With two South Carolina baseball players having signed to play professionally - Gene Cone with the Mets and Braden Webb with the Brewers - the Gamecocks are missing two of the cornerstones of their Super Regional team this year.
Cone, of course, leaves behind a big hole with his hot bat now out of the lineup. The hometown product led the way with a .363 batting average and 78 hits. While he wasn’t really noted for his power (just four home runs in 2016), his splits of .363/.474./.498 and a team-high 45 walks - along with a 31-game hit streak - tell the story of a player that can get on base quite often. That’s something that the Gamecocks will miss dearly in 2016.
The open spots left by Cone and Dom Thompson-Williams’ departures figure to filled by Clark Scolamiero and potentially Danny Blair. While Scolamiero hasn’t shown a strong bat thus far in his career (albeit in limited action over two seasons), he has shown some speed on the basepaths. We saw a good bit of Blair this past season, but we’ll be seeing even more of him beginning next year as he’s likely to move into an everyday role unless we see a JUCO bat come in. My only concern is how they'll do offensively as they make their way as full-time players.
Webb’s departure, while it is impactful, isn’t the end of the world for the Gamecocks’ pitching staff. They have their two other weekend starters returning (Clarke Schmidt and Adam Hill), while Wil Crowe should be healthy enough to join them in 2017. Could we see Tyler Johnson settle into a midweek role alongside Taylor Widener (risking the possibility that Johnson’s performance in Regionals was simply an abberation)? In short, the Gamecocks should be able to carry on in the absence of Webb and shouldn’t struggle to fill his spot (the wild card in this could be Crowe’s recovery and whether he’s the same pitcher as he was before his injury).
All in all, the Gamecocks should be OK despite a pair of their key components leaving college to play pro. And with a strong group of players entering, they should be able to make another attempt at a College World Series berth next season.