Post and Courier
August 2, 2014

College of Charleston, Clemson, South Carolina could lose top players in baseball draft

Posted: 06/04/2014 04:59 p.m.
Updated: 06/05/2014 08:25 a.m.


By Gene Sapakoff

The College of Charleston's run to the Lubbock Super Regional is impressive enough; the Cougars beat Florida and went undefeated through the Gainesville Regional as a No. 4 seed.

It's better when you consider they have won down the stretch without their best baseball player. Shortstop Gunnar Heidt is still out after suffering a broken hand when hit by a pitch on April 26 against Bethune-Cookman.

But the junior shortstop from Murrells Inlet remains one of the state's top prospects going into the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft, a three-day selection spree that starts Thursday night.

Heidt leads the Cougars with a .335 batting average and has four home runs and 15 stolen bases.

"Gunnar has been such a good player for us," College of Charleston head coach Monte Lee said. "He can hit and play defense at the next level and has so many things the scouts are looking for. I think he'll do well (in professional baseball)."

Conway High School pitcher Grant Holmes is the state's only projected first-round pick. Clemson junior pitcher Daniel Gossett, South Carolina junior catcher Grayson Greiner and Gamecocks pitcher Jordan Montgomery are likely to be selected within the first four rounds.

Heidt, South Carolina junior third baseman Joey Pankake, South Carolina junior center fielder Tanner English and Clemson catcher/outfielder Garrett Boulware are expected to go from the fifth to 10th rounds.

Candidates for later rounds include Citadel junior second baseman Mason Davis, College of Charleston senior outfielder Brandon Murray and Charleston Southern junior outfielder Bobby Ison (Stratford High School), South Carolina junior closer Joel Seddon and Gamecocks junior first baseman Kyle Martin.

Though he is committed to Florida, few people expect Grant Holmes, the 6-2, 190-pound younger brother of former South Carolina pitcher Colby Holmes, to play college baseball. His fastball has been clocked at 98 mph. He might go Thursday night within the first 15 picks.

While Clemson's season was a disappointment, Gossett finished 7-2 with 107 strikeouts and 30 walks in 107.1 innings. Though he faced less technically potent bats than top Clemson pitchers of the past, Gossett's 1.93 earned run average was the Tigers' first sub-2.00 ERA since Mike Sullivan (1.98) in 1979.

An MLB.com analysis of Gossett: "He does a good job of commanding his heater, which is crucial because it's fairly straight. His best offering is a hard slider, and his changeup gives him a reliable third pitch. Scouts wonder if he'll hold up as a starter in pro ball. . If he has to move to his bullpen, both his fastball and slider could become plus pitches in shorter stints."

At 6-5, Greiner physically reminds many scouts of former Stratford High School and Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters, a Baltimore Orioles All-Star. Also 6-5, Wieters is as tall as any catcher in big league history.

"Defense-first backstop with leadership qualities," Baseball America's scouting report says of Greiner, the Gamecocks' three-year starter. "Fits (Major League) backup profile with improved power."

Montgomery, a 6-5 right-hander, went 20-7 over three seasons at South Carolina. He is generally rated as a better and harder-throwing prospect than Michael Roth. The former Gamecock ace was drafted in the ninth round by the Angels in 2012 and played in 15 Major League games.

Pankake hit .303 with five home runs in 2014 - down from .311 and 11 homers in 2013. He moved from shortstop to third base as a junior but might play outfield or first base in the minors.

Pankake didn't pitch in official games at South Carolina, but after approaching 95 mph at Easley High School was drafted as a pitcher by the Texas Rangers in the 42nd round in 2011. The mound remains a pro possibility.

Heidt and English played together at St. James High School. While English wows scouts with his excellent speed, Heidt is considered a more well-rounded prospect. If he doesn't stick at shortstop, the 5-11, 195-pound right-handed hitter can slide into work as a second baseman.

Aaron Brenner of The Post and Courier staff contributed to this story.