South Carolina’s baseball team just got a lot better for next season.
First baseman Kyle Martin has decided to turn down a professional offer as a 20th round draft pick of the Los Angeles Angels to return for his senior season with the Gamecocks.
Martin, a top-notch defender at first base, led the team with a .336 average last season to go with 11 doubles, five home runs, and 38 RBIs while starting all 62 games.
“I love this university, I love this baseball program and I'm just not ready to leave all that this great place provides me,” Martin said in a release. “This was not an easy decision, and I appreciate the Angels drafting me. I've decided that I want to come back and help lead the 2015 team.”
Six junior teammates of Martin will not be returning after getting drafted last week: catcher Grayson Greiner, third baseman Joey Pankake, center fielder Tanner English, and pitchers Jordan Montgomery, Joel Seddon and Evan Beal.
Martin’s decision to come back will help anchor a veteran infield that also includes three rising juniors: second baseman Max Schrock, shortstop Marcus Mooney and third baseman DC Arendas.
USC coach Chad Holbrook knows what it means to his team to have Martin return for a final go-around.
“We are thrilled to have Kyle back for another year,” Holbrook said in a release. “Kyle is the best defensive first baseman in the country and one of our top hitters. To have his bat in the middle of the lineup one more season is huge.”
The Greenville native, who’s a mechanical engineering major, was named to the 2013 SEC academic honor roll. His academic career played a role in his desire to come back to campus.
“It is also important for me to earn my degree,” he added in the release.
The 6-foot-1, 230 pound Martin led the team with 24 multi-hit games. Over the course of his three seasons, he has batted .318 with eight homers and 60 RBIs while posting a .379 on-base percentage and a .423 slugging percentage.
Martin’s return does come with some risks regarding his professional future. A down season or an injury could lead to him not being drafted next season. And if he does get drafted again next season, he could go in a higher round and receive a much lower signing bonus. College seniors have no leverage and typically are offered minimal signing bonuses compared to high school seniors and college juniors.