With the 2020 Major League Baseball season previously in question because of COVID-19, the show goes on. Even though it's almost two-thirds of the way through the season, the shortened season still feels in full-swing. South Carolina’s baseball program has always sent players to the next level, and here are some of those players that are showing out in the 2020 season.
Jackie Bradley Jr. – Boston Red Sox
Jackie Bradley Jr., a fan favorite of the Gamecock and the Boston Red Sox fanbases, is continuing to perform at a high level in the pros. In the last 30 games, Bradley has put up a batting average of .238, .310 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage of .416.
Bradley Jr.’s future with the Red Sox has been uncertain since it is a contract season for him. Chaim Bloom, the chief baseball officer for the Boston Red Sox, cleared the air as the trade deadline was coming to a close Aug. 31.
“He’s been here for a long time, he means an enormous amount to this organization. For me personally, having not known him as long, I’ve still just come to regard him so highly and see what an incredible person he is. We know he’s a good player. We’d love to have him here for a long time. That was the case months ago, it was the case yesterday, it was the case today. That’s how we’ve always felt about Jackie,” Bloom said at a press conference.
Whit Merrifield – Kansas City Royals
Despite trade talks surrounding Whit Merrifield going into the trade deadline, the Kansas City Royals decided against trading the All-Star. So far this season, he has a batting average of .248, with 22 RBIs and seven home runs. Merrifield has been a dominant presence in the Kansas City dugout, especially after his position change from center field to second base.
The 2020 season seemed close to nonexistent in April, but when the 60-game schedule was announced, Merrifield said he was optimistic.
“I think we felt pretty good about our team going into the regular Spring Training. Knock on wood, the guys stay healthy, we navigate this [COVID-19] thing and keep guys on the field, I think we got a really good chance to do something cool,” Merrifield said at a press conference.
Justin Smoak – Milwaukee Brewers
Now a first baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers, the former Gamecock’s primary focus is at the plate. Justin Smoak’s numbers have gradually dropped in the past three years, and the differences of the 2020 season are not helping. This season, Smoak is batting with an average of .186, a .262 on-base percentage and a .381 slugging percentage.
Smoak said the lack of fans has affected his mental approach at the plate.
“With no fans in the stands, you’ve got to pump yourself up and get going and it’s something that’s not easy to do. As a group we’re trying to make those adjustments,” Smoak told the State Journal.
Smoak was designated for assignment on Sept. 3.
Jordan Montgomery – New York Yankees
In 2018, Jordan Montgomery had to step off the mound and get Tommy John surgery. After bouncing back, Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he was pleased with his return.
“I’m really proud of Monty, of where he’s at," Boone told New York Post. “Not only how he came in shape and ready to go in spring training, but clearly continued to work over the break and put himself in a great spot coming in.”
With 25 innings pitched and 22 strikeouts on the year, Montgomery has become a solid start for the Yankees and will be consistently up on the mound.
Clarke Schmidt – New York Yankees Organization
A right-handed pitcher, Clarke Schmidt was called up to the big leagues recently on Sept. 4. Schmidt had spent the last three seasons of his career in the minor league system of the Yankees organization recovering from Tommy John surgery. Schmidt made a name for himself during spring training earlier this year when he received the James P. Dawson Award, given to the best rookie of training camp.
Conner Montgomery, a second-year biology student and avid Yankees fan at South Carolina, said he believes Schmidt is the solution for the Yankees. He said calling up Schmidt could be valuable to the team's performance this season.
“There's been some shaky starts from the bottom of the starting pitching, so I'd say calling up Schmidt would help. The front of the bullpen would really be solidified and the back of the starting pitching would really be solidified going into the late season and the playoffs," Montgomery said.