Eight Former Tigers on MLB Opening Day Rosters

Published 1:00 pm Friday, April 2, 2021

BATON ROUGE, La. – Eight former LSU players appear on Major League Baseball active rosters as the 2021 MLB season opens on Thursday.

Former Tigers appearing on MLB rosters include infielder DJ LeMahieu (Yankees), infielder Alex Bregman (Astros), pitcher Aaron Nola (Phillies), pitcher Kevin Gausman (Giants), outfielder JaCoby Jones (Tigers), outfielder Andrew Stevenson (Nationals), outfielder Jake Fraley (Mariners) and pitcher Riley Smith (Diamondbacks).

Nola and Gausman have been announced as their teams’ Opening Day starting pitchers – Nola’s Phillies face the Braves, and Gausman’s Giants meet the Mariners.

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Two other former Tigers – pitcher Will Harris of the Washington Nationals and catcher Austin Nola of the San Diego Padres – will begin the season on their teams’ injured lists.

LeMahieu, who is entering his third year with the Yankees, was tabbed for the second straight season in 2020 as the First-Team All-MLB second baseman, completing a terrific year in which he won the American League batting title.

He compiled a .364 batting avg./.421 on-base pct./.590 slugging pct. with 10 doubles, two triples, 10 homers and 27 RBIs in 50 games, becoming the first player in the Modern Era to win a batting title in both the American League and the National League.

LeMahieu, who won the 2016 MLB batting title while playing for the Colorado Rockies in the National League, finished third in the 2020 AL MVP Award race.

A three-time MLB All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove recipient and a two-time Silver Slugger Award winner, LeMahieu played at LSU in 2008 and 2009 and signed with the Chicago Cubs after he was selected in the second round of the ’09 MLB Draft. LeMahieu was the starting second baseman for LSU’s 2009 CWS championship team.

Bregman played at LSU from 2013 through 2015 and led the Tigers to two College World Series appearances. The No. 2 overall selection by the Astros in the 2015 MLB Draft, Bregman was a two-time first-team all-American at LSU, and he was named the recipient of the 2013 Brooks Wallace Award as the nation’s best shortstop.

Bregman made his MLB debut with Houston in July 2016, and he helped lead the Astros to the 2017 World Series title as the club’s starting third baseman. He was named the 2018 All-Star Game MVP after blasting the game-winning home run for the American League, and he was named the recipient of the 2019 Silver Slugger Award as the best offensive player at third base in the AL.

Aaron Nola, a Baton Rouge native, enters his seventh season in the Philadelphia rotation. He was selected in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft by the Phillies, and he was named a 2018 National League All-Star. He finished third in the 2018 NL Cy Young Award voting after posting a 17-6 record with a 2.37 ERA.

Aaron Nola was a two-time first-team All-America selection and two-time SEC Pitcher of the Year at LSU, and he was voted the 2014 National Collegiate Pitcher of the Year.

Gausman, who pitched at LSU in 2011 and 2012, begins his ninth MLB season and his second with the Giants. The native of Centennial, Colo., earned first-team All-America honors at LSU in 2012, and he was selected in the first round of the MLB Draft by the Baltimore Orioles.

Jones played at LSU from 2011 through 2013, and he helped lead the Tigers to the 2012 SEC championship and an appearance in the 2013 College World Series. Jones, a product of Richton, Miss., was the third-round selection of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2013 MLB Draft, and he made his major league debut with Detroit in August 2016.

Stevenson was the Nationals’ second-round draft choice in 2015, he made his MLB debut in July 2017, and he earned a World Series ring when Washington defeated Houston in the 2019 Fall Classic. A native of Lafayette, La., Stevenson played at LSU from 2013 through 2015, and he earned 2015 first-team All-SEC and third-team All-America honors.

Fraley, the Tampa Bay Rays’ second-round draft choice in 2016, was traded to Seattle in November 2018 and first advanced to the Major League roster in August 2019.

Fraley, a native of Middletown, Del., helped lead LSU to the SEC championship and a College World Series berth in 2015, and he was named the recipient of LSU Baseball’s 2016 Skip Bertman Award as the player who best exemplifies the spirit of the program. He played in 173 games during his LSU career batting .328 with 28 doubles, 12 triples, 10 homers, 142 runs, 100 RBI and 59 steals in 77 attempts.

Smith, the Diamondbacks’ 24th-round draft choice in 2016, was first promoted to the big leagues in August of 2020.

A native of Lufkin, Texas, Smith joined the LSU squad for the 2016 season after transferring from San Jacinto North College in Houston. Smith appeared in 12 games for the Tigers in 2016,  posting a 2-1 record in 22.1 innings with 11 strikeouts.

LSU has had at least one former player make his MLB debut in 27 of the past 30 seasons. The Tigers have produced a total of 77 Major Leaguers during their illustrious baseball history.