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