Chad Holbrook thinks he knows what will happen. He has talked with current and incoming players and has a solid idea of what should occur.
There’s always the “maybe.”
“We go through this every year,” South Carolina’s third-year coach said Thursday. “Every year it’s no different – there’s always a surprise or two.”
The Major League Baseball draft lasts Monday through Wednesday, and Holbrook’s current and future team will lose some players. The Gamecocks are hoping to retain at least one of their best draft-eligible juniors – ace left-hander Jack Wynkoop or second baseman Max Schrock – and think they’ll keep the majority of a 17-man signing class.
Yet as much as Holbrook knows projections and dollar amounts that players are setting, he doesn’t know what major-league teams will do. It wouldn’t be the first time a recruit he thought had no chance of being drafted high enough to skip college went in an early round.
“It’ll be interesting,” Holbrook said.
USC lost five seniors, including slugger Kyle Martin, and has 10 juniors. Only Wynkoop and Schrock stand to be drafted, while other veterans (DC Arendas, Marcus Mooney, Vince Fiori) are near-locks to either be undrafted or picked too low to think about leaving.
Wynkoop has what scouts love – talent, height and he throws from the left side. Holbrook thinks he’ll probably be picked high enough to command a hefty signing bonus.
“I think he’s going to be a really good pick, the first five to six rounds,” he said. “Our opinion is that he’ll have a fair amount of money tossed his way, and it might be in his best interest to start a pro career.”
Schrock might have a tougher decision. Holbrook said he has a strong desire to come back to school, but if he’s a high draft pick, it’s going to be tough to turn it down. Schrock knows college seniors have no bargaining power with teams, and he has been injury-prone. If he comes back, aiming to raise his stock as Martin did, he might not accomplish it.
“Landon Powell went pretty high as a senior, Khalil Greene went high as a senior,” Holbrook said. “If Max does come back, he’s following his heart and this is where he wants to be.”
The recruiting class should remain largely intact. There are six future Gamecocks who could hear their names called, one perhaps on Monday.
“Nick Neidert is one that really stands out,” Holbrook said. “If he’s in the first two rounds, there’s a really good chance we’ll lose him.”
Neidert, a right-hander from Lawrenceville, Ga., throws a mid-90s fastball and is No. 55 on Baseball America’s Top 100 draft prospects.
Holbrook expects to lose Neidert. He’s hoping it balances out with another coveted prospect, 6-foot-3 lefty Logan Allen, keeping his commitment.
“He’s one we’re trying very hard to keep,” Holbrook said. “He’s a critical part of our class.”
Allen could be the answer to who replaces Wynkoop. From North Carolina by way of Florida’s IMG Academy, Allen has dominated his competition.
Another “very important” part of the class stands to be in school. Catcher Chris Cullen of Cumming, Ga., will remind fans of Grayson Greiner if the Gamecocks can get him. Cullen stands 6-foot-5.
“He’s put his number very, very high, north of a million dollars,” Holbrook said. “Normally if a kid sets that high of a number, he’ll still get picked – but not where he would be if he was signable.”
Braden Webb, a right-hander from Oklahoma who signed last year but waited a season to enroll after Tommy John surgery, could be picked but stands to be in school. Righty Cody Morris of Maryland is also coming off Tommy John surgery – he was highly regarded as a junior, but the injury might have dropped him to where he’ll consider college.
Holbrook added a late splash with outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams from Iowa Western Community College. The native Iowan hit .407 with five home runs and 44 RBIs.
“He will be drafted,” Holbrook said, “but we think he’ll be coming to school. His goal and lifelong dream was to play for South Carolina and in the SEC. We’re very hopeful to get him.”
USC’s football team also will pay attention the draft. Freshman wide receiver Dexter “D.J.” Neal is on campus and going through workouts, but he could be drafted. Neal, a power-hitting outfielder, has worked out with a handful of MLB teams and could be a high pick.
Neal said last week that if he doesn’t get picked in the first three rounds, he’ll stay in school and try to play both sports. Holbrook would love to have him.
If Neal stays, he’ll talk with Steve Spurrier about Neal’s availability.
“He’s a top-three-round talent, but I don’t know if he’ll be picked that high,” Holbrook said. “He’s a very gifted athlete, and we’d give him every opportunity to make an impact for us. I think that D.J.’s in a good place to be here.”
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THE NEXT STEP
The Major League Baseball draft begins Monday.
Rounds 1-2: 7 p.m. Monday
Rounds 3-10: 1 p.m. Tuesday
Rounds 11-40: Noon Wednesday
Current and future Gamecocks that could hear their names called over the next three days.
OF Connor Bright, OF Elliott Caldwell, OF Patrick Harrington, 1B Kyle Martin, RHP Cody Mincey
INF DC Arendas, LHP Vince Fiori, LHP Dillon Hodge, RHP Preston Johnson, C Jared Martin, SS Marcus Mooney, RHP Dylan Rogers, 2B Max Schrock, 1B Collin Steagall, LHP Jack Wynkoop
LHP Logan Allen, Fletcher, N.C.
LHP Kyle Anderson, Evans, Ga.
OF Danny Blair, Bel Air, Md.
SS Jonah Bride, Neosho County (Kan.) CC
C Chris Cullen, Cumming, Ga.
1B Ross Grosvenor, Walters State (Tenn.) JC
RHP Hayden Heflin, Spartanburg Methodist
RHP Adam Hill, T.L. Hanna
OF T.J. Hopkins, Summerville
RHP Cody Morris, Laurel, Md.
RHP Nick Neidert, Lawrenceville, Ga.
LHP Hank Nichols, J.L. Mann
RHP Harrison Smith, Wando
OF Dom Thompson-Williams, Iowa Western CC
SS/RHP L.T. Tolbert, Piedmont
RHP Braden Webb, Owasso, Okla.
1B Caleb Whitenton, Alto, Ga.
*Note: OF D.J. Neal could also be drafted. He is a USC football commitment (WR) but has expressed interest in playing college baseball as well. ... All drafted players have until 5 p.m. on July 17 to accept or decline their offers.