The Tigers begin play Friday afternoon at 4pm
2010 Final Record: 45-25, 18-12 ACC
ACC Atlantic Division Champions and Final 4 of College Baseball.
2010 Final Rankings: #4 in three polls, Collegiate Baseball, National Collegiate Writers and USA Today/ESPN. It is the 5th time Clemson has finished so high. #10 finish in Baseball America and Rivals. The final Composite poll ranks Clemson 5th.
Incoming Recruits - Cole Brand opted for MLB. Steve Wilkerson did not sign with the BoSox and will compete. RHP Dale Innes failed out of school apparently. Clemson's recruiting class wasn't pirated by the MLB Draft this year, but also wasn't highly regarded either. It fills the needs of the team though.
Preseason Polls: ACC Coaches have picked Clemson to win the ACC Championship. FSU was picked 2nd in the Atlantic and UVA was picked to win the Coastal. Baseball America ranks us #10. ESPN/USA Today ranks Clemson 5th. Collegiate Baseball writers rank us 4th, the highest of the 4 major polls. Our composite ranking is 6th nationally.
The 2011 schedule features 32 home games, 24 games against 2010 NCAA Tournament teams, and four games at Fluor Field in Greenville, SC. Starting with a three-game series against South Carolina from March 4-6, the Tigers will play 15 games against teams that played in the 2010 NCAA Tournament over a 21-game stretch.
We begin play this weekend against Eastern Michigan, televised on TigerCast. Weather is forecast to be in the low 70s.
The 2011 Tigers should be pretty good. The schedule is always going to be tougher than most NCAA schools but we bring back much of the young pitching staff for another year of seasoning. We lose our best infielder but I don't think the defense can get much worse than it was last year.
Parker got the standing ovation in his last AB against Alabama, but it should've been given to Mike Freeman. Since transferring from UGA he was a very solid 2B for us and I think we'll miss him more than Parker. He had a cold spell early in the season but after heating up he was a very consistent .330 hitter for us all the way til the end. His glove will be missed even more than his bat. He could turn 2 as well as any we've had.
The biggest curveball thrown to us by the NCAA is the new bat revision, geared to make the aluminum bat more like wood and deaden the batted ball. Clemson was given a chance in Fall to test out the prototypes and word to us is that they were considerably deader than the last bat. These were just prototypes and the standard bat could be better, but home runs and batting averages will drop.
Batting Coach Tom Riginos is finally gone to Winthrop and has been replaced by Bradley LeCroy, who played here from 97-00. He spent the last 5 years at Western Carolina and Tennessee and will take the job of Recruiting Coordinator as well. In 2007, Western Carolina was among the nation’s top 11 in runs, home runs and doubles per game as well as slugging percentage and batting average. At Tennessee, the Volunteers hit 67 home runs in 56 games in 2008 (fifth-best in school history), and slugged 87 in 55 games in 2009 (second-best in school history). The Vols’ 2008 signing class ranked 28th according to Baseball America, and the 2009 class 14th. Tomas Cruz stuck around as an assitant pitching coach for the Tigers this year.
Taking a rough stab at the 2011 lineup, I think you could see Schaus at the 3 or 4 spot, and Miller somewhere at the top but not leading off. Shaffer could conceivably take the 3 spot and you could see Hinson take it or 4/5.
Will Lamb worked on his hitting all offseason, and will probably end up in Center and leadoff. My only beef with that is the critical need for a Southpaw starter. If someone fed him a few cheeseburgers he should be a good outfielder for us, and he will steal plenty of bases once again. I'm hoping he bats leadoff and not Chris Epps.
Brad Miller played more 2B for Team USA but he is Jack's boy, and Jack will keep him at Short, mostly because he complains endlessly when being moved to 2B. I will probably be caught for attempted murder of Leggett if he repeats another 20 error season. 3B John Hinson doesn't have the strongest arm but he can do the job on defense at 3rd and will steal plenty of bases as well. He had an awesome season at the plate and came back to raise that draft stock.
1B Richie Shaffer is the best hitter on this squad with the best MLB potential in my opinion. He did play some 3B in HS but was very consistent at 1st on defense last year (no errors). These new bats will not hurt him too much with his swing. Look for him to double his power numbers, assuming he also was given real food during the offseason.
Spencer Kieboom showed late last year that he can handle our pitchers very well, with a strong arm and good presence at the plate. His rise pushed John Nester off to MLB early. With the new bats, that strong arm will be necessary as much of the ACC will play small-ball. Phil Pohl will certainly get some PT as well, and reportedly worked on becoming a switch hitter this offseason.
The bottom of the lineup is probably left up to some youngsters. Someone will have to replace Freeman's glove at 2nd and be servicable at the plate in his stead. Freshman Steve Wilkerson is a good defensive player and switch hitter who could do that. Jason Stolz was almost as much a liability at 3rd as Miller is at SS, and projects better from that side, but its possible he gets the job from experience.
One could see Epps platooning with Addison Johnson on the All-Century no-hit team, but they'll probably split time in the OF next year. Epps has a great eye but a huge hole in his swing, and isn't that good in the OF defensively. Joe Costigan and John McGibbon are good hitters who could work a spot open in Right/Left to fill Parker's hole.
The bullpen brings back everyone who has potential. Everyone who made a start, other than Casey Harman, is back too. If we had brought Casey back, I'd project us as a CWS team, but Saturday and Sunday starting really worries me. Leone has a good slider but its a very unforgiving pitch if not thrown perfectly. I'm hoping Kevin Brady gets a chance and has the stamina to go 6 innings or so. I've been high on Kevin Brady's potential since the first time I saw him. He has the best combo of stuff on the staff - mid 90s fastball with a good change and a biting curve - when he can command them. Firth will probably start on Sunday or Tuesday and he has above-average stuff but I don't know if its ready for weekend starting. Wednesday's starter could be Justin Sarratt, Mike Kent, or a freshman.
Frederick will be a Sr. and will be the first arm out in clutch situations. The rest of the pen was pretty young last year. Firth, Haselden, Meyer and Mike Kent will all be back. Josh Thrailkill transferred to a community college. This should be an improved group, but still cause for worry. Meyer started out hot last year and really cooled midseason. Haselden did about the same. Both of these guys need to step up bigtime for us to get anywhere.
The biggest problem is the lack of lefty pitching. Lamb played OF and worked on his bat all summer instead of pitching. I'd figure him as a weekend starter if not for that, so he will likely be the top lefty out of the pen, perhaps the closer. Joseph Moorefield is the only other lefty in the pen. LHP Kevin Kyle transferred. Moorefield can be very good or very bad. This is going to bite us, particularly against Lefty-laden lineups like Georgia Tech.
Freshman to look out for is Kevin Pohle, tall with a live arm.
Another 45 wins is my current expectation. This team should be Super Regional caliber and CWS caliber if some guys step up on the infield and open outfield spots, and the pitching continues to improve. But until Jack wins a CWS and proves me wrong, I won't call for them to be capable of winning it.
As an aside, we are always looking for a baseball writer. We don't live close enough to Clemson to see many games and postgame synopsies are always welcome from those who attended. If you would like to write series wrap-ups or postgame wrap-ups, email us.