More than likely, no Gamecock will hear his name called in the first round of the MLB Draft, which begins at 7 p.m. Sunday (ESPN and MLB Network).
Unlike last year, when ace Carmen Mlodzinski went to the Pittsburgh Pirates with the 31st overall pick, this year’s South Carolina baseball doesn’t boast a can’t-miss Day 1 prospect.
However, several Gamecocks should be selected on Day 2 and Day 3, with a couple of top freshman signees potentially in that mix, as well. Rounds 2-10 are Monday (1 pm, MLB Network); Rounds 11-20 are Tuesday (noon, MLB Network).
Here’s a look at the team’s top draft prospects.
The cream of the crop
Thomas Farr, RHP: The 6-foot, 203-pound right-hander opened the season as South Carolina’s Friday starter before inconsistency knocked him down the pecking order. Farr finished the year on a strong note, posting his best career outing in a gutsy 7.2 inning performance against a powerful Old Dominion team in the NCAA regional in Columbia. While his command can get away from him at times, Farr is an enticing prospect due to his mid-90 mph fastball, which can touch as high as 97 mph. He mixes that pitch with a low-80s breaking ball with downward bite and the occasional changeup. Farr finished the season with a 3-7 record and 3.87 ERA, striking out 90 and walking 38 in 83.2 innings. He’s the highest-ranking Gamecocks player on both the Baseball America Top 500 and MLB.com’s Top 250, ranking 109 and 139, respectively — or the third- to fifth-round range.
Brady Allen, OF: The team’s leadoff hitter and starting center fielder, Allen was among the most consistent and productive hitters in Mark Kingston’s lineup this season. Allen finished second on the team with a .276 average, slugging .516 and mashing 13 home runs to go along with 12 stolen bases on 12 attempts. While Allen doesn’t boast any one elite tool, his above-average raw power and solid speed and defense give him the chance to stick at the next level, likely as a corner outfielder. BA ranks him at 178, while MLB.com has him at 193.
Julian Bosnic, LHP: The 6-foot-3, 218-pound left-hander opened the season in the weekend rotation but transitioned to a bullpen role after making just four starts. Bosnic gets in trouble at times with erratic control and didn’t pitch deep into games with consistency. However, he was much more effective in shorter bursts out of the bullpen, where his fastball touched as high as 97 mph and sat in the low-90s. Mixing in a hard, biting curveball, Bosnic struck out 78 batters to 25 walks in 50.2 innings, allowing just 22 hits and posting a 2.84 ERA. His power stuff from the left side should be enough to see him drafted in the middle rounds, although he likely projects as a reliever at the next level. He ranks at 193 in the BA 500 and at 187 on MLB.com.
Brannon Jordan, RHP: When Farr lost his Friday ace role, it was Jordan that the Gamecocks turned to. The senior 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-hander doesn’t throw quite as hard as Farr from a velocity perspective, but his fastball plays up to its movement and late life, especially up in the strike zone. Jordan racked up a team-high 98 strikeouts in 72 innings using that low-90s heater up in the zone and dropping a power swing-and-miss breaking ball below the zone. Much like Farr and Bosnic, Jordan’s command comes and goes — he walked a team-high 48 batters — but his ability to miss bats and his poise and big games should have teams interested. Jordan sits at 186 in the BA500 and is not ranked in MLB.com’s 250.
Wes Clarke, C/1B: No name was bigger in college baseball early in the season, as Clarke blossomed into one of the top home run hitters in the country in his third season with the Gamecocks. He finished the year tied for the national lead with 23 homers, and that gaudy figure alone should be enough to get scouts’ attention. Power is clearly his top tool with Clarke packing plenty of strength in his 6-foot-2, 236-pound frame. But scouts have also pointed to concerns with Clarke’s bat speed and his high strikeout rate (73 in 199 at-bats), and Clarke’s biggest knock is his lack of a defensive position. Clarke primarily served as a designated hitter for the Gamecocks, and while he’s shown a desire to catch, most projections have him as a first baseman in pro ball. How high Clarke goes in the draft will depend on how much teams believe his power will translate to the next level. He ranks 247 in the BA 500 and is not ranked in MLB.com’s 250.
The incoming freshmen
With the Gamecocks trying to overhaul their offense, Kingston and his coaching staff will be keeping close tabs on which of their incoming freshmen draw draft interest. Two of the team’s top position-player recruits rank high enough in draft projections where they could have difficult decisions to make about whether or not to go to college.
Cooper Kinney, 2B/3B: A 6-foot-2, 195-pound infielder from Baylor High in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Kinney has a smooth left-handed swing with the potential to add power. He ranks at 70 in the BA 500 and 84 on MLB.com, putting him in the third-round range.
Michael Braswell, SS/RHP: A two-way player from Smyrna, Georgia, Braswell projects more as a hitter than a pitcher but could potentially do both if he makes it to South Carolina. Scouts praise his athleticism and arm strength and his advanced offensive approach. BA ranks him 112 and MLB.com has him at 150.
Other USC Draft Possibilities
Brett Kerry, RHP
Andrew Eyster, OF
Josiah Sightler, OF
Daniel Lloyd, RHP
Andrew Peters, RHP