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2018 MLB Draft Profile – North Carolina

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)

2017 MLB Draft Report – North Carolina

JB Bukauskas is the best 2017 draft-eligible college starting pitching in the country. That may have qualified as a hot take — or at least a warm one — if I had published it over the offseason when the thought first entered my mind, but I have to imagine the rest of the industry is now on board with the idea that Bukauskas, all 6-0, 200 pounds of him, is the real deal. What more does a guy need to do to take over that top spot? Bukauskas was good as a freshman, great as a sophomore, and has been otherworldly so far as a junior. His fastball is an easy plus pitch (91-96, 97-98 peak), his plus to plus-plus 82-89 MPH slider is the best of its kind in this class, and his changeup, appropriately underused against overmatched college competition, has above-average upside. From a stuff standpoint, he checks every box. So what’s the catch? Or is there one? Let’s explore.

When just about the only negative you can say about a guy is that he isn’t quite as tall as you’d like, then he must be pretty good. I don’t mean to be flip, either. Size matters a little bit — there are fair questions about durability, fastball plane, and a lack of historical success for shorter pitchers — but only a little bit. If Bukauskas had the size thing working against him AND another clear question mark surrounding his game, I could see cause for potential concern. But there are literally no non-nitpicky questions about him as a prospect right now outside of his frame. Maybe the delivery? I don’t see much in the way of inconsistencies in how he repeats it, but your mileage might vary.

I feel like I missed on Marcus Stroman even though I ranked him 18th when he went on to be drafted 22nd. Being light on him as long as I was — the summer into his junior year I was comparing him to Kelvim Escobar, Al Alburquerque, and Fautino De Los Santos — taught me a lesson. It even inspired a post a few months later that just so happens to lead us right back to Bukauskas’s prospect stock. The two names mentioned in that post: Stroman (my comp) and Lance McCullers (Perfect Game’s excellent comp). A pitching prospect on that same tier is what you’re buying in Bukauskas. That’s a top ten guy, maybe top five, and, if something happens to Hunter Greene between now and mid-June, a dark horse 1-1 contender.

Trevor Gay and Hansen Butler both need innings, but are more than talented enough to warrant serious draft consideration in June. Gay is a really funky sidearmer who can muster up serious fastball sink to go along with a low-80s slider that flashes plus. Butler is undersized, but damn good when healthy and at his best. “Good yet overlooked” is in my notes on Brett Daniels. I’m a sucker for a good changeup, so my affection for Daniels should make sense. Jason Morgan has a good firm (82-87) changeup of his own plus a pair of average offspeed pitches on top of it (75-81 true breaking ball, 80-85 cut-slider). It also doesn’t hurt that he looks the part at 6-6, 215 pounds.

When jotting quick notes about spring performances down for each 2017 draft-eligible prospect, I’ll write whatever word comes to mind. It’s my own game of free association. Logan Warmoth and Brian Miller got the same one word note: “stud.” With the bar already sky high for both returning stars, Warmoth and Miller have found a way to exceed expectations in the early going of 2017. Their individual production has been stellar, but it’s the scouting buzz both young men have received that has advanced their prospect stock in a major way this spring. I won’t go this far with Warmoth, but a source I trust has told me that he’s the closest thing he’s seen to Alex Bregman since Alex Bregman. True, Bregman has only been out of college for one full season, but the sentiment is understood. Warmoth is a surprisingly polarizing player that clearly has big fans as well as a small yet vocal (to me) group of detractors. Both sides seem to agree that there’s little to no doubting his offensive game at this point. Warmoth is a proven commodity with the stick, hitting for tons of hard line drive contact and legitimate over the fence pop going on fourteen months now. The debate on Warmoth is focused more on his athletic profile and long-term best fit defensively. I’ve gotten grades on his run times to first ranging from 45 to 60 with every increment in between showing up at least once. There is similar uncertainty about his arm strength; some have it as more than enough for the left side of the infield while others see it as the clear reason why second base makes the most sense for him sooner rather than later.

I’d personally mark him off as a slightly above-average hit, average raw power (touch less in-game), average to above-average runner, average thrower, and average (maybe a tick more) defender. That’s a monster prospect at shortstop and a damn near elite one at second. Once you factor in his extended track record of success against high-level amateur pitching and the loads of positive chatter about his work ethic, it’s easy to see why many are calling him a first round lock. Maybe the Bregman comp isn’t as far off as I first thought…

Brian Miller is another premium Tar Heel prospect with a fun mix of athleticism and skills. I’m more bullish on his physical profile than most — like Warmoth, you’ll see his speed range from above-average all the way up to plus-plus — and think he grades out very similarly to his middle infield counterpart across the board. Above-average hit, average raw power (some like it a bit more, so I could still be swayed), plus speed, average arm, and above-average center field range all add up to another potential North Carolina first round pick. That’s three so far if you’re scoring at home. This team is really damn good.

Zack Gahagan is yet another divisive prospect with some defensive questions that will need to be answered in pro ball. Is he a second baseman or a third baseman? Will his plus raw power ever translate to anything more than average in-game production? Does he have the approach to profile as a regular? All open questions at the moment. Kyle Datres is a FAVORITE for his wide array of above-average to plus tools. Like every other position player profiled already, Datres does everything well with no clear weaknesses in his game. As much as I like Warmoth, I could see a case for Datres, an easy plus athlete, being the better long-term investment for a team willing to buy him out of his last two years of college. I’m not yet ready to make that case and the few smart people I’ve ran the idea by all said I was nuts (also, for the record, they all said they expect him back in Chapel Hill next year), but it’s a strong enough hunch that I’ll be following the two guys extra closely these next two months.

As of this writing, Adam Pate has one of the weirder early season lines you’ll ever see: .056/.414/.056 with 11 BB/5 K. 88% of his OPS is tied to his OBP. Wacky stuff. If we look past the odd start, we can see that Pate is a solid senior-sign potential backup outfielder in the pros. He runs well, has a plus arm, and can go get it in center. His understanding of the strike zone and willingness to take what is given at the plate even in the face of (small sample) offensive struggles is another nice perk to his game. Fellow senior outfielder Tyler Lynn is a FAVORITE from last season. He was more good than great in his first year as a Tar Heel, but has stepped his game up this spring. I’m buying his bat in a big way. Lynn is one of the nation’s best potential senior-signs.

I didn’t realize that Cody Roberts was an age-eligible sophomore back when I was putting that list of top 2017 MLB Draft catching prospects together. Roberts is a phenomenal athlete with a great arm and a bat that finally seems to be catching up to his glove. He’s my type of catching prospect. It’s a really interesting year for college catching and the addition of Roberts name into the mix makes it that much more exciting.

*****

JR RHP JB Bukauskas (2017)
JR RHP Jason Morgan (2017)
JR RHP Hansen Butler (2017)
JR RHP Brett Daniels (2017)
rSO RHP Trevor Gay (2017)
SO C/RHP Cody Roberts (2017)
JR 2B/SS Logan Warmoth (2017)
JR OF Brian Miller (2017)
JR 3B/SS Zack Gahagan (2017)
SR OF Adam Pate (2017)
SO 3B Kyle Datres (2017)
SR OF Tyler Lynn (2017)
FR RHP Austin Bergner (2018)
SO RHP Taylor Sugg (2018)
SO RHP Cole Aker (2018)
rFR RHP Josh Hiatt (2018)
SO RHP Rodney Hutchison (2018)
SO SS Utah Jones (2018)
SO OF Brandon Riley (2018)
SO C Brendan Illies (2018)
SO OF Josh Ladowski (2018)
FR RHP Tyler Baum (2019)
FR RHP Luca Dalatri (2019)
FR RHP Robbie Peto (2019)
FR RHP Bo Weiss (2019)
FR LHP Zach Attianese (2019)
FR C Brandon Martorano (2019)
FR 2B/SS Ike Freeman (2019)
FR 1B Michael Busch (2019)
FR OF Laney Orr (2019)
FR 3B/2B Ashton McGee (2019)
FR RHP Evan Odum (2019)

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – North Carolina

SR RHP Benton Moss (2015)
JR RHP Reilly Hovis (2015)
JR RHP Trent Thornton (2015)
rJR RHP Chris McCue (2015)
SR RHP Trevor Kelley (2015)
JR RHP Taylore Cherry (2015)
JR OF Skye Bolt (2015)
JR OF Josh Merrigan (2015)
JR 3B/2B Landon Lassiter (2015)
JR C Korey Dunbar (2015)
JR SS/OF Alex Raburn (2015)
SO RHP/SS Spencer Trayner (2016)
SO RHP AJ Bogucki (2016)
SO RHP Zac Gallen (2016)
SO LHP Zach Rice (2016)
SO C Adrian Chacon (2016)
SO 1B Joe Dudek (2016)
SO 2B/SS Wood Myers (2016)
SO OF Tyler Ramirez (2016)
SO OF Adam Pate (2016)
FR 3B/RHP Ryder Ryan (2016)
FR 1B/LHP Hunter Williams (2017)
FR SS/3B Zack Gahagan (2017)
FR RHP JB Bukauskas (2017)
FR RHP Hansen Butler (2017)
FR RHP Jason Morgan (2017)
FR OF/2B Logan Warmoth (2017)
FR RHP Brett Daniels (2017)
FR INF Brooks Kennedy (2017)
FR LHP Nick Raquet (2017)
FR INF/OF Brian Miller (2017)

JR OF Skye Bolt, for whatever reason, has become of the bigger lightning rod names in college baseball this year. I swear on all that is important to me that the wording of the previous sentence was not intentional; sadly, I’m not that clever. The point made is true, however. Bolt has some gigantic fans of his game out there that think he’ll be a first-division regular in center field and a tremendous asset both at the plate and in the field. Bolt also has detractors who think he’s overrated going back to high school. In fact, and this is 100% true, I’ve heard from two pretty solid sources and generally really bright guys that Bolt has become an overrated prospect outside of the industry because of his memorable name and little else. If his name was Sam Barnes (or whatever), nobody would pay him much mind, they argue. It’s a pretty fascinating theory and one that I think has more than a kernel of truth to it when you take a step back and examine how the prospect game has changed and evolved as technology and social media access has grown over the past decade or so, but, as a fan of Bolt’s game based solely on what he does on the field and not what’s on his birth certificate, I won’t worry too much about how the dangers of herd mentality internet scouting and the weird Twitter-driven need to be #cool (it’s the same idea as Prom King Comedy but applied to the young guys — man, I sound old right now — who use the technical yet largely meaningless [or, at least, comically over-complicated] scouting jargon and talk down to those who don’t see ten games a week like they do so much so that eventually everybody else just gives up, accepts their expertise, and watch as these self-proclaimed “scouts” land jobs at formerly reputable places like Baseball Prospectus) for now. I just like Bolt because I think he’s good at baseball and will continue to be good at baseball as a professional.

Bolt is a strong prospect because he has a clear set of skills that are above-average or better: he can run, defend in center, and throw at a big league level already. I have no problems with his bat speed — have seen him hit a good fastball more times than I can count — but he does seem to run into an inordinate amount of trouble picking up offspeed stuff out of the pitcher’s hand. I think there’s more power than he’s shown the past two seasons (think double-digit pop in the bigs) and his approach at the plate has remained consistently patient even as his batted ball luck has fluctuated. If it works I can see the same ceiling as those who like him (everyday player who brings value both at the plate and in the field), though I think a more realistic outcome would be fourth outfielder with a chance to keep hitting himself into something more. That’s a bit of a lame hedge, but sometimes the conservative estimation can be the smart play.

JR C Korey Dunbar isn’t really my kind of prospect due to a questionable approach at the plate, but there’s no denying his defensive upside, raw power, and arm strength. I’ve heard from smart people that he’s a breakthrough or two away from really figuring things out at the plate — he’s one of those guys I get consistent “good approach” notes on despite the lackluster BB/K numbers — so maybe, despite thinking he’s likely the best catching prospect in the conference, I’m underrating him still. No surprise, but I’ve always liked JR 3B/2B Landon Lassiter for his patient approach and versatile glove. He’s taken that versatility up a notch this year by playing in the outfield, so now I don’t think it’s crazy to think of him as a viable utility prospect who can play any spot on the diamond save catcher. The fact that doesn’t have much power and probably can’t be called anything better than average at any one defensive position knocks his already modest prospect stock back down to earth. I’d give him a shot late if he’d be willing to sign (for no real reason, I see him as a potential four-year player at UNC), but admit that I might be seeing something in him that really isn’t there.

I’m shocked that I haven’t written much if at all about SR RHP Benton Moss on the site already because I really think the world of him as a prospect. Off the top of my head, I’d have him as the country’s best senior sign pitching prospect. Smart, athletic, competitive, dependable, and with an arm that can crank it to 95 when he needs to, Moss has all the components of a legitimate big league starting pitcher. He’s added to this repertoire over time (most notably two similar yet distinct pitches: a low- to mid-80s slider and a mid-80s cutter) and can now throw any one of four to five pitches (above-average mid-70s CB and upper-70s CU as well) for strikes in any given count. I have no feel at all for when he’ll be selected this June — his big senior season has to help boost his stock, though his recent arm woes (which he’s come back from, but still) could scare some teams off — but I have the feeling that he’ll wind up a really good value for a really happy team.

JR RHP Reilly Hovis getting hurt (TJ surgery) is a major bummer for a pitcher with a really good arm (90-95 FB, above-average 77-83 SL) that could have been a quick-moving top ten round relief option if healthy. I’d take JR RHP Trent Thornton and let his 87-92 (94 peak) fastball, plus upper-70s breaking ball, and average or better upper-70s changeup get regular turns in a pro starting rotation. Same with rJR RHP Chris McCue, a similar sized (6-0, 175 pounds) bullpen stalwart comparable stuff (86-92 FB that peaks at 94 and a pair of good offspeed pitches in an average 78-80 CU and average CB 72-76 that both flash better) and athleticism. Unfortunately, unlike Thornton, McCue has been slow to regain his form after ending last year banged up. I still like the arm talent, so if he’s healthy he’s worth a pick. JR RHP Taylore Cherry disappeared late from the UNC roster this past offseason. Five minutes of searching reveals nothing. I’ll be honest, I had just assumed he was on the roster all year and when I realized today that I hadn’t heard anything about him this year, I figured it was just because he wasn’t playing all that well. I’d argue very few players have had as disappointing a run from big time HS prospect to whatever it is he’s up to now. From my older notes on him…

RHP Taylore Cherry (Butler HS, Ohio): 92 peak FB in early 2011; big jump in velocity expected but never quite realized; new summer 2011 peak of 94, sitting 91-93; good upper-70s CB, 78-81 that might as well be SL; emerging mid-70s CU that he has upped to 83-85 and is now a plus pitch; exceptional control of huge frame; spring 2012 update: 86-87 two-seam FB, 88-91 four-seam FB; good breaking ball; 78-79 CB; 78 SL; 84-86 CU; at his best can throw 91-94 FB with plus sink as well as a 77-79 CB with above-average upside and a low-80s CU with at least average upside, but hasn’t been at his best for a long time; 6-9, 260 pounds

It sounds almost strange to say, but, with the added benefit of hindsight, it might just be that Cherry peaked as a player early on in his high school senior season. We’re all guilty of equating youth with potential, but sometimes a guy is just going to be as good as he’ll ever get and that’s all there is to it. When a high school scouting blurb includes the phrase “but hasn’t been at his best for a long time,” I’d say that’s a red flag for a player’s pro prospects, especially when injury isn’t to blame. It’s a bummer, but that’s baseball. If we can take any lesson from it, then I think we can look at how importance athleticism is for pitching prospects, especially those with frames that require a little extra balance and flexibility to maintain consistent mechanics.

On the opposite side of the spectrum there’s a guy who is so much what is great about the sport. SR RHP Trevor “Everyday” Kelley has more than lived up to his name this year. Kelley has appeared in 28 out of 39 games (72%) this year. That would come out to around 115 appearances in a 162 game season. To further put that into context, Kelley has more innings pitched right now than all but two Tar Heels pitchers. Guys with six (Hunter Williams) and seven (Moss) starts have significantly less innings than Kelley. One of the secrets of adulthood that I feel qualified to share with younger readers now that I’m a wizened old man less than seven months away from turning thirty is that just showing up is a huge part of getting by in this world. Trevor Kelley clearly has that covered. Some people prefer to do more than just get by, so it should be noted that it turns out you can get ahead by actually making a positive difference (or, you know, at least an effort) after you’ve shown up. I’d say pitching almost two innings per appearance (note: it’s closer to 1.2 innings per outing, but we can round up) with an ERA of 2.36 while striking out close to 7.5 batters per nine is a pretty strong impression to leave after each showing. Kelley’s stuff is more solid than spectacular (86-91 FB with sink, CB flashes plus) and he’s never truly dominated in a relief role, but I’d like to think there’s some draft value to be squeezed out of a reliable rubber-armed reliever who attacks hitters at a funky angle.

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – ACC Follow List

Boston College 

JR 1B/OF Chris Shaw (2015)
JR 3B/SS Joe Cronin (2015)
SR 2B/SS Blake Butera (2015)
SR RHP John Gorman (2015)
SR LHP Nick Poore (2015)
JR RHP Jeff Burke (2015)
JR LHP Jesse Adams (2015)
SO RHP Justin Dunn (2016)
SO RHP Mike King (2016)
SO C Nick Sciortino (2016)
SO SS/3B Johnny Adams (2016)
SO RHP Bobby Skogsbergh (2016)

Clemson

JR LHP Matthew Crownover (2015)
JR LHP Zack Erwin (2015)
JR RHP Clate Schmidt (2015)
rSO RHP Wales Toney (2015)
rJR RHP Patrick Andrews (2015)
rSR RHP Kevin Pohle (2015)
rSR RHP Jake Long (2015)
JR RHP Brady Koerner (2015)
rSR RHP Clay Bates (2015)
rSO RHP Garrett Lovorn (2015)
JR RHP/3B Jackson Campana (2015)
JR OF Steven Duggar (2015)
SR OF Tyler Slaton (2015)
rSO 1B/OF Andrew Cox (2015)
rSO OF Maleeke Gibson (2015)
JR SS/2B Tyler Krieger (2015)
SO C Chris Okey (2016)
SO LHP Pat Krall (2016)
SO 3B/SS Weston Wilson (2016)
SO SS/2B Eli White (2016)
SO LHP Alex Bostic (2016)
SO RHP Drew Moyer (2016)
rFR 3B Glenn Batson (2016)
rFR OF Reed Rohlman (2016)
FR OF KJ Bryant (2017)
FR LHP Charlie Barnes (2017)
FR OF Drew Wharton (2017)
FR OF Chase Pinder (2017)

Duke

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)
rSO OF Jalen Phillips (2015)
SR 2B Andy Perez (2015)
SO RHP Bailey Clark (2016)
SO RHP Karl Blum (2016)
SO LHP Kevin Lewallyn (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)
FR LHP Mitch Stallings (2017)

Florida State

JR OF DJ Stewart (2015)
rSR 1B Chris Marconcini (2015)
JR 2B/SS John Sansone (2015)
SR C Daniel De La Calle (2015)
SR OF Josh Delph (2015)
rJR RHP Mike Compton (2015)
SR LHP Bryant Holtmann (2015)
JR RHP/OF Jameis Winston (2015)
JR LHP Alex Diese (2015)
JR LHP Dylan Silva (2015)
SR LHP Billy Strode (2015)
SO RHP Taylor Blatch (2016)
SO LHP Alec Byrd (2016)
SO RHP Boomer Biegalski (2016)
rFR RHP Andy Ward (2016)
rFR RHP Ed Voyles (2016)
SO RHP Jim Voyles (2016)
SO OF/SS Ben DeLuzio (2016)
SO 1B/C Quincy Nieporte (2016)
SO C/OF Gage West (2016)
SO INF Hank Truluck (2016)
FR RHP Cobi Johnson (2017)
FR RHP Andrew Karp (2017)
FR RHP Drew Carlton (2017)
FR SS/3B Dylan Busby (2017)
FR SS/2B Taylor Walls (2017)
FR C/1B Darren Miller (2017)
FR OF/RHP Steven Wells (2017)

Georgia Tech

SR 1B/C AJ Murray (2015)
rJR OF Dan Spingola (2015)
JR 3B/SS Matt Gonzalez (2015)
rSO 1B Cole Miller (2015)
SR 2B/SS Thomas Smith (2015)
JR LHP/OF Jonathan King (2015)
SR RHP Cole Pitts (2015)
SO OF Ryan Peurifoy (2016)
SO RHP Zac Ryan (2016)
SO C Arden Pabst (2016)
SO OF Keenan Innis (2016)
SO 3B/RHP Brandon Gold (2016)
SO LHP Ben Parr (2016)
SO SS Connor Justus (2016)
FR OF/1B Kel Johnson (2017)
FR LHP Daniel Gooden (2017)
FR RHP Patrick Wiseman (2017)

Louisville

JR RHP Kyle Funkhouser (2015)
rSO LHP Josh Rogers (2015)
rSO LHP Robert Strader (2015)
JR RHP/1B Anthony Kidston (2015)
SR 2B/SS Zach Lucas (2015)
JR 1B/3B Dan Rosenbaum (2015)
SR OF Michael White (2015)
SR SS/2B Sutton Whiting (2015)
SO RHP Zack Burdi (2016)
SO LHP Drew Harrington (2016)
SO RHP Jake Sparger (2016)
SO OF Corey Ray (2016)
SO 2B Nick Solak (2016)
rFR 3B/SS Blake Tiberi (2016)
rFR OF/C Ryan Summers (2016)
SO OF Colin Lyman (2016)
SO C Will Smith (2016)
rFR OF Mike White (2016)
FR LHP/1B Brendan McKay (2017)
FR SS Devin Hairston (2017)
FR RHP Lincoln Henzman (2017)
FR RHP Kade McClure (2017)
FR C/1B Colby Fritch (2017)

Miami

JR 3B/1B David Thompson (2015)
JR 3B/OF George Iskenderian (2015)
SR C Garrett Kennedy (2015)
rSO 1B/OF Chris Barr (2015)
JR OF Ricky Eusebio (2015)
JR SS/RHP Brandon Lopez (2015)
rJR LHP Andrew Suarez (2015)
JR LHP Thomas Woodrey (2015)
JR RHP Enrique Sosa (2015)
SO 1B/C Zack Collins (2016)
SO OF Willie Abreu (2016)
SO RHP/1B Derik Beauprez (2016)
SO OF Jacob Heyward (2016)
SO LHP Danny Garcia (2016)
SO RHP Bryan Garcia (2016)
SO SS Sebastian Diaz (2016)
SO 2B Johnny Ruiz (2016)
SO RHP Cooper Hammond (2016)
rFR RHP Andy Honiotes (2016)
FR OF Carl Chester (2017)
FR OF Justin Smith (2017)
FR LHP Michael Mediavilla (2017)
FR RHP Jesse Lepore (2017)
FR RHP Keven Pimentel (2017)
FR LHP Luke Spangler (2017)
FR RHP Devin Meyer (2017)

North Carolina

SR RHP Benton Moss (2015)
JR RHP Reilly Hovis (2015)
JR RHP Trent Thornton (2015)
rJR RHP Chris McCue (2015)
SR RHP Trevor Kelley (2015)
JR RHP Taylore Cherry (2015)
JR OF Skye Bolt (2015)
JR OF Josh Merrigan (2015)
JR 3B/2B Landon Lassiter (2015)
JR C Korey Dunbar (2015)
JR SS/OF Alex Raburn (2015)
SO RHP/SS Spencer Trayner (2016)
SO RHP AJ Bogucki (2016)
SO RHP Zac Gallen (2016)
SO LHP Zach Rice (2016)
SO C Adrian Chacon (2016)
SO 1B Joe Dudek (2016)
SO 2B/SS Wood Myers (2016)
SO OF Tyler Ramirez (2016)
SO OF Adam Pate (2016)
FR 3B/RHP Ryder Ryan (2016)
FR 1B/LHP Hunter Williams (2017)
FR SS/3B Zack Gahagan (2017)
FR RHP JB Bukauskas (2017)
FR RHP Hansen Butler (2017)
FR RHP Jason Morgan (2017)
FR OF/2B Logan Warmoth (2017)
FR RHP Brett Daniels (2017)
FR INF Brooks Kennedy (2017)

North Carolina State

JR RHP Jon Olczak (2015)
JR RHP Curt Britt (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)
JR SS Ryne Willard (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)
FR 3B Joe Dunand (2017)

Notre Dame

rSR RHP Cristian Torres (2015)
JR RHP Nick McCarty (2015)
SR RHP Scott Kerrigan (2015)
JR RHP David Hearne (2015)
JR LHP Michael Hearne (2015)
JR LHP/OF Zac Kutsulis (2015)
SR OF/LHP Robert Youngdahl (2015)
SR 3B Phil Mosey (2015)
SR OF/1B Ryan Bull (2015)
SR OF Mac Hudgins (2015)
SR OF Blaise Lezynski (2015)
SR OF Conor Biggio (2015)
JR SS Lane Richards (2015)
JR C/OF Ricky Sanchez (2015)
SO RHP Ryan Smoyer (2016)
SO 2B/SS Kyle Fiala (2016)
SO 2B/3B Cavan Biggio (2016)
SO C Ryan Lidge (2016)
rFR OF Torii Hunter (2016)
FR RHP Peter Solomon (2017)
FR RHP Brad Bass (2017)
FR RHP Brandon Bielak (2017)
FR LHP Sean Guenther (2017)

Pittsburgh

SR OF Boo Vazquez (2015)
SR 1B Eric Hess (2015)
SR SS/2B Matt Johnson (2015)
JR C Alex Kowalczyk (2015)
JR RHP Marc Berube (2015)
JR RHP Aaron Sandefur (2015)
JR LHP/OF Aaron Schnurbusch (2015)
SR RHP Hobie Harris (2015)
SO RHP Sam Mersing (2016)
SO RHP TJ Zeuch (2016)
FR 3B/SS Charles LeBlanc (2017)

Virginia

JR OF Joe McCarthy (2015)
JR 2B/3B John LaPrise (2015)
SO SS/3B Daniel Pinero (2015)
SR 3B Kenny Towns (2015)
JR C/RHP Robbie Coman (2015)
JR LHP Brandon Waddell (2015)
JR LHP Nathan Kirby (2015)
JR RHP Josh Sborz (2015)
JR LHP David Rosenberger (2015)
SO RHP Connor Jones (2016)
SO C Matt Thaiss (2016)
SO RHP Jack Roberts (2016)
SO RHP Alec Bettinger (2016)
FR 2B Jack Gerstenmaier (2017)
FR 1B/RHP Pavin Smith (2017)
FR RHP Derek Casey (2017)
FR RHP Tommy Doyle (2017)
FR OF/LHP Adam Haseley (2017)
FR LHP Bennett Sousa (2017)
FR 3B Charlie Cody (2017)
FR C/2B Justin Novak (2017)
FR OF Christian Lowry (2017)
FR 2B/OF Ernie Clement (2017)

Virginia Tech

rSO OF Saige Jenco (2015)
SR 2B/SS Alex Perez (2015)
rSR OF Kyle Wernicki (2015)
rJR OF Logan Bible (2015)
SR 1B/RHP Brendon Hayden (2015)
rSO 1B/LHP Phil Sciretta (2015)
SR LHP/1B Sean Keselica (2015)
rSO LHP Kit Scheetz (2015)
rJR LHP Jon Woodcock (2015)
SO RHP Luke Scherzer (2016)
SO SS Ricky Surum (2016)
SO RHP Aaron McGarity (2016)
SO 3B Ryan Tufts (2016)
SO OF/LHP Tom Stoffel (2016)
SO 3B/OF Miguel Ceballos (2016)
SO RHP Ryan Lauria (2016)
FR C Joe Freiday (2017)
FR 3B Max Ponzurik (2017)

Wake Forest

JR RHP/C Garrett Kelly (2015)
SR RHP Matt Pirro (2015)
rSO LHP Max Tishman (2015)
rJR RHP Aaron Fossas (2015)
rSR OF Kevin Jordan (2015)
JR OF/2B Joey Rodriguez (2015)
JR OF Luke Czajkowski (2015)
SO C Ben Breazeale (2016)
rFR RHP Chris Farish (2016)
SO 2B/OF Nate Mondou (2016)
SO 3B/RHP Will Craig (2016)
SO RHP John McCarren (2016)
SO RHP Connor Johnstone (2016)
SO RHP Parker Dunshee (2016)
FR OF Stuart Fairchild (2017)
FR INF Bruce Steel (2017)
FR 1B Gavin Sheets (2017)
FR SS Drew Freedman (2017)

2012 MLB Draft: All-ACC Prospect Team (Honorable Mentions)

I really wanted to finish up those College World Series previews in time for the weekend, but pesky real work obligations got in the way. They wound up being a lot more time consuming than I had anticipated, so with great regret I’m ditching the rest of the time-sensitive stuff and instead focusing on a more general 2012 approach going forward. In an effort to spotlight some interesting names heading into next year, I’ll be putting together preseason All-Conference (2012 Draft) teams throughout the summer. Like much of the content you’ll see over the next ten weeks there is no schedule, so be sure to check in early and often to see if your favorite conference has gotten any love.

To start off, here are 5 interesting ACC infielders who didn’t actually make the cut for my preseason All-ACC (2012 Draft) team…

Source: leebecker.com

Clemson SO C Spencer Kieboom | .300/.382/.382 – 23 BB/12 K – 170 AB

There is a lot to like about Spencer Kieboom. First, he’s got a good approach at the plate. Next up, there is his even better defense behind the plate. Finally, and best of all, there is his name, Spencer Kieboom. The first two may be more important with respect to his future in baseball, but I’d say that last quality alone is more than enough to get him on every early 2012 watch list.

Wake Forest SO 1B Matt Conway |.272/.361/.451 – 27 BB/31 K – 195 AB

Conway has the size (6-7, 250 pounds), plus raw power, and solid approach to hitting that help make him Wake Forest’s best prospect since Allan Dykstra in 2008. He also dabbles on the mound for the Demon Deacons; that’s both a terrifying thought for an opposing batter (not sure I’d be feeling 6-7, 250 pound lefty heat coming at me…) and a feat worth noting to highlight Conway’s better than you’d think athleticism and arm strength.

Clemson SO 1B Richie Shaffer | .333/.459/.613 – 47 BB/50 K – 222 AB

It was incredibly difficult to leave Shaffer off the big boy list, but tough decisions sometimes come with the job. If we were to smartly ignore the artificial restraints that such a list presents, however, we could focus less on the list itself and more on Shaffer the good defender with plus to plus-plus raw power and a plus throwing arm capable of hitting the low-90s from the mound. We could also talk about his outstanding sophomore year – who couldn’t love a sophomore who slugged over .600 while going up against the likes of Virginia, North Carolina, Miami and Florida State? – as well as his above-average defense, solid athleticism, pro frame speedy recovery from a broken hamate bone.

North Carolina SO 2B Tommy Coyle | .337/.429/.451 – 37 BB/21 K – 19/25 SB – 255 AB

Coyle has above-average speed and athleticism, a really solid line drive swing, and an outstanding batting eye. It is still really early in the process, but I think we’re looking at a player with the ceiling of a big league regular with the possibility of a utility future a realistic backup option. The similarities between Tommy and his Red Sox prospect brother Sean are striking, with the younger Sean holding the slight advantage as a prospect because of a touch more power upside. How cool is it to think that there is a chance both Tommy and Sean could be big league starting second baseman some day?

Virginia SO SS Chris Taylor | .320/.397/.426 – 25 BB/39 K – 10/14 SB – 256

As an unheralded – though still heralded enough to land at UVA — high school recruit, Chris Taylor has had to work his way up the depth chart over time. He now finds himself firmly entrenched as the Cavaliers starting shortstop and leadoff hitter. His athleticism, defensive versatility, and plus arm are what really set him apart from the field at this point in his development.