By Todd Johnson
There is no question the University of South Carolina Gamecocks is one of the top teams vying for a NCAA title this spring. They have two highly thought of starters (#35 and #36 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 50) and a closer who is considered one of the top relief pitchers in all of the NCAA and played USA baseball this past summer. Currently, Baseball America ranks the Gamecocks at number 15. I’m going to check them all out in one profile.
To begin, Will Crowe is a 6’2” 245 lb right-handed starter. He’s been the ace of the SC staff since 2014 as a freshman. The redshirt junior missed all of 2016 after having Tommy John Surgery in the middle of 2015. His fastball gets up to 95/96 when healthy and has a natural sink to it. MLB Pipeline added,
“His curveball can be a plus pitch with power and depth when it’s on, though it does devolve into a slurve at times. His changeup shows some promise of becoming a solid third offering, though it too requires more consistency. Crowe’s command hadn’t fully returned in the fall but he was making progress with it and has a history of throwing strikes.”
I am interested to see how durable he is after missing a year and a half.
Clarke Schmidt is another right-handed starter but is a bit smaller in size than Crowe. At 6’1” 200, Schmidt is not the prototypical modern starter in terms of size. His stuff, on the other hand, is. Schmidt throws in the low-to-mid 90s (91-94) with a fastball with sink. He is able to command his pitches down in the zone. His secondaries need some work to be more consistent. While he does have 4 pitches, maybe focusing on three might be more beneficial at the next level.
Here is a nice collection of Schmidt’s work on a night when he struck out 11 in March 2016.
There is a definite giddyup there with some late side arm that I like to see.
Out of all three arms, right-hander Tyler Johnson might be the most attractive arm. He is a junior that has been the closer the past two years. In the summer of 2016, Johnson pitched for Team USA. I like his makeup as well. Johnson said the following about his approach to pitching:
“But one thing I’ve learned is if you stick to what you’re good at and what got you to the level you’re at, you’ll be really successful because you do it best. Everybody’s unique in how they play.”
He is a power arm in a nicely sized 6’2” and 205 lb. frame. Whether he starts or closes remains to be seen. He checks all the boxes for the type of pitcher Jason McLeod likes to pick – low mileage, big frame, USA Baseball, and experience in pressure situations.
Expect to see all three mentioned as possible selections for the Cubs.