This weekend kicks off fall baseball practice for the 2019 Clemson Tigers as head coach Monte Lee returns for his fourth season at the helm.
Clemson is coming off of a successful 2018 season, where it won the ACC Atlantic Division title and also had its most wins (47) since 2006.
The Tigers return 22 lettermen this year and are expected to have just as much, if not more, success during the 2019 season. Although they lost key offensive threats such as Seth Beer and Chris Williams to the MLB Draft, Lee is only focused on the team he has this year.
“Anytime you lose a player of a Seth Beer or Chris Williams caliber, you know you have a lot of offense that you have to try to replace,” Lee said Thursday. “But that happens every year. Every year that I’ve been coaching you look and say, ‘We just lost this guy. We lost four guys out of our lineup. We lost our whole weekend rotation.’
“I mean every year brings different challenges when you’re dealing with the draft or you’re dealing with graduation. For us we don’t really don’t focus too much on what we lost. It’s really not something I’ve ever focused on because I think every year is a different year and a different team.”
After having the task of replacing an entire pitching rotation last year, this year is a different story as Lee only lost left-handed pitcher Jake Higginbotham to the draft. Junior Jacob Hennessy and senior Brooks Crawford both return this season along with a plethora of depth in the bullpen.
“Well we have two guys back that threw over 150 innings between the two of them,” Lee said. “So, that’s always a good place to start. Anytime you can get one and in this case, two weekend starters back…along with a Spencer Strider.
“You know Strider pitched an awful lot for us last year as a true freshman. Made some significant starts and pitched meaningful innings out of the pen. We have a good nucleolus of starting pitching back.”
There are also several key, veteran position players that are returning which will be a huge asset to the Tigers both defensively and at the plate.
“Any time you can return a guy in a key position like shortstop in Logan Davidson you feel really good about it,” he said. “There’s a number of other guys. You have Kyle Wilkie, who is in his third year of the program. He was an All-ACC guy last year.
“You have Jordan Greene back who’s played an awful lot of baseball here and looks really good right now. You have Grayson Byrd and he’s healthy right now and another guy who has had two full years of playing every day in our program.”
Along with the returners the Tigers also brought in an extremely talented signing class, many who turned down the opportunity to play professional baseball out of high school to come to Clemson instead.
“We are very grateful to have guys show up to school that turned down the opportunities to sign professional contracts. We had some guys drafted and we had some guys that walked away from significant money.
“So this is a talented group. This freshman group that we brought in is very, very talented. It’s probably a little more arm-heavy, pitching-heavy, than it is position player-heavy. But we really like what we’re seeing out of a number of our first year pitchers and position players. We feel like we’re a little more athletic just watching the guys move around on defense.”