Five Questions Cajuns’ Baseball Must Answer – From the Bird’s Nest
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns baseball team officially begins spring practice on Wednesday in preparation for the 2017 season. The Cajuns are ranked in the Top 15 of the three pre-season polls that have been released. We all know this Cajuns team will be good. But how good?
Here are some questions that the club will try to answer during pre-season practice.
1. HOW WILL THE PITCHING STAFF BE STRUCTURED--The names are familiar: Leger, Nick Lee, Marks, Guillory, Huval, Colton Lee, Harris, Moore, Charpentier. Add lefty Colten Schmidt to the mix and you've got a pretty solid ten man pitching staff. And, that's not counting if someone else steps up. But how will Tony Robichaux structure the staff? We can assume Leger and Nick Lee will be starters on the weekend. And, there's no one in the country better at the end than Dylan Moore. But after that, the roles of the staff need to be defined. And, just how that definition plays out will be a key to the Cajuns' success.
2. WHO CHANNELS THEIR INNER JOHN FOGERTY?--If there is a big question on this team, it's going to be who wins the center field job. Most of the Cajun outfielders are corner guys. Junior college transfer and Teurlings Catholic product Zach Lafleur is probably the best defensive guy. But will he hit enough? Jam Williams is seeing the ball better now that he has goggles and he's getting better angles on balls hit to the outfield. But will he hit enough? If neither player seizes that job, expect the Cajuns to play Joe Robbins in center. He played some there last year before settling in at third base. Alex Pinero certainly can play third. But no one in the Sun Belt plays it like Robbins. The Cajuns should be in good shape either way.
3. HOW WILL THE NEW BATS ADJUST?--It's not unusual for there to be an adjustment period between high school and college or junior college and Division I. The expectations are high, however for the three new bats competing for a starting job. However, OF/1B Tyler Stover and C Handsome Monica both played Division I baseball before heading to junior college; Stover at Kansas State and Monica at Arizona. Both have been drafted. The coaching staff believes the learning curve won't be as big as others have been. Meanwhile, freshman Todd Lott has everyone talking about his skill set. The 20th round pick will be in the lineup opening day if he's healthy. His ability to throw after labrum surgery is still a question to be answered. If the answer is no, he'll DH.
4. WHAT ABOUT THE MIDDLE INFIELD?--Brad Antchak and Hunter Kasuls both return. Kasuls has played some second base and could move there. Antchak is a shortstop, but how much has he improved as a hitter after a year in Division I? Neither hit .250 a year ago And, what about Brenn Conrad? He was the DH a year ago and led the team in RBI. But it's likely either Lott or Steven Sensley will be in that role. Conrad's bat is too valuable for him to not be in the lineup. We wouldn't be surprised to see him at second base.
5. HOW WILL THIS TEAM HANDLE THE FIRST EIGHT GAMES?--The Cajuns will play eight in a row away from home before their home opener March 3 against Southern Miss. While it's mostly a veteran club, it's still eight in a row away from home and the competition will be solid,with games against Southeastern Louisiana, Murray State, Hofstra, Nicholls, Northwestern and three at Sam Houston State. When all the discussion about the stadium renovations were ongoing, Robichaux said "there will be no excuses." We believe him.
There are some other questions. Who bats leadoff? How much work will the promising redshirt freshman pitchers, Jack Burk and Jacob Norman, get? Will Ryne Ray be able to give Monica any time off? How good will this team be defensively, especially if Robbins plays CF?
How this team does in what is expected to be a very solid Sun Belt Conference will depend on how well all of those questions are answered.