How do you replace a season like Kody Clemens had in 2018? How do you replace a player that was at the top or near the top of the country in average, hits, slugging, home runs and RBI? On top of that, someone who had a .985 fielding percentage at second base and was the unquestioned and undisputed team leader, whose clutch play was the determining factor in so many games? Well, the short answer is you can’t. And the long answer is that the production of Clemens will be nearly impossible to replicate.
And while you can try, the likeliness of it happening is about the same as the percentage of people that say Clemson had a bad football season this year. The determining factor of who, in fact, will play the position heavily depends on whether or not senior Masen Hibbeler moves back to the infield or stays in the outfield early in 2019. While he’s still listed as an infielder, Hibbeler played the majority of 2018 in left field. And after talking to a few people close to the program during the offseason, the team is pretty content with having him play there in 2019.
That’s not to say he won’t end up at second, as there is currently a log jam in the outfield with at least five other players with no infield experience (senior Tate Shaw, junior Austin Todd, junior Duke Ellis, sophomore Kamron Fields and freshman Eric Kennedy) that will need large sums of time somewhere in the outfield. Hibbeler is not unfamiliar with the infield as he came to Texas as shortstop, and only moved to the outfield after the coaching staff made the decision to move Clemens from third base to second. While at Odessa College from 2015-2017, Hibbeler spent time in the middle infield and has said those are the positions that he prefers to play. In the end, the coaching staff may have no choice but to move Hibbeler back to second base, but as of right now, my sources are fairly confident his season will start in left. This, of course, was before the news of David Hamilton’s season-ending Achilles injury. Now, the likelihood that Hibbeler will end up in the infield is much higher.
If Hibbeler does in fact stay in left, it will leave a pretty barren spot at the position. But I believe head coach David Pierce is comfortable enough with his trio of freshmen middle infielders to give them the reins right away. The first of these freshman will be Lance Ford. The 5’10”, 175-pound newcomer out of Kerville Tivy has drawn rave reviews from fall camp, and has been mentioned by Pierce as one of the fresh faces that has earned himself some playing time. However, with the necessity at the position, my guess is that he has earned himself a starting position going into the 2019 season.
The second to get a shot should be Bryce Reagan. Hailing from New Hampshire, Reagan is likely the best defender of the three. At a rangy 6’2″, 190 pounds, Reagan grew up playing shortstop, but should make an easy transition to second base. The most highly touted of the three, Reagan could find himself in the platoon at second or shortstop.
The final of the trio will likely be Alec Carr. Carr is substantially meatier than both Reagan and Ford at 6’0″, 200 pounds. At Kempner High School, he led the state of Texas in home runs and showed he can transfer that size into power. The only problem with Carr is that he is probably most natural at shortstop and third base, making second base his tertiary position. I believe he’s very well-equipped to play third base and should be junior Ryan Reynolds’ backup at the position. However I don’t think he quite has the defensive chops or the range of Reagan at this point to play second base, and that’s why he gets the bump to third spot.
Though I made the claim previously that first base is the most open position, and am sticking by that due to the number of people that can play the position, second base is largely up in the air as well. One thing is for certain, though — there is definitely no shortage of youth at the position. Second base has the makings to be one of the more interesting stories early on in the year and it will definitely be a position worth keeping an eye on in the weeks leading up to the start of the season.
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