Draft : : State Preview
Wednesday, May 18, 2011

State Preview: South Carolina

Allan Simpson        

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Perfect Game will be providing a detailed overview of each state in the U.S., including the District of Columbia, as well as Canada and Puerto Rico. These overviews will list the state's strengths, weaknesses and the players with the best tools, as well as providing mini-scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players.

South Carolina State-by-State List

South Carolina Overview:
Guerrieri Surges as Prospect, Offsets Dose of Injuries to College Talent

South Carolina has become one of the nation’s hotbeds for college baseball—and a popular destination state for many top out-of-state prospects.

Of the top 18 college prospects on this year’s list of South Carolina’s best draftable talent, only two are products of in-state high schools. The list is so diverse that it includes players from 11 different states, including five from Florida and three from Virginia.

The recruiting power of South Carolina and Clemson, the state’s long-standing flagship colleges, has enabled those schools, in particular, and emerging programs like Coastal Carolina and the College of Charleston, to reach outside state lines and tap into numerous top prospects eager to play in a climate suitable for college baseball.

The state’s top college product, South Carolina outfielder Jackie Bradley, hails from Virginia. So does No. 4-ranked Will Lamb, Clemson’s intriguing two-way talent. Coastal Carolina’s hard-throwing righthander Anthony Meo, ranked No. 2, is from Rhode Island. No. 3-ranked Brad Miller, Clemson’s shortstop, is from Florida.

An infusion of significant out-of-state talent has again pushed South Carolina to the top of the national college polls this season, just a year after the Gamecocks stormed to their first College World Series championship—mainly on the exploits of Bradley, the tournament MVP. A talent-rich Clemson club has struggled more than expected this season, but seems to be getting hot at the right time, particularly with the inspired play of Miller.

The chances of both clubs making a deep run in post-season play, however, may depend on their ability to overcome some disabling injuries to key personnel.

South Carolina has lost its two best position prospects for this year’s draft, Bradley and outfielder Adam Matthews, to season-ending injuries. Bradley, who led the Gamecocks in batting (.368), homers (13) and RBIs (60) a year ago, was slowed most of this season by a wrist injury and finally underwent surgery to repair a damaged ligament in late April. Matthews, the fastest player on the Gamecocks roster, was shut down after he aggravated a sore hamstring a week earlier.

Clemson, meanwhile, has had to withstand an injury to its best pitching prospect, righthander Kevin Brady, who was shelved by a forearm strain after just four appearances. He has a chance to return to the Tigers lineup by the end of the season, depending on how far his team advances in post-season play. The Tigers had previously been forced to deal with a broken finger sustained by Miller, who was relegated to a DH role for several weeks.

Since his return, Miller has sparked Clemson’s resurgence. He is hitting .429 and his steady play in the field has finally convinced scouts, who were doubtful of Miller’s range before his injury, that he can now play the position at the professional level. He has elevated his draft worth as much as any college player this spring since his return to full-time status, possibly by two full rounds.

Lamb, perhaps as much as any South Carolina college player who has dealt with a significant injury this spring, is the talent whose draft stock is the most open to scrutiny. He is a gifted athlete is his long, lean frame, but scouts have had difficulty determining whether he’s a better prospect as a pitcher or position player.

The prevailing sentiment is that Lamb’s greatest upside is on the mound, but he has spent most of the 2011 season in center field for Clemson, and has pitched only sporadically. If 2011 performance means anything, then Lamb has been more valuable as an everyday player. He is hitting .344-1-33 for the Tigers and recently ran off a 25-game hitting streak, longest in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season. His 6.6-second speed in the 60 is also an asset in center field, as is his superior arm strength. Though he has yet to tap into it on a consistent basis, Lamb’s power potential is another obvious tool.

But Lamb has also been clocked up to 95 on the mound, and there’s no telling how good a pitcher (a lefthander, at that) he might become if he concentrated on that position full-time.

For now, the state’s two best college pitching prospects are Meo and South Carolina closer Matt Price. Meo is one of the elite power arms in the entire draft with a fastball that has been clocked up to 98 mph. He has been dominant over the last two years as a starter for Coastal Carolina, though his performance has backed off slightly this spring. The sophomore-eligible Price, meanwhile, has been a stalwart at the back end of the South Carolina bullpen over the same period with his own above-average fastball that has peaked at 96.

While some of the shine has come off the South Carolina college crop with the loss of Bradley, Brady and Matthews, their injuries are expected to only marginally impact their draft status.

Bradley once projected to be among the first 10-15 selections, should now go late in the first round or early in the compensation round. Matthews is still a candidate for Rounds 4-6 because of his impressive tools, while Brady’s status could fluctuate, depending on whether he has a chance to pitch again before the draft. If he does pitch and shows signs of his pre-injury form, when his fastball was clocked as high as 96 mph, he could go in the first 2-3 rounds. Otherwise, he may settle into Rounds 4-8.

The unsettled status of that trio of prospects has been offset, though, by the inspired play of Clemson’s Miller, along with a number of other top college prospects. But the greatest development has been the impressive work turned in by Spring Valley High righthander Taylor Guerrieri, possibly the best arm ever to come from the South Carolina high-school ranks.

Guerrieri, whose fastball has been a steady 93-96 mph, touching 98 (with unconfirmed reports of his even hitting 100), could be one of the first 8-12 players drafted overall. He almost certainly will be the first from South Carolina, especially in the wake of Bradley’s injury.

Guerreri’s surge as a prospect has symbolized the surprising strength of the high-school talent overall in South Carolina this spring. Over the last seven drafts, the state ranks only 21st
 nationally in terms of talent produced by state high schools, and yet this year’s draft alone could produce as many as a half-dozen prep players in the first 10 rounds from South Carolina.

Generally, there is not another area in the country that has a greater annual disparity between the talent produced for the draft from the high-school ranks vs. the college ranks than in the Carolinas. The phenomenon is particularly pronounced in South Carolina—a tribute to the power of the state’s college programs, but a blight on the draftable talent coming directly from the high-school ranks.

But this year is an exception as Guerrieri, a South Carolina recruit who transferred from North Augusta High to Spring Valley High for his senior year, leads a wave of significant, though uncharacteristic wave of talent at the prep level.

One of the more intriguing high-school prospects in this year’s draft is 5-foot-10 outfielder Tanner English, a stalwart on the state’s best team, St. James High. He has tools that totally belie his modest frame. Few outfielders in this class, college or high school, has arm strength to match English’s howitzer, and his raw speed is a second tool that grades out as well-above average.

Both Guerrieri and English are South Carolina recruits, which may throw their draft status into question as the Gamecocks have a well-established tradition for hanging on to most of their prized in-state recruits. Outfielder Shon Carson, another of the state’s top prep prospects, is also South Carolina-bound, and he may be even tougher to pry away as he is one of the school’s top football recruits. Along with Matthews and English, he is one of three players in the state with a USC connection that has been clocked in the 60 as low as 6.4 seconds.

Not only are South Carolina colleges aggressive at recruiting out-of-state talent, but they are equally protective in not letting one of their own leave the state to play in college elsewhere. The highest-ranked such player with South Carolina roots is University of Kentucky shortstop Taylor Black, a former JC transfer from the state. Black ranks no higher than a 12th
-16th round selection.

South Carolina in a Nutshell:

High-end college and high-school talent.

WEAKNESS: Top college prospects who have sustained serious injuries.

OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 4.

South Carolina.


BEST HIGH SCHOOL TEAM: St. James HS, Murrells Inlet.

Brad Miller, ss, Clemson. Miller has always hit for a shortstop, and is pounding the ball at a resounding .429-3-43 clip this season for the Tigers—even as he has a somewhat unorthodox swing and stance that leads to an opposite-field approach, and broke a finger early in the season and remained in the lineup as a DH. Prior to his injury, scouts were leery of Miller’s range at shortstop and ability to make the routine play consistently, but he has made every play expected of a top-notch shortstop since his return.

Hunter Cole, 3b-rhp, Dorman HS, Roebuck. Even before his family reaffirmed with big-league clubs his firm commitment to attend college at Georgia, Cole’s stock seemed to be sliding more than any other of the state’s top half-dozen high-school prospects. He has the frame and offensive upside to play at the pro level now, but his lack of speed and defensive prowess at third base this spring appears to make him a better fit as an outfielder in college.

Will Lamb, of/lhp, Clemson. Pitcher or outfielder? That is the debate that continues to rage with the 6-foot-5, 190-pound Lamb, who is gifted player in either role, but may have slightly more upside on the mound with a fastball that reaches 95 mph. The problem is, his 6.6 speed, superior arm strength and improving offensive skills stand out in center field.

BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, South Carolina Connection:
Taylor Black, ss, University of Kentucky.

TOP 2012 PROSPECT: Richie Shaffer, 1b, Clemson University.

TOP 2013 PROSPECT: Tripp Rollings, rhp, Andrew Jackson HS, Kershaw.


Draft History: Kris Benson, rhp, Clemson U. (1996, Pirates/1st round, 1st pick).

2006 Draft: Tyler Colvin, of, Clemson U. (Cubs/1st round, 13th pick).

2007 Draft: Daniel Moskos, lhp, Clemson U. (Pirates/1st round, 4th pick).

2008 Draft: Justin Smoak, 1b, U. of South Carolina (Rangers/1st round, 11th pick).

2009 Draft: Chris Owings, ss, Gilbert HS (Diamondbacks/1st round, 41st pick).

2010 Draft: Kyle Parker, 1b, Clemson U. (Rockies/1st round, 26th pick).


Best Hitter: Brad Miller, ss, Clemson.

Best Power: Jackie Bradley, of, South Carolina.

Best Speed: Shon Carson, of, Lake City HS, Scranton.

Best Defender: Jackie Bradley, of, South Carolina.

Best Velocity: Taylor Guerrieri, rhp, Spring Valley HS, North Augusta.

Best Breaking Stuff: Taylor Guerrieri, rhp, Spring Valley HS, North Augusta.


(Projected ELITE-Round Draft / Rounds 1-3)

1. TAYLOR GUERRIERI, rhp, Spring Valley HS, North Augusta

Huge jump up draft lists; loose, easy arm, FB at 93-97/T-98, ++ low 90s SL, low-80s CU, No. 1 starter tools.

2. JACKIE BRADLEY, of, University of South Carolina (Jr.)

No-brainer first-rounder before wrist injury/subpar 2011 season; superior defender, can hit for average/power.

3. ANTHONY MEO, rhp, Coastal Carolina University (Jr.)

Slipped from 13 wins in 2010 to 7; FB still firm at 94-95, T-98, high-80s SL, both lack + command, gets hit.

4. BRAD MILLER, ss, Clemson University (Jr.)

Hitting ability, arm, speed never been an issue; has satisfied questions about true power potential, range at SS.

5. WILL LAMB, lhp/Clemson University (Jr.)

Electric tools in athletic 6-5/190 frame; FB at 92-95, but more accomplished as CF; long swing limits power.

6. MATT PRICE, rhp, University of South Carolina (So.)

Enjoyed 2 big years as Gamecocks closer (combined 23 SV, 133 SO/83 IP); dominates with 90-94 FB, + SL.

7. TANNER ENGLISH, of, St. James HS, Murrels Inlet

Smaller build, but ++ tools; 6.37 speed in 60, ++ defender/arm strength; + hustle/instincts, .438-5-18, 23 SB.

(Projected HIGH-Round Draft / Rounds 4-10)

8. DANIEL GOSSETT, rhp, Byrnes HS, Lyman

Slender 6-1/165 athlete, ++ quick/loose arm, FB up to 90-94, sharp/deep CU, polished approach/+ command.

9. KEVIN BRADY, rhp, Clemson University (So.)

FB was steady 92-94/T-96, 12-6 CU improving, before shut down with forearm strain; draft status is unclear.

10. ADAM MATTHEWS, of, University of South Carolina (Jr.)

Lost for season in April with hamstring injury; ++ tools (6.4 speed, arm), shows + power in BP, not in games.

11. JOHN HINSON, 3b, Clemson (Jr.)

Had quiet year at plate (.338-6-31) after breakout SO year (.337-12-60); has + speed, but error-prone at 3B.

12. TAYLOR MOTTER, ss, Coastal Carolina University (Jr.)

Bat (.265-3-25), speed (12 of 14 SB) may be a step short, but considered best defensive SS in state/region.

13. TRAVIS BURNSIDE, of, Spartanburg Methodist JC (So.)

State’s best JC prospect is quality athlete with gap power, 6.57 speed in 60, + arm/defender in CF; signable.

14. SHON CARSON, ss/of, Lake City HS, Scranton

++ power/speed combo, 6.35 in 60, outstanding 2010 summer, just so-so spring; FB ride to South Carolina.

15. GARRETT BOULWARE, c, T.L. Hanna HS, Anderson

Strong, athletic 6-2/220 frame; ++ juice with short/compact swing; + arm, good receiver; Clemson recruit.

16. DAVID PETERSON, rhp, College of Charleston (Jr.)

Modest success (5-5, 4.70), lacks desired arm action, but impresses scouts with + frame, 88-94 FB, + cutter.

17. HUNTER COLE, 3b/rhp, Dorman HS, Roebuck

Strong at 6-1/190, solid hitting approach/+ bat speed, but performance lagged this spring; 7.0 runner, + arm.

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