College baseball teams lose their top talent to the Major League Baseball draft every year, but Clemson could be particularly hard hit when the 2017 selection unfolds Monday through Wednesday.
The scenario is truly a Catch 22 for a college coach. Coaches want to recruit the best high school players possible to help ensure success in the present, knowing that the best of the bunch are likely to be signing pro contracts before their college careers are complete.
In nine years as a head coach and another seven as an assistant, Clemson’s Monte Lee has learned to be philosophical about the annual pilfering of his roster.
“It’s a bit of a stressful time for a coach,” Lee said. “But it’s also a great time. It’s a time of excitement, but you’re also a little nervous just because one of the toughest parts of our job is just the balancing act of the 27 spots and 11.7 (scholarships) and who’s going to be here and who’s not going to be here (next season) and how to you manage all of that.”
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Lee also could lose guys who haven’t even made it to campus yet – at least three high school seniors who have committed to Clemson are ranked among Baseball America’s Top 200 draft prospects.
The Tigers’ pitching rotation could be particularly hard hit, and junior lefthander Charlie Barnes of Sumter is a candidate to be the first Clemson player off the board.
“Barnes is my guess for the top pick off this team,” said Aaron Fitt, national writer for D1baseball.com. “He doesn’t have huge velocity but enough for a lefty, and his breaking ball has gotten a lot better. He’s become a more complete pitcher.”
Another player Fitt believes could go fairly high is junior catcher Chris Williams.
Although he was slowed by injury late in the season, Williams showed some pop, finishing second on the team in both home runs (14) and RBI (51).
While the Seth Beer draft sweepstakes are a year away, Fitt likes both of Clemson’s other outfielders – leftfielder Reed Rohlman and centerfielder Chase Pinder.
Rohlman earned first-team All-ACC and second-team All-America honors after batting .361 with 21 doubles and making several sterling defensive plays in the NCAA Regional.
Pinder, a junior, hit .305 and led the Tigers with 13 stolen bases, although he’s not exactly a speed burner.
Clemson’s potential picks
Charlie Barnes LHP
5-5, 3.20 ERA
Chris Williams C
.261, 14 HR
Chase Pinder OF
.305, 13 SB
Alex Eubanks RHP
7-6, 4.09 ERA
Pat Krall LHP
8-3, 3.50 ERA
Reed Rohlman OF
.361, 21 2B
* Baseball America Top 500 ranking