Clemson’s middle infield will have new starters
When the Clemson baseball team opens practice on Friday, it will do it with the task of replacing several key players from the 2019 team, particularly in the infield and behind the plate.
Shortstop Logan Davidson was selected by the Oakland A’s in the first round of last year’s MLB Draft, while catcher Kyle Wilkie came off the board when he was picked by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 12th round. Grayson Byrd, who played both first and third base for Clemson, was taken in the 24th round by the Chicago Cubs.
Last season, Byrd, Davidson and Wilkie combined for 37 home runs, 155 runs batted in and 145 runs scored. Clemson also lost starting second baseman Jordan Greene as well as Justin Hawkins, who played a lot of third base for the Tigers down the stretch.
“When you look at Logan and Jordan and Grayson Byrd, we lost some experience,” Lee said recently to The Clemson Insider. “We don’t have anybody in the infield that has started two years. This is going to be a young group of guys.”
Behind the plate will be Adam Hackenberg and Jonathan French. Hackenberg is a sophomore who played some last season. He is a really good defensive catcher but struggled at the plate at times. French is a freshman who is really pushing Hackenberg for playing time, so much so the coaches might figure out a way to have both in the lineup at the same time.
Lee said Bryar Hawkins, who played a lot at first base last season, played third base exclusively in the fall. He will start the spring there. The coaches know what he brings to the table as an offensive player, but he still has some work to do defensively.
James Parker will work at shortstop. He had a good fall at the plate, but the coaches need him to continue to improve on defense. He can also play second base and third base if needed.
Sam Hall played exclusively at shortstop in the fall for the Tigers. A utility player, Hall was the most consistent defender for the Tigers on the left side of the field in fall practice.
“I was very, very impressed with Sam and how he played defense for us at shortstop this fall,” Lee said. “We all know what kind of athlete Sam is … Sam is one of the most athletic players in the ACC.”
Freshman standout Pierce Gallo will also be in the mix at short, second and third base, while redshirt freshman Mac Starbuck have a chance to start at second base. He redshirted last year and came back in the fall and had one of the best offensive falls of anybody in the program.
“He had a tremendous fall and was very consistent at second base,” Lee said. “We need to probably put him over at shortstop some and get him a little bit of work over there when we come back. He had a tremendous fall for us.”
Sophomore Chad Fairey, who can play in the outfield, also worked at third base and first base in the fall.
Davis Sharpe, who will battle for the No. 1 pitching job as well, spent a lot of time at first base in the fall and will likely be the everyday guy.
“Davis is a plus-defensive first baseman,” Lee said. “He really does a nice job around the bag. He has so much height and so much length, he can get to do a lot of balls. If an infielder makes an errant throw, he is really good at picking balls in the dirt, which is what you want to see out of a first baseman.”
In the outfield, the Tigers hope they can keep Kier Meredith healthy. At the end of fall camp, Lee said Meredith is as healthy has he has been since he has been in the program. Meredith spent much of his first two years in Clemson banged up and the shelf.
“He is moving well. He is working out. He is running,” Lee said. “He is hammering the baseball. He is looking really good offensively for us. The big key is where is he going to be health wise for us when we get back.
“We really need Kier to go out in the outfield and run balls down and be able to get comfortable on defense.”
Clemson begins baseball practice on Friday.
Position battles this spring
Catcher: Adam Hackenberg (So.), Jonathan French (Fr.)
First base: Davis Sharpe (So.), Dylan Brewer (Fr.), Chad Fairey (So.)
Second base: Mac Starbuck (*Fr), James Parker (So.), Pierce Gallo (Fr.), Elijah Henderson (So.)
SS: Sam Hall (Jr.), Pierce Gallo (Fr.)
Third base: Bryar Hawkins (So.), Chad Fairey (So.), Pierce Gallo (Fr.)
Left field: Bryce Teodosio (Jr.), Elijah Henderson (So.), Chad Fairey (So.)
Centerfield: Kier Meredith (Jr.)
Right field: Michael Green (*Jr.), Chad Fairey (So.)
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