the big leagues. He played right field as a sophomore and moved back to center as a junior. He has an average arm, but if he gets any bigger and loses his slightly above-average speed, he may have to go to left. Mahtook's swing isn't technically proficient, but he's strong, repeats his stroke and has a feel for the barrel. He made consistent hard contact all season, and his OPS (1.205) was higher than it was last season. Scouts expect clubs that value performance to keep Mahtook from sliding beyond the supplemental round.

Jace Peterson, ss
McNeese State

Peterson is one of the top two-sport athletes in the draft. A 6-foot-1, 200 pounder, he's a cornerback for McNeese State's football team and had an interception during the 2009 season. He has been more of a factor as the Cowboys' shortstop, leading the Southland Conference in runs in 2010 as an all-conference choice and ranking among the nation's leaders again in 2011. Peterson's profile and athleticism should push him into the first three rounds, as he's a physical, speedy lefthanded hitter with present strength, well above-average speed and a polished approach for a two-sport athlete. He has rough edges to polish in his fielding actions and swing, yet he has more walks than strikeouts as a collegian and has a flat, short, low-maintenance swing. He has the arm strength for shortstop and room to improve there if he can learn to get more extension out front, which would give his throws more carry. Scouts are more comfortable slotting him at second base, and some see him as a utility type. He makes plenty of contact, sacrificing power and limiting his impact potential a bit offensively.

Aaron Nola, rhp
Catholic HS, Baton Rouge

Nola's older brother Austin is a three-year starter at Louisiana State, and Aaron has signed with LSU as well. They could be teammates in 2012 because scouts see positives and negatives on both as the draft approaches. Aaron gets compared to former LSU righthander Louis Coleman because of his low-slot release point and fastball/changeup combination. Nola is much less physical than the 6-foot-4 Coleman, though, listed at 6 feet, 164 pounds. In some ways he more closely resembles former LSU recruit Jeremy Hellickson, as his out pitch is a devastating changeup that earns plus grades from scouts now. Nola has had health issues, with a sports hernia that cost him weight and time in 2010 and shoulder tendinitis that slowed him in 2011. He came back strong, throwing strikes and sitting with average velocity at 89-91 mph this spring. His lower slot is better suited to a slider, but Nola is still throwing a below-average curveball. Signability and size could push Nola out of the first five rounds, but his whippy arm and changeup could prompt a team to buy him out of LSU.

Strength Is Shortstop

The state's best college players other than Mahtook were shortstops in Jace Peterson, Austin Nola and Justin Boudreaux. Nola has been at his best when LSU has needed him most. He took over as the Tigers' everyday shortstop midway through his freshman season, pushing current big leaguer D.J. LeMahieu to second base, solidifying the infield defense and helping propel LSU to its sixth College World Series championship. As a sophomore, Nola earned MVP honors at the Southeastern Conference tournament, and he had started every game as a junior. After struggling defensively early, Nola settled down as the steady, strong-armed shortstop he was his first two seasons. He doesn't have great range but has soft hands and the arm strength to make plays in the hole. Nola had a middling offensive season, batting .296/.378/.413. He's never had much power, and he's an average runner at best. Nola's younger brother Aaron is committed to LSU as well, and the Tigers would love to have both next season. The elder Nola's lack of offensive impact could make it tough for teams to meet his asking price.

Boudreaux has held down a starting job for three seasons for Southeastern Louisiana, moving down into the middle of the lineup. He's traded swings and misses for power and has produced, with 21 home runs the last two seasons and 2011 numbers on par with those of 2010 despite the less-lively bats (.932 OPS this season, .970 in 2010). More offensive than fellow Louisiana college shortstops Peterson and Nola, Boudreaux has both power and speed, as he's a 6.6-second runner over 60 yards and has the bat speed to catch up to good fastballs. His swings and misses tend to come when he doesn't adjust to breaking balls, and at times he's too stubborn for his own good, being slow to adjust to pitchers' gameplans. He needs to shorten up better with two strikes and protect the plate when behind in the count. Defensively, Boudreaux is a solid college shortstop who has pressed in his draft year, committing 27 errors. Some scouts like him better at second base, as he has enough arm strength to turn the double play. Others aren't confident in his athletic ability to stay in the middle infield and see him as a better fit at third base, where his bat may not play as well. Boudreaux has enough power to push his way into the sixth-to-10th-round range.

Teammate Brandon Efferson, a 6-foot, 180-pound righthander, is one of the state's several solid senior signs. The Mets picked Efferson in the 17th round out of high school, and he resembles North Carolina's Patrick Johnson as a stock righty in terms of size whose stuff never got much better in college. His velocity had backed up previously, but bounced back this year to the 88-89 mph range, at times peaking at 90-92. He has added a cutter to mix things up and throws a true curveball with good shape and a short, sharp break.

Louisiana-Monroe righthander Drew Granier has more power in a similar physical package. At 6 feet, 179 pounds, he has a loose, whippy arm and has long had movement on his stuff. He gets swings and misses on his fastball and had 86 strikeouts in 86 innings as he pushed his fastball up to 94 mph. Granier's movement sometimes gets him in trouble, as his command lags behind—he walked 39 and hit 10 more batters, helping lead to a 4-5, 4.60 mark.

Louisiana State's problems this season started on the mound, where the team wound up with an all-freshman rotation. That was due in part to a rough season by junior righty Tyler Jones, who had the best arm among LSU's veterans. He pushes his fastball up to 95-96 mph out of the bullpen, and he maintains a plus fastball when he starts. Command of both his heater and his pedestrian secondary stuff is the issue.

LSU's other veterans who could get drafted include righthanders Matty Ott and Kevin Berry and sinkerballer Ben Alsup. Ott has the best stuff of the trio, though he has never quite had the electric slider or premium command he had as a freshman, when he emerged as the closer on the national championship team and posted a 69-6 strikeout-walk ratio. Ott was healthy this season but threw just 28 innings and had more walks than he did as a freshman in 50 innings. His fastball sits in the average 88-92 mph range, and at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, he's had durability issues since shouldering a heavy load en route to a championship in 2009.

Hurricane Katrina stopped the momentum of Tulane's program, which has reached regionals just twice since its last College World Series trip in 2005. Tulane has three probable picks this season in catcher Jeremy Schaffer and righthanders Conrad Flynn, a strike-thrower with below-average stuff, and gritty closer Nick Pepitone. Two summers ago Pepitone shined as Team USA's closer (when Tulane's Rick Jones was the head coach), getting excellent sink on the 89-92 mph fastball that was his bread-and-butter pitch. Pepitone competes but his fastball was erratic in terms of velocity this year, at times dipping into the 83-86 range. Schaffer was the team's only true offensive threat but may be a better senior sign. His defensive skills are pedestrian, and scouts uniformly describe him as an offensive catcher. He has a sound swing and strength to the gaps. Tulane's most interesting pick is Drew Zizinia, who shifted from a relief role into the rotation due to injuries and still flashed the 93-94 mph fastball he showed in the bullpen.

The state's junior colleges will provide some solid selections as well, led by Hommy Rosado, a slugging corner bat who was a second-team All-American at Barbe High last season and an 11th-round pick of the Rockies. Rosado had questions about his defense last year but played third base at LSU-Eunice JC and was fair there, despite missing a month with an injury. Rosado was in better shape this year as well, but his bat remains the 6-foot, 210-pounder's best tool, as he led the team with eight home runs. Rosado could go out in the same range as where he was picked last year. Teammate Josh Burris worked out of the team's bullpen when he wasn't catching and had a pedestrian 1-1, 4.64 season, but he showed enough arm strength to merit interest, touching 92 mph and spinning a power breaking ball. He struggled to command either pitch.

Delgado JC had two pitchers more likely to get picked than Burris in lefthanders Brent Bonvillain and Stone Speer. Bonvillain played at Nicholls State as a freshman before transferring and was the team's ace at 8-3, 3.43, and has fringe-average stuff with some strike-throwing polish. The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder is headed to LSU next season. Just 5-foot-11, Speer has bigger stuff and better signability, bumping his fastball into the low 90s. He's raw (38 BB in 50 IP) but merits a late-round look.

Scouts panned the state's prep ranks this season, acknowledging the strength was on the mound. Aside from Aaron Nola, the top prospects were righthanders Tayler Nunez, Austin Robichaux and Carson Baranik and lefthander Chaz Hebert. Baranik made noise early, pushing his fastball up to 95 mph and looking like a breakout candidate. His star fell when he came up injured and his fastball velocity dipped into the upper 80s. He's expected to follow through on his LSU commitment.

Nunez, a 6-foot-4, 175-pound tower of projection, is signed to Southern Mississippi. He lacks the present strength to repeat his delivery, and his fastball sat at 87-88 mph at his best this spring. That said, he's tall, athletic, has a clean arm action and flashes feel for spinning a breaking ball.

Robichaux, 6-foot-5, 180 pounds, has a projectable frame and has bumped some low 90s fastballs but mostly sits in the upper 80s. He's the son of Louisiana-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux, who is also the team's pitching coach and has given his son a good feel for his curveball and for his overall craft. Many scouts considered Robichaux likely to join his father's program for the next three seasons.

Hebert, signed to Louisiana-Lafayette, has a pro body at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds and improved his velocity this spring, bumping his fastball up to 92 mph. His slow curveball is well below-average, lacking velocity and at times resembling an eephus pitch. A bit more breaking ball would make Hebert the best draft out of this group.

The state's most intriguing prep hitter is LSU football signee Terrance Magee, a prep quarterback who figures to play running back or defensive back in college. He's an explosive runner on the gridiron, but his speed doesn't play up in baseball; some scouts rate him an average runner. That won't matter if he hits, and he generates tremendous bat speed. He's less skilled than a similar athlete in the area, Mississippi prep Senquez Golson, but has a similar profile as a future center fielder with power potential.