South Carolina Gamecocks expect three juniors to go in MLB Draft
COLUMBIA — The Major League Baseball draft begins tonight, but no South Carolina players are expected to be selected until Tuesday.
The first round and first compensatory round are tonight at 7 and will be televised on the MLB Network and MLB.com. The rest of the draft will be shown only on MLB.com, with Rounds 2-15 coming Tuesday, starting at noon, and Rounds 16-40 on Wednesday, also starting at noon.
USC’s top draft pick almost certainly will be its best hitter, junior first baseman Christian Walker, who was picked in the 49th round out of high school. Clemson junior third baseman Richie Shaffer is projected to get picked in the middle of the first round tonight.
Two other USC juniors are expected to get drafted and turn pro, along with Walker: centerfielder Evan Marzilli (undrafted out of high school) and closer Matt Price (a sixth-round pick by Arizona last year). Price was a third-year sophomore in 2011, so he was eligible for the draft.
Junior starting pitcher Colby Holmes, a 47th-round selection out of high school, could get picked this week. So could junior third baseman LB Dantzler, a first-year player for the Gamecocks who spent the past two years at a junior college and was undrafted out of high school. But neither is considered as likely to leave as Walker, Marzilli and Price.
It would seem that, among those three, Marzilli could possibly return to school, but even USC coach Ray Tanner expects him to leave. In his press conference after Sunday’s NCAA tournament Regional-clinching win over Clemson, Tanner mentioned that current freshman Tanner English likely would be the centerfielder next season because Marzilli will turn pro.
There are few reasons for a highly drafted college baseball player to return for his senior season. A senior doesn’t have the negotiating leverage with Major League teams that a junior has, since a junior can threaten to return to school, and use that bargaining chip to get more signing bonus money from a team.
USC has two contributing seniors this season: right fielder Adam Matthews and No. 1 starting pitcher Michael Roth. Matthews was a 23rd-round pick by Baltimore last year, Roth a 31st-rounder by Cleveland. Both are expected to be drafted again. (A feature story on Roth and his thoughts about his future will appear in Tuesday’s Post and Courier.)
As Tanner tries to figure out his 2013 roster between this week and Major League signing deadline, he should have an easier time than he did in previous years. MLB has moved up the signing deadline for drafted players to July 13, from Aug. 15. Like most coaches of high-profile teams, Tanner usually signs a few recruits every year who end up not coming to school because they are drafted so high that they turn pro.