Tigers starting to take shape for 2017

by - Senior Writer -
Charlie Barnes will be an important part of the weekend rotation next season
Charlie Barnes will be an important part of the weekend rotation next season

The news filtered down late Sunday afternoon that lefty Pat Krall would forego signing with the St. Louis Cardinals and would return for his senior season at Clemson. It was the kind of news that changes the Tigers’ entire outlook for 2017.

The Downingtown, Pa., native, Krall was drafted in the 28th round by the Cardinals on Saturday. The loss of Krall – who will be expected to anchor Clemson’s rotation next season as he transitions into a full-time starter – would have added to head coach Monte Lee’s misery after losing catcher Chris Okey, reliever Alex Bostic, second baseman Weston Wilson, shortstop Eli White and two prime commits to the MLB Draft.

Clemson's six draft picks tied for 15th most in the nation and tied for third most in the ACC.

Tiger signee and infielder Logan Davidson (Charlotte, N.C.), son of former Clemson and MLB player Mark Davidson (1982), was drafted in the 30th round by the Phillies. Davidson joined infielder Carter Kieboom (Marietta, Ga.), brother of former Tiger Spencer Kieboom (2010-12) who was drafted in the first round by the Nationals, and righthander Travis MacGregor (Tarpon Springs, Fla.), who was taken in the second round by the Pirates, as Clemson signees selected in the draft.

In 2016, Krall became the first Tiger in history to lead the team outright in wins (10) and saves (5). He was a third-team All-American and Second-Team All-ACC reliever who was 10-2 with a 1.67 ERA, five saves and a .203 opponents' batting average along with 65 strikeouts against 17 walks in 80.2 innings pitched over 29 appearances (three starts).

The return of Krall means the Tigers could boast an all left-handed rotation next season, along with Charlie Barnes and Jake Higginbotham. Alex Eubanks will also get a chance to start, and transfer Jeremy Beasley could factor into the rotation as well. Beasley, who comes from Darton State College, is a righty who had a 3.74 ERA in 18 starts this season for the Cavaliers. He struck out 69 and walked 26 while pitching 95 1/3 innings.

Lee also hopes to add Presbyterian transfer Weston Jackson. Last season, Jackson hit .341 in 57 games (57 started) for the Blue Hose. He scored 47 runs, accounted for 55 RBI and hit 10 home runs. He had a .613 slugging percentage and .419 on-base percentage. He walked 29 times and struck out 43 times in 217 plate appearances. He was 2-for-4 against Clemson earlier this year. As a graduate transfer, he can play immediately and will one season of eligibility. He can play second base or the outfield.

The addition of Jackson is key for Lee, who has to somehow replace Wilson’s production in the middle of the diamond. The Tigers have LSU transfer Grayson Byrd lined up to play short, and were counting on signee Carter Kieboom to play third. He was drafted in the first round, however, and now Lee has to mix and match some pieces that will likely include Glenn Batson, Jordan Greene, Adam Renwick and others.

Chris Williams, who moved between first and third base at the end of the season, will be counted on to catch. Junior college signee Tyler Lancaster of SMC had been counted on to vie perhaps for significant playing time. As a left-handed power threat, Lancaster could have hit behind star Seth Beer and perhaps provided some protection. Lancaster was drafted in the 16th round by the Cardinals, however, and now faces a critical decision.

Beer will move to first base next season, while the outfield appears to have a few more set pieces with Reed Rohlman, Seth Pinder and perhaps K.J. Bryant.

Once the rest of the 2016 class arrives on campus, we’ll have a better idea of the freshmen that will compete for playing time, but Lee added a huge piece of the puzzle with the return of Krall. The rotation will feature players who are all a year older and will have a year’s experience. The defense, a huge issue last season, should be better with the smooth fielding Byrd at short while Beer is addition by subtraction in the outfield.

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