Column: LSU populating Major League with stars

Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros

The list seemingly grows and grows every year, and it’s a fun thing to watch.

It’s time once again for our annual look around MLB to see how LSU players are faring. While always well-represented, more Tigers are making an impact as this column has evolved, and of the repeat names, their individual impact on the has almost across the board become that much larger—be it an MVP-level player on arguably the best franchise in baseball, a staff ace and workhorse, a lights out reliever or a leadoff man for the sport’s most storied team.

With that, let’s dive in.

Alex Bregman – An absolute superstar.

Bregman was selected No. 2 overall by the Houston Astros in 2015, and he’s rewarded that huge investment with an even greater return, arguably the best player on a loaded Astros roster, which is kind of like winning a champion of champions tournament. Bregman was a major part of Houston capturing its first-ever World Series championship in 2017.

He began the week batting .276 this season with a .404 on-base percentage. The past two seasons have shown the third baseman and shortstop to possess one of the most powerful swings in the majors, his 28 home runs thus far this year just three behind his 31 in 2018. He’s also the rare player who draws more walks than he strikes out.

Despite Bregman’s high draft selection, like many great competitors he’s carried a bit of a chip on his shoulder: when he was at LSU, he chose to wear No. 30 to remind himself of the 30 teams that passed on him in the 2012 MLB Draft, after Bregman became the first-ever high school batter to win USA Baseball’s Player of the Year award. With the Astros, he wears No. 2—perhaps a reminder of his hard work paying off. Just 25 years old, it’ll likely continue to do so for years to come.

Aaron Nola —The path of a pitcher with major league aspirations is filled with potholes: aside from needing the natural ability to make that leap, health and the capacity to hone a full repertoire can slow those dreams, if not bringing them to a sudden halt.

Not so for Nola, who has not only made it since being selected seventh overall by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2014, but has evolved into a true top of the rotation starter.

Wins aren’t always in a pitcher’s full control, but Nola gives his team a chance for victory in the vast majority of his outings and his results reflect it: his past two years have seen him tally a record of 27-9, one of the highest win percentages in the majors. When he broke into the league, he was thought to be a control artist more than an overpowering strikeout threat, but he’s surpassed those expectations with nearly 10 strikeouts per nine innings over the past three seasons.

Nola had a slower start to this season, but he’s gotten better and better as the year has rolled on, compiling a record of 12-4 with a 3.64 ERA and stands as yet another fabulous LSU product.

D.J. LeMahieu—I’m happy for LeMahieu, who signed with the New York Yankees in the offseason and absolutely put to sleep the notion that the former Colorado Rockies second baseman’s success was a product of the thin air of Coors Field.

LeMahieu leads off for the powerful Yankees and bats .325, gets on base at a .383 rate, has scored 97 runs and driven in 90. He also has 24 home runs, and altogether is putting together the finest season of his eight year career. The 31-year-old has a .302 career batting average, and topping the .300 mark for more than 1,000 games is a pretty rare feat indeed. Like Bregman, LeMahieu is a key cog in the wheel of a championship contender, and figures to have the opportunity to make his name under a national spotlight for effectively the first time this fall.

He’s still a flamethrower, and actually is striking out batters at a career high rate. He joined the Cincinnati Reds, who have done a nice job “fixing” pitchers of late, particularly Sonny Gray and Tanner Roark.

Nick Goody. He’s been strong in the Cleveland Indians bullpen all season, and could be a big part of  an Indians postseason push. Goody was fantastic two years ago before crash landing in 2018, but this season he’s striking out more than 11 batters per nine and boasts a 2.43 ERA. The right-hander seems to have more than found his footing.

Jacoby Jones. Detroit is in full-rebuilding mode, but Jones has at times shown to be a bright spot, with 11 home runs this season while playing the outfield for the Tigers. Sadly, a season ending injury capped his 2019.

Austin Nola. Nola’s made an impact since his call-up with the Mariners. He’s played 35 games this season, mostly at catcher, and batted .273 with nine home runs and 23 RBIs. The 29 year old has battled in the minors for years and thus far has made the most of his chance.

Will Harris. Old reliable. At 34, we know who and what Harris is in the majors, and that’s a consistently effective threat out of the bullpen who’s capable of dominance in any given year. This is one of those years, as the righty boasts a 1.68 ERA out of the Astros’ pen, with 55 strikeouts and a 4-1 record in 53 innings. We’ll see him in the playoffs, as he follows names like Verlander, Greinke and Cole (man, that’s unfair!).

About Ryan Arena 1719 Articles
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