GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Everything changes when LSU junior outfielder Greg Deichmann comes to the plate. The pitcher on the mound seems to look around a bit more, the opposing coach fiddles around with his clipboard a bit more and suddenly the discussions in the stands about where fans are going to eat later that night come to an abrupt halt.
Most fans know he's worth watching, as chances are good something special is about to happen.
Few players in college baseball over the last decade have commanded that kind of respect. The most recent example would be TCU first baseman Luken Baker, whose raw power as a freshman last season dazzled fans and made opposing coaches sweat buckets.
Deichmann is a cut of the same mold and perhaps even more at least so far this season. Like Baker, he tends to change games with his more consistent power, while he has made strides in other areas, too, evolving into a quality corner outfielder and a clearly purer, smarter hitter.
"He's found a home out there, [right field], I think, "LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "He made a terrific catch on Friday night and he handles himself really well out there. Honestly, I think he's turned himself into quite an elite prospect."
Indeed, he has with the results he's put together this spring. But what's happening now is the culmination of a process that hasn't been easy.
Deichmann served in a limited role as a freshman two seasons ago, while he jumped into a more important role as a sophomore last season, but with some constraints. It was a case of dealing with the good and the bad. For instance, Deichmann hit 11 homers and knocked in 57 runs. But the bad? He also ended the season with an ugly .346 on-base percentage, while also striking out 41 times and walking just 16 times. He was known as a guy with impressive raw power, but also a hitter that could be pitched to, particularly with secondary offerings on the outside part of the plate.
"He used to never be able to hit off speed stuff, now he can, that's the difference," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said about Deichmann. "He's always been dangerous for them, but he's made some adjustments because he used to be a somewhat easy guy to pitch to. Now, he's not. For me with him, I think it's all about approach. He's much more mature and selective. You simply cannot pitch him the same way over and over. Where in the past you could get him to swing and miss a lot, now you really can't. He's got much better contact skills."
The numbers for Deichmann thus far in 2017 are staggering in a good way. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, who looks much more physical than that, is hitting .348 with 12 doubles, eight homers and 31 RBIs. But most impressive are his improvements in some other areas, notably, carrying a .425 OBP and .685 slugging percentage, while also inducing 19 walks and striking out just 16 times. Remember, he had just 16 walks as a sophomore last season.
"I think the biggest change for Greg and the thing that has taken his game to another level is the fact he has realized he can go to left field with power," LSU hitting coach Micah Gibbs said. "He does that with authority now and with his plate recognition he used to have, he'd swing and miss a lot because he'd be pull happy. Everyone realizes the kind of power that he has, and now he knows he has it and can use it in different ways."
Deichmann's surge up the ranks began to occur toward the end last season. He finished the 2016 campaign with a bang, and was outstanding in a fall scrimmage I attended, where he hit a homer and smacked a double. His strides over the summer at the Cape Cod League and during fall workouts have turned him into one of the nation's elite hitters.
His improvements go well beyond simply just stepping into the batter's box and showing better plate discipline. They also pertain to with the way he approaches things from a mechanical standpoint.
In the past, Deichmann showed too much movement in his swing and hitting stance. As a result, he was jumping toward the ball and it was creating a long swing. That long swing made him less likely to catch up with pitchers throwing with big-time velocity, which isn't the recipe for success in the Southeastern Conference. Now, his approach is much different. Gibbs and Deichmann worked hard during fall workouts to make his batting stance more still, while improving his rhythm by staying back on his feet. As a result, the rising junior slugger now gets his barrel to the ball a little quicker, which allows him to go after pitches on the outside corner of the plate and slap them into left field, or over the wall as has been the case many times already this season.
"I saw him a lot as a freshman and I was watching him a lot at the time. There was a lot of movement in his body and just a lot of moving parts. With the raw power that he has, he didn't need all those movements. I wanted him to have a more consistent position, while also making sure he still had rhythm in his body," Gibbs said. "He stays through the zone a lot better now. The one thing he did at the beginning of the season was just being more patient.
He was just trying to find that one optimal pitch to hit. That was part of his maturity in not feeling like he had to swing at everything.
"Maybe as SEC play goes on, he's going to miss that one fastball that he might've been sitting on in the past, but he's going to make sure he has the right approach all the time. In the past, he's had the feeling that if he's in the four-hole, he must do everything. But I think he's more selective and trusting that the guys around him in the order are going to get it done as well."
Beyond his improvements at the plate, Deichmann has formed into a more well-rounded player. Last season, he started 50 games at first base, seven at designated hitter and three at third base. But in the fall, the Tigers moved him to right field, and it's a transition that has been successful thus far and could pay dividends for his long-term future. While he gives the illusion that he's not moving very fast because of his physical stature, Deichmann consistently ran good routes and showed solid straight-line speed and athleticism against the Gators last weekend. He also made two eye-opening catches, while also almost making a miraculous play in foul territory by covering a lot of ground to even get to the ball. He also wowed Florida fans with a throw from the warning track to third base on one hop.
His improved offensive consistency, approach and deceptive athleticism as a corner outfielder has put him on a list of rising prospects for the draft this summer. Few college hitters have the overall tools - especially the raw power - that Deichmann possesses, and the prognosis is good for him looking forward. While some scouts would peg him as a second or third rounder, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he sneaks into the late first round depending on how the rest of the spring goes.
Deichmann's ascension has been special to follow and he's evolved into one of the more exciting players in our sport. So, even if you're an opposing fan, the next time you play LSU and you hear his name called, be sure to put down your smartphone and pay attention. Chances are good he'll continue to do things worth remembering.
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