Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
The USC Trojans watched two of their current players, and more up-and-coming prospects hear their names called in the 2013 MLB Draft last week.
Senior Adam Landecker was drafted in the 21st round, while James Roberts (15th round) grabbed the highest and only spot among active Trojan players.
For “Captain Clutch” Landecker, a four-year career in Southern California was filled with grit, determination and persistence. The senior ended his Trojan career with the team-leading .351 batting average, earning a spot on the All Pac-12 honorable mention team.
For James Roberts, who finished his junior season blasting a team-high four home runs and 28 RBI, the scouts are impressed with his approach at the plate. The biggest hindrance to his success in the majors, which may have held back his draft status, is his instability defensively and switching of positions throughout the season.
Roberts started the year at shortstop but quickly moved over to third beginning on March 12th against UCLA, once Blake Lacey emerged as a solid contributor. Roberts led the Trojans in errors this season while still improving his fielding percentage at third from last season.
The Trojans’ top prospects, Dominic Smith and J.P. Crawford, are two of the top players from Southern California and both were selected in the first round of the draft, highlighting a strong recruiting class for head coach Dan Hubbs and company.
Smith led the Serra Cavaliers –the home school of Marqise Lee and Robert Woods– to the CIF Division-III baseball title following a 25-5 season in the Del Rey League. The Division-III Player of the Year finished his senior season hitting .493 average and 37 RBI showing a plus-arm and strong opposite-field power bat.
Crawford is an explosive shortstop prospect with good feet and a plus-arm. The cousin of the Dodgers’ Carl Crawford, J.P. is blessed with tremendous speed, grabbing 17 stolen bases in his senior season. Crawford owns a smaller frame, but can move around the infield with grace and quick feet.
In a strong recruiting class, four more committed Trojans were also selected in the MLB Draft. Mater Dei star Ryan McMahon went to the Colorado Rockies with the 42nd overall pick. The third base prospect was named the MVP of the Scott Boras Classic and was the best player in the vaunted Trinity League. The two-sport star played a crucial role in the Monarchs 24-3 regular season and will most likely forgo his USC commitment.
The Trojans other second round pick, Riley Unroe, was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays with the 60th overall pick and signed with them on Wednesday. Unroe hit an outstanding .553 in his senior season and made huge strides in the Perfect Game National Showcase last summer. Unroe’s father, Tim, spent five years in the majors with Milwaukee, Anaheim and Atlanta.
Near the end of the draft, the final two future-Trojans heard their names being called. First baseman Rowdy Tellez from Elk Grove fell in the draft to the 30th round, and should make an immediate contribution to the ball club, as he’s expected to play college ball. Tellez has immense power from the left side, blasting nine home runs in his senior season, and could translate that power to the left-handed friendly confines of Dedeaux Field.
Jeremy Martinez was the final Trojans committ drafted (37th round) in the MLB Draft. Martinez, the high school teammate of Ryan McMahon, is a tad undersized behind the dish at 5-11, 195 pounds, but has shown some massive development as a catcher. The Mater Dei star took a major risk this season, hitting with wood bats for a majority of the year. The move helped improve his opposite field production by staying inside the baseball, earning all-conference honors.
Questions will loom surrounding many of the Trojans, most notably the future of James Roberts on the roster. The Trojans leading power hitter would certainly benefit from a full season at third base to develop his glove work, but at the same time, the prospects of significantly rising in the draft are slim for the Cupertino, Calif. native.
In terms of the up-and-coming draft class, Jeremy Martinez and Rowdy Tellez seem to be set to arrive in Los Angeles. Martinez had pro aspirations with a top-ten round grade following his junior year, so the temptation to go pro could still resonate with the catching talent.
That being said, the 37th round pick posted a certain draft value that he wanted in terms of cash, scaring away clubs from selecting him once he passed that mark.
The Trojans will return 16 true freshmen to the squad next season and would love to add as many of these top prospects as possible . Alongside an already “strong group of competitors” in the freshmen class, according to head coach Dan Hubbs, the Trojans return all three starters on the bump and seven starters on the diamond.
A roster that showed immaturity for stretches of last season will be one year older and more prepared for the rigors of Pac-12 play, looking to break an eight-year losing streak.