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2018 MLB Draft Profile – North Carolina State

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)

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2017 MLB Draft Report – North Carolina State

I have notes on twelve different draft-eligible North Carolina state pitching prospects. Let’s put them into groups for easier readability…

Tim Naughton
Karl Keglovits
Nolan Clenney

Naughton has late-inning reliever stuff (94-97 FB, mid-80s SL that flashes plus), but needs innings. Keglovits is a fifth-year senior who feels like a tenth-year senior. He could be a sinker/slider/splitter type if he could ever stay healthy. That’s exactly what Clenney is (minus the splitter)…or that’s what we assume he’d be if he was currently pitching.

Cody Beckman
Brian Brown
Cory Wilder
Evan Brabrand
Tommy DeJuneas

The five names above are the wild bunch so far in 2017. Beckman has the three pitches needed to be a quality college starter or multi-inning fireman, but control has been his bugaboo. Brown, a pitcher with plus command once compared by D1 as a “lefty Preston Morrison,” being included here is odd, but a 5.96 BB/9 is a 5.96 BB/9. I still like Brown a lot as another of this class’s many crafty lefties — he’s got the command, mid-80s heat, and above-average to plus mid-70s changeup to qualify — so I’ll be watching closely to see if he can turn around his small sample size mojo. Wilder has great stuff, but a lack of control is unfortunately nothing new for him. Brabrand has the fastball (88-93) and slider (average or better at 82-84) to be a mid-round relief prospect if he throw more strikes. DeJuneas reminds me a little bit of the pitching version of some of the Wolfpack’s toolsy yet frustrating hitting prospects. He’s slowed down his stuff to improve his command/control, but I’d rather him let it fly in the mid- to upper-90s like the good old days and let the chips fall where they may.

Sean Adler
Joe O’Donnell
Johnny Piedmonte
Austin Staley

Hey, these guys have all been pretty good so far this year! Sean Adler is yet another crafty lefty (upper-80s fastball, three usable offspeed pitches, hides the ball well) with the added twist of being effectively wild over his career. Like DeJuneas, O’Donnell’s fastball has lost a little heat over the years. He’s more upper-80s now, but he’s retained his quality breaking ball and decent command. I could see him being a high priority senior-sign for some teams, but there are other money-savers out there I prefer. One such guy would be Johnny Piedmonte, the 6-8, 240 pounder with a shot at middle relief at the next level. Austin Staley’s stuff is standard enough (88-91 FB, good 78 breaker) that he may get lost in the shuffle, but he’s been pretty consistently above-average since first getting regular work last season. I like him.

Only two members of the Wolfpack’s lineup (as of this writing) have more walks than strikeouts. Those two players are both slugging under .300. Taken together, that goes down as a bit of an auspicious start to the 2017 season for North Carolina’s big-name hitting prospects. I really liked Evan Mendoza coming into the year as a legit third base prospect with the chance for an average hit tool and above-average raw power. I still like him, but he’s got some serious work to do to climb out of his early season hole. I’ve always been lukewarm on Joe Dunand, a tooled-up left side of the infield standout (shortstop for some, third base for me) with a prospect stock built more on projection than present ability. Dunand will flash big power, impressive defensive tools, and elite athleticism, but he still has a ways to go as a hitter. It’s a boom/bust profile that will either make a scouting director look like a genius or a dope.

Josh McLain operates a little bit like the an outfield version of Dunand. He can run and defend with the best of this class, but offensively has shown only flashes to this point. Same goes for Brock Deatherage. Opportunities are there for talented players like Shane Shepard (power bat at first), Stephen Pitarra (versatile glove, competent bat), and Andy Cosgrove (should be able to stick behind plate) to rise up within their respective position rankings if they can turn around their springs. That’s kind of the overall theme for the North Carolina State team at this point. There’s talent there and I could easily see some of these guys being better pros than college performers, but identifying who/when/why/how is a headache.

*****

rJR LHP Cody Beckman (2017)
rSO RHP Tim Naughton (2017)
JR LHP Brian Brown (2017)
SR RHP Cory Wilder (2017)
rSR LHP Sean Adler (2017)
SR RHP Joe O’Donnell (2017)
rSR RHP Johnny Piedmonte (2017)
rSR RHP Karl Keglovits (2017)
JR RHP Evan Brabrand (2017)
JR RHP Nolan Clenney (2017)
rSO RHP Austin Staley (2017)
JR RHP/1B Tommy DeJuneas (2017)
JR 3B Evan Mendoza (2017)
JR 3B/SS Joe Dunand (2017)
JR OF Josh McLain (2017)
JR OF Brock Deatherage (2017)
JR 1B/OF Shane Shepard (2017)
JR 2B Stephen Pitarra (2017)
rJR OF Garrett Suggs (2017)
JR C Andy Cosgrove (2017)
FR RHP Dalton Feeney (2018)
SO RHP Christian Demby (2018)
SO OF Brett Kinneman (2018)
SO C Jack Conley (2018)
FR RHP Michael Bienlien (2019)
FR RHP Mathieu Gauthier (2019)
FR LHP James Ferguson (2019)
FR RHP James Vaughn (2019)
FR C Brad Debo (2019)
FR SS Will Wilson (2019)
FR OF EP Reese (2019)