State Report: South Carolina




THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
Thanks to its strong college baseball programs, South Carolina has produced double-digit numbers of single-digit draft picks with some regularity this decade. The state has an outside shot at doing that again this year, thanks to a stronger-than-average year for high school pitching. It's rare for the state to have more than one or two power arms, yet five prep pitchers in this class—led by Clemson recruit Madison Younginer—visited the 90s, either this spring or last summer. Combined with a breakout season from Gilbert High infielder Chris Owings, it was a strong prep year.

It's not the greatest year for South Carolina's colleges, especially in the junior and senior classes. Three of the top seven players in the state are college underclassmen—eligible sophomores Sam Dyson and Graham Stoneburner, who both have had shoulder surgeries in the past, and freshman-eligible lefthander Chris Dwyer.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Sam Dyson, rhp, South Carolina (National Rank: 38)
2. Madison Younginer, rhp, Mauldin HS (National Rank: 45)
3. Chris Dwyer, lhp, Clemson (National Rank: 55)
4. Chris Owings, ss, Gilbert HS (National Rank: 84)
5. Ben Paulsen, 1b, Clemson (National Rank: 110)
6. Brooks Hall, rhp, Hanna HS, Anderson (National Rank: 134)
7. Graham Stoneburner, rhp, Clemson (National Rank: 180)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

8. Justin Dalles, c, South Carolina
9. DeAngelo Mack, of, South Carolina
10. Chris McGuiness, 1b, Citadel
11. Christian Powell, rhp, Greenwood HS
12. Richard Jones, c/1b, Citadel
13. Tucker Hawley, rhp, South Aiken HS, Aiken
14. Nick Ebert, 1b, South Carolina
15. Colby Holmes, rhp, Conway HS
16. Matt Crim, lhp, Citadel
17. Nick McCully, rhp, Coastal Carolina
18. Mike Freeman, 2b, Clemson
19. Sonny Meade, of, Citadel
20. Gaither Bumgardner, rhp/of, Great Falls HS, Fort Lawn
21. Thomas Berryhill, rhp, Newberry
22. Wes Wrenn, rhp, Citadel
23. Brandon Sizemore, 2b, College of Charleston
24. Daniel Aldrich, of, Wando HS, Mt. Pleasant
25. Bryan Altman, 2b, Citadel
26. Tyler Christman, rhp, USC Sumter
27. Brison Celek, c/1b, Bishop England HS, Charleston
28. Keon Graves, 3b, Francis Marion
29. Alex Wilson, rhp, Landrum HS
30. Travis Witherspoon, of, Spartanburg Methodist
31. David Anderson, 1b, Coastal Carolina
32. Kevin Nolan, ss/2b, Winthrop
33. Michael Gilmartin, ss/rhp, Wofford
34. Jose Iglesias, c, Coastal Carolina
35. Tyler Bortnick, 3b, Coastal Carolina

SCOUTING REPORTS

SAM DYSON, RHP, SOUTH CAROLINA

Dyson was a 19th-round pick of the Nationals out of Jesuit High in Tampa in 2006, but he decided to attend South Carolina. He missed his freshman season after having labrum surgery but has regained his stuff and has been one of the Southeastern Conference's top starters the last two seasons. Dyson has an electric fastball more notable for its velocity rather than its movement. He generates easy heat, touching the upper 90s while sitting 93-95 mph. He has an athletic frame and quick arm. At times, Dyson has a second plus pitch with a hammer curveball, thrown with power and depth at 78-82 mph. It has lacked consistency, as has his changeup, which like his fastball is fairly straight. Dyson has solid control but lacks command, and hasn't quite figured out how to consistently put hitters away, leading to just 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings for his two healthy college seasons. Dyson's ability to maintain his velocity deep into games and chance for three pitches makes him a good candidate to start at the pro level, but his power arm and relative lack of pitchability could lead him to a bullpen role. Either way, he's one of the hardest throwers in the college ranks and won't last past the second round.

MADISON YOUNGINER, RHP, MAULDIN HS

While Younginer has thrown well this spring, he's been one of the harder players in the country to scout because his high school team has used him as a reliever. That approach has frustrated scouts and might cost Younginer some money. Recruited to Clemson as both a hitter and pitcher, he has one of the best raw arms in the draft. He's athletic and throws two plus pitches: a fastball that has sat in the mid-90s in short relief bursts, with reports of him touching 97, and a power breaking ball in the upper 80s. Both pitches have late life, with the fastball featuring armside run. Younginer has trouble repeating his delivery and some scouts question his arm action, which can get long. He has flashed the makings of a changeup in past showcase action but hasn't used it much this spring. Last year's top South Carolina prep pitcher, Jordan Lyles, had less fastball and much less breaking ball yet was a supplemental first-rounder after a good workout. Younginer could improve his stock considerably in the same manner after being so hard to scout this spring and could go anywhere from the first to the third round.

CHRIS DWYER, LHP, CLEMSON

After prepping with Phillies 2008 first-round pick Anthony Hewitt in Connecticut, Dwyer turned down the Yankees as a 36th-round pick last year to enroll at Clemson. Unlike most college players, he knew he wouldn't have to wait three years to re-enter the draft. Because of his background, which includes being held back in elementary school and an extra high school year at Salisbury Prep, he is a draft-eligible freshman, already 21 years old. Dwyer's physical maturity helped him dominate at times, including six straight strikeouts in his debut against Charlotte. Dwyer's maturity is still that of a freshman, however, in that he's been unable to sustain his top-shelf stuff from start to start. An excellent athlete who was a standout quarterback in high school, Dwyer has shown the ability to throw two plus pitches for strikes at times. His fastball can sit in the 90-94 mph range when he's at his best, and his curveball is a plus pitch and a true hammer. He didn't have too many instances of being in trouble or having runners on base in high school, and that lack of experience might be why he's susceptible to the big inning. He hasn't challenged hitters in conference play, with 21 of his 24 walks coming in nine ACC games. He hasn't quite figured out how to battle through jams and execute pitches when he needs to get out of trouble. Being a draft-eligible freshman also clouds his signability, but he has more stuff and pitchability than some of his lefthanded peers in the draft.

CHRIS OWINGS, SS, GILBERT HS

Owings streaked to the front of the class of prep hitters in South Carolina and into second-round consideration for several teams, who saw him as an offensive middle infielder capable of staying at shortstop. He joined North Carolina's top prep hitter, Wil Myers, as part of a boffo South Carolina recruiting class, but both were in danger of signing as two of the more accomplished prep position players with present offensive skills and middle-of-the-diamond defensive ability. Owings reminds some scouts of former Georgia All-American Gordon Beckham, though with less power. Owings has offensive tools and put them together at the right time for crosscheckers and scouting directors. He has quick, strong hands and average speed, and makes an impact in several ways as a hitter. He added strength over the last year and hits with more authority, prompting his move up draft boards. He's an average defender at short, though he lacks natural, true shortstop actions. Some scouts believe Owings' value is less than the sum of his parts, as they question his feel for hitting and peg him to move to second base as a pro, rather than remain at shortstop. While he might be a better value in the fifth round, he's not expected to last that long.

BEN PAULSEN, 1B, CLEMSON

Paulsen's father Tom Riginos is Clemson's assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, and Paulsen has made him proud by being the Tigers' best hitter this season. He's more of a hitter in the Mark Grace mold, with a smooth lefthanded swing. He uses the whole field and ranked second in the ACC (behind only Dustin Ackley) in hits. Paulsen's ultimate value is tied to his power; he's just an average defender and is limited to first base. His lack of patience at the plate works against him in terms of getting to his power, as at times he doesn't work himself into power hitter's counts. Teams that focus on his strong Cape Cod League performance (.290/.335/.497, eight home runs) could pop Paulsen as high as the third round. Skeptics will recall Michael Johnson, a Clemson first baseman drafted 54th overall in 2002 whose slider bat speed made him a 4-A player.

BROOKS HALL, RHP, HANNA HS, ANDERSON

Like Mississippi signee and top prep prospect David Renfroe, Hall would be an impact college player as a two-way option. He's a power bat at third base, though he lacks Renfroe's easy actions and feel for defense. He's much less of a prospect as a hitter than as a pitcher, where Hall was gaining some steam, especially after throwing a perfect game in March. Hall has good size and at times stays tall and uses his 6-foot-5 frame to his benefit, driving an 88-92 mph fastball down in the strike zone. At his best, he hit some 94s, and he also showed the ability to spin a power slider that could be a plus pitch. His frame has projection as well. His early helium peaked when he matched up with Mauldin High and righthander Madison Younginer, the top prospect in the Palmetto State, and Younginer won the matchup hands-down. Hall was limited in April to just hitting due to an biceps tendinitis injury, and scouts were starting to back off him considering his South Carolina commitment and bonus demands.

GRAHAM STONEBURNER, RHP, CLEMSON

Stoneburner, a redshirt sophomore, has lacked consistency in his performance, though not with his velocity. He consistently hits 94 mph with his four-seamer, a sign that he's come back completely healthy from a torn ACL and back injury (fractured vertebra) from high school that caused him to miss his freshman season. At times, Stoneburner is just an arm-strength guy, with scattershot command and below-average secondary stuff. At other times, he throws strikes to all four quadrants at 94-95 mph, stays tall in his delivery well for a 6-foot, 185-pounder and keep the ball in the ballpark, as he'd allowed only two homers all spring. At times he shows some power on his slider, which still needs to add depth and tilt and doesn't project as anything more than an average pitch. His ability to pitch off his fastball was more successful in the bullpen, which was his primary role once the calendar turned to April. His changeup is a bit better than his slider, though it lacks life and is as straight as his fastball at times.  Stoneburner's feel for pitching also is inconsistent, but his consistent velocity is as good as any college righthander in the Southeast, and he generally throws strikes, if not quality strikes. He had just 17 walks in 56 innings.
 
Colleges Rule The Roost

South Carolina continues to be one of the deeper states in the Southeast for college baseball. Clemson, Coastal Carolina and South Carolina all made regionals, while programs such as the Citadel, College of Charleston and Winthrop remain consistent regional contenders.

The Citadel's 2010 fortunes will be considerably brighter if it can get a pair of juniors back as seniors next season. Slugger Richard Jones is a fringy catcher who spent time as a DH as well. He has arm strength but not enough accuracy and modest receiving ability, and opponents stole successfully 83 percent of the time. There's nothing fringy about his power, however, as he hit 17 in the Southern Conference's toughest hitter's park (Riley Park, also home of the low Class A Charleston RiverDogs). He'll go as far as his lefthanded power will take him.

First baseman Chris McGuiness has a much more polished approach at the plate and better tools. He has decent bat speed and a fluid swing, and he knows the strike zone as well as any college hitter. His 65 walks led the nation entering super regional play, and he ranked 12th in the country in on-base percentage. McGuiness has arm strength (he pitched as a freshman) and is a solid defender at first base. He's a below-average runner who probably can't move to the outfield. Both Bulldogs could go in the seventh- to 10th-round range.

The Bulldogs also have a pair of solid senior signs in righthander Wes Wrenn and outfielder Sonny Meade. While Meade doesn't have a great pro profile because he has modest power, he has hit in the three-hole for four seasons and batted .390 or better the last two seasons. He also hasn't been drafted before, but should get a chance this season. Wrenn has three fringe-average to average pitches, with an 88-92 mph fastball and changeup being his best offerings. He's just 5-foot-10 and projects as a middle reliever.

South Carolina's regional run fell short at East Carolina, due mostly to pitching. Three Gamecock hitters could go by the 10th round: catcher Justin Dalles, first baseman Nick Ebert and outfielder DeAngelo Mack. Scouts were least certain about Ebert's chances, even though he hit 23 home runs this season, tied for eighth in the country. Ebert also has patience and a grinder mentality. Scouts doubt his wood-bat power and bat speed. Dalles has less power and is a baseclogger. But he plays a premium position with solid athletic ability, energy and a strong throwing arm, which scouts grade as above-average. His bat is solid, with enough power to project him at least as a backup. Mack, one of the SEC's most improved players, has added significant polish since he arrived on campus, particularly improving his two-strike approach. He has opposite-field power, stays back on offspeed stuff and has a good pro body. His offensive tools grade out as average, not plus, and he may not hit for enough power to be an everyday corner regular. He doesn't' run well enough to be a center fielder.

Clemson's greatest impact on the draft will come from its pitchers and first baseman Ben Paulsen in the top 200 picks. The Tigers did have a late riser in second baseman Mike Freeman, a transfer from Georgia. He's a patient hitter with gap power from the left side who is a reliable defender. He's got enough arm to turn two at second base and hit .500 in regional play.

The top small-college players in the state are both smallish righthanders. Division II Newberry closer Thomas Berryhill hits 95 mph with his fastball out of the bullpen and has solid athleticism. He didn't quite dominate Division II competition but could still fit in the first 15 rounds and will be a summer follow, as he's already reported to play for Davey Johnson on a team in the Florida Collegiate Summer League. USC Sumter's Tyler Christman was the most accomplished junior-college pitcher in the state, going 12-1, 1.73, and using an 89-91 mph fastball and power slider to rack up 104 strikeouts in just 78 innings. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Christman has a medical history, having had both Tommy John surgery and another procedure to repair a torn ACL.

Improved Arms Highlight High Schools

Madison Younginer and Brooks Hall were the top arms in the state, providing the Palmetto State with a rare spate of power arms in its high school class. They lead a group that is better than last year's, which included supplemental first-rounder Jordan Lyles.

Some compare righthander Christian Powell to Lyles, though Lyles is probably more projectable. Powell has committed to College of Charleston. He spins an average curveball to go with a solid changeup and 89-91 mph fastball. He also throws strikes and has solid athleticism, with some quarterback play in his past. Shorter righthander Colby Holmes might not have the size to go pro now, but should be a good college pitcher with an 88-91 mph fastball and a curveball that at times grades as plus.

Fellow righthanders Tucker Hawley and Gaither Bumgardner are both good athletes. Hawley didn't live up to expectations this spring after throwing 89-92 mph last summer, when he committed to Alabama. Bumgardner is a better athlete, running a 6.9-second 60-yard dash and looking like a steal for USC Upstate as a two-way recruit. He'll scrape 89 mph with his fastball, and at 6-foot-5 has plenty of projection. He lacks present strength, though, which might keep him from getting drafted. He would have been a good draft-and-follow under the old junior-college system.

The state's high school hitters dropped off significantly after Owings and Hall, who will be a two-way college player. The one gaining the most attention was at Bishop Englund in Charleston, alma mater of Mets 2008 first-rounder Reese Havens. Brison Celek is an adequate catcher at the high school level, but scouts aren't sure if he'll handle the position even at college. If someone takes a flier on him, it will be for his solid bat, which produces some power. More likely, he'll head up South Carolina's recruiting class.