On our countdown last season, we discussed LSU’s Kramer Robertson, a player who struggled to begin his career, but refused to be denied and became one of the best all-around players in college baseball in the latter portion of his career, not to mention his place as the vocal leader of a Tigers team that came just shy of winning a national title in 2017.
This time around, we’re discussing Antoine Duplantis, whose career had a very different trajectory than Robertson’s, but who undoubtedly hopes to replicate his success in leading the Tigers to team success in June.
From the jump, Duplantis has been absolutely electric at LSU.
As a freshman, while playing and starting in all 66 of LSU’s games, the Lafayette native hit .327/.404/.419 with nine doubles, five triples, two homers, and 13 stolen bases. Suffice it to say that he did a little bit of everything. That was enough to earn Freshman All-American honors from the NCBWA, Collegiate Baseball, and Perfect Game, in addition to being named Freshman All-SEC.
Then, as a sophomore, he did it again, hitting .316/.358/.400 with 14 doubles and 61 RBI, which was good for second on the team, behind only Greg Deichmann. He also not only increased his stolen base total to 19, but he reduced the number of times he was caught stealing from seven as a freshman to just four as a second-year player.
Duplantis has yet to really flash traditional power, but his stint in the Cape over the summer hinted that perhaps that was on the way as well. With the Harwich Mariners, he led the team with ten doubles and was second on the team with two home runs, equal to his home run total from each of his first two seasons at LSU, in just 102 at-bats. Asking him to be the new Greg Deichmann is probably asking too much (frankly, that’s probably asking too much of anyone because Deichmann’s power was prodigious), but being able to hit for some pop in addition to slashing the ball all over the field and swiping some bases would be a huge development for his game.
Heading into the 2018 season, he will have collected another honor, but this one more of an honor specific to LSU. He’ll be wearing the number eight, which has great meaning within the program.
According to the school release announcing Duplantis will wear the number, the honor was described as being given to “the upperclassman who exemplifies the spirit of LSU baseball through his leadership and dedication to the program.”
The tradition began with Mikie Mahtook between 2009 and 2011, and since then, has been passed on to a who’s who of recent LSU baseball stars in Mason Katz, Alex Bregman, Jake Fraley, and Cole Freeman. The program views Duplantis as a leader on par with those previous greats, and he has the on-field exploits to match.