The conference features 10 pitchers nominated for the Roger Clemons watch list for college baseball's pitcher of the year while 11 players have been named to the Pre-Season All-American team.
GoJackets.com will take a look at the top six teams in the league with weekly previews prior to Georgia Tech's February 10th season opener with Georgia Southern. The first preview will take a look at the preseason league favorite Clemson Tigers.
CLEMSON - The #2 ranked Tigers return 6 of the 8 position players that finished the year for the ACC regular season and tournament champions.
Infield - Andy D'Alessio at first, Taylor Harbin at second, Stan Widmann at short and Marques Smith at third return in tact from last years starting infield. D'Alessio, Harbin, and Widmann all hit over .300. D'Alessio led the team in home runs and RBIs last year. They also helped Clemson lead the league in fielding percentage last year.
Outfield - Coach Jack Leggett must find a replacement for Tyler Colvin who led the team in hitting in 2006. Freshman Addison Johnson appears to be his replacement. Brad Chalk returns to center and was the Tigers second leading hitter. D.J. Mitchell returns in right. He replaced the injured Travis Storrer over the latter half of last year's season. Mitchell does not posess Storrer's HR or RBI output but makes up for it with his speed.
Battery - The development of a new weekend rotation and a new starting catcher will be a determining factor in whether or not Clemson maintains its #2 preseason ranking. Alex Burg and Doug Hogan will be the likely replacements for Adrian Cassanova. The starting weekend rotation will feature veterans David Kopp, P.J. Zocchi, Ryan Hinson, and Sean Clark. Preseason 2nd team All-American and Roger Clemons watch list nominee Daniel Moskos returns as the closer. The four expected to be in the weekend rotation combined for 17 starts last year. Kopp and Zocchi each had 7 starts while Clark came on strong in the ACC tourney and finished the year with 2 starts.
Losses - The Tigers lost their entire starting rotation to the draft. Josh Cribb, Stephen Faris, and Jason Berken all signed pro contracts. The trio combined for 51 starts in Clemson's 69 games. The staff also lost two middle relief pitchers with the loss of Steve Richard and Drew Fiorenza. The Tigers lost DH/3B Herman Demmink, right fielder Travis Storrer, left fielder Tyler Colvin, and catcher Adrian Cassanova. All were starters last year. Colvin hit .356 with 13 HRs and 70 RBIs, Storrer in 3/4 of a season hit .321 with 9 HRs and 45 RBIs, Demmink hit .296 with 5 HRs and 32 RBIs, and Cassanova hit .249 with 5 HRs and 34 RBIs.
Newcomers - Clemson's incoming recruiting class was ranked #4 in the nation this year. The class includes 11 freshman and 2 junior college signees. The class is dominated by 6 incoming pitchers. Pitchers Brock Schnabel and Alan Farina, catcher Buddy Monroe, and outfielder Addison Johnson are the featured players in the incoming class.
Outlook - Expectations are high at Clemson to repeat last year's performance. The strength of the team should be their offense and infield. They may not hit for as much power as last year's team, but they should have one of the top offenses icn the conference. While they have good depth on the pitching staff, their success will depend on their new weekend rotation matching the loss of Cribbs, Berken and Faris. The Tigers will have a tough out-of-conference schedule but will not have to face North Carolina during the ACC schedule. Look for Clemson to be a strong contender to repeat as ACC champions.