State Reports: South Carolina




THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
In the Palmetto State, the bitter rivalry between South Carolina and Clemson is never-ending and has reached even into the state's most recent draft classes. While a year ago, the top talent was a trio of Tigers pitchers, this year the top three prospects are Gamecocks hitters. However, it's possible the best college team in the state this season is Coastal Carolina, which is hosting an NCAA regional. South Carolina had to travel to North Carolina State as a No. 2 seed, while Clemson didn't make regionals for the first time since 1986.

For the second year in a row, the state failed to produce a high school prospect in Baseball America's Top 200. The last prep prospect from South Carolina to crack the list was outfielder Jason Place, who was a first-round selection by the Red Sox in the 2006 draft.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Justin Smoak, 1b, South Carolina (National Rank: 8)
2. Reese Havens, ss, South Carolina (National Rank: 29)
3. James Darnell, 3b, South Carolina (National Rank: 58)
4. Pete Andrelczyk, rhp, Coastal Carolina (National Rank: 149)
5. D.J. Mitchell, rhp, Clemson(National Rank: 154)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

6. Jay Jackson, rhp, Furman
7. Jordan Lyles, rhp, Hartsville HS
8. Ryan Hinson, lhp, Clemson
9. Dock Doyle, c, Coastal Carolina
10. Jeremie Tice, 3b, Charleston
11. Will Atwood, lhp, South Carolina
12. Zak Fuesser, lhp, York HS
13. Michael Kohn, rhp/1b, Charleston
14. Allen Caldwell, of, Spartanburg Methodist JC
15. Michael Harrington, of, Charleston
16. David Sappelt, of, Coastal Carolina
17. Phil Disher, c, South Carolina
18. Bobby Gagg, rhp, Coastal Carolina
19. Doug Hogan, c, Clemson
20. Matt Price, Sumter HS
21. Austin Garrett, lhp, Charleston
22. Danny Meszaros, rhp, Charleston
23. Chris Swauger, of, Citadel
24. Chad Jacobsen, 1b, South Carolina-Aiken
25. Clay Caulfield, rhp, Charleston

SCOUTING REPORTS

1. Justin Smoak, 1b, South Carolina (National Rank: 8)

A switch-hitting first baseman with power, Smoak draws natural comparisons to Mark Teixiera. Drafted out of high school in the 16th round by the Athletics, he has started every game for South Carolina since arriving on the Columbia campus, doing nothing but produce. After batting .303 with 17 home runs, Smoak earned Freshman All-America honors. He followed that with a .315 batting average and 22 home runs in his sophomore year—enough to be tabbed as a third team All-American. He also competed for Team USA last summer. As a first baseman, Smoak has Gold Glove-caliber actions and soft hands. His footwork and instincts around the bag are advanced and his arm strength is adequate. As a hitter, he is consistent from both sides of the plate, and he has superior pitch recognition. A power threat against any pitch, Smoak has the ability to hit to all fields. Smoak proved his power translates to wood when he hit 11 home runs in 39 games while playing in the Cape Cod League following his freshman year, though he struggled with Team USA last summer. He is thought to be the best combination of offense and defense at first base in this draft class.

2. Reese Havens, ss, South Carolina (National Rank: 29)

Coming off a strong showing in the Cape Cod League last summer when he hit .314 with five home runs, Havens positioned himself to be one of the top middle infielders in this draft class. Steady and durable, Havens has been a fixture in the middle of the diamond for the Gamecocks since his freshman year. His consistency in always being in the lineup parallels his consistent improvement offensively and defensively every season since arriving in Columbia. Drafted out of high school by the Rockies in the 29th round, Havens has improved his range, hands and agility and now has the defensive ability and arm strength to stay at shortstop in the professional ranks. He makes up for his lack of foot speed with proper routes to the ball and advanced instincts. At the plate, Havens changed his hand position this season, moving them lower to an unconventional location around the bellybutton. Scouts have split opinions on his new batting style, but he he has hit for better power and average and leads off for a strong South Carolina lineup. He has great makeup and is a prototype "baseball player" with all the intangibles.

3. James Darnell, 3b, South Carolina (National Rank: 58)

Teaming up with Havens and Smoak at South Carolina, Darnell was the third piece of one of the most potent infields in college baseball. The best athlete of the three, Darnell has potential to be a five-tool talent in the pros. At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Darnell is a physical specimen with a combination of athleticism and strength. Still somewhat raw as a baseball player, it is still to be determined which position he will play at the professional level. Darnell has an above-average arm but may not have the hands to stay at third base. His above-average footspeed may make him a better candidate for right field. At the plate, consistency is Darnell's red flag. He is known for going through hot-and-cold stretches. He has above-average raw power as he hit 19 home runs last year and has hit three home runs in a game multiple times this season. He has power to all fields but is known more as a pull hitter. Darnell also has shown ability to hit for average as he led the Gamecocks with a .331 batting average in 2007. Darnell's cold spells come when he goes through stretches of chasing breaking balls and changeups out of the zone.

4. Pete Andrelczyk, rhp, Coastal Carolina (National Rank: 149)

Andrelczyk redshirted as a freshman at Coastal Carolina and has improved every year. Last season he made 23 appearances for the Chanticleers, tallying one save—which was good enough to get him drafted in the 32nd round by the Orioles as a redshirt sophomore. He returned to school, however, and moved into the full-time closer role. His velocity took another jump, and he's now considered to have a power package on the mound. Tallying better than a strikeout an inning, Andrelczyk works off a low-90s fastball that can touch 95 mph. He also has a hard slider that sits between 83-85 mph with tight rotation and late action that is especially tough on righthanded hitters. He has the best pure stuff on Coastal's team, and he profiles as a reliever in the pros as well. A late bloomer, Andrelcyzk was gaining momentum up draft boards at the end of the season.

5. D.J. Mitchell, rhp, Clemson (National Rank: 154)

Recruited as an outfielder, Mitchell didn't pitch at all his freshman year at Clemson. A career .241 hitter in college, he split time between hitting and pitching last season and found more success on the mound, tallying a 5-0, 3.27 record in 15 appearances. Following his sophomore season, he led the Cape Cod League with 58 strikeouts, including one 15-strikeout performance, and had a 1.47 ERA in eight starts. He has been Clemson's Friday night starter this spring, providing stability on a young staff. Athletic on the mound, Mitchell has long, wiry arms and legs. His fastball comes in between 89-91 mph, but with above-average movement. He creates natural sink and tail from his loose three-quarters arm slot. He complements his fastball with a sweeping slider and changeup. Mitchell is 6-feet, 170 pounds and has room to add more weight. Due to his size, durability is a question mark, but his live body and limited pitching experience intrigue scouts. He'll likely end up in the bullpen at the professional level.

SoCon Standouts

The Southern Conference has a significant presence in South Carolina with Furman, College of Charleston and The Citadel. While Charleston boasts the most players on the South Carolina list, Furman offers the top prospect. Righthander Jay Jackson had a great summer in the Great Lakes League in 2007 and carried that success into this season. He finished 9-2, 3.17 for the Paladins, mixing his low-90s fastball with a solid slider and true downer curveball to overmatch hitters. An athlete on the mound, Jackson also played center field for Furman and hit .336 with eight home runs. Jackson has a solid frame with room to grow and could potentially gain even more velocity on his fastball. He is also developing a changeup that could make him into a true four-pitch threat.

Charleston's prospects are led by third baseman Jeremie Tice. Drafted in 2006 by the Marlins in the 38th round, Tice deferred pro ball and transferred to Charleston from Tallahassee (Fla.) CC. This season he led the Cougars with a .393 average while slugging 25 home runs. Tice has a professional approach at the plate and should be an adequate defender at third base. Charleston's other hitting prospect is Michael Harrington, who beat out Tice—and the rest of the nation—with 26 home runs this season. Harrington was drafted last year by the Orioles in the 38th round and should be a good senior sign this June. He has obvious power and is a decent runner—most likely putting him in left field at the pro level.

Charleston also boasts a quartet of pitchers, with the leader of the group being righthander Michael Kohn. Originally recruited as a hitter, Kohn was clocked off the mound at 95 mph last fall and showed signs of a plus breaking ball. He didn't make his first pitching appearance for the Cougars until April, however, due to a bruise in his shoulder. Kohn pitched 13 innings in the regular season, tallying 16 strikeouts and four saves. He is a bit of a wild card as he has the raw stuff to entice teams.

The top catching prospect in the state is lefthanded-hitting Dock Doyle from Coastal Carolina. Athletic behind the plate, Doyle has tools that should play at the professional level. He has an average arm and good receiving mechanics. At the plate, Doyle led the Chanticleers with a .365 average and hit 16 home runs. Teammate David Sappelt was the Big South Conference player of the year in 2007 and was batting .344 this season while playing an above-average center field. He has a package of speed and power at the plate, making him a threat in multiple ways on the field.

Righthander Jordan Lyles leads the high school ranks. Blessed with a clean and easy delivery, Lyles offers a fastball in the upper 80s and can break 90 mph on occasion. He also has room in his 6-foot-4 frame to add strength and velocity. Lyles also throws a curveball and changeup and can command all three pitches. A three-sport star in high school, Lyles is athletic on the mound. He is committed to South Carolina.