Jim Toman Breaks Down Baseball Signing Class

Associate Head Baseball Coach Jim Toman broke down the baseball class signed this week for Gamecock Anthem, telling us about each player in this outstanding class.

Toman serves as the recruiting coordinator for USC, and is recognized as one of the top recruiters in college baseball. The last two recruiting classes signed by the South Carolina program were ranked #1 in the country.

The NCAA prohibits coaches from discussing players who have not yet signed a letter of intent, so we did not discuss Justin Hopper, B.J. Hyatt, L.V. Ware, or Scott Wingo.

We asked Coach Toman to break down this latest class of 18 players for us, and here is what he had to say:

GA: You've already had back to back number one classes. Does this class have the potential to be ranked up there?

Toman: Well, on paper right now it's gonna be one of the top classes around. I don't know what everyone else is signing. It could be comparable, but we won't really know until August. There could be four or five guys we lose to the draft, and then we gotta scramble in June or July to find a couple more guys. It's way too early to say how good they're gonna be, but on paper it looks pretty good. Once we get all the national letters back, we'll have quite a few in-state prospects, so we're happy about the South Carolina kids.

Baseball does not have an annual scholarship limit like football does. We're only allowed to bring 25 in for visits, but you can sign as many as you want. But we have 11.7 scholarships to divide up amongst all our players, so a lot of guys are on small scholarships, from books (academic) scholarships - some are on two or three thousand - and then the out of state kids, they have a little bit more money because it costs a lot more money out of state.

Usually if you end up getting a group of let's say, for instance, if you sign fifteen, you lose three or four to the draft, and only end up getting ten or eleven. So, once we get all our national letters back, probably half of them will be drafted, and then you gotta figure out which ones you're gonna keep.

GA: Which players out of this class are going to be perceived as the stars?

Toman: Well, I'd like to say all of them are pretty good, but Kyle Greenwalt has the national recognition. He's been to all the national tournaments, Perfect Game showcases, and he's done well on a national stage. So he's probably the guy that has the most national acclaim. There's four or five others in the group that'll probably be drafted, and there's a couple that have already been drafted. But as far as a national type guy, a lot of the people nationally are aware of him.

GA: Is there anyone else that will really stand out in this class when the scouts are breaking down the numbers on them?

Toman: Well, we don't have a couple of them (letters-of-intent) back so I can't comment on them. There could be as many as four or five of the kids - I would say out of all the kids, we might end up with six or seven of them drafted. You just don't know who it's gonna be, you don't know who's gonna get better, and you don't know what the scouts think. You don't know quite how high they're gonna go.

The NCAA Coach Toman then told us about each of the players who have signed a letter-of-intent. Because of NCAA rules, he is not allowed to comment on those players whose LOIs have not yet been received.

Alex Burrell LHP 5'11 205 Fr. Landrum HS SC

Toman: Alex is a two time player of the year, I think his sophomore or junior year he was the player of the year, 1-A and he's a typical crafty lefty with a good breaking ball He's a mid 80's guy (speed of pitch), he's also I believe either the number 1 or number 2 student in the whole school. So he's got some academic money here as well as baseball money. So he's gonna be one of those left handers that's not a big-time pro prospect at this point, but he's just one of those lefty's that has a track record of getting guys out.

Will Casey LHP 6'1 170 Fr. Kennesaw Mountain HS GA

Toman: Will is a left hander from down in the Kennesaw Mountain High School in the East Cobb program. We saw him at the East Coast showcase. He can be anywhere from 85 all the way up to 90, depending on what day you see him, and he's got a really good breaking ball and change-up, but he's more right now a pitch ability lefty that can turn a fast ball in and out, has a really good breaking ball of change up, so he has a little bit of mound presence, and pitch ability about him.

Nick Cassidy OF 5'10 175 Fr. Hillcrest HS Simpsonville, SC

Toman: Nick Cassidy is an outfielder from Hillcrest High School who has been committed to us it seems like forever. He was in our camps as a youngster, and was hitting balls out in our camps, so we think he's an offensive outfielder.

Austin Gallagher 3B 6'5 225 Fr. Manheim Township PA

Toman: Austin Gallagher is a 6'5" 225 pound third baseman type. He's a left-handed hitter. He's played some outfield, and he's played some first base. He's actually pitched a little bit, but his kicking is his bat, big strong power guy. He's the kind of guy we like, we don't just try to hit singles at South Carolina, so we're hoping he can be another power bat for us. His dad played football and baseball, I believe, at Clemson, and played some pro baseball.

Kyle Greenwalt RHP 6'1 205 Fr. Souderton HS PA

Toman: Kyle Greenwalt is one of the top pitchers in the country, throws about 88 to 92. He has a really good curve ball, and has a bulldog mentality. I'm sure the first guy we'll see this spring. He's up there in Pennsylvania, and we're looking for him to step in and possibly be a rotation type guy for us (as a freshman.)

Heath Hembree RHP 6'3 190 Fr. Broome HS SC

Toman: Heath is actually a quarterback over there at Broome. He hurt his knee a couple weeks ago. He's probably gonna have surgery, but he's about 6'3"' 190 pounds, and he's been up to 89 on a gun and a pretty good breaking ball. He has a lot of projection to him. He throws pretty easy right now. We think when he concentrates fully on just baseball - he's always been a quarterback football guy - when he concentrates on just baseball I feel like he gonna come on and be guy that throws hard.

Keegan Linza RHP 6'5 225 Fr. North Rowan HS NC

Toman: Keegan Linza was in our camp a couple years ago, throwing 83 and 84 (mile an hour pitches) as a tenth grader. He was also a quarterback in high school; gave it up this year, and he looks like he's a guy that could be a sleeper in the class. He's coming on lately and has a pretty good slider, and he's so big, every bit of 6'5" 225, he looks like he might be an impact guy as a freshman as well.

Whit Merrifield INF/OF 6'0 165 Fr. Davie Co. HS NC

Toman: Whit is a second baseman, center fielder type of runner, a flyer, probably runs a 66, 67, good hitter and steals a lot of bases, knows how to drag butt and steal bases, and he's gonna be a table setter for us. His father was an all-American at Wake Forest and his father's name was Bill Merrifield, was a really really good shortstop for Wake Forest about 25 years ago.

Brandon Miller LHP 6'0 185 Fr. Emerald HS SC

Toman: Brandon Miller may be one of the top left handers in the state, and I think he was the two-way player of the year last year, if I'm not mistaken. He really works fast, throws strikes, and he's quality lefty. He's a guy that continues to get better. When we first saw him he was only 83 or 84, and reports have had him all the way up to 88 or 89 already. He's gained about fifteen pounds since the time I saw him last spring, and I think he's up to about 185 pounds. He's a guy that I think the scouts may be in to see as well. I saw him pitch in Greenville , and he's a little bit bigger now and stronger. He's a guy that got a lot of guys out in high school, struck a lot of guys out, and that's why he was the 2-way player of the year.

Tyler Musselwhite RHP 6'4 205 Jr. Chipola JC, FL

Toman: Tyler Musselwhite is a right handed pitcher, had a really good for Toccoa Junior College last year, and he's under control of the Atlanta Braves. He got drafted by the Braves last year and they'll have an opportunity to sign him before the draft, and if he doesn't sign, then he goes back in the draft. So we have to get over a couple humps with him with the pro people. But he has a really good breaking ball.

Steven Neff LHP/OF 6'0 185 Fr. Lancaster HS SC

Toman: Steven Neff is a two-way player. We're gonna use him as a left handed pitcher and an outfielder, and he's another guy that got a little bit bigger. He's up to about 6'2", 185, and has a chance to do both for us. He just had a good outing down at the Perfect Game thing, and he's another guy that the scouts will be looking at.

Jose Rodriguez OF 6'1 210 Fr. Hialeah HS, FL

Toman: Jose Rodriguez is a big outfielder. He's a power back. We saw him at the National tournament of the Perfect Game up there in Arkansas, and hit a couple out there with wood, so I'm hoping with aluminum he'll hit more than a couple out. He told me the other day he's up to about 6'2" 220, and he's just a strong, athletic looking kid that we're thinking is gonna be a leftfield-right field type guy, but the best thing about him is his power.

Richard Royal C 6'0 185 Fr. Terry Sanford HS, NC

Toman: Richard Royal is also a quarterback at Terry Sanford High School. He's a catcher. He's a switch hitter with a very good arm, and threw 19 - 195 down to second for me at the state games in North Carolina. His father was a good player at NC State, and he's a switch hitter. You don't get very many switch hitting catchers, and he's a very athletic for a catcher. He runs a 6 9. I think he stole 25 bases in high school. He's not your typical catcher that's slow - he's a pretty good athlete, so he'll be an athletic catcher that switch hits.

GA: One of the most popular players that Carolina has had since you and Coach Tanner have been there was a switch hitting catcher named Landon Powell. Do you think you've got another one on your hands?

Toman: Well, that would be wonderful. Landon ended up being a first round draft pick, and he made three straight trips to Omaha with us, so maybe Richard will bring the same results to the table. I hope so, anyway.

Ryan Wilkins OF 5'10 160 Jr. Spartanburg Methodist JC SC

Toman: Ryan Wilkins is a Centerfielder that can really run, and had a solid year as a Freshman for Spartanburg Methodist. He's a leadoff type guy that can flatten the ball, and a gap hitter that runs a six-seven in the sixty, so he'll be one of the fastest players in his class that we signed. So we're looking for him to fight for a job in centerfield next year, and he'll be a Junior with two years left to play.

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