Meet the Reinforcements | Scouting reports on five of the new pitchers who could play roles in LSU’s revamped staff

1. Cam Sanders

The Measurables: RHP | 6-2 | 170 LBs | NW Florida State CC (JUCO) | Thibodaux, La.

The Arsenal: Fastball (91-94 mph), Curveball + Changeup

The Skinny: Sanders is considered to have the most electric stuff of the newcomers and is likely to begin the season as LSU’s midweek starter. He’s the son of a former Major League pitcher, Scott Sanders, who was active from 1993-99 with the Padres, Mariners, Tigers and Cubs. Perfect Game ranked him as the No. 10 JUCO prospect in the nation after going 6-3 in 2017 with 59 strikeouts in 43 innings. His success or failure will ultimately come down to control. Sanders was selected in the 18th round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres.

The Quote: “He has an eerie resemblance to Aaron Nola out on the mound. Facially, body-wise, arm action — everything. Now if he had Aaron Nola’s command we’d really be in business, but he’s got a good arm. The key is going to be if he throws enough strikes. And if he does, watch out.” – LSU coach Paul Mainieri

2. Ma’Khail Hilliard

The Measurables: RHP | 6-0 | 150 LBs | Central HS | Central, La.

The Arsenal: Fastball (88-91 mph), 12-6 Curveball

The Skinny: Hilliard came to LSU fresh off leading Central High School to the 2017 state championship. He’s awfully skinny for someone who is going to contribute this season, but he generates an incredible amount of spin thanks to strong fingers and wrist. His 12-6 curveball has all the makings of a swing-and-miss out pitch, which profiles well as a late-game reliever, and his fastball has good movement through the hitting zone. So how good could his curveball be? Consider that an average MLB curveball generates 3,000 rpm (revolutions per minute); LSU’s technology has measured Hilliard’s at 3,200 rpm consistently.

The Quote: “Hilliard has a chance to have some electric stuff. His curveball is as good as anybody’s. It’s an Alex Lange-caliber curveball. It tells you he has really strong fingers and wrist. It makes an 88 mph fastball seem harder.” — LSU coach Paul Mainieri

3. Devin Fontenot

The Measurables: RHP | 6-1 | 175 LBs | The Woodlands HS | The Woodlands, Texas

The Arsenal: Fastball (87-90 mph), Slider + Changeup

The Skinny: Much like fellow Texan Eric Walker last season, Fontenot figures to contribute from day one because he fills up the strike zone. His won’t light up the radar gun by any stretch of the imagination, but he can locate his fastball with good arm-side run. He’s also got a good feel for his secondary pitches and understands how to mix them in. There’s nothing more important to Alan Dunn than throwing strikes, so Fontenot will likely begin the season with a prominent role out of the bullpen.

The Quote: “Fontenot reminds me an awful lot of Matty Ott as a freshman. He’s got a little bit of a deception in his delivery and he throws an awful lot of strikes at the knees. He’s a strike thrower with three pitches and pretty good stuff. I wouldn’t say overpowering stuff, but he has more of a finished look to him.” — LSU coach Paul Mainieri

4. AJ Labas

The Measurables: RHP | 6-3 | 215 LBs | Trinity Christian HS | Fleming Island, Fla.

The Arsenal: Fastball (90-93 mph), Slider + Changeup

The Skinny: A late addition to the 2017 signing class, Labas could have pitched his way into the opening weekend rotation were it not for a recurring back injury. Labas was able to pitch through it in the fall, but he underwent back surgery once the injury flared up again during winter break. It’s unclear when Labas will make his official debut, but he’s a polished pitcher with good velocity and an outstanding changeup, so he’ll have a role once he builds up the requisite arm strength to return. Labas was the 17th round selection of the New York Mets but chose to go the college route.

The Quote: “Very good in the fall, and we didn’t even see him at his best because he was dealing with those issues that were nagging. He’s a guy who knows who he is. A strike thrower who has great feel to manipulate the strike zone with his stuff. Hitters didn’t square him up and he has a demeanor that he knows what he’s supposed to do. I saw a lot of Eric Walker in him. He’s very comfortable. Knowing who you are doesn’t mean you’ll throw a no hitter every time, but you know how to do your deal and stop damage. We just got to get him back.” — LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn

5. Nick Storz

The Measurables: RHP | 6-6 | 255 LBs | Poly Prep Country Day HS | Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Arsenal: Fastball (92-96 mph), Slider + Changeup

The Skinny: Shoulder surgery to remove a bone spur kept Storz from pitching at all in the fall, but once he’s fully healthy, he may rival Zack Hess in terms of being a power arm with imposing size on the mound. Considered a Top 100 prospect by Baseball America, Stroz came to school after being drafted in the 31st round by the Detroit Tigers. He’s a physical freak with a mid-90s fastball and possibly the most raw power on the team as a hitter. He’s currently focused on his pitching, though, as Storz has a chance to be available out of the bullpen by opening weekend despite a “slight setback” before LSU opened practice.

The Quote: “Well I can tell you this. When you see him, that’s what they look like, right? Come on, 6-foot-6 and 245 (pounds). He gets on that mound and you’re like ‘Dude, wow.’ So I like that. He’s thrown some bullpens and I like how he’s looked. He’s a ways away right now, but obviously I love his ceiling. And one thing he’s always done as a young pitcher is throw strikes. That jumped out us when we started recruiting him.” — LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn

About James Moran 1377 Articles
James Moran was Editor of Tiger Rag from August 2018 to October 2019. He previously served as the associate editor since 2014. He is a graduate of the LSU Manship School of Journalism.

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