**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Jenny Dilworth**
There have certainly been a lot of South Carolina baseball players selected in the MLB Draft over the years, but 2017 will be a particularly interesting draft for the Gamecocks.
This year's draft begins on Monday, and three South Carolina pitchers have an excellent shot of being drafted in the first five rounds. Despite needing Tommy John surgery during the season, ace Clarke Schmidt will likely be the highest Gamecock drafted. As of Friday, three different mock drafts had the junior being selected in the first round. If that holds true, Schmidt would be the first Gamecock drafted in the first round since Jackie Bradley Jr. was taken by the Red Sox in 2011.
Schmidt had a fantastic season for the Gamecocks prior to his injury, putting together a 4-2 record and minuscule 1.34 ERA in nine starts. Opponents batted just .194 against the righty.
Fellow weekend starter Wil Crowe will likely be the next South Carolina player selected, and he probably won't be too far behind Schmidt. Crowe has already been drafted twice by the Cleveland Indians, once coming out of high school and again after last season. If you're wondering, Cleveland does not have a first round pick this year, but they own two picks in the second round (64 and 71 overall). Could the third time be the charm for the Indians?
Crowe was consistent again this year, recording a 3.41 ERA in 15 starts for South Carolina. He struck out 90 batters in 92.1 innings pitched.
Last but not least, hard-throwing righty Tyler Johnson could be another player taken early in the MLB Draft. While he likely won't go in the first two or three rounds like his two teammates, Johnson is listed as the No. 97 prospect overall, according to MLB.com.
Johnson primarily served as the Gamecocks' closer over the past couple of years, racking up 19 saves over that time period. He has a high 90s fastball and struck out 40 batters in 26.1 innings pitched this season.
While the South Carolina pitching staff is receiving a lot of well-deserved attention, there are a couple of position players who could hear their names called as well. Chief among those is outfielder Alex Destino. The junior was high on a lot of draft boards after a sophomore season where he batted .321 with 10 homers and 59 RBI. He took a step back this season, however, batting .255 with 10 home runs and 41 RBI.
Infielders Madison Stokes and Jonah Bride are also eligible and could very well be drafted. Other pitchers to keep an eye on include John Parke, Brandon Murray and Colie Bowers.
There are several incoming recruits who could be drafted next week, which could throw a wrench in their decisions to attend school. Catcher Luis Campusano is ranked No. 42 overall by Baseball America. Pitcher Carmen Mlodzinski, shortstop Noah Campbell and outfielder Kyle Jacobsen are all top-200 prospects as well.
The first round of the 2017 MLB Draft begins at 7 p.m. on Monday evening. You can watch it on the MLB Network or follow along on MLB.com.