Preseason Top 25 Capsules: No. 12 Clemson
2017 Record: 42-21 (17-13 in ACC); reached regional. Final ranking: No. 23 Coach (Record at school): Monte Lee (86-41, 2 years). Top 200 2018 Draft Prospects: 1B/OF Seth Beer (34), RHP Ryley Gilliam (163), C Chris Williams (199).
The good news: Though the losses of veterans Chase Pinder and Reed Rohlman aren’t anything to sneeze at, Clemson should still trot out one of the most powerful lineups in the country this season. One of the biggest names in college baseball, Seth Beer, returns for his junior season and will be complemented by stud sophomore shortstop Logan Davidson and senior slugging catcher Chris Williams—who bypassed the draft after a late-season arm injury torpedoed his stock. Those three bats alone produced 42 home runs a year ago and should give the Tigers a frightening middle of the order. Even scarier—junior college transfer Justin Hawkins has as much power as any of them, drilling a shot over the scoreboard during the fall. Dynamic freshman Kier Meredith has the speed and defensive ability to fill Pinder’s shoes in both center field and at the top of the order, although he’ll likely miss time early in the season with a shoulder injury.
The bad news: Clemson lost its entire weekend rotation from a year ago and faces some obvious uncertainty on the mound because of it. However, what the Tigers lack in experience, they make up for in sheer talent. While Charlie Barnes, Alex Eubanks and Pat Krall were an effective rotation, none of those pitchers possessed dominant stuff, getting by instead on feel and command. Clemson will offer a much different look this year, as rotation candidates Owen Griffith, Ryan Miller and freshman Spencer Strider all sit in the low 90s and can touch higher. Strider touched 96 mph in the fall, and at one point struck out nine batters in a row during intrasquad scrimmages. Two-way freshman Sam Weatherly adds depth, as does lefty Jake Higginbotham’s return from injury. Junior Ryley Gilliam served as Team USA’s closer over the summer and gives Clemson a dominant end-of-game presence with his plus fastball.
Returner to know: Logan Davidson, SS: The switch-hitting shortstop out of Charlotte, N.C., was a pop-up prospect late in the 2016 draft, turning down a reported $1.3 million to go to school. That decision looks to be a wise one, as Davidson could very well be one of the first shortstops off the board in 2019. A true shortstop with smooth actions (albeit a few too many errors), Davidson hit a growth spurt his senior season in high school and surprised with a 12-homer season in his first year with Clemson. He’s only gotten stronger and more polished since then. Beer might be the biggest name on the Tigers—and rightfully so—but Davidson is the most tooled-out player on the roster.
Path to Omaha: Clemson has hosted two regionals in its first two years under Monte Lee but has yet to advance to super regional play. The Tigers should be able to slug their way through the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, but they’ll need to solidify their pitching staff to make a deep postseason run. By all accounts, Clemson has the talent and velocity necessary to piece together a formidable staff, but Lee and pitching coach Andrew See will need to find the right roles for those arms to thrive.
Ten First-Rounders Are Left Available For Rule 5 Draft
This was the worst year for protecting first-round picks since the new draft rules were adopted in 2012.
C Chris Williams, Sr. .261/.320/.572 | 180 AB | 14 HR | 51 RBI
1B Seth Beer, Jr. .298/.478/.606 | 218 AB | 16 HR | 53 RBI
2B Jordan Greene, Jr. .263/.332/.308 | 198 AB | 0 HR | 18 RBI
3B Grayson Byrd, Jr. .284/.345/.344 | 183 AB | 1 HR | 20 RBI
SS Logan Davidson, So. .286/.388/.473 | 241 AB | 12 HR | 41 RBI
LF Sam Weatherly, Fr. HS—Howell, Mich.
CF Kier Meredith, Fr. HS—Winston-Salem, N.C.
RF Drew Wharton, Sr. .214/.277/.238 | 42 AB | 0 HR | 6 RBI
DH Justin Hawkins, Jr. Transfer—USC Sumter (S.C.) JC
RHP Owen Griffith, So. 1-2, 1.23 ERA | 15 IP | 14 SO | 0 SV
RHP Ryan Miller, Sr. 1-0, 3.09 ERA | 12 IP | 11 SO | 1 SV
RHP Spencer Strider, Fr. HS—Knoxville, Tenn.
RP Ryley Gilliam, Jr. 3-1, 2.57 ERA | 35 IP | 50 SO | 4 SV
RP Brooks Crawford, Jr. 4-0, 1.23 ERA | 22 IP | 22 SO | 0 SV