Setting the Stage
Friday was another cold day in the northeast, but that didn't stop BC from giving Clemson all they could handle. Clemson entered the weekend with a 27-12 record, topping the Atlantic Division of the ACC with a 10-5 record. Boston College entered the weekend at 19-18 (4-14 in the ACC), strugginling through their first season outside the Big East. There was one thing evident at Friday's game, that Clemson was not taking the Eagles lightly, despite their misfortunes this season. The Tigers made their first trip to Boston with one thing on their mind; sweeping the series. With my notebook in hand and the wind in my face, it's on to the game.
• I talked a fair bit about Boston College a couple of weeks ago, so I've only got a few more notes on them. The Eagles tossed freshman Dan Houston on the hill for the first game of the series. Houston is a big kid (6-3, 200) and has intriguing potential. He worked in the 88-91 range, hitting 92 a few times, and showed a solid, if inconsistent, curveball. His curve had very good depth at times, but lacked the tight spin needed to be an effective offereing. Houston mixed his pitches well, even tossing a straight change on ocassion. As only a freshman, he's got plenty of time to develop, and as he tones his body and gains experience, he could be come a very solid pitching prospect.
• With all the prospects Clemson had at their disposal, it is tough to figure out where to begin, but I'll start with the player that impressed me the most. Frist baseman Andy D'Alessio has been impressive all season, and he displayed nothing different on Friday. Andy was tremendous around the bag at first, showing great footwork, soft hands, a great stretch, and a surprisingly strong arm. Offensively, he has a very solid approach at the plate, a strong upper body that leads to a very quick, compact swing, and some significant power. He still has room to fill out some, and could add more power as he matures. D'Alessio is not an elite first base prospect quite yet, but he'll be drafted in June. Whether he signs or not will depend entirely on bonus money, but it may not hurt him to head back to Clemson for his senior campaign.
• The 2005 draft saw Detroit select to Clemson Tigers; pitcher Jeff Hahn and catcher Adrian Casanova. While Hahn was logging some impressive innings in his pro debut, Casanova was getting set to head back to Clemson for his final collegiate campaign. Casanova has a reputation as a defensive whiz, and he fit that bill Friday. His defensive skill-set was exceptoinal, demonstrating extremely quick feet, great reactions, the ability to block the ball, a gun for an arm, and a very quick release. Casanova commanded the game and received the ball well. At the plate, I'll be nice and say that he was a disaster. His stroke is very mechanical, and he was consistently out on his front foot. He didn't show a very good eye at the plate, and seemed to lack confidence. Casanova is a physical specimen, strong enough to be a force at the plate, but he'll need a lot of work to have any offensive impact. I will be quite surprised if the Tigers opt to bring him into the organization prior to this season's draft.
• Yet again, I walked away from a Boston College game impressed with sophomore catcher Jett Ruiz. He ended the day 0-4, but hit the ball hard every time, and displayed a very good eye at the plate. Ruiz needs more experience at the plate, but the base is there to be a very good offensive player. I still have yet to see him catch in a game situation, but I've been told his defensive skills are adequate. Even if his defense is adequate at best, I can see a Josh Willingham type ceiling from him.
• Prior to the game, I had heard a lot about Clemson's staff ace, Jason Berken. However, on Friday, Josh Cribb tried to steal the show. Cribb used an 86-88 mph fastball, very good change-up, and an average curve to baffle the BC hitters in the early going. Cribb was working very quickly, very low in the zone, and looked completely dominant. It was tough to tell whether Cribb tired quickly, or if he really does struggle quite a bit from the stretch, but he didn't seem the same once BC got to him for a couple of walks and hits. He lands on a very stiff front leg, which if corrected, he might be able to add a couple miles per hour to his fastball. Cribb's a little on the small side, and has a soft body, but he could be a solid later round draft choice. I wouldn't project him to have much professional success, but don't be surprised to hear his name called in June.
• It's nothing new, but I at least have to mention this as part of my ongoing quest. Why do collegiate coaches continue to insist on bunting early in games? With runners at 1st and 2nd and nobody out, Clemson proceeded to bunt the runners over. The next hitter singled through the left side, scoring a run. They got one run out of the play, but why just hand a freshman who had just given up a single and a walk, an easy out? It makes absolutely no sense to me; particularly when you're speaking of a very good offensive team with an outstanding pitching staff.
• I'll close my bullets with mention of Brad Chalk, easily Clemson's best offensive player. Chalk doesn't have very good power, but he makes plenty of contact, has the wheels to cause problems, and has a very good eye at the plate. Chalk is only a sophomore, so he won't be draft eligible until 2007, but keep an eye on him; he'll get plenty of notice come this time next year.
Despite Clemson coming in fired up for the weekend series, Boston College was able to steal a game. The win was easily BC's biggest ACC victory in their brief conference history, but demonstrating their ability to remain competitive in their first season will be an improtant recruitment tool for the Eagles. Clemson projects to lose quite a bit of talent in the upcoming MLB draft, but they should still be a force next season. Prior to losing talent to the draft, watch out for the Tigers as the college post season approaches. Clemson should challenge for a super-regional title, and should make some noise in the College World Series.
Next up 'At the Game' - Georgia Tech vs. Boston College.