Looking at the Gamecock possible opening Day lineup plus weekend rotation
Feb. 06, 2020, | GCF Staff Report
With just little over a week left till South Carolina baseball opens the 2020 season against Holy Cross, the Gamecock starting lineup is coming into focus. Here’s an early look at who will be on the field come Opening Day.
Catcher: Dallas Beaver, senior
The grad transfer from UCF presents the Gamecocks best combination of defense and hitting available behind the plate. The Gamecocks do have a number of decent options behind him, meaning he probably won’t be asked to shoulder as much of a load as starting catcher Luke Berryhill did last year.
First base: Wes Clarke, sophomore
Clarke had a slow first season at catcher for the Gamecocks, but he bounced back with a strong summer at the plate in the Valley Baseball League and has carried that over into the fall and preseason. He’s got some pop, homering off expected ace Carmen Mlodzinski in the spring’s first scrimmage, and his defense has improved enough to put him in the field.
Second base: Noah Campbell, junior
Campbell has been full of promise for two years now, but the on-field results haven’t matched that. Now he’s back for a pivotal season that could define his draft stock. He had another good summer in the Cape Cod League, and both he and Kingston say they’ve figured out a way to harness his undeniable talent, focusing less on power at the plate and more on spraying balls all over the field.
Third base: Brennan Milone, freshman
One of the top-rated recruits in his class, Milone was taken in the 28th round of the MLB Draft and might have gone higher had teams not been scared off by his strong commitment to the Gamecocks and a high signing bonus number. He came in and immediately impressed, with Kingston saying at the end of fall that he’d be the team’s starting third baseman if they had to play games right then. Early preseason returns haven’t changed that, and in spite of his relatively light bat. Early this spring, however, he’s been hitting well and still looking extremely smooth on the field. Freshman Braylen Wimmer has looked solid as well at short, but Callil will likely get the early nod and be given the opportunity to improve his hitting from 2019.
Left field: Brady Allen, sophomore
Allen started as a talented freshman but hit just .210 and struck out a lot. He’s made progress though, starting with a solid summer in the Northwoods League and extending into the fall, where he was 3-for-6 with 3 walks in two scrimmages. Kingston has praised his maturity and said that a rough rookie season allowed him to grow a lot.
Center field: Noah Myers, junior
Myers stole 77 bases last season at the junior college level. Kingston has laughed and guaranteed he wouldn’t get that many in the SEC, but the point remains: Myers is blazing fast, making him an asset on the base paths and in center field, where his range is expansive. He’s also a solid hitter, batting above. 300 in both seasons at the JUCO level.
Right field: Andrew Eyster, junior
South Carolina’s top returning offensive weapon, Eyster is one of the few players who could put up similar numbers to his 2019 campaign and is in a good spot - he led the team in batting average, slugging and on-base percentage. His strikeouts were a little high, and he didn’t have the best summer in the Cape Cod League, but he’s continued to hit the ball hard in preseason scrimmages.
Designated hitter: Bryant Bowen, senior
Bowen, a grad transfer from Southern Miss, has positional versatility - he’s played first base, third base, catcher and even the outfield a little bit. But his biggest value is his bat. On an NCAA tournament team last season, he slashed .341/.403/.563 with 11 home runs and 51 RBIs, and he’s continued to show that upside in fall and preseason scrimmages. Regardless of where he plays or doesn’t play defensively, he’ll be in the lineup.
Utility: Jeff Heinrich, junior
Kingston has called Heinrich, a junior college transfer, a leader on the team already, despite sitting out the fall with a shoulder ailment. And he’s come out on fire to start the preseason, hitting extremely well after putting up two .400 seasons in JUCO. Positionally, he’s flexible, getting work at first, second and third base, and he could play outfield as well.
Starting pitcher: Carmen Mlodzinski, redshirt sophomore
A potential top-10 draft pick, Mlodzinski has seen the hype around him explode over the past year. His fastball now sits in the upper 90s, his changeup has improved drastically and his stuff has pro scouts crowding the stands at Founders Park every time he pitches. His stats at USC aren’t much to look at after an injury derailed his sophomore season, but he was Kingston’s No. 1 guy last year and only gotten better since then.
Starting pitcher: Brett Kerry, sophomore
Kerry did it all for South Carolina last year, blossoming into a top-level arm out of the bullpen while also starting a few games, including the final game of the regular season to send the Gamecocks to the SEC tournament. He sat out the fall with an injury, but he’s bigger and stronger, and Kingston has said he has the inside track on one of the weekend rotation spots.
Starting pitcher: Thomas Farr, redshirt sophomore
The battle for the last rotation spot will likely come down to Farr or fellow JUCO transfer Brannon Jordan. Farr is coming off Tommy John surgery, but his fastball can hit the mid 90s, and his stuff had him ranked as one of the top junior college prospects before his injury. When the two went head-to-head in a preseason scrimmage, both looked a little rusty, but Farr’s stuff was still there.