Five Areas Of Concern For Clemson Baseball
Less than a month away from Opening Day, this is the time of year that fans generally tend to be full of optimism. The best case scenario seems to be the more popular topic for discussion before any actual games are played, while any potential warts tend to get overlooked more often than not.
Heading into the 2020 season, there are several unknowns about Monte Lee's Clemson Baseball team. Starting with who the starting pitchers will be, all the way down to what will the offensive identity might be.
It isn't very difficult to look at this roster and see where the potential strengths may lie. Those have been well documented since the beginning of fall camp.
However, what about the opposite side of the spectrum? Are their any areas that could possibly be a cause for concern?
Today, in our series "Five Things ..." we take a look at five areas that could be problematic for the Tigers in 2020.
Looking over the roster, one of the first things that stands out is the number of inexperienced players that are expected to have substantial roles this season. This is especially true when it comes to the pitching. Mat Clark, Davis Sharpe, and Spencer Strider will be back to help lead the way, but this team is also going to need contributions from pitchers that have little to no experience. Freshmen Mack Anglin and Geoffrey Gilbert, as well as redshirt freshman Carter Raffield will be asked to play large roles, and none have thrown a pitch at this level yet. Sophomores Keyshawn Askew and Jackson Lindley will be called upon at some point as well. Both did see the field some as freshmen however, combining for just under 75 innings pitched.
If there is one thing all of Monte Lee's teams at Clemson have had in common, it is that they strikeout a ton. Last season the team combined to strike out 550 times in 2132 at bats (26%). In 2018 the team struck out 539 times in 2066 at bats (26%). If that is a trend that continues, this will be a team that could have serious issues pushing runs across the plate, seeing as most expect this lineup to have substantially less power than in recent seasons.
3. Inability To Score Runs
Over the first four seasons of the Monte Lee era, it's basically been a go big or go home style approach on offense. All of those teams featured lineups that were littered with power from top to bottom, and the long ball was relied on heavily. With less pop in the lineup this season, this team will be forced to score runs in different ways, and may have to play far more small ball. This entails guys needing to hit for average and working walks, things that have not been strengths for Clemson under Lee. It also means executing hit and runs, as well as successfully bunting more often, two more areas that haven't been strengths under Lee.
4. Pitching Depth
In each of the four seasons since Monte Lee has taken over the program, pitching depth has been an issue, particularly when it comes time for postseason play. On paper, this team looks to now have that depth, but heading into 2019, the team also appeared to have more depth than actually ended up being the case. Injuries and ineffectiveness wiped it out. It all starts and ends with pitching, and the deeper a team can go into its pitching staff, the better the chances of success.
The fastest way to erase pitching depth is for the injury bug to rear its ugly head. This team experienced that very thing last season when Carter Raffield and Spencer Strider both went down with elbow injuries just prior to the start of the season. Then three weeks into the season, Brooks Crawford started having issues with his back. Travis Marr also missed an extended period of time due to injury. They have already lost two pitchers for this season. Both Ryne Huggins and Jacob Hennessy suffered elbow injuries over the offseason. Luck or not, the last thing this team need is to lose anymore players to injury.