Notebook: Jay Johnson tackles LSU 2025 baseball offseason approach (2024)

LSU coach Jay Johnson knows that program building in this day and age of college athletics is a year to year assessment.

When he arrived in 2022, there was a strong nucleus in place and he supplemented ahead of 2023 around those core players. This offseason, the turnover from the last two seasons via the draft and transfer portal has been immense, which will bring a fundamental change in how this roster looks in 2025.

"We need to go get some players. Having 13 players drafted last year and I think we'll have as few as five and as many as 11 off of this roster. That's a lot of turnover over a two year period from LSU to professional baseball," Johnson said. "We're here to develop guys for professional baseball and nobody does that better and it's kind of led to a hustle of what we need to do to put our 2025 roster where it needs to be. It'll look different by design and I'm excited about that."

Johnson touched on a number of interesting topics throughout his 45 minute session with media on Monday. Here were some of the highlights.

Returning pieces Johnson feels comfortable will be back

In this day and age of college baseball, where the MLB draft and transfer portal coincide at times that are extremely close to one another, it's hard to truly know what a team like LSU has returning this early in the offseason. But after having exit meetings last week with players, there is a core group of players Johnson spoke about fondly as a returning core to be excited about.

It starts with the freshman position player trio of Steven Milam, Jake Brown and Ashton Larson and extends into the left handed pitcher Kade Anderson.

"That's a great starting point for a sophom*ore class. Easily the best freshman class I've had in three years here in terms of what they contributed on the field and the team success," Johnson said.

Then it extends to the injured pitchers Chase Shores, who was throwing upwards of 97.7 mph a few days ago, as well as Jaden Noot who is another hard throwing right hander. Both are coming off Tommy John injuries and figure to be foundational pieces of the pitching staff next season.

Johnson would later go on to say he had a positive meeting with Brady Neal as well. Nothing has been decided on Neal's front as of this moment but Johnson sounded optimistic about getting Neal back for a third season which would be a win for the catcher position.

But as it was mentioned from the very beginning, this is a tough road to navigate and there have been several decisions that have changed over the course of the week since Johnson had exit meetings with players last Wednesday.

"This is a new world for me. I've had a couple of calls that maybe in the meeting one thing was said and then a different result happened," Johnson said. "It's really fluid right now and it is what it is."

The six 50/50 guys LSU will work to retain

This current roster will seem somewhere between five and 11 players drafted in July. But within that mark, there's a group of six players that Jay Johnson talked about who the Tigers will work to bring back into the fold.

Pitchers Griffin Herring, Fidel Ulloa and Justin Loer as well as first baseman Jared Jones, shortstop Michael Braswell and outfielder Josh Pearson are on that list of guys that are on that bubble of players who could stay but also could leave. But Johnson sees opportunity for all six to come back and all of them would be welcomed with open arms should they decide to do so.

"All of those guys will have a place on our roster. I don't know how they're viewed, I know their value to me and value to LSU baseball, value they could create for themselves next year is really high. They have a platform here to do that," Johnson said.

Johnson views Jones potentially coming back and becoming one of the great hitters in this program's history and having this be 'his lineup' in 2025. Herring is an interesting case as he's someone Johnson without much hesitation said would be a weekend starter in 2025 should he decide to return. That's really the biggest way he could improve his draft stock at this point in his career.

"Griffin, we don't win a national championship without Griffin. Lights out reliever this year and then he's going to pitch on the weekends. I have no problem saying that. He's earned that, he's one of the best pitchers I've ever coached. Those guys care. Now it's about the right opportunity, if someone's going to jump up and take those guys in the first round or top 50, I'll support them to go. And we'll figure out a way but if not, I'd love to have them back."

How Johnson views setting up the roster in terms of who plays

All Johnson and LSU can do over the next few weeks before the draft is continue to add talent via the transfer portal. He's flown out multiple times already for in home visits with portal options and said Monday the Tigers have three visits lined up with players. In the last week he's also flown around to summer league spots where players on the current roster are out playing and still weighing decisions on their own futures in the program.

Johnson has a blueprint in his head of 12-13 position players that are going to contribute and nine to 11 pitchers and the rest of the roster needs to do something "really well" and be bought in to what LSU wants to accomplish. How does Johnson get to those 12-13 position players and 11 pitchers is the question but one statement he made Monday was true across all sports.

"We're in a different landscape right now. I don't think it's about building programs anymore and that's like my wheelhouse, my specialty," Johnson said. "I think it's probably now about building your team one year at a time. We have to adapt, improvise and overcome that.

"We have a lot of work to do in order to have the team we want to have. It'll be a lot of high impact, I'm not so worried about the numbers. We're off to a good start in terms of recruiting the transfer portal and those players I had meetings with."

Part of the improvement won't come via what LSU retains in the draft or snags via the portal. The Tigers have one pitcher right now committed out of the portal with more visits on the way. But it's going to take the internal improvement on the guys Johnson retains that'll be a huge component to this roster's improvement as well.

"We need more than we've needed. But 21 professional players moving out over two years, that's just the way that it is. We're working but the solutions aren't always from the outside. The solutions are DJ Primeaux who on a different staff would've got more opportunities. He has a great relationship with coach Yeskie. Chase Shores, Kade Anderson, the position player group improving, that's a lot of the solution. To compete for a national title, you need more than that," Johnson said. "Part of matching up is improvement of the players on your team and we're well positioned for a lot of improvement for guys from this year to next year and then we need some help around them and we're gonna go get it."

Other notes of interest

-The Texas job was brought up and Johnson responded by reinforcing how LSU is where he wants to be: "I have not been contacted and contractually if I was to be contacted, Scott Woodward would be the first person that knows. I'm very thankful to be here and excited about where we're headed. It's going to look a little different than how I thought 18 months ago but that's ok. I think I'm built for this job incredibly well."

-On Paul Mainieri going to South Carolina: "He called me yesterday and just congratulated him. He's earned the right at this time in his life to choose what he wants to do. He's a great coach, hall of fame coach and been very good to me in my time here. Happy for him and he's a competitive guy, has that fire and he'll put good people around him and they'll probably be really good."

Notebook: Jay Johnson tackles LSU 2025 baseball offseason approach (2024)
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