As the July 6 deadline approaches for MLB draftees to sign with their pro teams, South Carolina baseball's roster for 2019 is starting to become clear. And with five seniors and 10 draftees playing key roles on 2018's NCAA Super Regional squad, it's clear that coach Mark Kingston will have a vastly different lineup going into next season.
On top of that, the transfers of players like Danny Blair and Kyle Jacobsen, who were expected to at least contend for a larger role, mean that the 2019 group of Gamecocks will feature a lot of new faces. Here's an early guess as to who might play where.
This lineup is based on the assumption that the remaining unsigned undergraduate draftees — outfielder Carlos Cortes and infielder LT Tolbert — will all not be returning to Carolina. The deadline for them to sign a deal is July 6.
Starter: Luke Berryhill — A junior college transfer who started his career at Georgia Southern, Berryhill was a Louisville Slugger and Perfect Game All-American in high school and is considered a strong defensive catcher.
Backup: Wes Clarke — An incoming freshman picked in the 40th round of the MLB draft.
Starter: Chris Cullen — The junior catcher went undrafted despite high prospect ratings from some analysts, so he'll be back for another year. He played both corner infield spots in 2018 and was solid at both. Given his size, first base makes more sense than catcher.
Backup: Riley Hogan — Entering his junior season, Hogan has struggled to get consistent at-bats but could work his way into backup roles for several positions.
Starter: Noah Campbell — The top freshman of this past season's squad, Campbell was displaced at second by senior Justin Row but still got steady at-bats in the outfield and at DH. He should move back to his natural position next year.
Backup: Jacob Olson — Olson also primarily is an infielder but spent most of 2018 in the outfield, and his solid defense might keep him there in light of Jacobsen's and Blair's departures.
Starter: George Callil — An Australian junior college transfer, Callil is mostly known for his defense but still hit a solid .304 last year with an on-base percentage of .435.
Backup: Nick Neville — Another JUCO transfer who spent a year at the Division I level, specifically at Notre Dame.
Starter: Nick Neville — Like Callil, Neville is a solid defender whose offense is slightly behind. The two could end up switching back and forth at short and third.
Backup: Mason Streater — The rising sophomore didn't get many at-bats in his first season, but he was highly rated coming out of high school and is a talented athlete.
Starter: Andrew Eyster — A two-time MLB draft pick, Eyster comes to USC as a junior college All-American who hit over .400 in his freshman season.
Backup: Ian Jenkins— A redshirt freshman, Jenkins was an MLB draftee and All-American honorable mention coming out of high school.
Starter: TJ Hopkins — If he can stay healthy, the rising senior could be the star of South Carolina's offense in 2019. There's no doubt the potential is there — he hit .345 with an OPS of .944 last year — but a reported broken back and other injury woes are troubling.
Backup: Joel Brewer — One of several freshman outfielders who will get plenty of opportunities with the departures of Blair and Jacobsen.
Starter: Jacob Olson — A savvy veteran who can play almost anywhere, Olson had an extremely odd offensive 2018 — lots of extra base hits but just a .234 batting average. Still, his consistent play will keep him in the lineup.
Josiah Sightler — A 12th-round MLB pick, Sightler was a standout pitcher until an injury forced him off the mound for his senior season, and he promptly became a standout hitter. If he does not sign a pro contract, he seems too good not to play in some capacity.
Cole Ganopulos — The lefty starter Kingston certainly could have used this past year, Ganopulos comes to USC via a season at Auburn and a year in the JUCO ranks, where he went 10-0 with a 1.62 ERA for a team that went to the Junior College World Series.
Carmen Mlodzinski — After spending most of the 2018 season as a midweek starter, the rising sophomore is ready to make the jump to the weekend and has the stuff to be a solid Saturday or Sunday pitcher.
Logan Chapman — Chapman's role as third weekend starter as a freshman likely prepared him well to take on more of a starring role next season, even if 2018 did come with some rough results (5.85 ERA, 1.57 WHIP).