Will Sanders initially received a walk-on offer from the University of South Carolina after throwing a then-personal best 87 mph during a camp in the fall of his junior season of high school in 2018. He ultimately received a scholarship offer from South Carolina about eight months later.
The motivation and work ethic that led to Sanders receiving an NCAA Power Five offer has continued during his time at South Carolina. Over the last two years, he has developed into one of the top players in the country and a potential first-round pick in the 2023 MLB draft.
“It’s the coolest thing ever to see my development into a draft prospect,” Sanders said. “I don’t know if there are words for it. It is a blessing that I came here and have had such great coaches to help me get where I want to be. I feel great, and our team has a chance to be great.”
Sanders is a 6-foot-6, 225-pound right-handed hitter who throws five pitches from a three-quarters arm slot and a low-effort and repeatable delivery. His pitch repertoire consists of a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, changeup, slider and curveball.
The right-hander’s fastballs sit in the mid-90s, while his changeup is a solid mid-80s pitch that he tunnels well off his two-seamer. His slider shows solid shape and is a quality put-away pitch.
Sanders and South Carolina pitching coach Justin Parker have worked on his grips and overall pitch mix in his first two years in the program. Sanders plans on using all five pitches this spring, he said.
“The biggest strength is my ability to pitch to whoever is in the box,” Sanders said. “If it is a big, meaty hitter, I have the pitches to get him out, and if it is a small right-handed contact hitter, I can get him out. That is what I like is that I have the pitches to get anyone out. I have to execute them.”
Sanders wants to improve his delivery from last year. His focus is on making it smooth and consistent, which he believes will translate to more success and consistency with his pitches.
Last year, Sanders struggled at times with his control. He walked 3.1 batters per nine innings last season compared to 1.9 batters per nine innings as a freshman in 2021.
“The walks were a lot,” Sanders said. “But I have learned a lot over the last year. I need to be more stable in my legs and get over my left leg a little more and down the mound. If I do that, everything good will come. That is when outings will go a little longer, my fastball will have more ride, the breaking balls will have more depth, and my changeup will have a little more run.”
If Sanders can tighten up his delivery and pitches, he has the chance to take a step forward this spring. In his first two years, Sanders has primarily pitched in the starting rotation, posting a 3.97 ERA with 145 strikeouts and 42 walks allowed in 142 2/3 innings.
Sanders will play an important role on this year’s South Carolina team, which has high expectations after last season’s disappointing finish.
Last season, South Carolina posted a 27-28 record and missed the NCAA tournament. It was the second time in the previous three tournaments the Gamecocks failed to qualify for the tournament.
The Gamecocks will try to advance to an NCAA regional under sixth-year head coach Mark Kingston this season. They hope to return to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, for the first time since 2012, when they finished as the runner-up after winning it in back-to-back years.
“We have picked up a lot of good players in the offseason,” Sanders said. “The atmosphere around here is special. It is fun to be a part of, and it’s great our coaches went out and got those players. Everyone comes to work every day. It feels like a team, and we already have a winning mentality.”
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Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for eight years. He has interviewed 433 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com, The Arizona Republic and The Dallas Morning News, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.