Coastal Carolina

‘Change is good’: Who’s coming and going for Coastal Carolina following MLB Draft

Coastal Carolina shortstop Scott McKeon hits against Texas-Arlington during the 2019 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship at Springs Brooks Stadium in Conway. McKeon was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 21st round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft but has chosen to return to CCU in 2019-20.
Coastal Carolina shortstop Scott McKeon hits against Texas-Arlington during the 2019 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship at Springs Brooks Stadium in Conway. McKeon was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 21st round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft but has chosen to return to CCU in 2019-20. jbell@thesunnews.com

Coastal Carolina will suffer some heavy losses from this past week’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, though at least one key rising senior has opted to return to the baseball program.

The Chanticleers had seven players off the 2019 team drafted, which matched a program high, and six of those have one year of eligibility remaining. In addition, two incoming signees in the 2019 class were drafted in the 40-round draft Monday through Wednesday.

While most of those drafted have signed or will sign professional contracts, shortstop Scott McKeon has confirmed to The Sun News that he will return for his senior season. McKeon was drafted in the 21st round by the Detroit Tigers.

“There are some things at Coastal that I want to accomplish as a baseball player and as a student,” said McKeon, who is on pace to graduate next spring with a marketing degree. “I want to finish my education and I think our team this coming year has a lot of potential. We have a lot of good pieces coming back and a lot of great pieces coming in. I think we can truly make a run to the postseason and I want to be a part of that.”

Other Chants who were drafted include left-handed pitcher Anthony Veneziano by the Kansas City Royals in the 10th round, first baseman Zach Biermann by the Houston Astros in the 23rd round, second baseman Cory Wood by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 19th round, outfielder Jake Wright by the Pirates in the 32nd round, infielder Keaton Weisz by the Los Angeles Angels in the 36th round, and catcher Kyle Skeels by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 36th round.

Biermann was the only player taken who has expended his eligibility.

Veneziano has signed with the Royals, and Wood, who led the Sun Belt Conference in walks and runs scored in 2019, has confirmed he will sign with the Pirates.

Wood, McKeon and CCU coach Gary Gilmore all expect Weisz and Skeels to sign pro contracts, though neither player could be reached for comment.

That leaves Wright, who said Saturday he is undecided. “I’m still negotiating with the Pirates about the signing bonus,” Wright said in a Twitter message. “I won’t know an answer for about a week, so I’m just waiting right now and I’m still undecided.”

Wright would be either a big loss or retention. He was named the 2019 Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year after joining CCU from Seminole State College. He was also named All-Sun Belt second team, Sun Belt All-Tournament team and NCAA Atlanta Regional All-Tournament team.

He led the Chants and was second in the Sun Belt in hitting at .355, led the Sun Belt in on-base percentage at .516 and was second in the league in walks with 45. He had 11 home runs, two triples, eight doubles, 49 RBIs, 57 runs scored and a .601 slugging percentage.

Gilmore would be thankful to have both McKeon and Wright return. Drafted players have until mid-July to sign.

“We’re optimistic both of those guys can radically improve their play being in the program another year and hopefully that’s what they see as well,” Gilmore said. “They are great kids and I’d sure love to have them back.

“. . . If one or two come back that would be incredibly nice and along with what’s coming in I think we have a chance to be pretty good.”

McKeon led the team and the Sun Belt in base hits with 87 in his only season with the team after joining from Brunswick Community College, and that is tied for 18th all-time in CCU’s single-season history.

He hit .340, which was second on the team, with three home runs, a team-high five triples, 18 doubles, 39 RBIs and 50 runs scored. He also posted a .484 slugging percentage and a .399 on-base percentage while starting all 63 games at shortstop and ended the season on a 12-game hitting streak.

“I think in terms of development as a baseball player for me, I think it was a better decision to go back to college and just get another year to just get stronger and faster and mature as a human being . . . and as a leader,” McKeon said.

CCU has lost its top high school recruit to pro baseball, as right-handed pitcher Michael Limoncelli of Horseheads High in New York was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the sixth round and has said he will sign.

The estimated signing bonus at his pick is $260,000 and Limoncelli’s agent negotiated with the Mariners prior to the draft, according to an article in the Elmira (N.Y.) Star-Gazette. He received Tommy John surgery on his right elbow from renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews on the day he was drafted.

“I’m just thankful and came to the realization that if they really want to invest in me and show me I’m an important piece of their staff, I’m going to take it,” Limoncelli told the Star-Gazette.

Only one incoming player from junior college was drafted. Nicholas Yoder, a right-handed pitcher from Rowan College at Gloucester County in New Jersey, was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 34th round.

“I hope he decides to come to school. I personally think it’s in his best interest,” said Gilmore, who coached Yoder’s father at USC Aiken. “The Yoder kid could really help us if he shows up. He could really help himself as well. I think he’s a guy that has top five-round talent that hasn’t been able to fully develop and enhance that talent to its fullest at this point. I’d love to have him if we can get him.”

Five junior college players will join the program if Yoder enrolls, according to Gilmore. He’d join Rowan teammate Alex Gattinelli, a catcher with power, outfielder Fox Leum of Minnesota and Brunswick Community College teammates catcher Hunter Ashburn of Shallotte, N.C., and lefthanded pitcher Josh Jarmon of Clayton, N.C.

“You don’t recruit a junior college guy to be a bench guy, you recruit a junior college guy to come in and play,” Gilmore said. “Those guys will be a huge shot in the arm for us.”

The Chants also have 16 incoming high school graduates, according to the Perfect Game USA baseball scouting service, which includes scholarship and walk-on players. Conway righthanded pitcher Will Smith is among them.

Coastal is losing nine seniors, counting graduates Cameron Pearcey, Austin Kitchen and Kyle Skeels. who all have a year of eligibility left, and will lose up to five more juniors to pro signings. Key returnees next season include McKeon, outfielders Parker Chavers and Jared Johnson, infielder Nick Lucky and a plethora of pitchers including Zach McCambley, Garrett McDaniels and Scott Kobos.

“We needed a fairly large class to get back to where we needed to be,” Gilmore said. ”Your new players coming in, those guys were recruited to take the place of a lot of these guys knowing several would get an opportunity professionally to move on. We’ll be young in a spot or two here and there but we’ll be very talented.

“Change is good in a lot of ways. You get a chance to work with new guys and continue to develop people. . . . and you’re very happy for your kids that have played one, two, three of four years, whatever it is for you that have gotten an opportunity to continue their career.”

Gilmore said he and his staff will attempt to help some of his seniors who weren’t drafted receive free agent invitations from MLB clubs, including outfielder Kieton Rivers and pitcher Matt Eardensohn, a preseason All-American.

2019 High School Recruiting Class

(According to the Perfect Game USA baseball scouting service)

PlayerPositionState
Jonathan BlackwellLHPWest Virginia
Will SmithRHPSouth Carolina
Casey GreenRHPVirginia
Eric BrownSSLouisiana
Zach Beach1BVirginia
Joe BeckerOFFlorida
Ryan CurranOFNew Mexico
Dylan EshSSPennsylvania
Nasir FrederickOFMichigan
Tanner GarrisonCSouth Carolina
Griffin HolcombeRHPGeorgia
J.T. KillenLHPNorth Carolina
Makenzie PateOFGeorgia
Brian PortSSGeorgia
Dale ThomasSSFlorida
Cooper Weiss3BFlorida
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