Columbia County has long been a baseball hotbed, and has produced a large number of college signees.
During the past 20 years, there have been many players who have gone on to successful careers.
However, the recent crop of talent in the area has raised the bar even higher.
The next few months will decide what happens when the amateur baseball draft rolls around in June, but it looks like this should be a special summer for Columbia County baseball.
The county has had plenty of draft picks throughout the years. Todd Greene was drafted three times before he finally signed with the California Angels as a 14th-round pick in 1993.
There have been some high draft picks, like Greenbrier products J.J. Johnson (fourth round by the Cubs in 2000) and Rich Poythress (second round by Seattle in 2009).
Well, all that success is great, but it likely will pale in comparison to the 2010 Major League Baseball draft. The county likely will have three players taken in the top 10 rounds, and each could go in the top five rounds if they perform well this spring.
In addition to the trio of high picks, there are a few other players who could add to what will surely be the biggest draft in county history.
Here is a look at the top Columbia County draft prospects heading into the 2010 season:
Jeff Rowland (Greenbrier, Georgia Tech) junior; center field
The fleet-footed Rowland was a draft-eligible sophomore a year ago and was taken in the 21st round by the Cleveland Indians. That says a lot, because most teams knew he was likely headed back to Georgia Tech for another season.
The fact that Cleveland still took a shot at him in the 21st round shows a lot about his talent. If he has another solid year at Tech, he probably will be gobbled up in the top 5-7 rounds, but will definitely be a top 10-round choice in June.
Brandon Cumpton (Greenbrier, Georgia Tech) junior; pitcher
While Cumpton has not had as much college success as Rowland, he is still a highly coveted pitcher. He had a solid summer, and an even better fall, which has thrust him into the top three rounds of the draft. He almost certainly will go no lower than top five as well.
Josh Whitaker (Augusta Christian, Kennesaw State) junior; first-third base
Injuries limited Whitaker to just 22 games last season, but his .379 batting average and 25 RBI showed his massive potential. At 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, he has the size to play a corner infield spot. If he can stay healthy and play like he is capable, he will join Rowland and Cumpton as first-day selections. With a big year he could move into the top five rounds.
Also, keep an eye on Nolan Belcher. The former Greenbrier star is only a sophomore at South Carolina, but like Jeff Rowland last year, Belcher is draft eligible.
He had a solid freshman campaign and with a good sophomore year could be picked. His draft status depends more on what he tells scouts. If he lets them know he is interested in signing, he might be picked. If he hints that he is coming back to Columbia, S.C., he most likely will be passed over.
A few junior college and high school players have a chance to be selected in June as well. Here are a few to keep an eye on.
Junior college prospects
Ryan Hutchins (Lakeside, Gordon Junior College)
The lefty came on big late as a senior at Lakeside, and he apparently is throwing even harder now -- topping out in the mid-90s. He should be a late- round pick.
Mitchell Knox (Greenbrier, Young Harris)
Knox has increased his velocity since his days at Greenbrier and he throws from the left side. He has an outside chance to be selected.
T.D. Davis (Greenbrier, Georgia Perimeter)
Davis has good size and power. He is another long shot for the draft, but with a big year that could change.
High school prospects:
Zach Hayden (Lakeside, pitcher)
Hayden emerged after a great workout at Best 9's recent showcase event as a possible draft pick, topping out at 90 mph. He is the top high school prospect for this year's draft.
Chad Farmer (Greenbrier, pitcher)
Farmer is another southpaw with an outside chance at the draft. He has been up and down as a prospect who needs a big year to have a chance at being selected. He has signed to play at Appalachian State.
Shawn McCain (Greenbrier, catcher/pitcher)
McCain signed to play at Western Carolina, but a big senior year could help him sneak into the draft. He is most likely headed to college.
Tevin Nelson (Evans, outfield)
Nelson's speed and athleticism are good. He is a long shot for the draft, and would need a monster year to get a look from the pro teams.
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