Caden Grice of the Clemson Tigers throws a pitch against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the first inning during the semifinals of the ACC Baseball Championship at Durham Bulls Athletic Park on May 27, 2023 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)
By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
There are no secrets in baseball, the old scouting adage goes, the implication being that someone else already knows about that great player that a scout thinks he’s found.
And after the season that Clemson junior Caden Grice has put together, he’s no secret.
The 6-foot-6, 250-pounder won the MVP Award at the ACC Tournament and led the Tigers to a top-eight seed in the NCAA Tournament, which means that if they advance from the NCAA Regional round, they’ll host a best-of-three NCAA Super Regional.
Like Shohei Ohtani, Grice is a two-way player who’s effective on the mound, throwing from the left side with a fastball that touches 95 mph coupled with a low-80s changeup and a slider. Over three seasons with the Tigers, Grice has a 3.69 ERA in 85.1 innings of work with 112 strikeouts against 62 hits and 45 walks. In all, opponents have a .203 batting average against Grice, who has a 10-2 record in college.
“The start we got from Caden Grice, a quality start, seven innings, you know, really kept a very good team, very good offense to just some solo runs here and there and just pitched very well,” said Clemson head coach Erik Bakich following the Tigers 10-4 win in the ACC Tournament semifinal over North Carolina. “Three pitches for strikes, just attacking, getting ahead all day.”
Grice went seven innings that day, allowing three runs on four hits with nine strikeouts and a walk. All in a day’s work that also saw him go 1-for-6 at the plate, with a double and two RBI to help his own cause.
The Greenville, S.C. native is dangerous at the plate, too, though he swings and misses often – with 241 strikeouts in 626 at-bats for Clemson. But Grice has considerable power, clubbing 43 home runs in his career heading into the NCAA Tournament.
A notable part of Grice’s success this season comes from hitting in front of Billy Amick, the sophomore outfielder who lit up ACC pitching through the second half of the season.
“I mean, it really frees us up as an offense. And I mean, having him in the five hole, me hitting in the four, you gotta pitch to one of them,” Grice said about what Amick brought to the lineup following the Tigers’ 4-1 win against Boston College at the ACC Tournament on May 26.
He immediately added to that total with a two-run homer in Clemson’s NCAA Tournament opener against Lipscomb, belting a two-out shot to put Clemson ahead in the bottom of the first. The Tigers went on to win the game 8-5, and Grice picked up another RBI on a sacrifice fly in the fifth and went 2-for-2.
Ranked 135th by MLB.com Pipeline for the upcoming 2023 MLB Amateur Draft, Grice has also played the last two summers for the Chatham Anglers of the Cape Cod League, appearing in 42 games there last year and slashing .213/.331/.362 in the wood bat league.
Grice is an intriguing prospect for the same reasons that Ohtani captured the imagination of MLB fans and executives as he prepared to be posted to come to the United States – like Ohtani, Grice’s terrific power at the plate is complimented by his ability on the mound.
“Though scouts agreed Grice was South Carolina’s best prep prospect in 2020, they were split on whether he was better as a hitter or as a pitcher,” his profile on MLB.com’s draft rankings reads. “Three years later, that debate continues as he draws Joey Gallo comparisons for his frame, power and swing-and-miss tendencies, all of which are massive. He may have more upside as a slugger but a greater chance for success on the mound, though it’s unclear how much he really wants to pitch as a pro.”
While it’s hard to project how a NCAA Division I player will adapt to the pro game, Grice’s fastball could be Major League ready right now. His batting eye will need to improve some – some time with a hitting coach to tighten up his long, loose swing would certainly help.