South Carolina baseball has high hopes for its 2017 campaign and a group of potential high MLB Draft picks are a big reason why.
The Gamecocks had four players ranked among BaseballAmerica’s Top 100 college draft prospects, led by junior pitcher Wil Crowe. Crowe checked in at No. 11, followed by junior pitcher Clarke Schmidt at 17, pitcher Tyler Johnson at No. 35 and junior first baseman/outfielder Alex Destino at No. 86.
Crowe and Schmidt are in line to anchor the South Carolina starting rotation this season, battling for the right to be the Friday starter.
Crowe, who has been drafted twice by the Cleveland Indians, is coming off Tommy John surgery. He has not pitched in a game since the spring of 2015, when his season was cut short as he sought to build on a freshman All-American season in 2014. Crowe was 3-4 with a 4.91 ERA in 2015 after going 8-3 with a 2.75 ERA in 15 starts as a freshman.
Schmidt, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound Georgia native, is coming off a sophomore season in which he went 9-5 with a 3.40 ERA. He struck out 129 and walked just 27 in 111.1 innings.
Johnson had a lighter load during South Carolina’s fall baseball campaign after his summer spent with Team USA. The reliever served as South Carolina’s closer in 2016, notching nine saves with a 2.42 ERA as opponents hit just .187 against the 6-2, 205-pound Virginia native.
The left-handed hitting Destino, the lone position player to represent the Gamecocks on the Top 100 list, has primarily been an outfield and designated hitter for the Gamecocks. He could see action at firs base this season. He hit .321 with a team-leading 10 home runs. He also had 59 RBIs, 40 runs scored and 14 doubles as he slugged .509 in 60 games, including 59 starts.
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South Carolina will open its 2017 season with a three-game series against UNC-Greensboro from Feb. 17-19.
The Gamecocks are ranked No. 4 in the nation by Collegiate Baseball going into 2017.