[UPDATE: The LSU baseball standout was chosen by the Tampa Bay Rays with the 31st pick in the first round of the Major League Baseball first-year player draft.]

LSU’s star center fielder, Lafayette native Mikie Mahtook is expected to be among the top 20 players selected in Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft, which gets under way Monday afternoon.

Mahtook’s junior year ended on a sour note, as the Tigers failed to make the NCAA Tournament, but he certainly bears no blame.

His stats were more than impressive, as noted Monday by The Times-Picayune: a .383 batting average, 14 homers and 56 RBIs. He was at or near the top of the Southeastern Conference in nearly every offensive category, leading the conference in slugging percentage (.709), walks (41), triples (five) and steals (29). He was second in batting average, homers, total bases (139), on-base percentage (.496) and runs scored (61), and third in RBIs. According to the T-P, Mahtook ended the season batting .441 in his last 15 games and finished his career with a streak of 70 games reaching base, including all 56 this season in the Tigers’ 36-20 campaign.

Though he’s acknowledged the emotional toll of leaving the Tigers (LSU Coach Paul Mainieri also hasn’t been shy about his affection for the Lafayette athlete, an STM grad), Mahtook told the T-P he’s ready for a new chapter.

“It’s exciting. I got to experience the draft out of high school, but this is a different animal,” said Mahtook, who was picked in the 39th round by the Florida Marlins three years ago. “I’m in a different place. It’s an exciting time that I’ll never forget.

“I’m taking it in. The whole season, I haven’t put stress on myself, so why start now. Whatever is going to happen will happen.”

The draft begins today at 6 p.m. in Seacaucus, N.J. Mahtook elected to be at home with his family in Lafayette to await word. 

Read the T-P story here and The Independent’s June 2009 cover story on Mahtook, “Hard Ball,” here.

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