In what may have been a banner recruiting class for South Carolina’s baseball program, there was clearly one player whose stock stood above the rest on signing day.
Spring Valley pitcher Taylor Guerrieri, who transferred this offseason from North Augusta, was always considered a long shot to play for the Gamecocks, and with each passing month it seems less and less likely.
FOX Sports MLB Draft Analyst John Anderson recently listed the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder as the top high school pitching prospect eligible for this summer’s draft. This is widely considered a deep draft for prep pitchers.
ESPN draft analyst Jason Churchill wrote last month that Guerrieri has erased many of the questions that were keeping him out of the first round in some preseason mock drafts. He believes that the hard-throwing righty could now come off the board in the first half of the first round.
“I think he’s opened some eyes, sure,” one MLB scout told ESPN. “I didn't expect to see a potential (No.) one (starter), but that’s been the show both times for me.”
Guerrieri certainly has all the tools to become an elite collegiate or professional pitcher. He is rated the state’s best prospect by Diamond Prospects and Baseball America, which also ranks him as the 23rd overall prospect nationally in the Class of 2012.
He possesses the type of arm that makes scouts drool, hitting as fast as 98 miles per hour on the radar gun this spring. His fastball routinely clocks in around 93 to 95, speed that few high school hitters are able to catch up to.
“I’m going to come at you with the fastball most of the time,” Guerrieri said. “Until guys prove they can hit the fastball, I’m not going to throw many curveballs. I have the command of most of my pitches, but I’m going to come at you with the fastball.”
On top of his fastball and curveball, Guerrieri also throws a changeup and a cut fastball. Scouts don’t see his changeup much these days, because he says prep hitters are typically swinging about the speed of that pitch. His cut fastball looks a lot like a slider, and some believe that could develop into his out pitch in the future.
Those pitches have developed along with his once wiry frame. His work off the field has helped turn him into an elite player on it.
“I’ve done a good job of working out and keeping myself healthy,” said Guerrieri, who is 3-1 this season after last week’s loss to Blythewood. “As far as workouts go, I’ve worked pretty hard. I’m not sure how other people work out, but I have a schedule every week. It’s routine now. I’m just looking to build on what I am right now.”
Guerrieri wouldn’t mind building on his career resume at South Carolina. One of the reasons he chose to transfer this offseason was so that he would be closer to Columbia, allowing him to attend more games and spend more time around the players who could potentially become his teammates.
However, it’s hard to imagine that he would turn down a signing bonus of $1 million-plus if he’s taken early in the first round. But there is a precedent for high school pitchers turning down similar sums of money. In fact, two players taken in the first half of the 2010 first round decided not to sign and attended school instead.
“We’ve thought about it [as a family], but right now we just want to go to Carolina,” Guerrieri said. “ I’ve always wanted to go to South Carolina, so I’m not sure how this draft thing will work out with me, but I plan on going to South Carolina.”