This LSU pitching staff is loaded with untapped talent, new arms and a fresh perspective. Which is why the next few months of fall ball will be extremely important for Jay Johnson, pitching coach Jason Kelly and the players to start carving out roles for next spring.
For Johnson and this coaching staff, the last thing they want to do is rush this process. He understands this is a new venture and first and foremost it's about establishing the culture of this program before rotations and roles can start to be earned. In speaking with Johnson on a few separate occasions, it's important to note just how diligent he is about not wanting to rush any part of building this team.
It's why the last six weeks or so have been about getting the pitchers' arms ready for a fall schedule that will see them throw at least seven times in a competitive, game like atmosphere.
"We have a lot of work to do relative to finding some of that out," Johnson said. "We've given them six and a half weeks to get themselves ready to step on the mound in a competitive environment. All of them have been on the mound four times leading up to their first intersquad experience this week. We feel good about their health and where they're at conditioning wise."
Johnson has liked what he's seen from a velocity standpoint but until these pitchers can face live batting, even in a intersquad setting, to see who really stands out among the group. LSU returns highly valued veterans Devin Fontenot and Ma'Khail Hilliard who each have some level of starting experience in their past.
Transfer arms like Eric Rezylmann have caught some of the headlines but there's also a group of sophomores like Garrett Edwards, Javen Coleman, Will Hellmers, Ty Floyd and Blake Money who will be competing for spots as well.
"Now it's about finding out how they compete and whose stuff plays in a certain way, we are nowhere near naming guys for the rotation or the key guys you go to when the game is on the line," Johnson said. "That will evolve over time. All of them will throw seven times over the fall and five teams leading up to the season.
"My initial observations in watching bullpens but I'm very pleased with the strike throwing ability of the staff right now and if you can start there, then you can start building pieces in how they matchup. Early indications are good in strikes and changing speeds with their breaking balls and change ups."
The next few weeks will all culminate with a handful of exhibition games in November against UNO and ULL, where there should be a clearer picture starting to form on who Johnson and Kelly believe can be reliable arms come spring. Star right fielder Dylan Crews is extremely excited and impressed by what he's seen from this staff in the offseason.
"I think we have a great pitching staff. Everybody's got great stuff, got some guys transferring over here, some freshmen and our guys from last year are developing into great pitchers," Crews said. "I'm really excited to see what they become."
Crews mentioned Floyd as one of the pitchers who has really brought his game to another level this offseason. The arm talent was never in question for Floyd, who came in as one of the higher ranked high school pitchers to come to college.
The question with Floyd was always going to be how his secondary pitches developed and that was an area he exclusively focused on during summer ball and into the fall session with the Tigers' pitching staff. Based on his velocity alone, Floyd will be one of those players competing for a spot in the starting rotation, something he's excited about entering year two in the program.
"We've got 21, 22 guys and everybody's got an insane amount of talent," Floyd said. "It's very competitive but at the end of the day we're all trying to achieve the same goal. I think every guy with whatever role they're given, they're gonna accept it and help us win a national championship."