Stacked recruiting class helps ease pain of losing two weekend starters


by - Senior Writer -
Strider was selected by the Atlanta Braves.
Strider was selected by the Atlanta Braves.

CLEMSON – The Clemson baseball program took a few lumps in the MLB Draft and now faces the challenge of replacing two of its three weekend starters and its closer. The good news? That is all that was lost, and a stacked recruiting class helps ease the pain.

Junior lefthander Sam Weatherly was selected in the third round (No. 81 overall) by the Colorado Rockies and sophomore righthander Spencer Strider was picked in the fourth round (No. 126 overall) by the Atlanta Braves.

Weatherly (Howell, Mich.), was Clemson’s highest-drafted pitcher since 2014 (Daniel Gossett, 2nd round), was a third-team All-American and Clemson’s Friday starter in 2020. He had a 2-0 record with an 0.79 ERA, .096 opponents’ batting average and 43 strikeouts in 22.2 innings pitched over four starts. He had at least eight strikeouts in all four starts and at least 10 strikeouts in each of his last three starts.

Strider (Knoxville, Tenn.), who missed the 2019 season due to an arm injury, had an 0-0 record, a 4.50 ERA, .271 opponents’ batting average and 19 strikeouts against just three walks in 12.0 innings pitched over four starts in 2020.

Head coach Monte Lee met with the media via Zoom call earlier this week and said losing two weekend starters was a blow.

“We are very excited about those guys being able to move on into their professional careers, but we also understand from a pitching standpoint what we lost,” Lee said. “We lost two legitimate front of the rotation type starters off of this year's pitching staff, and we felt like in year five we finally had a legitimate Friday night starter in Weatherly. That was the one thing that we felt like we had been lacking a little bit. We felt like we had a guy going in game one that can match up with anybody in the country.

“So, it's unfortunate that the season ended the way it did, but we all have to deal with it in some capacity. It is affecting all of us now, but we return everybody else besides those two guys, and obviously we lost one of the best relievers in Clemson history in Carson Spiers. Carson got an opportunity to sign as a free agent with the Cincinnati Reds and because he has his degree in hand already, he felt like it was time for him to move on. He agreed to terms with the Cincinnati Reds. So, we lose two of our three weekend starters and lose our closer.”

However, all of the position players and weekend starter Davis Sharpe return, along with a loaded recruiting class.

“With that being said, we return every position player. We did not lose one position player that played for us,” Lee said. “We return a majority of our innings. Davis Sharpe, Keyshawn Askew, Carter Raffield, Nick Clayton, and Geoffrey Gilbert, a Freshman All-American. So we've got a lot of really quality arms coming back, and we have a great recruiting class. You look at our recruiting class coming in, it is loaded with South Carolina kids. If you look at Diamond Prospects rankings and the incoming class of players, I think we signed the top five pitchers in the state of South Carolina. They are coming to Clemson next year, along with the top prospect in in the whole state in Caden Grice.

Grice is a 6-foot-6, 230-pound left-handed power hitter who is also a lefty pitcher who consistently tops 90 miles per hour.

Lee just has to find a place for Grice to play.

“Having Grice come in is a big, big deal for us,” Lee said. “We’re talking about a guy who could have signed for a significant amount of money but he valued his education, valued the opportunity to come to Clemson. His power grade is the highest a professional scout can put on a player, so (scouts) think he has tremendous power with the bat. He just also happens to be 6-foot-6, left-handed and throws 93 as well. So, a lot of scouts are kind of torn as to what they see him at the pro level.

“I think most guys saw him as someone who will be a hitter that also pitches, but there are some scouts who see him as a potential front-line starter as well. He’s a talented kid, so I’m really looking forward to getting him on campus. He’s also a really good athlete. He can run, so he’s not going to be just limited to playing first base. We think that’s where he profiles because of the fact he pitches and we want to protect his arm, but he is a guy if we had to put him in the outfield we can do it. He’s going to be a really special player, we believe.”

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