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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.
I thought this would be a fun way of finishing off each week and organizing the walls of text I keep throwing up from Monday to Thursday. This list is not nearly as comprehensive as the follow lists I’ve made in previous years nor is it as long as the list I keep internally, but I’m trying to be a little be more selective about whom we’re calling “prospects” in order to keep things a bit tidier around here. That leaves a few borderline draftable talents out for now, but I’ll be more inclusive on future lists as we get closer to June. You might think it would make more sense to do it the other way. My response to that is…yeah, you’re probably right. I might expand it in the next edition, at least with the position players.
Boston College, Clemson, Duke, and Florida State are the only schools with players listed at this time. Four more teams will be added each Friday for as long as we can keep up this pace. Next four teams are Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, and North Carolina State. It would be North Carolina, but they are the last remaining holdout in the ACC who have yet to post their 2014/2015 roster. Happens every year with them. Not cool.
- Duke rSR C Mike Rosenfeld: 5-10, 185 pounds (2012: .329/.403/.476 – 16 BB/48 K – 170 AB – 7/8 SB) (2013: .377/.451/.525 – 8 BB/9 K – 2/3 SB – 61 AB) (2014: .268/.396/.335 – 32 BB/42 K – 7 – 11/SB – 194 AB)
- Boston College JR 1B/OF Chris Shaw: 6-4, 250 pounds (2013: .183/.286/.323 – 18 BB/32 K – 0/0 SB – 164 AB) (2014: .329/.393/.502 – 21 BB/38 K – 1/3 SB – 207 AB)
- Florida State rSR 1B Chris Marconcini: 6-5, 230 pounds (2011: .301/.404/.490 – 24 BB/38 K – 206 AB) (2013: .316/.409/.579 – 28 BB/39 K – 8/10 SB – 190 AB) (2014: .252/.341/.435 – 28 BB/38 K – 7/9 SB – 230 AB)
- Clemson JR SS/3B Tyler Krieger: 6-1, 170 pounds (2013: .266/.360/.321 – 29 BB/29 K – 9/15 SB – 218 AB) (2014: .338/.410/.447 – 25 BB/24 K – 19/24 SB – 219 AB)
- Florida State JR OF DJ Stewart: 6-0, 230 pounds (2013: .360/.469/.551 – 40 BB/38 K – 8/12 SB – 225 AB) (2014: .351/.472/.557 – 40 BB/30 K – 4/5 SB – 194 AB)
- Clemson JR OF Steven Duggar: 6-2, 200 pounds (2013: .308/.368/.392 – 24 BB/39 K – 16/23 SB – 250 AB) (2014: .294/.368/.378 – 27 BB/51 K – 25/28 SB – 238 AB)
- Clemson SR OF Tyler Slaton: 5-7, 200 pounds (2012: .208/.377/.226 – 13 BB/16 K – 6/6 SB – 53 AB) (2013: .269/.375/.306 – 24 BB/32 K – 6/9 SB – 160 AB) (2014: .274/.391/.373 – 42 BB/34 K – 11/17 SB – 241 AB)
- Duke JR RHP Michael Matuella: 6-6, 220 pounds (2013: 4.53 K/9 | 2.03 BB/9 | 3.95 FIP | 57.2 IP) (2014: 69 K/15 BB – 58.1 IP – 2.78 ERA)
- Clemson JR LHP Matthew Crownover: 6-0, 200 pounds (2013: 6.04 K/9 | 2.06 BB/9 | 4.55 FIP | 70 IP) (2014: 2.90 ERA – 90 K/20 BB – 99.1 IP)
- Clemson JR RHP Clate Schmidt: 6-2, 180 pounds (2013: 4.20 K/9 | 4.04 BB/9 | 4.66 FIP | 55.2 IP) (2014: 3.68 ERA – 53 K/28 K – 66 IP)
- Florida State JR LHP Alex Diese: 6-3, 200 pounds
- Duke JR RHP Kenny Koplove: 6-2, 170 pounds (2013: .314/.341/.379 – 7 BB/24 K – 2/3 SB – 153 AB) (2014: .191/.243/.224 – 14 BB/41 K – 2/2 SB – 183 AB)
- Clemson JR LHP Zack Erwin: 6-5, 200 pounds (2013: 5.10 K/9 | 2.85 BB/9 | 4.39 FIP | 60 IP) (2014: 4.21 ERA – 62 K/28 BB – 72.2 IP)
- Clemson rSO RHP Wales Toney: 6-2, 210 pounds
- Florida State JR RHP/OF Jameis Winston: 6-4, 220 pounds (2013: .227/.374/.336 – 23 BB/32 K – 2/4 SB – 119 AB) (2013: 7.33 K/9 | 3.67 BB/9 | 3.66 FIP | 27 IP) (2014: 31 K/7 BB – 33.1 IP – 1.08 ERA)
- Duke SR RHP Andrew Istler: 5-11, 180 pounds (2012: 6.23 K/9 | 1.56 BB/9 | 3.44 FIP | 52 IP) (2013: 8.20 K/9 | 2.89 BB/9 | 3.52 FIP | 37.1 IP) (2014: 59 K/24 BB – 76 IP – 2.84 ERA)
- Duke rSO RHP James Marvel: 6-3, 200 pounds (2013: 4.93 K/9 | 3.21 BB/9 | 4.23 FIP | 42 IP) (2014: 16 K/8 BB – 25.1 IP – 1.78 ERA)
- Florida State SR LHP Bryant Holtmann: 6-5, 200 pounds (2012: 6.39 K/9 | 2.84 BB/9 | 3.88 FIP | 25.1 IP) (2013: 6.00 K/9 | 4.50 BB/9 | 4.20 FIP | 36 IP) (2014: 29 K/12 BB – 36.2 IP – 3.68 ERA)
- Clemson rJR RHP Patrick Andrews: 6-4, 225 pounds (2012: 8.28 K/9 | 4.30 BB/9 | 3.70 FIP | 29.1 IP) (2013: 6.21 K/9 | 2.39 BB/9 | 3.87 FIP | 37.2 IP)
- Florida State rJR RHP Mike Compton: 6-2, 200 pounds (2012: 6.73 K/9 | 2.57 BB/9 | 4.36 FIP | 91 IP) (2014: 50 K/19 BB – 83.2 IP – 3.23 ERA)
JR RHP Michael Matuella (2015)
SR RHP Sarkis Ohanian (2015)
SR RHP Andrew Istler (2015)
SR LHP Trent Swart (2015)
rJR LHP Remy Janco (2015)
rJR RHP Conner Stevens (2015)
JR LHP Nick Hendrix (2015)
rSR LHP Dillon Haviland (2015)
rSO RHP James Marvel (2015)
JR RHP/SS Kenny Koplove (2015)
rSR C Mike Rosenfeld (2015)
SR 2B Andy Perez (2015)
SO RHP Bailey Clark (2016)
SO RHP Karl Blum (2016)
SO LHP Kevin Lewallyn (2016)
SO RHP JR Holloway (2016)
SO C Cristian Perez (2016)
FR 1B Justin Bellinger (2017)
FR LHP Chris McGrath (2017)
FR SS Ryan Day (2017)
FR 3B Jack Labosky (2017)
JR RHP Michael Matuella took a massive step forward last year while putting hitters down far more consistently (doubled his K/9 and then some) and flashing the kind of stuff that could potentially dominate big league hitters. Guys who are 6-6, 220 pounds that show plus command of a four pitch arsenal that includes a mid-90s fastball and three secondaries with a chance to be above-average or better don’t come around everyday. . I’m not quite as knocked out about him as I could be — and I fully acknowledge some personal bias is seeping in here as I’ve yet to see him throw a plus offspeed pitch in my own viewings — but I’m very much prepared to go all-in on him the second he’s back out on a mound this February. As is, even with me not as in love with him as I should be, he still might be the best overall prospect in the country and top prospect on my next 2015 MLB Draft rankings. So I don’t yet LOVE him as much as I’m hoping to but still think he’s likely the best prospect in the land. If that doesn’t tell you what kind of upside he has, I’m not sure what else I can say.
On top of his strong recent track record, deep and varied array of pitches, plus command, and above-average athleticism and size, it’s really the amount of extension, deception, and downward plane he gets on every pitch that make him a special talent. Kiley McDaniel has comped him to Tyler Glasnow of the Pirates. Baseball America has thrown out a Michael Wacha comparison. I like both of these. Me being me, of course, I have a few others to throw at the wall and see if they stick. Because I was born and raised on Philadelphia sports in the 90s, I’m obligated to share a cautionary comp I heard over the summer. Let’s get the negativity — relative negativity since this guy is still pretty good — out of the way first. This pitcher never showed quite the same fastball velocity as Matuella, but similarities include the following: groundball tendencies, well-rounded assortment of pitches, plus command, almost identical height/weight (this guy is a little thinner), and a nerve-wracking collegiate injury history (Matuella has the manageable but still worrisome back condition called spondylolysis). We’re talking former Missouri Tiger ace and current solid mid-rotation arm for the Twins, Kyle Gibson. An outcome like that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world by any means, but it’s not the ceiling you’re shooting for if you’re thinking of popping a guy 1-1. More optimistically, I could see Matuella rounding into the professional version of Zack Wheeler on the realistic end with — I’m so sorry I’m doing this, but I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t believe it — a potential ceiling reminiscent of future Hall of Fame pitcher Roy Halladay on the highest of high ends. All comps are imperfect and stacking up any amateur player with one of the game’s greatest all-time performers is more irresponsible than I’d like to be, but the pieces are there (similar repertoires, plus command, outstanding extension/deception/plane) for it to at least become a justifiable ultimate 100% best-case scenario ceiling. Just putting that into writing makes me incredibly anxious, so let’s quickly move on to some of the other potential Duke draftees.
rSO RHP James Marvel is coming off Tommy John surgery, but showed a really nice FB/CB mix when healthy. He also has one of the most underrated names in this year’s draft; just think about the corporate and movie tie-ins that could be made if he makes it big. I’m an unabashed JR RHP Kenny Koplove fan dating back to his earliest amateur days. Did I write that he’s “not the next [Marcus] Stroman, but not not the next Stroman if you catch my drift” after seeing him a few times in high school? Yes, yes I did. That might have just been a teeny bit too rich a comparison — well, technically it wasn’t a comparison since I hedged like crazy but you surely caught my drift, right? — but Duke appears to be finally buying in to the idea of RHP Kenny Koplove rather than SS Kenny Koplove, which feels like a smart move after the shortstop version of Koplove hit .191/.243/.224 last season. I do think Koplove could be a difference-maker on the mound and is a major 2015 draft sleeper at this point. His delivery is a pain for hitters to pick up, he has plenty of arm strength (94ish peak), and I’ve always liked his breaking ball (I remember it as a curve, but I’ve heard/read slider since). Factor back in his athleticism and relative fresh right arm, and you’ve got somebody to be excited about.
Joining Baby Halladay, Captain Marvel, and Not Not Marcus Stroman is a really strong veteran pitching core. There’s SR RHP Sarkis Ohanian (strong stuff, good peripherals, below-average control), SR RHP Andrew Istler (stuff to start, but should play up enough in short bursts to get a look as a reliever), and SR LHP Trent Swart (crafty lefty profile who has no problem offspeeding you to death), all of whom could be senior signs with good springs. I’m actually surprised Istler, the most complete pitcher of the bunch, is back for a final year in Durham. I’m intrigued but unsure to expect out of other veterans like rJR LHP Remy Janco (limited innings), rJR RHP Conner Stevens (Tennessee transfer coming off a strong year), and LHPs Nick Hendrix (JR) and Dillon Haviland (rSR), both of whom jumped out at me as statistical favorites. There are no certainties here, but I’d be surprised if Duke got shut out on draft day after Matuella comes off the board.
At this point it should be fairly clear that Duke has some weapons on the mound. Will they hit enough to make any kind of noise in the ACC? That I’m much less sure about. I thought rSR C Mike Rosenfeld was on the verge of a statement 2014 season, but it never quite materialized. Still, his decent year with the stick (.268/.396/.335 in 194 AB) combined with his plus defensive abilities could be enough to keep him on follow lists around the league. Rosenfeld might be it as far as 2015 Duke bats go. I personally like SR 2B Andy Perez as a pesky middle infield prospect to watch, but he’s likely more good college player than future professional athlete. Future classes have talent in SO C Cristian Perez and FR 1B Justin Bellinger, so it’s not as if the lack of impact bats for 2015 is any cause for alarm.