South Carolina has several draft-eligible underclassmen who are focused on trying to get the Gamecocks to the College World Series, but they also are aware they will have an important decision to make soon.
The MLB draft begins Thursday, and five USC underclassmen are listed as top 500 prospects by Baseball America, led by freshman pitcher Braden Webb, who is the No. 71 prospect.
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Webb is joined by Wil Crowe, Taylor Widener, Dom Thompson-Williams and Gene Cone as South Carolina players Baseball America believes will be drafted over the next couple of days.
“I’m just going to let God take care of whatever he wants to take care of,” Webb told The State. “My main focus is playing with my brothers out here each and every day. If I get drafted, so be it. If I don’t, so be it. I still have this postseason to worry about.”
Webb was projected to be a high draft pick coming out of high school in 2014 before an arm injury sidelined him for most of his senior year of high school and last year.
Despite undergoing Tommy John surgery and still going through the rehab process at this time last season, he was picked in the 38th round of the 2015 draft by the Cleveland Indians.
Instead of signing, he opted to come to South Carolina and prove that he was fully healthy and capable of dominating hitters.
He has had an exceptional year, going 10-5 with a 3.24 ERA, and he is tied for the SEC lead in strikeouts with 123 in 94 1/3 innings pitched.
“I just wanted to prove that I could still play the game,” Webb said. “Although I did get drafted in the 38th round I wasn’t like, ‘Ah yea, I’m going to prove to everybody that I’m going to be a first rounder this year.’ I just wanted to show everybody that this surgery that I had wasn’t going to affect me as an athlete or a person.”
If Webb is selected in the first two rounds, as is projected, it would likely be hard for him to pass up the opportunity to turn pro.
“It’s been a big dream of mine to play pro baseball since I was three years old, ever since I could walk and pick up a baseball,” he said.
Thompson-Williams is another guy who is hoping to fulfill his dream of playing in Omaha before worrying about his dream of playing professional baseball.
“I value my education. There’s one thing they can’t take from you and that’s your degree. I love baseball to death, but however far it takes me at the end of the day you need a plan, and a degree’s a plan,” he said. “Saying that, it’s always been my dream to play major league baseball, and that’s what I plan on doing. If I go I go and if I don’t then great, I’m going to be a Gamecock again. I’m just going to let it play out by itself.”
How high will they go?
USC players expected to be selected in the Major League Baseball draft which starts Thursday. Rankings are from Baseball America’s top 500 players.
Braden Webb, P
Ranking: No. 71
Comment: He’s draft eligible because of his age but only has pitched one season at USC.
Wil Crowe, P
Ranking: No. 148
Comment: Missed season after Tommy John surgery. Began comeback last week.
Taylor Widener, P
Ranking: No. 258
Comment: D1Baseball ranks the hard-throwing right-hander even higher at No. 198.
Dom Thompson-Williams, OF
Ranking: No. 286
Comment: Clutch hitter has been a steady presence in the middle of USC’s lineup with 75 hits.
Gene Cone, OF
Ranking: No. 310
Comment: Gamecocks’ most consistent hitter had a 31-game hitting streak earlier in season.