Clemson University

5 areas that need to go Clemson’s way in 2018

Clemson infielder Grayson Byrd
Clemson infielder Grayson Byrd The Greenville News

Clemson’s season didn’t end like it wanted in Monday’s 8-0 deciding-regional loss to Vanderbilt.

If the Tigers (42-21) want to continue growing in Monte Lee’s third season as coach and reach a super regional for the first time since 2010, they’re going to need improvement in these areas:

Brace for departures

Lee is losing first baseman Andrew Cox and outfielder Weston Jackson, who made at least 30 starts, and pitching rotation members Pat Krall and Tyler Jackson to graduation.

Pitchers Charlie Barnes and Alex Eubanks and position players Reed Rohlman, Chase Pinder and Chris Williams are all starters with eligibility left who could depart after the MLB draft, which begins June 12.

Pinder is expected to go as high as the fifth round, while Barnes and Rohlman already have their degrees.

It could take a lot of convincing by Lee to keep any of those players.

Develop more arms

One area that led to Clemson’s downfall late in the season was a lack of reliable bullpen options. Injuries to relievers Brooks Crawford and Ryan Miller didn’t help, and closer Ryley Gilliam struggled down the stretch.

Crawford is a candidate to move into the starting rotation next season, along with freshman Owen Griffith, who shut down UNC Greensboro last Sunday.

Clemson needs a healthy Jake Higginbotham, as well as Jacob Hennessey, Carson Spiers and Jeremy Beasley to take major steps forward.

Freshmen leaps

Shortstop Logan Davidson showed a lot of promise in 2017, hitting 12 home runs and recording 41 RBIs while playing a tough position. He’ll become a focal point of the offense as a sophomore next season.

Kyle Wilkie is in a similar position after his limited season at catcher. He struggled offensively for much of the time he filled in for Williams, but his five hits in two games Sunday and improvements behind the plate give the Tigers hope he’ll be able to ease the transition at a key position if Williams moves on.

Overcome youth

If Clemson is hit hard by the draft, Lee will rely primarily on players he, not former coach Jack Leggett, brought into the program.

Lee looks to bring in at least seven newcomers this fall, but Clemson might lose top recruit Kier Meredith to the MLB draft.

Outsiders will see what kind of program Lee is really building and the type of players he needs to succeed.

A better Beer

How many college baseball players would sign up for a .298 average, 16 home runs, 53 RBIs and 64 walks?

The list is long, but not everybody is Seth Beer.

The star sophomore built huge expectations after a stellar freshman campaign. His numbers dipped a little in his second season as teams took different approaches and he put pressure on himself to perform in critical situations.

It’s scary to think he’s still developing and his knowledge of the game is expanding, but he still needs to improve his defense and foot speed heading into what will likely be his final year with the program.