When Monte Lee looks at his pitching staff, there is one thing that catches his eye more than anything else.
“We feel like we have a lot of depth,” Clemson’s head baseball coach told The Clemson Insider recently. “Now, the ones we lost are all in professional baseball. But we feel like with so many guys coming back and some of these freshmen and graduates… Those five newcomers, they are really good.”
The five newcomers—freshmen Caden Grice, Ty Olenchuk and Landon Lucas, as well as grad transfers Rasesh Pandya and Rob Hughes—will replace Sam Weatherly and Spencer Strider, as well as bullpen pitcher Sheldon Reed and closer Carson Spiers.
“We feel like this pitching staff is going to be pretty dang good and has a chance to be a really good group,” Lee said.
Lee said his pitching staff had an outstanding fall once they got going. Unlike other schools, Clemson did not start fall practice until mid-October. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lee did not want to take any unnecessary risks, so he brought his pitchers along a little slower than normal.
“We knew that we had such a significant amount of time off from the middle of March until late August when we came back and got the guys back on campus. We had a lot of time off,” he said. “So, we really took our time. We really took our time to make sure our guys were healthy and ready to go and it paid dividends for us because we got through the fall completely healthy on all fronts.
“So, we are very, very fortunate that we took that approach of taking our time because it could pay dividends for us health wise going into this spring.”
Projected weekend starters heading into spring practice, according to Monte Lee
Davis Sharpe, *So., RHP, 6-3, 205: “He is probably our most consistent arm. We all knew that was going to be the case and was going to be in the mix for one of those top two or three spots and he certainly kind of cemented his role going into the spring as our No. 1 starter.”
Caden Grice, Fr., LHP, 6-6, 230: “He turned down a lot of money to come to Clemson as a two-way guy. On the mound, he certainly did not disappoint. This is a true freshman, and he is 6-6, 230 pounds. He is left-handed… Needless to say, he was absolutely dominant. He also has power at the plate, and he got better and better as the fall went on… Caden right now is going to be in the mix as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter.”
Keyshawn Askew, *So., LHP, 6-2, 175: “He is better, and his velocity is up. He has always been an upper 80s guy with a good change-up and a breaking ball that has always been a pitch that he needed to develop more consistently, and we feel like he has… His fastball is up to 92 mph. It has been up to 92 some, so he is throwing harder and his pitch ability is at a very high level.”
In the mix to start, according to Monte Lee
Mat Clark, *Gr., LHP, 5-11, 190: “Obviously, he did not pitch for us this fall, but Mat Clark is stronger, as well. He has been throwing some bullpens. With the COVID concerns, he had to do what was best for him, so he took the semester off. But he will be back in the spring. He is going to be in the mix as well.”
Jackson Lindley, *So., RHP, 6-4, 215: “He is a guy that sometimes we do not give enough credit to. He has made some really good starts in the middle of the week. He is an older guy now.”
Bullpen, according to Monte Lee
Ty Olenchuk, Fr., RHP, 6-1, 195: “He threw very few fastballs under 94 mph this fall. So, he has a really good fastball. The breaking ball has to get better. He had a strikeout per inning. He gave up some hits, but he is an absolute bulldog as a competitor. This is a guy who won multiple state championships as a quarterback, so he brings a little bit of an edge to the ballpark… He is a guy that will pitch for us, but whether it is as a starter or out of the bullpen, we are not sure yet, but he is in our top six to eight arms.”
Nick Clayton, *Fr., RHP, 6-5, 195: “Last year, he pitched very well until the season ended. He is going to be in the mix to help us out of the pen.”
Evan Estridge, *Gr., RHP, 6-3, 215: “The best pitcher from this fall, and he is the guy that probably made the biggest jump. He threw a little bit for us last year. He was a transfer from Newberry. He was up to 94 this fall. He is stronger. He has an elite change-up and he was also voted the team captain by the pitching staff. So, he is a guy everybody… I will say if we have a lead on opening day and who am I going to give the ball to first out of the bullpen to bridge the gap and to get us to the closers, it is going to be Evan Estridge.”
Closers, according to Monte Lee
Rob Hughes, *So., RHP, 6-1, 230: “We were fortunate enough to beat Furman over at Fluor Field a couple of years ago. We did not hit the ball very well that night and the reason is because Ron Hughes came into the ballgame. Here is this true freshman and he comes in in the seventh inning and I think he threw 3 2/3 and struck out seven against us. And now we get him. He was actually touching 96 some in his last outing in the fall. He is a power righty with a good changeup and breaking ball.”
Geoffrey Gilbert, *Fr., LHP, 6-1, 210: “He is going to be in the mix out of the bullpen. He will be a go-to guy in that eighth to ninth inning type role.”
Others who will be used but need to be more consistent, according to Monte Lee
Carter Raffield, **Fr., RHP, 6-4, 225: “We all know what he is capable of. He is going to be in the top eight mix.”
Rasesh Pandya, *Gr., RHP, 6-0, 205: “He is a grad transfer from Wofford. He was their closer, and he has an elite slider. So, he is going to be a guy that pitches a good bit for us.”
Landon Lucas, Fr., RHP, 6-0, 195: “He was up to 94 and has a good breaking ball. He has a chance to be really good as well.”
Note: *redshirt; **Double redshirt due to NCAA eligibility rule