Monte Lee does not put a tag on a player or a group of players unless he absolutely means what he is saying. So, when Clemson’s head baseball coach calls this year’s group of freshman pitchers the best they have brought in during his time at Clemson, he means it.
“This is a group that I am very excited about when you look at the projectability, the size and the arm strength of some of these guys,” he said. “This group of newcomers on the pitching side have a chance to be very, very good for us.”
These future stars for the Tigers are righty Davis Sharpe, lefty Justin Wrobleski, righty Jackson Lindley, lefty Keyshawn Askew and righty Carter Raffield.
“This is the most talented group of newcomers on the mound that we have brought in,” Lee said. “It is going to bode well for this year and in the future as long as we can keep them healthy. These guys are going to be very good for us.”
Sharpe (6-3, 210) is a lefty who can pitch and hit for the Tigers, and will probably do both this coming season.
“I think he is going to be a star for us,” Lee said.
Sharpe, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates, will be in the mix for the weekend rotation. According to Lee, he was the most consistent pitcher on the staff in the fall.
When he is not pitching, Lee says they have to find a way to get him in the lineup. He hit close to .300 in the fall with four home runs and a team-high 16 RBIs. The plan is play him either at first base or as the designated hitter.
“Because of the number of innings he will throw for us, we have to figure out a way to protect his arm,” Lee said. “If we can keep him from fatiguing with a great plan to help us pitching and hitting wise, this young man is going to be special. He is going to be a big factor for us on the mound and we believe he will be a big factor offensively. He certainly proved that this fall to me.”
Wrobleski (6-1, 190) is a lefty that throws 92-93 mph. He was drafted by the Mariners and, according to Lee, has a three-pitch mix. Like Sharpe, he can also be a two-way player.
“He is an above average athlete. He can really run for us in the outfield,” Lee said. “He can hit. He is ready to help us as a pitcher. He will be able to help us in the weekend and in midweek. Once he starts to focus on helping us on the pitching side, he is going to be very good for us.”
Lindley (6-4, 215) is from nearby T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson. A lot of his teammates think he reminds them of former Clemson pitcher Ryan Miller.
“He has similar traits,” Lee said. “His fastball has a lot of movement so he will be a groundball guy. He will be a midweek guy and bullpen guy.”
Askew (6-3, 165) is a tall slender lefty with a low arm slot. His ball moves a ton.
“He has a lot of sink. He just has to develop his off speed pitches, changeups and breaking balls,” Lee said. “He is a pitch-to-contact kind of guy and is very Athletic and has a ton of upside.”
Raffield (6-5, 230) is a big pitcher that is extremely strong. Lee says the righty is already throwing in the mid-90s.
“He is a big, strong kid,” Lee said.
Clemson will begin preseason practice Friday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson.