After only two members of South Carolina’s 2014 baseball recruiting class were selected in last weekend’s MLB draft, there have been rumblings that South Carolina’s recruiting has taken a step backwards.
Fortunately for Gamecock fans, those rumblings are completely wrong.
In baseball, using the draft to determine the talent of the incoming class is pointless. First, major league teams aren’t going to draft players that they either; a) know are going to end up going to college, or b) can’t afford to pay. Such was the case last year with Wil Crowe. The Tennessee native was rated the 36th-best prospect in the 2013 MLB draft, but Crowe had made it known to teams that he wouldn’t sign for less than $1.7 million dollars. Crowe was offered over $800,000 in the first round and $1.2 million in the 10th round, but didn’t budge. The Cleveland Indians took a shot at Crowe by drafting him in the 31st round, but the pitcher signed with South Carolina. When the 36th-best prospect in the draft goes in the 31st round, the issue isn’t talent. It’s money.
Second, signing players that have a realistic chance of attending school is crucial for a baseball program. Last season, South Carolina had commitments from Nick Ciuffo, a catcher out of Lexington, Travis Demeritte, a third baseman from Georgia, and Cory Thompson, a pitcher from Mauldin. All three players wound up signing with major league teams, meaning that Gamecock coaches spent time recruiting three players that contributed absolutely nothing to South Carolina’s program. In contrast, every player the Gamecocks recruited and signed this year will have the chance to compete for a roster spot in the fall.
Finally, the late rounds of the draft are a total crapshoot. Johnny Manziel, who hasn’t played organized baseball in four years, was picked in the 28th round this season. In 2011, the Gamecocks signed T.J. Costen (22nd round pick), Shon Carson (44th round), and Ahmad Christian (46th round). Costen wound up transferring to USC-Aiken, Carson played with the team for one year and barely contributed (although he has found some success as a football player), and Christian was another football player who was rarely used in the one year he played and is now transferring to Utah after spending a season at Seminole State College of Florida.
South Carolina’s two draftees this year, Madison Stokes and Brandon Murray, are both coming to Columbia to play. The rest of the Gamecock commits weren’t drafted, meaning Chad Holbrook and his coaches went out and found players who were talented enough to compete at South Carolina and had a strong desire to play college baseball.
That’s an accomplishment which should be celebrated, not ridiculed.