As of this writing, RHP Griffin Roberts has a K/9 of 12.70. That’s slightly down from his 2017 peak (13.51), but still an elite mark for a starting pitcher. Also down from 2017 is his walk rate per nine: his 2017 (5.40) number has dipped to a far more palatable 3.38 here in 2018. That’s really good news. Most encouragingly, however, is the number seven. That’s exactly how many innings Roberts has averaged per start so far in 2018. He’s currently sitting at 56 innings in 8 starts. For a converted reliever trying to convince the baseball world he has the stuff and stamina to make it in a professional rotation, it’s hard to overstate how huge that seven really is.
Pitching deep into games is one thing; maintaining premium stuff, missing bats, and keeping runs off the board while doing so is an entirely different beast. So far in 2018, Roberts has done all that and more. The highly athletic 6-3, 210 pound righthander will enter the draft as one of this year’s surest things. His floor — late-inning relief weapon capable of going multiple frames as needed — is clearly evident with every low- to mid-80s breaking ball (more slider than curve) that darts by the opposition. That one pitch alone will lead to tons of success as a pro for Roberts. My mind goes right to a spectrum of bullpen outcomes that includes successful relievers like David Robertson, Greg Holland, AJ Ramos, Drew Storen, and Shawn Kelley. When paired with a sinking fastball at 88-94 MPH (96 peak), Robert’s one-two pitch combination goes to another level. Between those pitches, the aforementioned plus athleticism, and college track record of swings and misses, I could easily see Roberts continuing to start in pro ball. Predicting any young pitcher can remain in a rotation with only two pitches is admittedly a little out there — among qualified 2017 pitchers, only Chris Archer, Patrick Corbin, and Luis Perdomo threw a third pitch less than 10% of the time — but I think the way pitcher usage is evolving (namely how starters aren’t expected to go as deep) could allow Roberts to get away with it. He does have a third pitch — an 81-85 MPH changeup — that he has shown enough command of to think more work will get it to at least serviceable with daily pro instruction/repetition (this is where I should point out I’m bullish on the pitch developing into even more of that based on what I’ve personally seen, what I’ve heard, and what I’ll project thanks to Roberts’s elite athleticism and reported work ethic), so it isn’t as if there isn’t a building block for Roberts to begin.
If it all comes together for Roberts in pro ball as a starter, the name I keep coming back to as a potential comp, both as a draft day standard (42nd overall pick in 2009) and potential pro production arc (minus the injuries, hopefully) is Garrett Richards. Interestingly enough, Richards has been cited as a comp four times on the site over the past decade. Ashe Russell (Dayton Moore), Kyle Serrano (BA), Kyle Funkhouser (me), and Jonathan Gray (consensus) were all compared to Richards at one point or another. Toss out Serrano (injuries) as an outlier and you’ve got the 21st, 115th, and 3rd overall picks respectively. That comes out to around a 46th overall pick average, not too far off from where Richards once went. All of this is to say that I really, really like Roberts (hence the Richards starter comp, plus all those fun reliever comps) and think that if my totally non-scientific guess is anywhere close to accurate, Richards will wind up great value if picked anywhere from around pick forty on.
Quick quiz: RHP Rayne Supple has a) electric stuff, b) little to know idea where the ball is going once it leaves his hand, c) one of this year’s best names, or d) all of the above. His control has gotten better (14.09 BB/9 coming into the year) in 2018 (5.25 BB/9) to the point where we can now call it “effectively wild,” so that’s a big win for Supple’s draft stock. His brand of fastball velocity (88-94, 95 peak) and breaking ball quality (77-78 hybrid, flashes plus) is what teams look for in relief prospects. If pro ball doesn’t work out, there’s always the Novel Sport Mouthguard Device. According to the outstanding Wake Forest team site, Supple holds a United States design patent for that very product. Pretty cool.
LHP Tyler Witt has my full attention as another (we’ll get to some more later) Wake Forest pitching prospect who breaks the mold a bit. Typically when we think sinker/slider relief prospects, we think righthanded pitchers on the shorter end of the spectrum. Witt happens to be a 6-5, 215 pound lefthander. Count me as a big fan…or at least as big a fan as any one draft prospect writer can be of a middle reliever on a below .500 college team can be. For the record, it’s bigger than you’d think.
I hate the expression “it is what it is,” but damn if it doesn’t fit sometimes. Having seen him a bunch at Germantown Academy and one time in each two of the last three seasons at Wake Forest, I feel pretty confident in saying 3B/SS John Aiello is what he is. Aiello has above-average to plus power. Aiello has above-average to plus arm strength when healthy. Aiello has more feel for hitting than often given credit and is a good enough athlete to play above-average defense at the hot corner while being able to fake it at shortstop as needed. Those are all really great qualities to see in a young position player prospect. Aiello’s potential fatal flaw has always been his plate discipline. For all the natural hitting ability, Aiello strikes out a ton. Always has. His first two years at Wake Forest led to this: 29.7 K% and 8.8 BB%. The question scouts will have to answer is whether or not he always will. His early 2018 smaller sample numbers are encouraging: 23.0 K% and 11.2 BB%. His career to date totals look like this…
.287/.381/.527 – 28.1 K% and 9.4 BB%
.282/.374/.468 – 26.7 K% and 11.9 BB%
That’s Aiello on top. The numbers on the bottom belong to 2011 fourth round pick Bobby Dalbec. The two aren’t quite twins, but there are enough similarities in both the numbers and their scouting profiles to make you go “hmm.” I’d give Aiello the edge as a hitter and defender while Dalbec bests him in the power department and as a thrower. Dalbec holds small advantages in both K% and BB% cited above, though it’s worth repeating that Aiello is at least trending the right direction there. I wound up ranking Dalbec about one hundred spots lower (213) than Boston ultimately selected him (118), a decision I obviously stand by. That feels like a similar area where I’m likely to rank Aiello in this class, and I think around round seven or so is when his upside begins to start making sense on the risk/reward matrix every pick is run through. In much the same way I would have stayed away from Dalbec until a few rounds after he was actually selected, Aiello’s swing-and-miss would scare me from popping him too early. At some point, however, Aiello’s makeup, athleticism, and power would all be too much to ignore, strikeouts be damned.
SS/2B Bruce Steel, OF/1B Keegan Maronpot, and RHP Chris Farish are all still suspended indefinitely for violating athletics department rules. Without any more information than that, it’s very difficult to ascertain the extent of damage done to each player’s respective prospect stock. If it’s a dumb NCAA thing, then I’d venture most teams won’t care but for the loss of developmental time and scouting opportunities. If it’s something deeper, all bets are off. As is, I think Maronpot stands to lose the most. The senior .202/.293/.386 career hitter (33.3 K% and 10.3 BB%) was probably not going to get drafted anyway, but now whatever little shot you’d have given him before the year — disappointing numbers aside, Maronpot had a tiny shot as a good athlete with a pro build who can play all four of the corner spots — seems gone. That’s rough, but that’s the way life goes.
Pro ball will likely be inclined to be more forgiving to better prospects Steel and Farish. I’ve liked Steel for a while as a legitimate shortstop with above-average pop, speed, and arm strength. If the approach comes around, I think he can be a potential regular in the big leagues one day. If not, then his defensive versatility makes him a nice bet to get plenty of chances to make it as a utility infielder along the way. Farish has the size (6-4, 220), velocity (88-94, 96 peak), and breaking ball (an average or better 78-82 CB that morphed into a more dangerous mid-80s SL in 2017) to fit in a big league bullpen one day. A 12.98 career K/9 certainly doesn’t hurt the cause. Best not to mention his career 9.47 BB/9, though, since we’re already mentioning it, it’s worth pointing out he did at least drop it down to 4.43 in his 18.1 innings last season. Baby steps.
Circling back to the question about who gets hurt the most by these suspensions, I’ll stick with Maronpot as the answer because going from maybe drafted to definitely not drafted has to sting in a special kind of way. However, thinking this over a bit has me believing that all three guys are really going to get hurt by this. Steel and Farish are both talented prospects who had a ton to prove this spring. Being unable to do so on the field is a killer for their long-term chances at pro success. I would have boldly guessed that Steel could have played his way into the top five rounds as one of the country’s best shortstop prospects and Farish would have been a stone cold mortal lock to be a true senior-sign that saves a team money in the top ten rounds while also being a damn good prospect in his own right. With both being out of sight and out of mind this spring, I honestly have no idea how pro teams will consider them come June.
2B Jake Mueller is a good athlete who can both defend and hit. If a team talks themselves into his potential on the left side of the infield as well, then he has a shot to get drafted higher than most think as a potential backup infielder. Even if that’s not the case — I’ve heard his arm would be too far stretched at short and third — he’s still a damn intriguing second base prospect. That may be an oxymoron to some, but not for me. C Logan Harvey is a good enough defender to work himself into the 2019 senior-sign mix.
SS/OF Patrick Frick is very high on my list of players I know little about but want to learn everything about this upcoming summer. OF/SS DJ Poteet and OF Chris Lanzilli seem like interesting follows for 2020. Same goes for 1B Bobby Seymour. LHP Carter Bach is a really weird prospect in that he’s a lefty who relies more on good offspeed stuff than premium fastball velocity (88-92) yet is still ridiculously wild. Like, if RHP Colin Peluse was that wild then it would make a little more sense. Big righthanders with big fastballs (Peluse is up to 95) fit that high velocity/high walk rate pitching prospect archetype more easily in my brain, but it’s very much not the case here. RHP Morgan McSweeney gets us closer to said archetype, but is too good to get stuck with that tag. Any narrative you want to attach to it, the Demon Deacons have a nice foursome (the aforementioned three plus RHP Rhyse Dee) of sophomore arms to build on.
JR RHP Griffin Roberts (2018)
rSR RHP Chris Farish (2018)
JR RHP Rayne Supple (2018)
JR LHP Tyler Witt (2018)
JR 3B/SS John Aiello (2018)
rJR SS/2B Bruce Steel (2018)
JR 2B Jake Mueller (2018)
JR C Logan Harvey (2018)
SR OF/1B Keegan Maronpot (2018)
SO LHP Carter Bach (2019)
SO RHP Colin Peluse (2019)
SO RHP Morgan McSweeney (2019)
SO RHP Rhyse Dee (2019)
SO OF Nick DiPonzio (2019)
SO SS/OF Patrick Frick (2019)
SO SS/3B Chase Mascolo (2019)
SO OF Christian Long (2019)
FR RHP/1B Cole McNamee (2020)
FR LHP/OF Jared Shuster (2020)
FR C/RHP Shane Muntz (2020)
FR OF/LHP Michael Ludowig (2020)
FR OF/SS DJ Poteet (2020)
FR OF Chris Lanzilli (2020)
FR 1B Bobby Seymour (2020)
If you’re looking for a quality senior who has fallen through the cracks a little, then RHP Connor Coward might just be your guy. He may get dinged by the scouts for a lack of big velocity (88-92, 93 peak) and less than ideal size (6-0, 200). He may get dinged by the analytics side for not being a big-time college performer (5.23 career ERA). I think he makes up for the lack of fastball/size with a full assortment of intriguing offspeed pitches including an above-average low-80s breaking ball (plus upside), an average mid-80s change, and an emerging cutter. I also think he makes up for the lackluster college stats by trending in the right direction — admittedly not out of the ordinary for any soon-to-be 22-year-old senior — in all the relevant public facing metrics (he’s posting career bests in ERA, K/9, BB/9, BAA). All in all, Coward’s stuff and performance should be enough to get him a chance in pro ball.
RHP Nic Enright throws a little harder (88-92, up to 94) with a quality changeup, pro size (6-3, 215), and a little more youth (or, put another way, a little less experience) on his side (redshirt-sophomore). RHP Andrew McDonald fits somewhere in between Coward and Enright. He’s always missed bats, but it’s taken until his redshirt-senior season before showing he can keep runs off the board. Is that just a 23-year-old doing his thing against younger competition or has the big (6-6, 240) righty with decent stuff (90-93 FB, usable SL and CU) turned a corner? It’s likely the former, but lesser arms get drafted late every year so I wouldn’t count McDonald out.
RHP Joey Sullivan is a sinker/slider reliever with enough to warrant an honest pro look. I’ve long been a fan of RHP Luke Scherzer, an easy guy to root when you consider the hard work and dedication needed to get back on the mound after two full seasons away. I’m not sure pro ball is in the cards for him considering the many red flags (injury history, Short Righthander Bias, underwhelming results) he’ll have to confront in draft rooms, but, if healthy, he deserves a shot. His stuff at his best — 88-93 FB, 80-81 SL with above-average promise — is solid.
Both C Joe Freiday and C Luke Horanski are intriguing college backstops in a class in need of them. Freiday has a long track record of flashing power and athleticism, but his size (6-4, 240 and hacktastic ways (23 BB/110 K coming into the year) cast some doubt about both his future behind the plate and standing next to it. He’s still striking out too much (20.0 K%), but nowhere near the 30%+ rate of recent years. He’s also walking a touch more (10.0%). If you believe in him defensively, then Freiday deserves a spot in any conversation about top senior-sign catchers. Horanski, a transfer from Creighton, has gotten off to a great start in 2018. The big Canadian mashed last season at Cisco JC, so it’s not like there isn’t some track record beyond his hot small sample start this year. I’m sufficiently intrigued. If you can catch, you’re a prospect. If you can catch and hit a little bit, you’re a candidate for the top ten rounds.
2B Jack Owens has been hit by a pitch in 5.9% of his collegiate plate appearances. He’s also a career .342/.430/.479 hitter in 390 PA between his time at East Carolina (all two games there) and Virginia Tech. I don’t have much on him in the way of scouting notes, but those are certainly the type of offensive numbers that will get you noticed. SS Nick Owens (no relation) is a steadying presence in the middle infield with just enough offensive skills (little pop, little patience) to fit as a late round prospect this year or senior-sign next year.
OF/LHP Tom Stoffel is one of my favorite college players. He’s been a productive two-way player going back to 2014 (note: I’m old) topping out with last year’s magnificent redshirt-junior season. For all that college success, however, it is difficult to imagine a path to the big leagues for him. Still, there are worse org guys to bring into the fold with a late round pick or undrafted free agent contract.
1B/3B Sam Fragale has real power but an even realer swing and miss problem. The latter keeps the former from making him much of a prospect. JR OF/1B Stevie Mangrum‘s coach has compared him (via D1) to Marty Costes. That’s…no. I can appreciate a coach pumping up his own guy and there may even be some similarities from a body type and/or tools standpoint, but Mangrum has one walk to nineteen strikeouts so far in 2018. That puts his three year total at 15 BB/71 K. Costes is at 75 BB/105 K. Even if the two were physical clones that gap in plate discipline is too much for Mangrum to overcome to be anything but a “wait-and-see” 2019 potential senior-sign for me. That doesn’t sound great, I’ll admit, but there are still worse things to be at this point in the draft process.
SR RHP Connor Coward (2018)
rSO RHP Nic Enright (2018)
rSR RHP Andrew McDonald (2018)
SR RHP Joey Sullivan (2018)
rSR RHP Luke Scherzer (2018)
JR LHP/1B Paul Hall (2018)
rSR OF/LHP Tom Stoffel (2018)
rJR 2B Jack Owens (2018)
rSR 1B/3B Sam Fragale (2018)
JR OF/1B Stevie Mangrum (2018)
rJR C Luke Horanski (2018)
rJR SS Nick Owens (2018)
SR C Joe Freiday (2018)
SO RHP Dylan Hall (2019)
rFR RHP Connor Yoder (2019)
SO RHP Graham Seitz (2019)
SO 1B JD Mundy (2019)
FR LHP Ryan Okuda (2020)
FR LHP Ian Seymour (2020)
FR RHP Gavin Hinchliffe (2020)
FR OF Darion Jacoby (2020)
RHP Evan Sperling – good but wild
RHP Derek Casey – good, not wild
I’ve done this bit before, but I like it enough so I’m doing it again. Those were my placeholder notes on RHP Evan Sperling and RHP Derek Casey designed to serve as a jumping off point for a larger discussion about each young Virginia pitcher. If you’re not into a couple hundred words on each guy, then those quick synopses should work. If you want more…
Both Sperling and Casey were lumped together in my notes because they are both good (as one can plainly read in the exhaustive notes written above) and coming off of Tommy John surgery. Clever, right? Both guys also took their tags far more to the extreme last season than this current one. Sperling (“good but wild”) missed bats (10.34 K/9) but walked a ton of guys (7.05 BB/9) in his 38.1 shaky (7.51 ERA) innings. Casey (“good, not wild”) was good (3.79 ERA in 71.1 IP) and not wild (2.65 BB/9), but didn’t show quite the same strikeout stuff (7.32 K/9). Literally everything (outside of Casey’s slightly higher ERA, but there’s so much noise with these small sample ERA’s that I don’t sweat it) is better this year. Strikeouts are up (13.53 K/9 for Sperling, 12.06 K/9 for Casey) and walks are down (4.06 BB/9 for Sperling, 2.11 BB/9 for Casey). Weaknesses are shrinking and strengths are growing. Really can’t ask for much more than that.
Of course, looking up the stats is easy. Important, sure, but easy. You probably come here for the scouting reports, such as they are. Sperling has premium size (6-6, 215) and velocity (a wide range of 87-94 depending on health and role, but up to 96 in short bursts is eye-catching no matter what) with an average to above-average mid- to upper-70s breaker that goes between a curve and slider. He’s shown enough proof of a changeup existing in the past that keeping him in the rotation isn’t out of the question in pro ball. If that works, there’s enough here to be a big league starting pitcher. If not, Sperling’s stuff and effectively wild ways would play well in the bullpen. Casey, the more athletic of the two, can’t quite match that size (6-1, 200) or arm strength (though I have him up to 94-95 in the past, he was more 85-90ish in his return last season) but comes with a more pro-ready changeup (average or better) and a soft mid-70s curve that flashes average in its own right. Increased velocity — which may have already happened since, full disclosure, I don’t have anything from 2018 on him yet — would increase his ceiling, though I think the profile still makes a ton of sense as a backend big league starter if it all works out.
How does a 6-4, 200 pound lefthander with enough fastball (85-92, 94 peak) and a wide assortment of quality offspeed pitches (above-average 76-84 CU, average 75-83 CB, above-average 82-86 cut-slider) only miss 5.24 batters per nine in their sophomore season? I don’t know, but maybe LHP Daniel Lynch can fill us in one day. I’d only think to ask because those low strikeout numbers are but a thing of the past. As of this writing, he’s sitting at a far more fitting 10.45 K/9 through six starts. All is right in the world again. I like Lynch a lot as a potential big league starting pitcher. This year’s Virginia squad may be struggling by their admittedly high standard, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t like a ton of their pitching prospects.
LHP Bennett Sousa had a K/9 of exactly 12 last year in 33 innings pitched. Bennett Sousa has a K/9 of exactly 12 (as of this writing*) in 21 innings pitched this year. There should be no at this point that Sousa has the ability to miss bats. Limiting free passes? Now that’s an open question. As is whether or not his good yet not great stuff — namely a fastball between 88-92 MPH (94 peak) and a low-80s slider with promise — will continue to help him pile up strikeouts in the pros remains to be seen. The good news is the likely draft capital needed to find out what you really have in the senior lefthander figures to be well worth the risk. That’s a nice way of saying Sousa, though equipped with that low-90s heat and strong collegiate strikeout rate, figures to fall long enough on draft day to be considered good value when he’s eventually selected.
*Now that’s I’ve gone back to finish this and post it, I see his K/9 is up to 12.38 in 24 IP. I could just make the change in the original sentence, but let me have this little bit of cheap narrative heat. Also, for the sake of completeness, Lynch’s K/9 is up to 11.11 after his seventh start.
RHP Chesdin Harrington fits the polished lefty with an upper-80s fastball and above-average changeup player archetype like a glove. That glove, however, actually goes on Harrington’s left hand, so maybe we need to rethink the handedness requirement for this particular archetype. A healthy Harrington, who is currently on the shelf with a bum elbow, is a draft-worthy talent even without premium velocity. An injured one may be tougher to wrestle away from such a good school, especially if he has two years of eligibility remaining as expected. LHP Riley Wilson missed a lot of bats (12.95 K/9) while also missing the strike zone a lot (6.78 BB/9) in his 14.2 innings last season. The upper-80s lefty will probably have to come back for a senior season in 2019 to get more draft notice, though getting innings in an ever-crowded Cavalier bullpen is easier said than done. The same path seems likely for RHP Grant Donahue, a sinker/slider relief prospect that could work himself into the 2019 senior-sign mix if everything breaks right.
Injuries are the worst. OF/RHP Cameron Simmons was poised for a fantastic draft season, but a serious shoulder injury will wipe away his entire junior year. How big a blow is this to the top of this June’s draft? Those who have seen Simmons more than I have were adamant that he was ready to flip his 23 BB/40 K from last season all the way around as a junior. An athlete like Simmons who can run, throw, and hit for power with a cleaned up approach at the plate? That’s a potential first round sleeper. Alas, we’ll either have to wait a year for him to try it all again or see if a team that has really done its homework can draft him in a spot high enough to buy him out of those last two years of collegiate eligibility.
OF Jake McCarthy managed to get thirteen games in before going down with an injury of his own. A bum wrist has kept him out of the lineup since early March, though he could be in line to return before the close of the current month. Jake’s older brother Joe was a ridiculous steal by Tampa as a fifth round pick back in 2015. I don’t think Jake was going to fall that far and I still wouldn’t be surprised to see him taken earlier than that if deemed signable this spring. McCarthy is a legitimate four tool (only a lousy arm holds him back) potential impact player. He may never quite give you star-level offensive production, but his game-changing speed and above-average center field range should make him a potential regular regardless. I’ve been told “Kevin Kiermaier without the arm” as one frame of reference for McCarthy that makes some sense. I’m not about to project him as that kind of defender — those types of center fielders are rare — but I think it’s smart to think of McCarthy as being part of the larger Kiermaier, Pillar, Dyson, Bourjos, Inciarte, and Gentry prospect genus. There’s a wide range of ability within that group, so maybe putting him with all those guys doesn’t tell you as much as you’d like…but it’s better than nothing, at least as a starting point.
3B/1B Nate Eikhoff is easy to like as a steady bat who can hold his own at the hot corner. The lack of power and no clear carrying tool makes him tough to love. If teams think he can play up the middle at all, then his stock as a potential utility player goes up. That’s where 2B/SS Andy Weber is. Weber is a good athlete and capable defender at all of the infield spots. There might be just enough bat to work himself into regular time up the middle, but the strong backup infielder floor is intriguing enough if it doesn’t. If I was a little bolder, I’d make the same call for 2B Jack Gerstenmaier. From a tools standpoint, he’s rock solid: average or better hit tool, defense at second, and speed. It’s the lack of at bats and time away from the game hurts him. Also working against him is present unknowns about his ability to play effective defense anywhere but the keystone. If he can, then you can put Gerstenmaier and his 113 career at bats in your folder of deep deep deep long shot sleeper prospects. 3B/2B Justin Novak interests me more as a potential catcher conversion project than anything else. His bat is light, but there’s enough defensive versatility (experience at second, third, short, and catcher) to potentially get him a shot as a “seat filler” in pro ball. It’s not glamorous work, but somebody has to do it.
I still believe in OF/3B Charlie Cody as a potential big league player, but I can admit my conviction in that belief has been shaken quite a bit over the past calendar year. His early season power loss is notable as is the decreased likelihood he’ll get a shot to keep playing third base at the next level. A third baseman with power? Sign me up. A corner outfielder currently rocking a .026 ISO? Hard pass. I have a long enough memory to not totally bail on the Cody bandwagon — after all, I am the guy who had Cody as a fourth round value last year and one ranked him as a top five third base prospect coming out of high school — but I’ll admit it is getting a little lonely on this ride.
It appears I may have jumped the gun in busting out the HBP% stat on Notre Dame infielder Nick Podkul last week. C Caleb Knight may just be the one true king of getting hit by very fast baseballs after all. My rough math (as of this writing) has him at a whopping 9.6% career HBP rate. That is absolutely insane. If you include his two years at junior college (thus increasing the sample to an even meatier 697 collegiate PA), that figure drops down to a still wild 6.6%. No matter how you look at it, Knight knows how to take a pitch off the body like very few ballplayers before him. It’s worth noting that the Virginia catcher’s approach at the plate includes more than just “wait until something gets close and lean it.” Knight has a career 42 BB/43 K mark over two seasons as a Cavalier. With a little bit of pop to go with that, there’s enough offensively working for Knight that he could carve out a long career as a minor league catcher with a shot to one day reach the big leagues as a backup if you buy into his defense behind the plate.
As excited as I am about what RHP Bobby Nicholson and LHP Andrew Abbott have shown so far this year, I’m almost that nervous about the offensive future of the Virginia program. It’s tough to look too far ahead, but there isn’t a ton for me to get excited about offensively here. There’s certainly a lot of pressure on guys like SS/3B Tanner Morris and SS Andrew Papantonis to help prop up the offensive future of the team.
rSR RHP Mack Meyer (2018)
SR LHP Bennett Sousa (2018)
rJR RHP Derek Casey (2018)
JR LHP Daniel Lynch (2018)
rSO RHP Evan Sperling (2018)
JR RHP Grant Donahue (2018)
JR RHP Chesdin Harrington (2018)
rJR LHP Riley Wilson (2018)
JR OF/RHP Cameron Simmons (2018)
rSO OF Jake McCarthy (2018)
SR 3B/2B Justin Novak (2018)
SR C Caleb Knight (2018)
JR C Cameron Comer (2018)
JR 3B/1B Nate Eikhoff (2018)
JR 2B/SS Andy Weber (2018)
JR OF/3B Charlie Cody (2018)
SR 2B Jack Gerstenmaier (2018)
SO RHP Bobby Nicholson (2019)
SO RHP Noah Murdock (2019)
SO C Drew Blakely (2019)
SO SS Cayman Richardson (2019)
SO OF Jalen Harrison (2019)
FR RHP Griff McGarry (2020)
FR LHP Andrew Abbott (2020)
FR RHP Kyle Whitten (2020)
FR LHP Robb Adams (2020)
FR SS/RHP Devin Ortiz (2020)
FR SS Andrew Papantonis (2020)
FR 1B/OF Alex Tappen (2020)
FR OF Christian Hinka (2020)
FR C Brendan Rivoli (2020)
FR SS/3B Tanner Morris (2020)
You could forgive SS Liam Sabino for struggling some in his redshirt-junior season at Pitt after accumulating only 68 AB in his previous three seasons coming into this one. I mean, you could…but you don’t have to. Sabino is hitting a team leading .345/.464/.678 through 110 PA so far in 2018. That’s good. He’s also 13/14 stealing bags and playing quality defense. That’s also good. In less good news, Sabino’s 30.9 K% is as bright a red flag as you can find for an otherwise good looking hitting prospect. This got me thinking….and not just that I really could use a thesaurus. I wish I had the time and data skimming ability to find out for sure, but it certainly seems like Sabino ranks at or near the top of this year’s Three True Outcomes college leaderboard. My very quick search at least puts him in the exclusive (and admittedly very silly) 20/30/7 club. That would be BB/K/HR for those scoring at home. Other members include Kevin Woodall, Nick Ames, and Seth Lancaster. Anyway, if we add Sabino’s K% with his high BB% (18.2) and seven homers (6.4% of his PA) then we see he’s whiffing, walking, or walloping in 55.5% of his total plate appearances. That puts him squarely in Sano/Judge territory and in the same zip code as Gallo. Of course, all of those guys are doing it in the MLB and not the ACC, but you get the idea. So in Sabino we have a Three True Outcomes star, a transfer from Vanderbilt (never a bad thing when they’ve recruited you), an above-average runner and athlete, and a capable enough defender to stick at shortstop (or, at worst, not slide down the defensive spectrum too far). This is a really, REALLY intriguing prospect. The strikeouts keep me from going all-in on Sabino as a prospect (though I’m close…), but as a draft curiosity he’s second to none.
SS/2B David Yanni is a really interesting young hitter who is likely to use at least one of his two remaining years of eligibility. Admittedly, Yanni’s numbers are what I find most interesting about him considering my present scouting notes on him are sparse. 1B/3B Nick Banman has size and power but also strikeouts and dangerously low contact rates. Unfortunately, the latter is too much to make the former worthwhile as a draft prospect.
Quality stuff, low- to mid-90s velocity, more than enough strikeouts, and questionable control. Now you know about RHP RJ Freure, RHP Blair Calvo, and RHP Derek West. Each guy obviously brings his own individual strengths and weaknesses to the mound, but that’s still the general gist.
RHP RJ Freure is the shortest at 6-1, 200 pounds, and the easiest to project to pro ball. He’s a reliever, he’s always been a reliever, he has the delivery and lack of a third pitch to remain a reliever, and he’s really good at being a reliever. If Freure can soften some of the rough edges around his game (namely his control, or lack thereof) then it’s not much of a stretch to imagine his deceptive low-90s heat continuing to pile up swings and misses in the pros. Much of that also applies to RHP Derek West, though his build (6-5, 225 pounds) and more diverse offspeed repertoire (cutter, curve, change) at least gives him some hope of transitioning to the rotation as he gains more experience. That last part is another big difference between him and Freure: West is a redshirt-sophomore coming off of two straight seasons lost due to injury while Freure is a draft-eligible true sophomore based on age with over fifty extra college innings to his name. West also has a couple extra present ticks of velocity (up to 95) working for him.
Then there’s RHP Blair Calvo, who is sort of a mix between the two. He’s got an up-and-down track record on the mound (very good year in junior college in 2016, missed all of 2017 coming back from Tommy John surgery) that combines the past of both Freure and West (more or less) with velocity (also up to 95) and a depth of secondary stuff (average slider, occasional curve and change) to match West. His size (6-3, 200) puts him smack dab in the middle of the two. Interestingly, Calvo has started seven games so far but has only gone 24.1 innings. West has a similar ratio of starts (4) to innings pitched (14.1). It’s still kind of early in the season so maybe there’s nothing to it, but it sure seems like a potential hint that the bullpen is where all three of these guys will wind up in the pros. Assuming that’s the case, I’d rank them Freure, Calvo, and West.
I don’t have much on RHP Matt Pidich, but the 2018 results to date speak for themselves. I’m intrigued to find out more about him, though I’ll admit that the clock is ticking mighty fast as we approach early June. There may not be enough time left to circle back. Hopefully pro teams do a better job than me investigating how Pidich is doing what he’s doing because he deserves some notice. RHP/OF Yaya Chentouf has been good on the mound in the past, but it took until this year for his peripherals to catch up. Now that he’s striking out a batter per inning, the small (5-9, 190) yet highly athletic Chentouf becomes far more appealing. There’s no denying his arm strength (up to 94). That should lead to some fun conversations in draft rooms come the late rounds. “He’s up to 94,” he says. “Yeah, but he’s 5-9,” they’ll counter. In a battle of You Can’t Teach Natural Arm Strength vs Short Righthanders are the Worst, who will win the day?
SO RHP RJ Freure (2018)
rJR RHP Blair Calvo (2018)
rSO RHP Derek West (2018)
rSR RHP Matt Pidich (2018)
SR RHP TJ Pagan (2018)
JR RHP/OF Yaya Chentouf (2018)
rJR SS Liam Sabino (2018)
rSR OF Frank Maldonado (2018)
rSO SS/2B David Yanni (2018)
JR OF Connor Perry (2018)
SR 1B/3B Nick Banman (2018)
rSR C Caleb Parry (2018)
SO RHP Dan Hammer (2019)
SO RHP Chris Gomez (2019)
rFR LHP Peyton Reesman (2019)
SO 2B Alex Amos (2019)
SO OF Nico Popa (2019)
FR LHP Chris Cappas (2020)
FR OF Ron Washington (2020)
I’m a big fan of OF/RHP Matt Vierling, though I think it’s time we put the pitching side of his game to bed. Vierling’s stuff — 88-92 FB (up to 94) with a nasty (occasionally) hard cut-slider — should be good enough to make him a viable two-way performer, but the results simply haven’t been there on the mound. Thankfully, Vierling can really hit. And run. And throw. The well put together 6-3, 200 pound athlete has above-average speed, a strong arm befitting a part-time pitcher, and enough range to dabble in center. It’s easy to put a backup outfielder — a good one, to be fair — ceiling on him and call it a day, but I’m not ready to rule out Vierling as being skilled enough to play regularly if the power plays in the pros.
3B/2B Nick Podkul is really appealing as a bat-first utility type who can play just about every defensive spot but catcher and short. He’s steady but not spectacular at multiple positions with enough of a power/patience blend to potentially profile as a regular if his hot hitting to start 2018 is for real. I’ve been burned by Notre Dame infielders before, but am happy to go back to the well one more time with Podkul. No mention of this Notre Dame infielder is complete without bringing up his propensity for getting plunked. Quick math has Podkul’s career college HBP% at 5.4. That would put him second all time in ML history (1921 on) behind Brandon Guyer, who is now sitting at 5.8% for his career. Lots of black and blue for the guy in blue and gold.
2B/SS Cole Daily doesn’t have quite the same track record of hitting (or getting hit) as Podkul, but his 2018 has been really good so far. He holds the edge over his infield mate when it comes to athleticism and ability to play a credible shortstop, neither of which being a small thing when it comes to forecasting success of likely bench players.
OF Eric Gilgenbach is a small sample three-true-outcome poster boy who is more interesting to me than he probably ought to be. We’ll wait to check back on him until we get closer to the 2019 draft.
LHP Scott Tully hits all the undersized pinpoint command/plus control lefty archetype boxes without having the pinpoint command/plus control.
rSR LHP Scott Tully (2018)
SR RHP Charlie Vorscheck (2018)
JR OF/RHP Matt Vierling (2018)
JR 3B/2B Nick Podkul (2018)
JR 2B/SS Cole Daily (2018)
SR OF Jake Johnson (2018)
JR OF Eric Gilgenbach (2018)
rSO OF Eric Feliz (2018)
JR 3B Jake Singer (2018)
SR OF Alex Kerschner (2018)
SO RHP Zack Martin (2019)
SO RHP Anthony Holubecki (2019)
SO RHP Cameron Junker (2019)
SO RHP Andrew Belcik (2019)
SO LHP Cameron Brown (2019)
SO RHP Patrick McDonald (2019)
SO 1B/OF Daniel Jung (2019)
FR RHP Joe Boyle (2020)
FR RHP Brian Morrell (2020)
FR LHP Tom Sheehan (2020)
FR LHP Tommy Vail (2020)
FR LHP Brandon Knarr (2020)
FR OF Niko Kavadas (2020)
FR C David LaManna (2020)
FR 1B/LHP Cole Kmet (2020)
FR 3B Jared Miller (2020)
You wait and you wait and you wait for a player to take that next step, and then it finally happens and it’s hard to know how to react. OF Brett Kinneman always had the tools to be an early round prospect, but it took until this spring to see the total package of power, patience, and athleticism begin to show up on a nightly basis. Kinneman’s improved selectivity at the plate has helped him not only to get on base more and strikeout less (duh) but also do more damage with the pitches he knows he can drive. Defensively, he can fake it in center but is best in a corner. That was a small albeit fair concern coming into the year, but his jump in offensive production now makes his long-term defensive home less of an issue. If he continues to rake, Kinneman will be looked at as a potential everyday option in either left (most likely) or right (if you believe in his arm as I do). There’s still the risk that comes from any bat-first prospect, but Kinneman’s athleticism, speed (average), and arm (average) are all good enough that he should provide some value even if his offensive game backslides a touch.
That same leap hasn’t happened for the ultra-toolsy OF Brock Deatherage. There’s no denying his speed, arm, and range in center, but counting on him to hit more than what you’d want out of a fifth outfielder seems like a stretch. There’s no real kind way of saying it, but his approach is simply a mess. The preferred senior-sign contender in the NC State outfield is OF Josh McLain, an athlete with many of the same strengths as Deatherage (speed, range, pop) but without the same arm strength. That one negative is more than made up for with a superior approach at the plate. I’m not sure the ceiling is much more than org guy/fifth outfielder, but pro ball needs org guys/fifth outfielders so he’ll get his shot.
1B Evan Edwards is slick around the bag and powerful at the plate. A “better, more athletic” Jake Adams (sixth round pick out of Iowa last year) was one way he was described to me. Edwards has certainly impressed in the early going and is now firmly in the top ten round power bat conversation. Contact remains an issue for SR 1B/OF Shane Shepard, but his power and patience are strong enough to make him a viable late round draft prospect even as his average hovers around the .250 mark. It was a minor upset to see 2B Stephen Pitarra return to Raleigh for his senior season. I had thought his mix of defensive versatility and just enough offensive skill would get him an early shot in pro ball. He now needs to get healthy and back in the lineup to fulfill that senior-sign destiny. C Jack Conley is another guy who needs to get on the field to show off his interesting and thoroughly under-the-radar mix of defense behind the plate, solid athleticism, and sneaky offensive upside.
LHP Brian Brown is awesome. The changeup, the command, the deception, the four years of collegiate dominance…all awesome. His fastball is his fastball (mid-80s, though it’s been clocked as high as 89 MPH), so you have to take the less awesome with the awesome. Still, the overall package is a lot of fun and well worth using some draft capital on. D1 Baseball has comped him to a lefty Preston Morrison (8th round pick) and the first name I come back to is Michael Roth (9th round), so somewhere between rounds eight and ten make sense as the time to strike if you want to add a money-saving senior-sign with the stuff (not just raw stuff in a conventional way, but the “extra stuff” that goes beyond fastball/changeup/breaking ball quality) and drive to pitch in the big leagues one day. For what it’s worth, I’ve run the Michael Roth comparison by a few smart people and the consensus there is that he’s a “way better” prospect than Roth. Considering Roth reached the big leagues in his first full professional season, I’d say that’s a nice compliment even after taking into account how the former Gamecock has struggled at the highest level to date.
RHP Johnny Piedmonte is a large human (6-8, 240) who has been through a lot (most notably Tommy John surgery). As a senior-sign relief prospect with a decent fastball (87-92, 93 peak) and breaking ball (both a mid-70s CB and a low-80s SL, curve currently the better offering) combination, he should get a shot in pro ball. Another redshirt-senior, RHP Joe O’Donnell, should also get a chance to pitch in the pros this June. His stuff is generally similar (same velo, hybrid-breaking ball, occasional change) with slightly more advanced secondary offerings. Everything he threw was down across the board last year, but he still managed to strike out a ton of hitters (10.99 K/9 in 48.1 IP). No word yet on what he’s tossing in 2018, but the results have been encouraging. RHP Austin Staley and RHP Nolan Clenney are both redshirt-juniors with decent fastballs (88-91 for Staley, 89-93 for Clenney) and average or better breaking balls.
RHP Dalton Feeney makes for one fascinating draft case study. I can’t think of too many other draft-eligible sophomores coming off of Tommy John surgery with the kind of stuff good enough to entice pro teams despite only having 21.1 college innings to his name. Can you? For real though, I can’t imagine Feeney is signable but making a run on an arm of his caliber (88-94 fastball that touches 96, above-average 79-82 breaking ball, working on both a change and a cutter) seems like a small risk, high reward gamble worth taking.
SS Will Wilson is a potential monster 2019 draft prospect. C Brad Debo could very well join him in the early round party. And North Carolina State has SS David Vazquez and C Patrick Bailey right behind them ready to keep things rolling. That’s some seriously enviable long-term up-the-middle depth.
SO RHP Dalton Feeney (2018)
SR LHP Brian Brown (2018)
rSR RHP Joe O’Donnell (2018)
rJR RHP Austin Staley (2018)
rJR RHP Nolan Clenney (2018)
rSR RHP Johnny Piedmonte (2018)
JR OF Brett Kinneman (2018)
SR OF Brock Deatherage (2018)
SR OF Josh McLain (2018)
JR C Jack Conley (2018)
SR 2B Stephen Pitarra (2018)
SR 1B/OF Shane Shepard (2018)
JR 1B Evan Edwards (2018)
rSO 3B Dillon Cooper (2018)
SO RHP Mathieu Gauthier (2019)
SO RHP Michael Bienlien (2019)
rFR LHP James Ferguson (2019)
rFR RHP James Vaughn (2019)
SO LHP Kent Klyman (2019)
SO SS Will Wilson (2019)
SO C Brad Debo (2019)
FR LHP David Harrison (2020)
FR LHP Nick Swiney (2020)
FR RHP/OF Reid Johnston (2020)
FR OF Terrell Tatum (2020)
FR SS David Vazquez (2020)
FR C Patrick Bailey (2020)
FR 2B/SS JT Jarrett (2020)
No pitcher in the 2018 class at North Carolina has an upside that can match RHP Austin Bergner‘s. Upside is what you get when you come equipped with a big fastball (87-95, up to 97), an inconsistent yet very promising 83-89 MPH changeup, and a solid if unspectacular mid- to upper-70s breaking ball. The ceiling of two plus pitches (and an average one) with the floor of three average ones makes the athletic, deceptive draft-eligible sophomore one of the most intriguing starting pitching prospects in this class. I’ll admit that I’ve long had a strange intuitive feel on Bergner that has warned me away from building up his draft stock too much, but the early jump in strikeout stuff in 2018 (12.52 K/9) has me trying to fight off that pesky gut feeling. Still, his control needs serious fine-tuning and he needs to show that he can handle a starter’s workload over a full season.
RHP Rodney Hutchison has exciting stuff, but has had some difficulties over the years keeping runs off the board. I’ll admit that I’m honestly not so sure how much that last part matters when projecting prospects; in fact, I typically care so little about ERA that I don’t even check it when quickly scanning the college player stat pages. That said, there’s something about Hutchison’s career 4.65 ERA, mostly out of the bullpen, that makes me a little uneasy. The weirdest part here is that a 4.65 ERA isn’t even THAT bad! So what does it bother me here when it wouldn’t for other prospects? It could have something to do with Hutchison lacking dominating peripherals to go with the less than ideal ERA. His 7.94 K/9 and 3.01 BB/9 career numbers are fine enough, but hardly the mark of an elite college relief prospect. Anyway, I know most don’t come here to read about me talking in circles about stats. Hutchison’s stuff is quality. His low-90s fastball (94 peak) moves, his changeup is a clear out pitch (flashes plus), and he’ll mix in an average low-80s slider. Those three pitches were enough to convince North Carolina to shift Hutchison to the rotation last month. And wouldn’t you know that his ERA in his first three starts is 1.84? What does it all mean? I have no idea. But Hutchison is a solid mid-round prospect likely best suited to relief…though if his last two starts are the beginning of a run of success as a starter then who knows.
I don’t follow college ball closely enough to know this for sure, but it certainly seems that North Carolina targets undersized righthanders during recruiting because they know the odds those players will eventually make it to campus is high. Listed at 5-11, 190 pounds, RHP Josh Hiatt is one example. RHP Taylor Sugg (6-1, 175) is another. Same with RHP Hansen Butler (5-11, 180) and RHP Brett Daniels (6-0, 200). This strategy — if it is actually a strategy at all — has worked out for Carolina. Hiatt’s ERA last year was 1.90. Sugg’s was 1.95. Butler missed last season, but had a 2.00 ERA in 2016. Daniels put up a 2.68 ERA in 2017. Of course, college production is one thing but we’re here to talk about what kind of pro prospects these players have. Of that group, I really REALLY like RHP Josh Hiatt. A compelling case could be made for his plus 82-88 split-change as the singular best pitch in college baseball. His fastball won’t blow anybody away at 88-93 MPH, but, again, that changeup is just so damn good. Hiatt also has an average 77-81 MPH slider with more upside than that, but, really, all he needs is that split-change. It’s a true offspeed difference-maker and enough to make him one of this draft’s best relief prospects. Just have to be sure he doesn’t face off against any Seminoles once he reaches pro ball…
RHP Taylor Sugg is a sinker/slider type who also comes with a decent changeup because he’s a pitcher at North Carolina and by rule that means you have to throw at least an average changeup. RHP Hansen Butler needs innings and to get less wild. That was what I originally wrote as a placeholder for Butler before I was going to go back and add something more substantive, but I think it works pretty well without much else. Also, “get less wild” makes me laugh for some reason. Butler’s stuff is really good, so the impetus to get him those innings and improve his control is even greater than if he was just a short righthander with pedestrian talent. At his best, Butler can reach the mid-90s (94-95 mostly) with a pair of offspeed pitches that will show above-average (78-80 slider, 79-82 change). Stop me if you’ve heard this already, but RHP Brett Daniels makes up for his decent heat (87-92) with an above-average 79-84 changeup that flashes plus. He also throws two distinct breaking balls (71-75 CB, 80-81 SL) well enough that the odds are good at least one is working on any given day. As the only senior on the list below, Daniels has an outside shot to get drafted sooner than the rest as a money-saving top ten round senior-sign, though the mid- to late-rounds feels like a more realistic landing spot.
Neither RHP Jason Morgan nor RHP Cooper Criswell has stepped foot on the mound so far in 2018. Morgan’s stuff fits in nicely with all of the short righthanders profiled above, but comes with a 6-6, 215 pound frame and three years of underwhelming peripherals. Criswell is another big guy (6-6, 200) who does the sinker/slider thing well. My quick research into what’s up with both pitchers revealed nothing on Morgan — I think he’s injured, but Google only wants to tell me about a character on General Hospital so I’m getting nowhere fast — and that I somehow missed Criswell pitching 18.2 innings and counting so far in 2018. Whoops. Can we chalk that up to only getting a chance to write these up on the small breaks I get from chasing around a suddenly very mobile ten-month-old? The good news is that Criswell’s 18.2 innings have been super. He’s a draft-worthy arm for sure.
RHP Trevor Gay is not listed on the North Carolina roster. He is featured in the team photo. He’s listed on the UNC stats page as having thrown 2.2 innings this year, but when you click on his name for more information the screen just loads and loads and loads. After an exhaustive thirty second search, I found this tweet…
So there you go. Mystery solved. I like Gay as a sinker/slider relief prospect with loads of deception as he comes at you from a funky sidearm delivery. The Charlotte transfer was good (12.33 K/9) but wild (6.16 BB/9) in his short stint as a Tar Heel (14.2 IP). Assuming the reason for his dismissal isn’t all that serious, I’d take a shot on him.
I’m sure there is a more eloquent way to put this, but I’m a huge sucker for C/RHP Cody Roberts. Logic goes a bit out the window when it comes to his prospect stock because I enjoy watching him play so damn much. Roberts has arguably the best arm strength in this entire class of any position player, flirts with above-average raw power, and is as athletic as any catcher you’d hope to find.
There’s an obvious big league backup catcher floor here that feels to me like almost a sure thing. I know he’s not a sure thing to be a big league backup because there’s truly no such thing as a sure thing in this line of work, but catchers with his kind of arm/athleticism combination are hard to deny. This sent me down a rabbit hole to find some catching prospects of recent drafts with similar defensive tools. The first name that came to mind was a poor man’s Taylor Ward…
.288/.384/.437 – 13.7 K% and 12.1 BB% – 652 PA
.271/.361/.356 – 14.0 K% and 9.9 BB% – 537 PA
Top is Ward at Fresno State, bottom is Roberts at Carolina to date. Ward is clearly ahead, but there are enough similarities between the two that I don’t think the comparison is nuts. Plus, the stats are park/schedule neutral, so you’d have to think the gap would close some once those factors were taken into account. In any event, the comparison was originally based on tools and projection, and I think it holds up. Other names to come up were Sean Murphy, Cooper Johnson, Brent Gibbs, Reese McGuire, Austin Hedges, and Jacob Stallings. If we focus on just the college guys who signed, that leaves us with Ward, Murphy, Gibbs, and Stallings. There was also Garrett Custons and Michael Williams, though those two players were profiled on the site back when I was a little more generous with tool grades. The rounds those players were drafted in: one, three, seven, seven, ten, and thirty. That comes out to an average round of about 9.5. It moves way up to 5.5 if we toss out the outlier in Williams. That feels like a fair range (rounds 5-9) to project Roberts. I’d personally be very happy to get a high-floor, solid-ceiling (plus the pitching fallback with his low- to mid-90s fastball) talent like Roberts at that point in the draft.
Both 2B/3B Zack Gahagan and 2B/3B Kyle Datres feel like they’ve been prospects forever. Datres is a legitimate FAVORITE due to his defensive versatility (in addition to being pretty good at second and third, he can also play a credible shortstop), average or better power and speed, and elite athleticism. I think he has an honest floor as a bat-first utility infielder with the shot to hit himself into a larger role in pro ball. Gahagan has many of the same strengths, but without the same feel for hitting.
As of this writing, OF Brandon Riley has a truly bizarre .202/.385/.393 line through 84 AB. It would be easy to knock him for the low batting average, but the fact that the overall triple slash is about one hundred points off across the board from his full season 2017 line probably says something about his luck with balls in play. As it turns out, The Baseball Cube keeps track of such things. Wouldn’t you know it but Riley’s BABIP last year finished at .340. His current BABIP? .240. I swear I didn’t plan to bring that up when I started this paragraph. In fact, I was only on Riley’s Baseball Cube page in the first place because I wanted to compare his college production to his predecessor in center field for the Tar Heels. Here’s what we’ve got…
.322/.419/.453 – .121 ISO – 10.8 K% and 12.3 BB% – 55/68 SB
.290/.384/.450 – .160 ISO – 14.3 K% and 13.6 BB% – 15/21 SB
That’s Brian Miller, 36th overall pick in last year’s draft, on top. Riley is on bottom. Miller is better, yes, but by how much? Riley lacks Miller’s speed and center field range, but has managed to perform at a similarly high level offensively over the years. Of course, when you’re built up as a speed and defense prospect first and foremost — as both Riley and Miller are — then I suppose glossing over a full grade or more difference in each area is a tad disingenuous. Still, Riley can hit. Feedback on his draft stock has been pretty lukewarm, but I’d be pleased to scoop up the store brand version of Miller ten rounds later than the original this June. Maybe you’re not getting starter upside, but a good backup outfielder ain’t nothing.
OF/1B Jackson Hesterlee has the size, power, and early season production (super small sample size alert!) to at least get him on the “hey, I’d love to know more about this guy” radar. Same with 2B/OF Dylan Enwiller, an above-average to plus runner who is solid at both second and center, if you subtract the part about early season production. Both seem like 2019 senior-signs at this point, though you never know what can happen if they are caught by the right person on the right day.
RHP Luca Dalatri is a great college pitcher and a good pro prospect. RHP Tyler Baum is a good college pitcher and a great pro prospect. Figure that one out. The hype on OF/1B Ashton McGee winding up as one of 2019’s top college bats was really loud all offseason. Twenty games into his sophomore year and that talk has quieted way down. I still believe, though it’s admittedly a tough path to the top of the draft when you’re billed as a bat-first player and your bat refuses to cooperate. The good news for the Tar Heels is that the buzz about a sophomore hitting his way into the early rounds of 2019 may still apply. 1B Michael Busch had a much better freshman season than his .215 batting average suggests, and so far in 2018 all he’s done is hit.
SO RHP Austin Bergner (2018)
rSO RHP Josh Hiatt (2018)
JR RHP Rodney Hutchison (2018)
JR RHP Taylor Sugg (2018)
rJR RHP Hansen Butler (2018)
rJR RHP Jason Morgan (2018)
JR RHP Cooper Criswell (2018)
SR RHP Brett Daniels (2018)
JR C/RHP Cody Roberts (2018)
SR 2B/3B Zack Gahagan (2018)
JR 2B/3B Kyle Datres (2018)
JR OF Brandon Riley (2018)
JR OF/1B Jackson Hesterlee (2018)
JR 2B/OF Dylan Enwiller (2018)
rSO SS/2B Dallas Tessar (2018)
JR C Brendan Illies (2018)
JR OF Josh Ladowski (2018)
SO RHP Luca Dalatri (2019)
SO RHP Tyler Baum (2019)
SO RHP Bo Weiss (2019)
SO OF/1B Ashton McGee (2019)
SO OF/1B Kip Brandenburg (2019)
SO 2B/SS Ike Freeman (2019)
SO C/OF Brandon Martorano (2019)
SO 1B Michael Busch (2019)
FR RHP Joe Lancelotti (2020)
FR RHP/3B Ben Casparius (2020)
FR OF/LHP Angel Zarate (2020)
FR SS Satchel Jerzembeck (2020)
FR 3B Clemente Inclan (2020)
FR OF Earl Semper (2020)