The Gamecocks have reached the CWS for the second consecutive year and appear to be one of the favorites to win a back-to-back championship. Thanks to their stellar recruiting class of 2009, it seems like they’ll be a good bet to come back next year too.
The South Carolina 2012 draft class kicks off with 1B/3B Christian Walker.
After a stellar freshman campaign that saw him earn Freshman First-Team honors from Baseball America, Walker took up the offensive burden left when Jackie Bradley Jr. started the season terribly and then was lost with an injury for most of the season.
Walker had an incredible offensive year, leading the Gamecocks with a .359 average, 60 runs, 18 doubles, ten home runs, 60 RBI and a .560 slugging percentage.
He turned up his play in the super-regionals, scoring three runs, driving in two, bashing one home run and playing stellar defense en route to a two-game sweep of UConn.
Walker came to South Carolina after a sterling high school career that culminated in a No. 1 individual ranking in the state of Pennsylvania his senior season and a 49th-round selection in the ’09 draft. He also won the ’09 International Power Showcase Home Run Derby.
In addition to his light-tower power, he is also an incredible athlete. In addition to third base, he also played first and catcher in high-school. He was clocked in the low 80s off the mound at a few Perfect Game showcases and he has good enough range to handle either first or third as a pro.
After Walker, there is a significant drop-off in talent, but one of the guys who will be the most intriguing to keep an eye on is 6'7", 270-pound LHP Adam Westmoreland.
Westmoreland was South Carolina’s Mr. Baseball back in 2008 and was drafted by the Dodgers in the 35th-round that same year. After a solid freshman campaign, Westmoreland tore his elbow ligament in his pitching arm just before the 2010 season began.
He missed the entire season after having Tommy John surgery and was forced to redshirt.
He struggled when he finally did get back on the mound this season, posting a 5.77 ERA in 11 games, nine of which were starts. He pitched only 34.1 innings and had some issues with his command, posting a 26:18 K:BB ratio. He also hit three batters and issued two more wild pitches.
If the injury was good for anything, though, it forced Westmoreland to get in shape. After weighing in at nearly 300 pounds as a freshman, he’s reportedly down to about 265.
It still remains to be seen if he is going to fully recapture his low-to-mid 90s velocity that he had before the injury, and whether or not he’ll ever regain full control over his pitches, but it he can and puts together a fine 2012 campaign in the rotation, he could move up draft boards really quick.
OF Evan Marzilli exploded onto the scene as a freshman, hitting .385 in 91 at-bats. He came on strong as the season progressed and was named to the CWS All-Tournament Team after hitting .370 with seven runs scored in Omaha.
And he was the Gamecock’s best hitter throughout the NCAA tournament, hitting .417. And in USC’s two-game sweep of UCLA, Marzilli went 4-for-9 with an RBI.
Marzilli just about defines the term “spark-plug.” He was a central piece of USC’s SEC co-championship squad in 2011, hitting .299 with 12 doubles, two triples and 36 runs.
He also swiped six bases and played flawlessly in the field, posting a .975 fielding percentage, two points higher than the defensive-wizard Jackie Bradley Jr.
If one thing is going to keep Marzilli’s draft stock down, it’s going to be his propensity to strikeout. He whiffed 56 times this year, 19 more than the next closest Gamecock.
RHP Colby Holmes was the Gamecock’s Sunday starter this season, and he benefited from having one of the best defensive units in the country. He went 7-3 with a 3.78 ERA in 12 starts (17 total appearances) and posted a 70:20 K:BB ratio in 81 innings.
Holmes has strung together a couple of gutsy efforts in the regionals and figures to get at least one more start before the season is through.
Holmes throws in the low 90s and has always gotten rave reviews for his great command, but his breaking stuff isn’t all that impressive, as evidenced by the 12 home runs he surrendered this year. Holmes is also a former ’09 draft pick, in the 47th round by the Atlanta Braves.
RHP Patrick Sullivan doesn’t have premium stuff, but he got results this season in limited time on the mound. He kept his ERA to 1.35 in 20 innings, spanning 10 appearances. He struck out 21 batters and walked nine.