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We’ve finally made it to the ACC, the last remaining division one baseball conference to get the draft “preview” treatment. Below you’ll find my “preseason” all-prospect teams for the conference as well as links (with brief commentary where applicable) to team previews for eleven of the fourteen teams in the ACC. I’d like to do quick write-ups for the three remaining teams (Louisville, North Carolina, Wake Forest) in the coming days (perhaps all at once in a post for tomorrow) because I’m a completist by nature.
Keep in mind that the preseason teams you see below were more or less decided on coming into the season. I made a few minor tweaks, especially on the pitching side (mostly the second team). The one glaring oddity on this list is John LaPrise hanging on to a first team spot despite missing almost the entire season so far, but there weren’t any alternatives that jumped off the page (senior sign Logan Ratledge makes the strongest case) so I let it stand. The outfield was an unexpected mess to figure out outside of the top four names. Talk about a top heavy position. I didn’t rank the pitchers yet within each team, so don’t take the Matuella, Kirby, and Funkhouser 1-2-3 as where I currently see them falling. I need to think on that a bit more.
North Carolina JR C Korey Dunbar
Boston College JR 1B Chris Shaw
Virginia JR 2B John LaPrise
Clemson JR SS Tyler Krieger
Miami JR 3B David Thompson
Florida State JR OF DJ Stewart
North Carolina JR OF Skye Bolt
Virginia JR OF Joe McCarthy
Duke JR RHP Michael Matuella
Virginia JR LHP Nathan Kirby
Louisville JR RHP Kyle Funkhouser
Miami rJR LHP Andrew Suarez
Clemson JR LHP Matthew Crownover
Miami SR C Garrett Kennedy
Florida State rSR 1B Chris Marconcini
North Carolina State SR 2B Logan Ratledge
Virginia SO SS Daniel Pinero
Miami JR 3B George Iskenderian
Clemson JR OF Steven Duggar
Georgia Tech rJR OF Dan Spingola
North Carolina State SR OF Jake Fincher
Clemson JR LHP Zack Erwin
Virginia JR RHP Josh Sborz
North Carolina SR RHP Benton Moss
Duke JR RHP/SS Kenny Koplove
North Carolina State rSO RHP Johnny Piedmonte
Includes comparing Chris Shaw to Ike Davis and Carlos Pena…
Does not include me comparing Matthew Crownover to Adam Morgan, so let me do that right here, right now. As somebody still holding out hope that Morgan can be a league average-ish big league starter, that’s a compliment.
Includes me comparing Michael Matuella tp Zack Wheeler and Kyle Gibson (and definitely NOT Roy Halladay…)
Includes comparing DJ Stewart to Matt Stairs, Billy Butler, Jeremy Giambi, and Carlos Santana…
Really nice college team, but nobody that moves the needle much for me as a pro prospect at the moment…
Includes some thoughts on their top bat (with apologies to SR C Garrett Kennedy, a guy I considered a sleeper last year who disappointed but has come back with a vengeance as an unstoppable force in the Hurricanes lineup and is now one of this class’s finest potential senior signs) and their top arm, both of which I’ve excerpted below to save you the trouble of clicking through…
Through all the ups and downs physically, his [David Thompson] upside on the diamond remains fully intact from his HS days — I had him ranked as the 56th best overall prospect back then — and a big draft season is very much in play if he can stay healthy throughout the year. The bat will play at the next level (above-average raw power, plenty of bat speed, physically strong, plus athleticism, knows how to use the whole field), so the biggest unknown going into this season is where he’ll eventually call home on the defensive side. I’ve liked his chances to stick at third since his prep days; failing that, I’d prioritize a home in the outfield (he’s not known for his speed, but the athleticism and arm strength should make him at least average in a corner) over going to first, where, overall loss of defensive value aside, at least he’s shown significant upside. His strong showing at the end of the summer on the Cape is an encouraging way to get back into the grind of college ball, though he did appear to sacrifice some patience at the plate for power down the stretch. If he can find a way to marry his two existences — college (approach: 35 BB/45 K in his career) and Cape (power) — in this upcoming season (like in his healthy freshman season), Thompson should find himself off the board early this June.
JR LHP Andrew Suarez has the raw stuff to find himself selected once again in the top two rounds this June, but the peripherals leave something to be desired after two seasons (6.33 K/9 in 2013, 7.16 K/9 in 2014). Still, he’s a rapidly improving arm (especially his changeup) who throws a pair of quality breaking balls and can hit 94/95 from the left side. His control has also been really good and he’s been a workhorse for the Hurricanes after labrum surgery (believed to be as minor as a shoulder surgery can get, for what it’s worth) two years ago. He’s a reasonable ceiling (mid-rotation starting pitcher) prospect with a high floor (if healthy, he’s at least a quick-moving reliever). It’s a profile that’s really easy to like, but fairly difficult to love.
Includes an homage to Rick Pitino, which I stand by but admit could be a little harsh looking back on things. SR 2B/3B Logan Ratledge and rSO RHP Johnny Piedmonte aren’t Trea Turner and Carlos Rodon, but they aren’t half-bad, either.
Waiting on next year for 2B/3B Cavan Biggio…
(Also, a good college team like Georgia Tech. Not loaded with 2015 talent, but getting the job done all the same. That’s worth mentioning even as a cold-hearted fan of the pro game only…)
Waiting on next year for RHP TJ Zeuch…
(Not a very good college team like GT and ND, but not every team can be a winning team, right?)
I’m a little bit back and forth with LHP Nathan Kirby yet, though I think the recent overreaction to his below-average (for him) velocity and all-around stuff that can (maybe) be explained away (to a point) due to his recently diagnosed strained lat was a bit much. I still view him as a high-floor, TBD ceiling prospect worthy of the top half of the first round conversation.
rSO OF Saige Jenco’s year hasn’t gone quite the way I was hoping, but SR 2B/SS Alex Perez, SR 1B/RHP Brendon Hayden, and SR LHP/1B Sean Keselica have all done their part to pick up the slack.
JR RHP Curt Britt (2015)
JR RHP Jon Olczak (2015)
rJR LHP Travis Orwig (2015)
JR RHP Karl Keglovits (2015)
JR LHP Brad Stone (2015)
rSO RHP Johnny Piedmonte (2015)
SR OF Jake Fincher (2015)
SR OF Bubby Riley (2015)
SR 2B/3B Logan Ratledge (2015)
SR 1B/OF Jake Armstrong (2015)
JR C Chance Shepard (2015)
SO RHP Cory Wilder (2016)
SO 3B Andrew Knizner (2016)
SO OF Garrett Suggs (2016)
SO 1B Preston Palmeiro (2016)
SO RHP Joe O’Donnell (2016)
SO LHP Ryan Williamson (2016)
SO LHP Cody Beckman (2016)
FR RHP/INF Tommy DeJuneas (2017)
FR RHP Evan Mendoza (2017)
FR OF Storm Edwards (2017)
Carlos Rodon and Trea Turner aren’t walking through that door.
Just one year after being the center of the college baseball world, North Carolina State returns a really thin group of 2015 draft prospects. JR LHP Brad Stone seems poised to take over the mantle as top pitching prospect, but, no knock against him, his stuff (upper-80s heat, usable change, pair of interesting breaking balls) is many steps down from Rodon on his worst day. He’s still the best of what’s around, and an arm worthy of serious draft consideration going forward. There’s also JR RHP Jon Olczak (low-90s FB) as a potential middle reliever to watch. One of the big stories to follow this spring for this team will be the return to health of a trio of talented arms that could help boost the team back into contention. rJR LHP Travis Orwig (88-92, good mid-70s CB), JR RHP Karl Keglovits (strong name, large human, sinkers all day), and rSO RHP Johnny Piedmonte (6-8, 240 mountain of a man with plus arm strength) all bring something worth tracking to the table. So the cupboard isn’t totally bare, but we’re down to saltines and leftover duck sauce packets. If even two of those arms coming back from injury has a big year and the projectable Stone continues to grow as a pitcher and Olczak responds to an increased role…you just never know. When you’re hungry enough a saltine/duck sauce sandwich can taste pretty good. Or so I’ve heard.
If I have the nerve to call the pitching thin, then what does that make NC State’s hitting? There are a ton of seniors returning hoping that one final push will get them a shot at pro ball. I hold some hope that SR OF Bubby Riley (speed, CF range, some pop) can recapture what got him so much early buzz last season, but his disappointing 2014 (.200/.340/.261 in 115 AB) tempers a good bit of the old enthusiasm. SR 2B Logan Ratledge could still have some appeal as a potential late-round senior sign utility infielder, but it’ll take an area guy sure he can play shortstop professionally to make that dream happen. My favorite prospect on the team is SR OF Jake Fincher. I really believed a breakout year was in store for him last season, but things never got on track. He’s a great thrower who can really run, and his positional versatility — how many guys can say they’ve logged time at C, SS, and CF? — make him a really fun super-sub to project going forward. Alas, all those virtues will go unloved if he doesn’t get his bat going. Check his career stats to date (first two seasons are park/schedule adjusted)…
2012: .295/.352/.400 – 19 BB/35 K – 17/24 SB – 210 AB
2013: .317/.406/.358 – 34 BB/40 K – 15/21 SB – 265 AB
2014: .267/.342/.317 – 19 BB/53 K – 12/13 SB – 202 AB
The gains made from his freshman season to his sophomore year — trading some pop for a more disciplined approach — are what encouraged me the most from a strictly performance-based standpoint going into last year. Needless to say, he went backward in that area in a big way last season. I’m not as optimistic about a return to his sophomore season numbers as I’d like to be, which bums me out. Fincher is a really entertaining player to watch when he’s right. One can only hope he can put together a strong final season for both his sake and the watchability of the NC State lineup.
Hadn’t realized this at the time, but JR RHP Curt Britt is now on the Wolfpack roster and eligible to play right away after transferring from South Carolina. He’s a good one and arguably the team’s top 2015 draft arm.