The South Carolina Gamecocks aren’t strangers to sending baseball players to the pros.
There are nine active Gamecock pitchers in the professional ranks, and according to a new list released by MLB.com today there could be three more headed up the ranks come June. On Friday the latest 2017 MLB prospect watch dropped to reveal three Gamecocks in the top 100 — all of them pitchers.
Wil Crowe, Tyler Johnson and Clarke Schmidt all appeared on the top 100 — making all three of them possible top-three round pics. Crowe appeared highest on the list at No. 27, potentially making him the first Gamecock to go in the first round* since Jackie Bradley Jr. in 2011.
*Bradley was technically a supplemental first round pick, but for the sake of this article we’ll count it.
Schmidt appears at No. 48 while Johnson appears towards the back at No. 85. While there are certainly ramifications for the Gamecock pitching staff if all three decided to forgo their senior years, for now let’s just take a look at how MLB scouts see these three players.
Tyler Johnson - RHP - No. 85
Johnson came on strong at the end of 2016, with the biggest highlight coming in his complete game, 11 strikeout performance in an elimination game against UNC-Wilmington in the Columbia regional. Johnson would parlay that production into a spot on the USA Collegiate Team as a closer and came into 2017 as one of the highly-touted pitchers in college baseball.
However Johnson’s injury against Clemson sidelined him for nearly a month, which surely has something to do with why he’s only No. 85 on the list. There’s no doubt Johnson has a major league fast ball that tops out at 99 mph, but the other questions comes as to whether or not he can develop a decent breaking ball to pair with the heater.
His slider and change-up have the potential to become big league pitches, but right now Johnson still depends on his fastball to get outs. Another looming questions is whether or not Johnson can develop into starter, but even with all of the questions Johnson was still good enough to land in the top 100.
Clarke Schmidt - RHP - No. 48
Even with his season ending injury suffered just this week, Schmidt is still a top-50 pro prospect which speaks a lot about what scouts think of him. Schmidt started as a freshman in 2015 where he took a decent number of lumps in the rotation, but came back as a sophomore in 2016 to cement himself as one of the dominant starters in the SEC.
Before he got hurt this season it wasn’t a crazy thing to say Schmidt was one of the ten best pitchers in college baseball. His ERA, FIP and WHIP were in the top percentiles of college pitchers and was one of the reasons South Carolina has been able to stay afloat during what’s been a rough stretch of their season. We’re going to find out down the stretch just how valuable Schmidt was on Fridays to the Gamecock rotation.
MLB.com admits Schmidt would have been a first round pick if he had stayed healthy this season due to his balance of pitches and ability to throw consistent strikes. It would be a real bummer if Schmidt lost money because of one injury, but if nothing else he’s proven he has the stuff to develop into a major league starter.
Wil Crowe - RHP - No. 27
Speaking of injury troubles, Crowe missed an entire season and a half after Tommy John surgery and is still a top-30 pro prospect. Granted Crowe has already been drafted twice by the Cleveland Indians and has been on MLB radars since 2013, but it’s very hard to ignore the time Crowe’s missed at South Carolina if you’re going to draft him.
But enough of injury talk, Crowe being at No. 27 is a big deal for South Carolina. Wil Crowe could be the first true first round pick for the Gamecocks since Reese Havens was taken 22nd overall by the New York Mets in 2008. Crowe has the arsenal of pitches scouts love: a strong fastball anchored by a usable curveball and slider that all have solid velocity.
But by draft standards Crowe is a bit of a geriatric. He’ll turn 23 this year which isn’t far behind Jordan Montgomery who made his major league debut this year at 24 years old. Crowe doesn’t look quite the same this season as he did in 2014 or ‘15, but if he came slide back into form he certainly has the making of an everyday starter at the next level.