BATON ROUGE – Former Denham Springs shortstop Cade Doughty was lumped with some exclusive company by LSU coach Paul Mainieri at his annual summer press conference.
Two highly-rated high school shortstops who signed with the Tigers opted for professional baseball – Rece Hinds (Cincinnati Reds) and Christian Cairo (Cleveland Indians).
Doughty, who was considered to be in the same level as Hinds and Cairo, made the decision to stick with LSU, making Mainieri quite happy.
“Cade could have signed in the first couple of rounds if he would not have taken himself out of the draft,” Mainieri said. “He is one of the premier players in this recruiting class. I feel very fortunate that Cade came here. I feel the same as when Alex Bregman (current Houston Astros third baseman) and Aaron Nola (current Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher) came to school.
“I think Cade can have an impact like the names I mentioned,” Mainieri said. “I would not have blamed him if he would have signed professionally. Cade is destined to play in the major leagues one day. He came here for three years and hopefully he’ll get to the major leagues faster.”
Another part of the program's signing class that Mainieri praised was Zachary High catcher Alex Milazzo.
"Words can't describe adequately how excited I am to have Alex Milazzo as part of our program," Mainieri said. "Alex is a tough, hard-nosed and gritty player that will provide great leadership behind the plate. He is probably known as the best throwing catcher in the country for the 2019 class. In reality, he throws like a big-league catcher and can shut down anyone's running game.
"He also loves to try and pick off baserunners with that great throwing ability," Mainieri said. "He has good receiving skills, too. He has the tools to be a tough out at the plate and his hitting will continue to improve while working with coach Eddie Smith. He has a chance to play quite a bit as a freshman because of his catching skills."
The 5-10, 180-pound Milazzo started for four years at Zachary where he was ranked as the No. 3 player in the state by Prep Baseball Report. He was also a two-time Class 5A All-State selection by the Louisiana Baseball Coaches Association.
Milazzo batted .432 as a senior with three homers, 15 doubles, three triples and drove in 37 RBIs. He was voted the District 4-5A Co-MVP along with Doughty.
Coming off a senior season which ended with him being named the Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year, Doughty enjoyed an outstanding summer in the Cal Ripken League. In 33 games, Doughty hit .346 with seven doubles, five homers and 23 RBIs. Doughty had three hits in the league’s all-star game.
Doughty admitted that he had to make an adjustment while playing for the Gaithersburg Giants this summer.
“This summer was definitely a different experience,” said Doughty, who was the lone signee at Mainieri’s press conference. “I had not seen that much velo(city) and off-speed pitches in a little while. I had to get my eyes focused more and be locked in for every at-bat.”
LSU must replace starting shortstop Josh Smith and starting second baseman Brandt Broussard. Starting third baseman Hal Hughes is back, but he struggled at the plate in 2019, essentially leaving three infield spots open.
“I intend to put four guys at shortstop to begin fall practice – Doughty, Hughes, (freshman) Zack Arnold and (junior college transfer) Zach Mathis,” Mainieri said. After a couple of weeks, I’ll keep two at shortstop and move the other two to second or third.”
Former Zachary shortstop Collier Cranford is another freshman infielder. Cranford will be limited during fall practice as he continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery. He's a three-year letterman for the Broncos, earning All-District 4-5A honors in 2017 after batting .394 with 13 doubles, five triples, five homers, 18 stolen bases and 32 runs scored.
He was batting. 453 with a homer before his senior year was curtailed by an injury.
"Collier Cranford may be the "sleeper" of this class," Mainieri said. "Before he was injured , however, he was coming on very strong and was even garnering interest from professional teams as well. He's a really athletic infielder with good feet, good hands, and (when healthy) a strong arm.
Doughty is projected to be in the starting lineup, but it could be at any of the three infield positions.
“There is going to be a lot of competition this fall,” Mainieri said. “I want Cade to know that he has to earn everything he gets during the fall. If you earn a job, you usually play with more confidence.”
Doughty acknowledged that he has some work to do in order to be a good defensive shortstop.
“I have to be more consistent playing shortstop,” said Doughty, whose brother Braden will be a junior catcher for the Tigers. “The arm strength is there. My footwork needs to get a little bit better.”