All things considered, Jay Johnson’s first season as head coach of the LSU Baseball program can be considered a huge success. On the field, the Tigers finished with a solid 40-22 record. They persevered through a handful of crushing injuries and managed to take host Southern Mississippi the distance in the Hattiesburg Regional. While LSU ultimately failed to reach the Super Regionals (a series that Baton Rouge would have hosted, ironically enough), they still exceeded many fans’ expectations for the debut campaign of Johnson and Co.
However, it’s off the field that the former Arizona coach has made the biggest impact. The Tigers finished atop the charts of many recruiting rankings during the last signing period. Most notably, Perfect Game had LSU at No. 1 and Baseball America had the Purple and Gold slightly behind Vanderbilt at No. 2. It should come as no surprise that the Tigers are in the top five for 2023 already, as well. Before looking ahead though, it’s important to talk about the job Johnson has done in the transfer portal too. LSU capped off another impressive recruiting season on Thursday night with one more commitment from one of college baseball’s top transfer players.
LSU Baseball has landed a massive commitment from Air Force’s Paul Skenes
First team All-American Paul Skenes announced his intention to sign with the Tigers on Thursday evening via Twitter. In the statement, he first paid tribute to the Air Force Academy and offered some parting words before speaking about his new school:
"“I am extremely excited to announce that I will be transferring to LSU. I can’t wait to get to work and bring another national championship back to Baton Rouge.”"
LSU is getting perhaps the best utility man in the country in Skenes. The right-handed pitcher posted an excellent 2.73 ERA last season across 15 starts. He gave up a total of just 70 hits in 85.2 innings pitched, walking 30 while striking out 96. In his entire college career as a pitcher, he’s got an 11-4 record with a 2.72 ERA and K/BB ratio of 3.23. Skenes will likely be in the Tigers’ starting rotation when he comes to campus, but he came out of the bullpen for the Falcons during his freshman season, so he possesses that capability if called upon.
Skenes isn’t only known for his impressive pitching stats though—he’s called a utility man for a reason. He finished with some of the most impressive hitting stats in the country last season, slashing .314/.412/.634 in 182 plate appearances for Air Force. Skenes also added 13 home runs and 38 RBIs. The two-way player plays catcher when he’s not on the bump. However, he revealed in an interview with 104.5 ESPN’s Hunter Palmer that he likely would only DH when he’s not pitching as catching took a toll on his body last season. This is likely why his numbers from the plate during his freshman year (.410/.486/.697) saw the drop that they did.
Skenes is just the latest commitment from a stacked transfer class. Johnson also managed to grab RHP Thatcher Hurd (UCLA), RHP Christian Little (Vanderbilt), 3B Tommy White (NC State) and SS Carter Young (Vanderbilt) from out of the transfer portal. While the Tigers won’t be seeing all of their high school commits join them on campus, the additions of these veterans will make for one heck of a consolation prize.
LSU is expected to come out firing in Johnson’s second season in charge. The school’s second-year manager has assembled one of the best and deepest squads in all of college baseball, so it’s not farfetched to expect to see the Tigers back in Omaha really soon.
What do you make of the squad that Johnson is putting together for next season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter!