2013 Clemson Baseball Preview

2012 Final Record: 35-28, 3rd in ACC Atlantic division

2012 Final Rankings: Clemson finished unranked.The Tigers began the 2012 season ranked as high as 16th by Baseball America. Other rankings fell between that mark and 25th. Clemson was picked to win the ACC Atlantic division, ahead of FSU, by the Baseball America writers.

Major Losses: To the MLB Draft, Clemson lost 3B Richie Shaffer, C Spencer Kieboom, RHP Kevin Brady, RHP Dominic Leone, SS Jason Stolz, and DH/C Phil Pohl. Brad Felder and David Haselden both graduated. RS freshman Brook Goodling got run off by Jack and Dominic Attanasio is gone after disappearing in 2012. It appears that Trevor Kieboom is transferring as well to a community college.

Incoming Recruits: Assistant Coach Bradley LeCroy signed a great class and it wasn't devastated by MLB for a change. It finished 5th-ranked by Collegiate Baseball. Aside from Atlanta Braves 1st round pick Lucas Sims, they all came in. We really think this class is the best we've brought in since the days when Kevin O ran our recruiting for Jack, who isn't a favorite of many HS coaches.

Since this is a large class, we'll just give you some names to look for, because many of them are going to be forced to play.

Clate Schmidt - RHP/SS; Matt Crownover - LHP - coming off Tommy John and already challenging for a starting role; Steven Duggar - OF; Tyler Krieger - IF; Kevin Bradley - C/3B/SS; D.J. Reader - 1B, former pitcher but doesn't have the velocity there he needs since he hasn't pitched enough lately, but when he hits it it goes a long way; Shane Kennedy - 2B/SS transfer;

Preseason Polls: Clemson has been picked 3rd in the Atlantic Division by the league press, and are unranked by Collegiate Baseball and USA Today.

Clemson announced that 10 regular-season baseball games will be televised and 35 more will be available exclusively via live webcast through TigerCast or ESPN3 in 2013. Therefore, a total of 45 Clemson regular-season baseball games will be on some form of live video in 2013. Six of the televised games will also be available via webcast on ESPN3. All are on the radio.

2013 Outlook: Roster

Frankly we're not sure what to expect. We knew last year would be a transition going in, and that power would take a serious dip (in combination with BBCOR bats). This year, we've lost most of the starters and all the poor power we had. This team could suck as hard as 2008's team, which last year's team approached as underachievers.

This squad will have to be good on the basepaths and become much better at fundamentals. CF Thomas Brittle (.298) and Steve Wilkerson (.296) are probably the best two hitters coming back. Brittle needs to work more walks to lead off, and Wilkerson is a #2 hitter forced to the lead off role.

Wilkerson could stick at 2nd, but may go to SS. Either way, he has to get better on defense (18 errors). Shane Kennedy likely pushes at 3rd base but could push elsewhere. Tyler Krieger is pushing at SS.

Who will bat in the 3-4-5 spots is another serious question. OFs Steven Duggar/Maleeke Gibson may challenge, McGibbon has been up/down at 1B, and 3B/OF Jay Baum has no bat to sound like his name. None of them is confidence-inspiring. Small ball is going to be the only way this team succeeds. We have to work those walks, steal more bases, bunt, learn to sacrifice/sac flies, and the bottom of the order is going to have to produce.

Possibly even more concerning is the Catcher spot vacated by the losses of Kieboom and Pohl. Garrett Boulware has to step up, with Kevin Bradley and Matt Reed to push him. Without a solid defender behind the plate, things can get scary real fast.

In the OF, Brittle has the CF spot nailed down. I think a freshman takes at least one spot (Gibson/Duggar) and Tyler Slaton (or possibly Joe Costigan) may come out of the gate with another. Duggar is one with some pop in his bat, while Gibson is a smaller speedster. Mike Triller comes off a RS to compete for a spot. Costigan has been invaluable as a pinch-hitter.

D.J. Reader has been killing the baseball in batting practice, and will need heavy work on fundamentals on defense, but you might see him get some DH ABs or some 1B time.

Pitching:

Clemson pitching took a nosedive in 2012, with the team ERA increasing by 0.60. Walks dramatically increased as well, and combined this is seriously bad news when batting averages across the nation are tanking with the BBCOR bat changes. Our pitching should've been much stronger than it was the last two years as offensive numbers plummetted.

In my mind, given the ~40-50% reduction in college power figures since 2010, any team ERA now over 4.00 is downright awful. The '12 team's 3.90 is pretty bad if you consider we brought two of the best talents back from '11 (Pohle and Brady). We went the entire year with basically 3 go-to guys to use in the pen: Gossett, Campbell, and Firth. Everyone else was garbage for most of the season. This is going to have to change in 2013, or we're going to suck. We don't have the power at the plate to make up for bad pitching.

Last season we projected Daniel Gossett (6-3, 4.32 ERA) to push for a Friday/Saturday spot, and he seems in line to get the Friday night job in 2013 ahead of Kevin Pohle (7-4, 3.66). Goose will start Friday night for the time being. Unfortunately, Pohle is injured, and is not 100% and has to timetable for such. This opens up the Saturday spot that should go to him.

Last year I could see Jon Meyer (2-5, 3.96) as a challenger for the Sunday job, but Meyer is either good or just awful. I hope he does not get the Sunday spot unless he has drastically improved. Word out of camp is that Matthew Crownover, fresh off Tommy John surgery, is really impressive and might take Sunday from him. At this point it appears Crownover will get his test in midweeks.

I'd personally rather have Scott Firth (4-0, 2.49, 2 SV) back in the rotation, at least as a midweek, because he does not seem suited to the 9th inning role at all. That is not to say he's particularly impressive at anything other than being that 6th-8th inning guy. He's been announced as the Sunday starter for now.

The closer's role should go to Matt Campbell (1-2, 2.49, 2 SV) if he's 100%, but soph. Patrick Andrews is challenging for 9th inning duty after an up/down season as a freshman (2-3, 5.52, 2 SV). I'm not very certain Andrews has the stuff in his repertoire for the full-time spot. He has been named the Saturday starter for this weekend since Pohle is hurt, and I don't know if Andrews has the stuff for that either.

Other mid-inning guys will be LHP Kyle Bailey, who pitched just 2x in 2012, JoMo, sidearmer Clay Bates,and Mike Kent (who only has a curve and little else). The newcomers like Schmidt, Wales Toney, LHP Zack Erwin, Schnell, Koerner, etc. will all challenge for innings, but I suspect we'll only see appreciable time from a couple of them after March comes around.

ETSU transfer Jake Long must sit due to NCAA rules.

In all, I'd say this is a deeper staff but a much younger one. We do have more left-handers to put out there besides JoMo this year, which is a huge improvement. I think the Friday/Saturday games are going to be winnable, but I'm scared on Sunday. The most fearful is that Dan Pepicelli has yet to show me that he can properly develop a pitching staff. We'd replace him if it were up to us.

Thoughts on the season to come:

While there is more depth in the pitching staff, we felt basically the same last year prior to first pitch, and we see how that turned out. We stated last February that the 2012 team needed pitching to carry the team, and it never materialized. It doesn't help when Jack takes out the starter as early as he does, turning the game over to a suspect pen. We won only 35 as a result, and this is not acceptable at Clemson.

Now we lose our best hitters and have few established ones coming back. We have almost no power. I do not think Jack can instruct proper fundamentals and play the small ball that he prefers. We don't seem to get those bunts down anymore. We don't execute hit & run well anymore. We ALWAYS LOOK AT THE THIRD STRIKE WITHOUT MOVING THE BAT in clutch situations. We just do not execute good baseball fundamentals and the team plays as tightly wound as Jack's personality shows. Will this recruiting class fix it? I'm not certain.

I think on talent and talent alone, we'll get to the 30-35 W range. We should make the Regionals, and challenging to host one is an outside possibility. I don't see us going any further in 2013.

As an aside, we're also looking for baseball writers to help out this year and give a different perspective, especially if you can make it to many games in person. If you would like to write or help out with baseball contact us. Unfortunately, baseball coverage will be minimal this season otherwise, due to our time constraints.

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