NORTHWESTERN COMMAND – I think Clemson will be able to pitch in 2013. Daniel Gossett has ace potential, particularly if his new changeup can continue to be as good as it was Friday night.
I think Clemson will be able to catch the ball. The Tigers are more athletic with freshmen like Steve Duggar and Tyler Krieger in the field. Thomas Brittle is a solid center field and Steve Wilkerson has sure hands at second base.
The question is will Clemson be able to hit with any power?
Clemson lost players who combined for 86 percent of its home runs last season (38 of 44 home runs). No players in the freshman class appears to be immediate power threats — unless D.J. Reader gains playing time as the season goes along. (Reader was in uniform Friday). John McGibbon is the team’s leading returning power hitter, hitting five home runs last year. Not exactly Ruthian numbers.
As we entered the eighth inning yesterday, I’m not sure a fly ball had traveled more than 250 feet. I thought to myself ‘So, this is what the Deadball Era looked like.’
But that’s when JUCO transfer Shane Kennedy came to the plate and looked reminiscent, if just for a moment, of departed Clemson star Richie Shaffer.
Kennedy used a quick, flat swing to generate backspin and launch a drive that landed 10 rows up in the left-field bleachers.
Former Clemson star Brad Miller, a high school teammate of Kennedy’s, convinced Kennedy to transfer to Clemson. The only thing is Kennedy never actually visited Clemson before signing, and he never took batting practice at Clemson until he arrived.
“Initially, at the beginning of practice, I’d get a hold of a ball and be like ‘it has to go somewhere’ and it would be a regular pop up,” Kennedy said. “I was like, ‘it’s killing me.’”
Said Kennedy of Doug Kingsmore Stadium: “it’s a graveyard.”
To cope with the dimensions of The Doug, Leggett has worked with Kennedy on leveling his swing and focusing on line-drives. Kennedy is more than a pull-only power threat. He hit eight home runs in 47 games with Sante Fe College last year but he also batted .381.
He appears to be the best chance for Clemson in developing a legit middle-of-the order threat this year to replace some of the production lost from Shaffer. Not that there’s any pressure in trying to become the next Shaffer, a first-round pick of Tampa Bay last June.
“I knew what I was getting myself into when I heard about Richie,” Kennedy said. “I did some research and saw he was a first-round pick. I just focus on my game.”
And his game might not be an exact facsimile of Shaffer’s, but even if it is 60 percent, that would be a major find for Clemson.
PEPPER GAMES …
*Quite a debut for freshman, and Byrnes High product, Steve Duggar, who went 3 for 3 with a double and solid play in right field, tracking down one deep fly ball. Duggar has a quick left-handed swing and did a good job using the whole field, slashing two hits to left field. It’s only one game but he impressed.
*Gossett’s changeup was the real deal. He threw it 15 to 20 times and generated seven or eight swings and misses. It looked like a legit strikeout pitch to go along with excellent location of an 89 to 91 mph fastball and sharp breaking ball. He could be becoming a true No. 1. Remember, he dominated South Carolina last June in the NCAA Regional as a freshman. He’s not a big guy but he has good stuff and he’s competitive and athletic, which allows him to easily repeat his delivery.
*The other freshman to earn an opening day job of Krieger who held his own at shortstop and made one nice diving stop. He looks the part.
*I’ve heard good things about Matt Campbell’s arm and his offseason and he’ll open as Clemson’s “ninth-inning guy” Leggett said. He got Clemson out of a ninth-inning jam on Friday.
*I’m curious to see some of the freshman arms, Clemson has a chance to build some pitching depth this season.