First base was summed up best in the movie “Moneyball” — “a confused position.”
“It’s not that hard,” Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane said. “Tell him [Ron] Wash[ington].”
“It’s incredibly hard,” infield coach Ron Washington said. Beane, was of course, trying to recruit a player he wanted, but Washington’s knowledge rings true to the position as a whole. LSU finds itself in an interesting position in trying to fill the role.
During the fall and preseason, it was a four-way battle for the starting job between four freshmen — Cade Beloso, Drew Bianco, Gavin Dugas and CJ Willis. Bianco won the job for opening day, but it didn’t last long.
Bianco has played in nine games with only two hits. One of those hits was a home run, but the plate discipline is not all there yet for the young freshman. Bianco has truck out eight times in his limited play.
The Tiger offense has been lacking a consistent approach. Some swing at numerous first pitches, some can’t lay off curveballs and others strike out frequently, which is odd as LSU is typically a team that is tough to strike out.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri planned on rotating Beloso and others in. The early struggles from Bianco accelerated that change.
Beloso began to start and showed he was a well-rounded hitter. He hit the ball to all fields with slicing line drives to left and a walkoff home run to right field against Army.
Showing early power to the pull side, teams, especially Texas, began putting a shift on Beloso. He hit into the shift throughout the series but recognized the David Ortiz-esque shift with an attempt to lay down a bunt. Beloso continued to pull the ball against the series against California, hitting two home runs to right field, which lifted LSU to a victory.
While hitting the ball well, the defense from Beloso hasn’t been equal. During a blowout win at the end of the game, Beloso fought the wind but ultimately allowed a flyball to fall on the first base apron.
“That’s unacceptable in the league we play in, and I know coach isn’t happy,” Beloso said. “It’s not going to happen again. I’ve got to stay focused for the rest of the game.”
In the series opener against California, he had a mental error on a groundball in the two-hole. He charged instead of letting the second baseman take it, and the runner beat him to the bag. Beloso has two errors on the season with a .979 fielding percentage. This could mean trouble for LSU later in the season, but like any lineup, if you can hit there is a spot for you.
Gavin Dugas was another one of the freshmen in the running for the job. He started one game and has only appeared in three. During his lone start, he hit a single and attempted to stretch it into a double. He slid into second base and injured his hand, not allowing him to play since then.
CJ Willis also appeared in three games tallying one hit in six plate appearances. Without significant playing time, it’s hard to determine the impact Dugas and Willis could have in the lineup and in the field.
For now, with Dugas out, Beloso has taken over the majority of the starts. LSU will have a strong power hitter in the lineup, but it will have a defender who is still a raw player.
It will be a growing process for the young Tigers, but a tough series at Texas and early SEC play should help enhance that growth.