Many Carolina fans heard about Carlos Cortes in November of 2015 when he signed to play baseball for the Gamecocks. However, many thought he would head off to play professional baseball. From Oviedo, FL about 30 minutes outside of Orlando. Carlos stood out in high school playing in the 2015 Perfect Game All-American Classic and helped lead Oviedo high school to a 2015 State Championship. Even before Cortes was taken in the 20th round of the 2016 MLB draft by the Mets, he made it clear that he would be coming to Columbia in the fall.
Cortes came in competing for a starting spot. As an ambidextrous thrower with a swing that many said would translate to the next level. He shone through fall and spring scrimmages and received the number one SEC freshman classification from Baseball America. Cortes got off to a slow start for the Gamecocks batting just .230 through preseason play with only four RBI’s. Throughout his struggles Cortes still got the most at bats of any freshman with 36 and played in 14 games, starting in nine of them. Cortes kept swinging and taking advantage of every opportunity to get better. This constant effort prepared him for SEC play, and Cortes proved more than ready for the challenge.
After making just two appearances through the first six SEC games, Cortes made his first start in the SEC slapping three hits in the series opener against Auburn. He followed up the three hit performance with a two hit, five RBI showing including his first career home run, a grand slam. Cortes just continues working, starting nine games in 11 appearances and batting an eye popping .361 in SEC play and slugging and impressive .750. His four home runs leads the team during league play and he is just two RBI’s behind leader LT Tolbert (15). In the Mississippi State series Cortes crushed two home runs one of which broke the scoring drought, tying the game at 1, and helping the Gamecocks prevent the sweep on Sunday.
Where to put Cortes defensively remains the biggest question for the Gamecocks. Cortes can throw with both arms, playing the infield with his right and pitching and the outfield with his left. His 5’8 190lbs frame and 7.23 second 60 yd dash time leaves Cortes in no man’s land. He doesn’t have the size to play shortstop or first base, there is a worry about his range at second base, third base could work but his right arm isn’t natural (five MPH difference between his throws from the infield vs the outfield), and his speed leaves questions about his ability in the outfield.
Carlos Cortes looks to only get better for the Gamecocks. If he continues to tear up the SEC there is a chance he could become Carolina’s second straight freshman of the year (pitcher Braden Webb won in 2016). As the Gamecocks head into their toughest stretch of SEC play Cortes looks to bring some spark to the lineup. The Gamecocks take on Florida, Kentucky, and LSU in the next three weeks. The team also looks to bounce back from an 8-7 start in SEC play. Look for Cortes to be the face of the Gamecocks in the coming years.