COLUMBIA — Two of the linchpins of South Carolina’s Super Regional season have a choice to make.
Stay in Columbia, or leave for a while before returning to Columbia?
Outfielder Carlos Cortes and right-hander Adam Hill were each selected by the New York Mets during Wednesday’s second day of the Major League Baseball draft. The Mets, whose Single-A Fireflies franchise plays in the capital city, have given each a financial promise and a lot to think about.
Each player was taken very high Wednesday, Cortes in the third round and Hill in the fourth. Signing bonuses were listed as $705,300 for Cortes and $507,800 for Hill.
Hill, a junior, is expected to sign a professional contract because he falls under MLB’s system of drafting college players. Players know that they need to take what they can get after their junior year because if they return as seniors, MLB teams have no reason to negotiate high bonuses. If seniors don’t take what they’re given, there’s nowhere else to play.
Cortes has a bit of wiggle room due to being a draft-eligible sophomore. His birthday made him eligible this year despite only two seasons at USC, so he could return as a junior and improve on his No. 83 draft selection.
Improving such a high pick, though, isn’t nearly a sure thing. Cortes, like Hill and right-hander Cody Morris, is expected to leave.
Morris was selected in the seventh round by Cleveland. While his slot money ($185,600) is less than the others and Morris, like Cortes, is a draft-eligible sophomore, he is also expected to go.
Cortes struggled in average this year (.260) but was as lethal as ever with his power numbers. His 15 home runs and 44 RBIs were team-highs, and he collected seven hits to make the all-tournament team at the Greenville NCAA Regional.
Hill entered the season as USC’s Friday starter and while he was shuffled to the No. 2 starter role in the last half of the season, it was only because of a shortened schedule (playing Thursday-Saturday for some series) and the desire to give Hill a full rest period between starts. He went 7-5 with a 3.99 ERA, striking out 98 and walking 50 in 79 innings.
Hill logged the most innings of the staff and opponents batted .191 against him.
Morris became the Gamecocks’ most reliable starter in the season’s second half. He had a team-high 3.68 ERA among starters and went 8-3, also earning a spot on the all-tournament team in Greenville.
The righty struck out 83 and walked 30 in just over 78 innings.
Senior Madison Stokes was picked in the 10th round by Philadelphia. The infielder who switched to designated hitter after an injury can pick up a $142,600 slot bonus to start his career.
Stokes batted .331 this year with 10 homers and 43 RBIs.
USC signee Taj Bradley was picked in the fifth round by Tampa Bay. The pitcher from Stone Mountain, Ga., was slotted at $343,600 and is expected to sign.
Bradley joined Owen White as USC signee draft picks. White, a first-day selection, is also expected to sign.
Players must make a decision by July 6.