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CAROLINA BASEBALL: 5 things to know about '21 class of recruits
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CAROLINA BASEBALL

CAROLINA BASEBALL: 5 things to know about '21 class of recruits

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SPORTS LIBRARY, South Carolina, USC, baseball

COLUMBIA -- South Carolina's baseball season is over long before the Gamecocks likely would have wanted, and now comes the part of the year where they and the rest of the fans and media look ahead to what things might look like.

As we start, it's important to look at exactly what the Gamecocks' have coming in with the 2021 recruiting class as the offseason begins in retooling the roster.

Ranked in the top 15

When you just glance at the rankings, the Gamecocks are No. 14 in PerfectGame's class rankings, which focuses just on high school players and not any JUCO players yet. Based off just class rankings, the Gamecocks are seventh in the league behind Florida, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, LSU, Tennessee and Mississippi but are tied for seventh nationally in top 100 prospects signed (three).

Also, the Gamecocks' class is ranked eighth in the country with an average player rating of 6.79, fifth in the SEC behind Florida, LSU, Vanderbilt and Arkansas.

While it might not have the same fanfare as the Gamecocks' 2020 group, it's still a solid group that will need to come in and make an impression early with South Carolina potentially losing a lot from this year's team.

Offensive, lefty heavy

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With the Gamecocks focusing on pitching in the 2020 class — bringing in guys like Will Sanders, Jackson Phipps and Jack Mahoney — the focus in this class is on offense, particularly left-handed hitters.

The top seven of the Gamecocks' highest-rated signees are all hitters -- headlined by shortstop Michael Braswell, outfielder Thad Ector and infielder Cooper Kinney — with three of those seven able to hit from the left side. Ector is a switch hitter while Kinney and infielder Carson Hornung are lefties.

Of the current class, over half are hitters and six are either left or switch hitters.

The Gamecocks will have to survive the draft and get the Braswell, Ector and Kinneys of the world to school and hope this class can step in and hit well their first years on campus.

Junior college signees

South Carolina's has had some success bringing in junior college players on offense — Andrew Eyster, Luke Berryhill — and specifically from a pitching perspective with Thomas Farr, Brannon Jordan, Andrew Peters and Reid Morgan.

This class is made up of a smaller but impactful group of JUCO guys. Hunter Parks, a right-handed pitcher, is the highest-rated prospect but the chances of him putting on a South Carolina uniform are slim to none.

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The Gamecocks have four other players coming in from JUCO aside from him.

They'll add Chipola teammates righty Drew Baker and Michael Esposito, a lefty, along with another right-handed pitcher James Hicks and outfielder Wilson Galvan.

Baker and Esposito are potentially bullpen arms (Baker has a better chance of cracking a rotation) while Hicks has a chance to be a starter for South Carolina this season. Galvan, who started his career at Ole Miss, hit .341 this year with eight stolen bases and could likely slide into a corner outfield spot.

Chance to play early

Depending on transfers, the draft and graduation, South Carolina could ultimately lose all three starters from its rotation, multiple pieces in the bullpen and seven of the 11 players with at least 90 at-bats in 2021.

The Gamecocks have a handful of freshmen who could compete for at-bats and innings early: Galvan, Braswell, Ector, Kinney, Hornung, Vytas Valincius, Elijah Lambros and others offensively with Baker, Esposito, Hicks and Aidan Hunter and potentially others from a pitching perspective.

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It's a class made up of a lot of incoming freshmen or new-to-the-SEC baseball players with a large learning curve ahead of them, but they'll have the chance to play and play early.

It's not done yet

The class sits right now hovering at about 20 players but the Gamecock staff has shown a willingness to bring in grad transfers before, adding Dallas Beaver, Bryant Bowen, Joe Satterfield and Jaret Bennett the last two offseasons.

Now, with players allowed a one-time transfer without having to sit out a year, it wouldn't be crazy to think about the Gamecocks bringing in at least one, if not a couple, of transfers to help round things out.

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