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Feb 04, 2020

2020 Baseball Outlook

By: Brian Hennessy

Head Coach Monte Lee is in his fifth season as the leader of the Clemson program with some strong accolades already on his resumé. His 168 wins in four seasons are 14th most in the nation and Clemson is one of only 13 schools in the country that has been selected to the NCAA Tournament each of the last four years. The program is on strong footing with the 43-year old mentor.

Clemson enters the decade with a new assistant coach for the first time since 2016, when Lee took over and brought in two new assistants. Jared Broughton is the new volunteer assistant coach after serving as associate head coach at Piedmont, where he helped the program set records for stolen bases.

Recruiting Coordinator Bradley LeCroy, who returns for his 13th season at Clemson, and Pitching Coach Andrew See, in his fifth year at Clemson, played a big role in the Tigers’ 2019 recruiting class (2020 newcomers), ranked as high as No. 13 in the nation by Baseball America and D1Baseball. The staff is rounded out by first-year Student Assistant Coach Jacob Hennessy, who was a lefthander for the Tigers from 2017-19.

The Clemson offense lost its top-three hitters from the 2019 team (Grayson Byrd, Logan Davidson, Kyle Wilkie) to the professional ranks, but most of the other prominent Tigers return in 2020. On the mound, Clemson returns most of its frontline pitchers.

“I’m very excited about the returning players on the mound in 2020,” said Lee. “The experience and leadership those players bring to our team will benefit us when we go deep into the season and play close games.

“On the offensive side, we must replace three outstanding hitters, but we expect players who have been through the rigors of the ACC to step up and fill those roles. Many of those players had strong fall seasons, so I can’t wait to see them perform this spring.

“I’m also looking forward to watching our newcomers perform. Our coaches have done a great job recruiting some of the best players in our area and around the country, and many of those players showed in the fall that they can play pivotal roles on the 2020 team.”

The 2020 schedule features 34 home games at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, 28 games against 2019 NCAA Tournament teams and three neutral-site contests at minor league parks, two at Segra Park in Columbia, S.C. and one at Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C.

Sixteen of the Tigers’ first 18 contests are at home, then 16 of the next 23 games are away from home before closing the regular season with 11 of the final 15 contests at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. The season begins Feb. 14 with a three-game home series against Liberty. Twelve teams participate in the ACC Tournament at BB&T Ballpark at Charlotte, N.C., the first time the tourney is held in the Queen City.


CATCHERS

Two sophomores and one freshman are among the three predominant catchers in the 2020 season. Sophomore Adam Hackenberg (Palmyra, Va.) has the most college experience behind the plate. He totaled three homers and 10 RBIs in 21 games, including nine starts at catcher, in 2019 while showing his power potential and strong arm.

Sophomore Drew Donathan (Charlotte, N.C.) was a spot starter and pinch-hitter as a first-year freshman in 2018 before suffering a leg injury in the fall prior to the 2019 season. He missed the entire year and received a medical redshirt. Donathan is one of the strongest players on the team.

Freshman Jonathan French (Lilburn, Ga.) was a second-team All-American by Baseball America at Parkview High School. He is the No. 26 freshman in the nation and No. 4 freshman in the ACC by Perfect Game who was drafted in the 30th round by the Cleveland Indians.


INFIELDERS

Players who accounted for 68 percent of the starts at the four infield positions are no longer with the program. Versatile junior Sam Hall (Hampstead, N.C.) is a leading candidate to take over the starting shortstop role from Logan Davidson, who started all 187 games at shortstop from 2017-19. Hall, Clemson’s primary leadoff batter a season ago who can also play in the outfield, hit seven homers with 32 RBIs and 30 steals, marking the first time since 1994 a Tiger led the ACC in stolen bases.

Sophomore Bryar Hawkins (Cumming, Ga.) hit .287 with seven homers and 23 RBIs in 52 games, including 46 starts overall and 30 at first base, in 2019. He also hit .324 with six homers and 25 runs in ACC regular-season games. He is a leading candidate to start at a corner infield spot.

Sophomore Chad Fairey (Greenwood, S.C.) hit .175 as a freshman, but he was 11-for-39 (.282) with three homers, 10 RBIs and a .417 on-base percentage in the last 12 games. Fairey, who can also play in the outfield, is a candidate to start at first base and can hit for power.

Another sophomore, James Parker (Anderson, S.C.), showed promise in his limited action in 2019. He committed only two errors and had a .950 fielding percentage while playing various infield positions. He will compete for a starting spot on the infield.

Redshirt freshman Mac Starbuck (Easley, S.C.) sat out last season, then he was one of the team’s best hitters this past fall. The son of former Tiger Volunteer Assistant Coach Greg Starbuck (2016-19) also had a strong summer in the Coastal Plain League, where he had a .466 on-base percentage with 14 steals in 42 games.

Two first-year freshmen have an opportunity to make contributions on the infield during the 2020 season. Pierce Gallo (Marietta, Ga.) was a two-time all-state selection at Walton High School and is the No. 270 freshman in the nation by Perfect Game. Regan Reid (Anderson, S.C.) was the region player-of-the-year at T.L. Hanna High School. Reid will also compete for playing time in the outfield.


OUTFIELDERS

Junior Bryce Teodosio (Simpsonville, S.C.) is Clemson’s best defensive outfielder. The powerful hitter totaled nine homers and 33 RBIs in making 54 starts in center field in 2019. He is also one of the fastest players on the team.

Junior Bo Majkowski (Johns Creek, Ga.) burst onto the scene as one of the team’s best hitters in the first half of 2019. He has a career .396 on-base percentage in 52 games and has shown his outstanding defensive abilities in right field.

Sophomore Kier Meredith (Winston-Salem, N.C.) has been hampered by injury in his first two seasons at Clemson. He still has a .436 career on-base percentage in 22 games. His speed and eye at the plate make him a candidate to hit at the top of the lineup.

Junior Matt Cooper (Virginia Beach, Va.), who has the versatility to play first base and behind the plate, is a career .227 hitter in 16 games over two seasons. Elijah Henderson (Greer, S.C.) is a sophomore who also has seen time on the infield during his career and will compete for playing time in the outfield.

Two Tigers in their first active seasons will compete for playing time in the outfield. Redshirt freshman Matthew Lumsden (Simpsonville, S.C.) showed his power potential during the fall season. Freshman Dylan Brewer (Latta, S.C.), who can also play first base, is the No. 10 college prospect for the 2022 draft by Perfect Game. Brewer was drafted in the 32nd round by the San Francisco Giants.


PITCHERS

A total of 21 pitchers, including 11 who have pitched in a game for the Tigers, are on the 2020 roster. Returning pitchers have combined for 56 career starts, while 41 of the 61 starts on the mound in 2019 were made by pitchers on the 2020 team.

Clemson looks to gain the services of two pitchers who missed the 2019 season due to injury. Sophomore Spencer Strider (Knoxville, Tenn.) and redshirt freshman Carter Raffield (Cochran, Ga.) are hard-throwing righthanders whose presence will be a big factor for the Tigers in 2020.

Strider was a freshman All-American in 2018 who was 5-2 with a 4.76 ERA and a team-high 70 strikeouts in 51.0 innings pitched. Raffield was the No. 49 freshman in the nation in the 2019 preseason. Both will compete for a starting spot in the 2020 weekend rotation.

Sophomore righty Davis Sharpe (Dacula, Ga.) is another candidate to be in the weekend rotation. The first-team freshman All-American was a Second-Team All-ACC starting pitcher, the first Tiger freshman to be an All-ACC pitcher since 2000. Sharpe was 7-4 with a 3.20 ERA, .205 opponents’ batting average and 84 strikeouts in 84.1 innings pitched over 15 appearances (14 starts). He led the team in ERA, starts, innings pitched and strikeouts. As one of the top two-way players in the nation, Sharpe hit .264 with three homers, 18 RBIs and a .377 on-base percentage in 38 games (34 starts) in the batting order. Sharpe is a preseason third-team All-American by Perfect Game.

Clemson’s most consistent starting pitcher in 2019 was junior lefty Mat Clark (Hilton Head Island, S.C.). He was a first-team All-Atlantic Region selection by ABCA and Third-Team All-ACC pick. Clark also won the Stowe Award as Clemson’s most valuable pitcher and was an All-ACC Academic selection. He had a 9-3 record, 3.21 ERA and .202 opponents’ batting average with 60 strikeouts against 23 walks in 73.0 innings pitched over 14 appearances (11 starts) in 2019.

Sophomore lefty Keyshawn Askew (Powder Springs, Ga.) was both a starter and reliever in 2019 and utilizes his unorthodox delivery to be effective. He was 2-1 with a 4.40 ERA in 16 appearances (nine starts) and will compete for a spot in the starting rotation in 2020.

The Tigers feature two juniors and one senior who have played pivotal relief roles in their Clemson careers. Senior righty Carson Spiers (Greenville, S.C.) has 15 career saves, tied for eighth in school history, and has only allowed 13 of 74 inherited baserunners to score in his career. Spiers also has a 2.87 ERA, .192 opponents’ batting average and 86 strikeouts in 94.0 innings pitched over 62 relief appearances in his career. In 2019, he had 11 saves, tied for third most in Tiger history.

Junior Holt Jones (Santa Monica, Calif.), a 6’8” righthander, had a 2-1 record, 3.93 ERA, .183 opponents’ batting average and 43 strikeouts in 36.2 innings pitched over 22 appearances (one start) in 2019. The hard-throwing hurler has the ability to pitch out of the bullpen or move into a starting role.

Junior Sam Weatherly (Howell, Mich.) emerged as a hard-throwing lefthander in 2019 who was 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA, team-best .175 opponents’ batting average and 46 strikeouts in 29.1 innings pitched over 21 relief appearances. He is the No. 140 prospect for the 2020 draft by D1Baseball.

Senior righthander Sheldon Reed (Bradley, S.C.) is a converted outfielder who saw limited action in 2019. Reed, along with sophomore righties Jackson Lindley (Anderson, S.C.) and Connor O’Rear (Aiken, S.C.), will compete for innings on the mound. Lindley is an imposing pitcher who was 2-0 with a 3.68 ERA in 10 appearances (six starts). Clemson was 6-0 in his six starts as well. O’Rear made two relief appearances in 2019.

Junior righthander Evan Estridge (Chapin, S.C.) joins eight freshmen who will compete for innings on the mound in 2020. Estridge sat out in 2019 after transferring from Newberry.

Junior lefty Ryne Huggins (Newberry, S.C.) is out for the season due to injury. He is a situational reliever who has pitched 8.2 innings in his career.

Righthanders Mack Anglin (Marengo, Ohio), Nick Clayton (York, S.C.), Nick Hoffmann (Centerville, Ohio) and Brett Percival (Lancaster, S.C.) join lefthanders Ryan Ammons (Easley, S.C.), J.D. Brock (Davidson, N.C.), Geoffrey Gilbert (Charleston, S.C.) and Paul Labriola (Bradenton, Fla.) as the eight first-year freshmen on the 2020 roster.

Anglin, the Ohio Gatorade Player-of-the-Year, is the No. 17 freshman in the nation and No. 2 freshman in the ACC by Perfect Game. Clayton was an all-state selection and region pitcher-of-the-year. Hoffman was an all-state selection as a junior and senior, while Percival was a North/South Select All-Star and South Carolina Select Team All-Star.

Ammons was an all-state selection and three-time all-region pick at nearby Wren High School. Brock, who can also play in the outfield, is the No. 196 freshman in the nation by Perfect Game. Gilbert is the No. 235 freshman in the nation by Perfect Game and was Mr. Baseball in South Carolina as a senior. Labriola, Clemson’s only player from the state of Florida, was a Florida Diamond Club All-Star.

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