By Zachary Junda
Two weeks ago, DIG began its three-part All-Mainieri Team series by listing the best pitchers that have put on the prideful purple and gold over the last eight seasons with Paul Mainieri at the helm of the LSU program. If you want a refresher on our pitching staff, click here. And if you want to revisit last week’s piece on the infielders then click here.
This week, we go from the infielders to the guys responsible for robbing home runs and extra base hits. Since Mainieri came to Baton Rouge, he has shown that his favorite type of outfielder is a guy that can hit for average and possess blazing speed. We saw that this past season with the likes of Mark Laird, Andrew Stevenson and Jake Fraley.
Down the line, a few of those guys may go down as the best outfielders under Mainieri, but for now, they are on the outside looking in.
Without further ado, here are LSU’s three best outfielders under Mainieri. We even threw in a designated hitter. But wait, there’s more! As an added bonus we’re going to include a batting order. Let’s get to it.
Leon Landry (2008-2010)
Do yourself a favor and YouTube “Leon Landry Catch.” The top three results will tell you all you need to know about Landry’s defensive ability. Those three Landry catches are so good, so memorable, that I totally forgot he was more than a potential Gold Glove winner; he had a really good bat too. Did you know Landry hit .300 twice in his three years at LSU? Or that he ranked second in the SEC in triples twice? You want speed? Landry has you covered. In his three years at LSU he stole 37 bases. He’s also a member of the very exclusive “People Who Achieved Personal Notoriety Despite Being Named Leon” Club which is really saying something now. Landry joins the likes of people like Leon Spinks (beat Muhammad Ali which makes him a first ballot member), Trotsky (overcame his first name and the Russian Monarchy in 1917), Czolgosz (assassinated President McKinley. I don’t know, apparently being named Leon makes you more likely to cause political strife. And that doesn’t even include the first cousin to name Leon: Lee. As in Lee Harvey Oswald. Are you sensing a trend here?) And of course, the charter member good ole Leon Lett. Bravo Leon Landry. You can hit, field, steal a base and you did it all despite being named Leon.
Mikie Mahtook (2009-2011)
Think of Mahtook as the Jacoby Jones of the outfield. Mahtook was a Swiss army knife. He started 49 games and played in the other 14 as a freshman on the ’09 championship team, while batting .316. He’d only improve after that. As a sophomore he hit .355 and in his final year at LSU he hit a whopping .383. Mahtook brought his batting average up so much he went from “Wow this guy’s great” his freshman year to “Wait, are super saiyans real? I think he’s a super saiyan.” Mahtook finished a .344 career hitter and ranks second in LSU history in triples with 12. Like Landry, Mahtook’s got some serious speed. He stole 22 bases as a sophomore and 29 as a junior. His 60 career steals is fifth in LSU history. Mahtook’s also got defensive prowess: he was a member of the SEC All-Defense team in 2011. Intangibles-wise he has got that “clutch gene” that Skip Bayless covets so much. He delivered the go-ahead run against Texas in the first game of the ’09 College World Series. Hold on let me do my Skip Bayless impression: “Hear that LeBron??? Mahtook didn’t shy away from the moment, just like Jordan wouldn’t have!!!” I’d be remised if I didn’t talk about how great of a last name Mahtook is. That thing’s awesome, man. It exerts power. A name like Mahtook describes a future homerun slugger perfectly.
Jared Mitchell (2007-2009)
Remember how I said to look up “Leon Landry Catch” on YouTube? Well if you’re still there, type in “Jared Mitchell Catch” and watch the first result. You saw that? To recap, he was on the run, caught it over the shoulder, on a dive that almost drove him through the outfield wall. Bonus “clutch gene” points for it being in the bottom of the ninth. Which means that Mitchell is more clutch than LeBron James, but not as clutch as Michael Jordan. Clearly. Anyway, Mitchell might be the best athlete on this entire team. Remember, Mitchell was a wideout for the LSU football team as well, and he, like former LSU pitcher/safety Chad Jones, was a part of both the 2009 national championship baseball team and LSU’s 2007 national title winning football team. Honestly the best case I can make for Mitchell being on this team is his athleticism. He’s too fast, too strong and too athletic to not be on this team. He may not have been the best guy with the bat, but, like Mahtook, he constantly improved his batting average going from .258 his freshman year, to .327 his junior year. Doesn’t a 69-point improvement count for something? Even when Mitchell had a slump at the plate, his defense and base stealing ability warrants him a starting spot on this team. Remember how Mikie Mahtook left LSU with 60 career stolen bases? Mitchell swiped 36 – in a year. But wait, he wasn’t done one upping Mahtook there. Mitchell stole 70 bases in his time at Baton Rouge. Have you noticed a trend in Mainieri’s outfielders? It is all about speed and defense. Mitchell’s crowning achievement at LSU was winning the College World Series Most Outstanding Player award. In three games he batted .348 (8 for 23) with two doubles, a triple, two homers and seven RBI. You don’t get to be a first round pick in the Major League Draft solely on athleticism. You have to be, you know, a pretty good baseball player. And Jared Mitchell was in fact a really good baseball player.
Blake Dean (2007-2010)
Because pitchers (I guess?) forget how to hit a baseball after high school, the designated hitter is supposed to pick up the pitcher’s slack. The designated hitter is meant to be a power position. And Blake Dean is all power. I’m going to give you some numbers: 2, 2, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Know what those numbers reflect? Those are Blake Dean’s rankings in LSU history in total bases (575), RBIs (260), hits (332), doubles (63), home runs (56) and runs (223). Do you need any more proof of this guy’s qualifications? Statistically Dean’s one of the best LSU hitters ever. You can’t do much better than he did in his four years as a Tiger. Dean’s peak season was his 2008 All-American campaign. Dean hit .353 with 20 long balls and 73 RBIs. That, boys and girls, is production. Dean wasn’t strictly a power hitter. He wasn’t the type of guy that bats .230 but evens it out by hitting 40 homers; he hit over .300 all four years he was at LSU. In the 2009 national title campaign, Dean hit .328 for the year, .339 in the postseason (including .571 against Rice in the Super Regionals) and he belted two home runs against Texas in the Finals. In a word, Blake Dean is a man. A big, strong man.
- Landry- speed on top of speed on top of speed with a reliable bat. The perfect guy to start this offense off
- Mahtook- if Landry’s anywhere on base and Mahtook’s constantly improving bat can make contact, runs will come in all day long
- Katz- the David Ortiz to Blake Dean’s Manny Ramirez
- Dean- the Manny Ramirez to Mason Katz’s David Ortiz
- Mitchell- plenty of power to solidify this middle third of the lineup as the scariest in baseball
- Bregman- being the hyper competitive superfreak athlete he is, Bregman will be foaming at the mouth to get in on this offensive bonanza
- Nola- he’ll be motivated to go out and get as many hits as he can to silence the dopes like me who say he’s just ehh at the plate
- Jones- really athletic, but can go cold at the plate. If he gets hot though, look out
- Ross- maybe he’ll sneeze or something and blindly get a hit