Who We Lost
There will be some new starters in the outfield as Clemson lost many of it's regular outfielders. Star left fielder Reed Rohlman graduated in the Spring and is currently playing in the Kansas City Royals minor league system. He appeared in 58 games for the Rookie League Burlington Royals, where he hit for a .267 average. Rohlman led the Tigers in 2017 in batting average and hits with a .361 average and 82 hits. Rohlman's partner in crime, center fielder Chase Pinder decided to leave school after his junior season in 2017 when he was drafted in the seventh round by the St. Louis Cardinals. Over the summer, Pinder appeared in 50 games for the Rookie League Johnson City Cardinals, who are an Appalachian League opponent of Rohlman's Royals. Pinder was right behind Rohlman with the second highest batting average for the Tigers in 2017, with a mark of .305. Pinder's defensive presence was also felt, as he had a perfect fielding percentage for the season.
The Tigers had a rightfield by committee last season, as multiple players seeing significant playing time. Senior KJ Bryant began the season as the starter before graduate transfer Weston Jackson earned his regular starts in right. In his 50 games played, Jackson averaged .248 and launched eight homers last season. Bryant slid into a pinch runner role for the Tigers and was very useful in late game settings on the base path. Bryant was arguably the fastest player on the team last year, yet had some issues fielding the ball.
Last Call For Beer
The man, the myth, and the legend Seth Beer comes back for presumably his last ride in Tiger Town. Beer, a junior, will be eligible for the MLB draft this summer and should be highly drafted. Baseball America rated Seth as the 20th best MLB prospect in college baseball for this season. Last year, Beer split time between designated hitter, rightfield, and first base. With the graduation of Andrew Cox, Beer could be seeing some time at first, however the with the youth and inexperience in the outfield, he may be called back out to right field. Beer is known for swinging a big bat, but he's also shown to have a deadly arm.
The knock on Beer has been about his speed, which is why he's seen time at first and DH. I expect as the year goes on we'll see Seth in various roles, depending on the needs of the team.
Who Else Is Back
While the main starters are gone, the Tigers have a pair of senior outfielders returning in Drew Wharton and Robert Jolly. Wharton started eleven games for the Tigers, including nine in the right field. The Suwanee, Georgia product has never committed an error in his Clemson career.
Jolly has been a jack of all trades. Last season Jolly had the bulk of his starts at designated hitter, however he also made nine starts at catcher due to the injury to Chris Williams. Jolly has also been a huge factor as a pinch hitter for Tigers throughout his career.
Spartanburg Methodist transfer Sheldon Reed looks to make a run at one of the outfield positions. The junior comes to Clemson after two seasons in with the Pioneers. Reed averaged .448, hit eleven home runs, and had 71 hits in 2017 on his way to being named first team all region.
Four freshmen will also be in the mix. Bryce Teodosio and Bo Majkowski are both guys with potential, but all eyes will be on Kier Meredith and Sam Weatherly. Meredith, from Winston-Salem is ranked as the 4th best recruit from North Carolina and 39th best freshman in America by Perfect Game. Meredith was selected in last summer's MLB draft by the Chicago Cubs in the 28th round (number 855 overall), but chose not to sign with the club. Unfortunately, Meredith could be sidelined for the early part of the season with a shoulder injury suffered during fall practice. Meredith's speed and athleticism are incredible, so once he gets healthy he could be a huge piece in filling Chase Pinder's spot in centerfield. Meredith was also a standout running back and took an unofficial visit as a football recruit to Clemson.
Sam Weatherly is rated as the number twenty three freshman in the country by Perfect Game. The Ann Arbor, Michigan native turned down the Toronto Blue Jays, who drafted him in the twenty seventh round (819 overall) to come to Clemson. Weatherly is also a left handed pitcher, and has played first base. Weatherly was Perfect Game's sixteenth best left handed pitcher in the nation for the class of 2017, and their number one rated player in the state of Michigan. He definitely can contribute to the Tigers in a lot of ways and could be a very useful tool this season.
Like last season, it may take Clemson a few weeks before getting settled on a lineup. I expect that early in the season. My guess is that early on, Monte Lee will play Beer at first or designated hitter and give Wharton a shot in right. Wharton has a good arm and is a steady fielder. I think he'll work out pretty well. Sheldon Reed was a right fielder at SMC, so he may push Wharton for playing time. Once Meredith is healthy, he'll get his shot in center. It will be very interesting to see who ends up getting the start in center on opening day, however. My guess is that Bo Majkowski will get the nod, assuming Meredith is still out. He seems to be pretty quick and could fit in that role. Sam Weatherly will probably end up starting left field, however we will likely see Robert Jolly starts out there as well, especially if Weatherly is pulling double-duty as a pitcher. Don't be surprised if, like last season, the lineup on opening day and the lineup in the tournament are different. There's a lot of potential with these outfielders, but also a lot of youth, so it may take some time and lineup shuffling before we get a consistent product.