LSU baseball: Why the 2024 team looks better than last year's national champions

LSU baseball dominated the weekend, winning their first three games in Baton Rouge. After watching the Tigers play, I think they might be better than last year’s squad.

Jun 26, 2023; Omaha, NE, USA; LSU Tigers starting pitcher Thatcher Hurd (26) throws against the
Jun 26, 2023; Omaha, NE, USA; LSU Tigers starting pitcher Thatcher Hurd (26) throws against the / Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

LSU baseball was back on the diamond at Alex Box Stadium, where the only thing that stunk was the weather. Fans remained bundled up while the Tigers capped the weekend off with a 27-5 win over VMI. Following the victory, I started thinking that Jay Johnson’s 2024 roster looks better than 2023.

I know that sounds ridiculous, but hear me out.

Dylan Crews and Paul Skenes essentially enabled LSU baseball’s run through the 2023 College World Series. Tiger fans expected the team to win a championship last season, but outsiders did not. If anything, Johnson leveraging his star players to overcome notable roster deficiencies and win the CWS was as impressive as the championship itself.

On the surface, losing star both players to the MLB Draft resulted in Johnson’s program taking a step back. However, I think the 2024 LSU baseball roster has more firepower, especially in the pitching rotation.

Looking back, pitching depth was the near-fatal flaw of the 2023 LSU baseball season. Skenes on the mound almost always guaranteed a Tigers’ win, but who and what followed was a constant question mark. Their 2023 ace was the only LSU pitcher with more than seven wins. Skenes was also the only Tigers’ arm to log more than 63.1 innings pitched.

And don’t get me started on LSU’s bullpen woes from a year ago. Sure, things came together at the right time, but few fans can argue that the 2023 Tigers’ offense provided the rotation and bullpen significant room for error.

Thatcher Hurd is now atop the LSU pitching rotation and will build off last year’s performance in which he won eight games, logged three saves, and struck out 84 batters. Consistency remains an issue for Hurd, as evidenced by his start on Friday. The junior right-hander began the game strong but suffered from location issues in the third inning.

Nevertheless, the floor for Hurd is late-inning relief, a role that will allow Johnson to utilize the two-to-three innings of which his pitcher is throwing gas.

Alabama transfer Luke Holman took the mound on Saturday for LSU baseball and was as good as advertised. The 6-foot-4 right-hander chartered a 2-0 win over Central Arkansas via ten strikeouts across 5.1 innings. I expect Holman will significantly contribute to LSU’s success this season. I’d also say he’s the true ace of Johnson’s squad, but there’s another Baton Rouge newcomer with better stuff.

Sophomore (RS) Gage Jump gave LSU baseball fans a peak of his impressive pitching arsenal on Friday. Jump, a transfer from UCLA, was remarkable to begin his college career before injury forced Tommy John surgery. Thus far, the left-hander appears back on the path to incredible potential, but Johnson is exercising caution and not overworking Jump to start the season.

Jump closed out VMI with a pair of strikeouts in the game’s final inning. I think Jump will get back into a starting pitching role and considerably boost the Tigers’ rotation.

Speaking of left-handers, LSU fans must pay attention to freshman Kade Anderson. Anderson is a 6-foot-2 native of Madisonville (La.) who can throw flames at opposing hitters. He is currently on the bump against Central Arkansas and has logged a pair of strikeouts through two innings.

If Anderson is as good as expected, we’re looking at a much deeper LSU rotation in 2024.

At the plate, I don’t expect a drop-off in offensive production. LSU’s offense went off on Sunday, including six RBIs from catcher Brady Neal, three from freshman second baseman Steven Milan, and two from designated hitter Hayden Travinski. Indeed, the Tigers scored 27 runs on 27 hits, and third baseman Tommy White was relatively quiet on the day.

It is only a matter of time before White returns to hitting long balls.

Defensively, the additions of shortstop Michael Braswell and outfielder Mac Bingham from the transfer portal have shown early dividends. Braswell has made a few plays moving toward second base that I found impressive. Behind the plate, Johnson has a good problem in the logjam of Neal, Travinski, and Alex Milazzo.

Some LSU baseball fans might scoff at the idea of the first three games, selling one on the idea that the 2024 roster is better than 2023’s. Why get carried away over a few Tiger wins over smaller programs? I mean, SEC schools should be up on small schools, right? Tell that to Florida and Arkansas fans.

Next. Story Link. LSU baseball made these uniform changes for 2024. dark

Both the Gators and Razorbacks dropped home games last weekend against small schools.