The Coastal Carolina baseball team is not losing a single position player to graduation this year, as the team’s only seniors were three pitchers.
But Major League Baseball came a calling this week, and the prospective 2018 roster took a hit.
The Chants are likely to lose speedy outfielder Billy Cooke, who is the reigning Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, shortstop Jordan Gore of Conway and second baseman Wood Myers, as all three rising seniors were drafted by MLB teams.
The trio had the three best batting averages on the team in 2017, ranging from .318 to .353.
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CCU may also lose hard-throwing reliever and rising senior Will Latcham, as well as high school commitment Bryar Johnson, a hard-throwing pitcher from Carolina Forest High. They were also drafted Wednesday and are expected to sign pro contracts. Some will sign immediately, though they have until mid-July to negotiate offers.
“In some ways is it bittersweet? Absolutely. I’d selfishly love to have all those guys back,” said CCU head baseball coach Gary Gilmore, who reached the Class A level of pro ball. “But I couldn’t be happier for our kids. This is every kid’s dream in the world to be a draft pick. That’s why they play it their whole life. I’m ecstatic for every one of those kids. They get to live out a dream that I had an opportunity to. You chase it until they tell you you’re not good enough.
“… Unless for some reason the financial end of it doesn’t end up being what they want, I’m sure they’re going to go.”
Cooke was taken in the eighth round by the Seattle Mariners, Gore was scooped up in the 19th round by the Minnesota Twins, Myers was selected in the 29th round by the St. Louis Cardinals and Latcham went in the 17th round to the Cardinals. Johnson went in the 20th round to the Royals.
Any and all of your recruits coming in are draft eligible, and all of your juniors are draft eligible. So you can get crushed by the guys on your team that get drafted and by losing incoming guys. Do you recruit more guys, do you not recruit guys? Because there are no recruits out there for me to go get right now. There is no one for me to replace any of these guys with.
CCU coach Gary Gilmore on the dynamics of the draft and recruiting
Gilmore believes he may still get the services of a couple recruits who were drafted.
Catcher Logan White of Mountain Pointe High in Phoenix was a 39th-round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and left-handed pitcher Scott Kobos of St. John’s River State College in Florida was a 38th-round selection of the Cleveland Indians.
“Last year was [Kobos’] first year ever pitching, so this guy has a huge upside and I think he could be a top-five round guy,” Gilmore said, “and he’s a straight-A student and engineering student, so I’m hoping the opportunity to be here for at least a year will far outweigh signing for what you get in the 38th round, $100,000 or something.”
What Coastal Carolina will have next year is the premier power hitter in the Sun Belt Conference, some live young arms, some scrappy position players and an influx of new talent from high schools and junior colleges, including White, Kobos, Florida Southwestern State College right-handed pitcher Davie Inman and Polk State College (Fla.) power-hitting first baseman Zach Biermann – the latter two Gilmore feared would be drafted. “Those are both huge shots in the arm for us because I was worried about them,” Gilmore said.
Rising senior Kevin Woodall Jr. led the Sun Belt with 18 home runs and 60 RBI in 2017 and is poised to improve upon his .262 batting average.
“Woodall coming back is good I think for the program and for him,” Gilmore said. “I think Woody was deserving of a draft pick. I think he will have the ability and opportunity to do what Zach Remillard did, which was go from being a very good guy as a junior that could be a draft pick to being a superior senior that could be one of the better hitters in the country, and I think his opportunity in pro ball will significantly increase if he can continue to improve.”
Rising senior Zack Hopeck and rising junior Jason Bilous appear ready to take on significant starting roles. Hopeck started 12 games and was 5-2 with a 3.79 ERA in 2017, while Bilous started 10 and was 3-2 with a 4.61 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings.
“We’ll have to completely rebuild the culture. We darn near got our junior and senior class wiped out, so we’ll have a lot of new faces,” Gilmore said. “It’s a great group of kids. I honestly think that if we mold them right, it will be a core group of guys to make another Omaha run somewhere down the road.”
The Chants expect to be without late innings reliever Bobby Holmes, a rising senior who recently had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and plans to redshirt in 2018 and return in 2019.
It’s also very neat and promising to look around and see how well … all the guys from last year’s team are doing that are out playing [professionally].
CCU coach Gary Gilmore
Myers being selected was probably the biggest draft surprise for Gilmore. “It was an uncertainty with Wood Myers, whether he was going to go or not,” Gilmore said. “[Predicting the draft] is an expected piece of what we do, but it does occasionally throw you a huge curveball and you try to figure out how to deal with it.”
Gilmore said that of the 35 maximum players on CCU’s roster, 27 are allowed to receive a portion of the program’s 11.7 allotted scholarships. He believes his staff’s ability to predict the draft and recruit accordingly has been an important factor in the program’s sustained success, which includes a 2016 national championship.
“There’s an incredible balancing act trying to figure out who is being drafted on your team, so you go out and recruit and find a guy, and you have to hope that guy can be as good as the player you have, but he doesn’t [also] get drafted.
“If there’s one thing at the end of my career I am not going to miss, not for one second, is this part of it. It’s the most insane college coaching job of all sports, trying to balance this piece.”