This is the first of a series of articles where we will review each position group for the 2018 baseball season. Here we will take a look at the Clemson outfielders.
I think it's safe to say that coming in, most of us thought we'd see freshman phenom Kier Meredith manning CF in an everyday role, Drew Wharton to one side in LF, and All American Seth Beer on the other side in RF. However, a freak injury to Meredith's shoulder in the fall would push his debut back several weeks, forcing the coaching staff to call on another freshman in the form of Bryce Teodosio. So let's start there.
Bryce Teodosio CF
Leading into the season, most assumed Teo would redshirt or maybe see limited action in a reserve role, at most. One freak injury during a fall scrimmage changed all that, forcing the 5th overall ranked high school player in the state of SC, into the role of everyday CF. He would start 20 of the first 24 games. Seven games into the season, things were looking up, He was hitting .316 with a HR and 6 RBI, and had many thinking the loss of Meredith might not be so bad. After that second weekend series vs Dallas Baptist however, his offensive numbers took a nosedive. By the time ACC play started, he was hitting well below the Mendoza Line, seeing his average drop to as low as .145 at one point. It was a real struggle for him. Over half of his plate appearances ended in Ks, with him striking out 40 times in 79 AB, as he finished hitting a measly .165, with 4 HR and only 9 RBI. After the Louisville series, his offensive struggles forced the coaches into making a change, as he started only 4 more times, before suffering an season ending shoulder injury late in the season.
For as bad as he was at the plate though, his play in CF was superb. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed watching him do work in the field. It is hard to know exactly how many runs his stellar defense kept from crossing the plate, but he certainly made life easier for the young pitching staff, committing only a single error. I recall him making several highlight reel type catches, along with at least one in which he went up over the wall and brought back a would be HR.
I really like Teo, and think he has the potential to be a very good player. He probably needed a redshirt year, as it was painfully obvious he was not ready for significant playing time as a freshman.
Drew Wharton- LF/CF
Wharton quietly became a Tiger regular this season, starting 62 of the teams 63 games. He started the season over in left, and finished it up in center, having taken over for the struggling Teo and injured Meredith. Whatever the coaches asked of him, he gladly obliged, always leaving it all out on the field.
Offensively, he is not a guy that will win batting titles (2015: .281, 2016: .154, 2017: .214, 2018: .255) but he had some big hits for this team over the course of the season. His 3 HRs in the first two games of the Dallas Baptist series come to mind, as does his 6-15 performance during regional play. He finished his final season in a Clemson uniform hitting with 7 HR, 12 doubles, 31 runs scored, 41 RBI, and a .744 OPS in 231 ABs.
Like Teo, Wharton had a great season with the glove. Doesn’t matter where he was in the outfield, he turned in a really solid effort defensively, committing only 2 errors. Although not flashy, his play in the field is plenty effective, as he was able to cover a lot of ground out there, while making it look rather easy in the process. He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 30th round of the MLB draft.
Seth Beer- RF
Seth Beer... I mean do you really have to say anymore than the name? 3 time All-American, 3 time All ACC (1st team twice), and was the first freshman to win the Dick Howser POY Award.
Following a hot start, a tough March saw his average drop to .232 after a 1-12 weekend in Louisville. After that cold weekend however, he found his groove, finishing the season at .301, with a career high 22 HR and 54 RBI. He also walked 54 times.
Defensively he looked to be improved this season. You could tell he had really made an effort to improve that part of his game over the offseason, and even though he was better and he made a few plays out there that I wasn’t sure he would ever be able to make, he is never going to be a very good defensive player.
He was selected late in the 1st round (28th overall) of last weeks MLB Draft by the Houston Astros. He signed for just over $2.3 million. We will have more on Beer later in the week, in a separate tribute piece!
Robert Jolly LF
Jolly got off to a red hot start, hitting .343 through the South Carolina series. The senior appeared in 50 games, starting 42, splitting time between RF and DH. The Grand Strand native got to play in front of his hometown crowd finally, when the Tigers visited Coastal Carolina back in April. Jolly hit his only HR of the season that night, a shot out to right that might still be travelling, he hit it so far. After that night however. he started struggling at the plate. finishing up hitting only .228, with the 1 long ball and 17 RBI.
Sam Hall RF
Hall became the everyday LF late in the season. He ended up hitting only .239, but showed a lot of promise at times, while at other times looking like the freshman he was. He is another one I really like and expect to see become a main cog in the program over the next few years.
Kier Meredith- CF/LF
Meredith, the Top 100 and #4 player overall out of the state of NC, arrived on campus with plenty of hype. His speed was something everyone was looking forward to seeing at the top of the lineup, but it just wasn’t meant to be. The freak injury kept him out of lineup until April when the Tigers made the trek up to South Bend. We got a glimpse of what a healthy Meredith can bring to the table that weekend. He went 4-10 with a HR, a triple, and was 3-3 stealing bases. It was short lived however, as injuries limited him to only appearing in 10 more games. He finished the season hitting only .195. Hopefully what we saw against Notre Dame is a sign of things to come and the injuries are behind him.
Outside of Beer, the offensive production from the outfielders was nothing to brag about. Not a lot of power, none hit for average, and to many strikeouts. However, with the number of HRs we saw from Beer, it somewhat masked the lack of power from the others. The Tigers need more offensively from CF and LF next season, especially without Beer’s power in RF.
Defensively, I don’t think you could have asked for much more from this group. With Beer improving over his first two seasons, and the excellent play of Wharton, not nearly as many balls hit out there were finding spots to safely land in. The team overall was very good defensively, and this outfield played a very big part in that. It's an area that has been much improved over what we saw in Jack's last few seasons, and I'd fully expect that trend to continue in the future as Monte continues to build the program.