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2016 MLB Draft Prospects – North Carolina State

JR RHP Joe O’Donnell (2016)
rJR LHP Sean Adler (2016)
rJR RHP Johnny Piedmonte (2016)
JR RHP Cory Wilder (2016)
rSR LHP Travis Orwig (2016)
SR LHP Will Gilbert (2016)
rJR RHP Karl Keglovits (2016)
rSR RHP Kyle Smith (2016)
rSR RHP Chris Williams (2016)
rSO LHP Cody Beckman (2016)
JR LHP Ryan Williamson (2016)
JR C/3B Andrew Knizner (2016)
JR 1B Preston Palmeiro (2016)
SR SS Ryne Willard (2016)
SR C Chance Shepard (2016)
rSO OF Garrett Suggs (2016)
SO LHP Brian Brown (2017)
SO RHP Evan Mendoza (2017)
SO RHP/INF Tommy DeJuneas (2017)
rFR OF Storm Edwards (2017)
SO OF Josh McLain (2017)
SO 3B/SS Joe Dunand (2017)
SO 2B Stephen Pitarra (2017)
SO OF Brock Deatherage (2017)
FR SS/OF Xavier LeGrant (2018)

JR C Andrew Knizner is a fascinating prospect who doesn’t quite fit the mold of what one might think of a potential top five round college catcher. Defensively, he’s still very much out of sorts as a relatively new catcher but his athleticism and willingness to make it work could be enough for teams willing to take the long view on his pro future. Offensively, he’s a high contact hitter with excellent plate coverage and power that has a chance to be average or better as he continues to add strength. I tend to give players new to a demanding defensive position the benefit of the doubt for as long as possible, so I’m fine with riding out another half-season or so of shaky defense behind the plate before beginning to ask the question whether or not Knizner has what it takes to be a catcher full-time in the pros. Almost no matter what transpires on the field this year, I can’t see a team drafting Knizner high enough that he’s signable with the intention of at least continuing to try him as a catcher for the foreseeable future. He’s good enough in other areas that it’s not quite a catcher or bust proposition for him, but that depends on how high one’s expectations are for him at this point.

SR C Chance Shepard might be overlooked as the second catcher on a team with a big prospect ahead of him like Knizner, but that shouldn’t be the case. He’s a big guy with power who can handle himself fine defensively. If he gets a chance to play more I think more people will take notice of him as a viable pro prospect.

I’m still on the fence some about JR 1B Preston Palmeiro, but he has some very vocal fans out there who love his swing and think he has a chance to be an average or better hitter with above-average power production. Being a primary first base prospect at the amateur level is a tricky thing with a bit more to it than many — myself included — think about. On the one hand, it’s obvious that being limited defensively to first base drastically increases the threshold of entry to professional baseball as a hitter. You need to hit and hit and hit to make it. On the other hand, there simply isn’t the same competition at first base at the amateur level as there is at other spots. I know that many a big league first baseman played elsewhere along the way, but if we’re just talking about getting drafted in the first place then the competitive field begins to look a lot thinner. In other words, if Palmeiro goes out and hits the shit out of the ball all spring, then what’s to stop a team from valuing that bat higher than we’re conditioned to think because of the relative lack of options to be found later in the draft? Up the middle players are wonderful and we know they dominate these drafts for a reason, but with offensive production (power, especially) growing increasingly scarce at the highest level perhaps the place for a big bat a team believes in will come sooner on draft day.

(This may totally undercut the previous point, but it’s crazy enough to me that I don’t mind. You want the list of first day college first basemen taken since I started the site back in 2009? We’ve got Chris Shaw, Casey Gillaspie, CJ Cron, and…that’s it. Three guys in seven drafts. That probably shouldn’t amaze me, but it does. As we’ve repeated already, many first basemen are made and not born. College first day guys who can also handle and may eventually play 1B full-time include Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, and Stephen Piscotty. I think all can be corner outfielders at worst, but reasonable minds may disagree. If you’re feeling kind you could also add Bryce Brentz, Kyle Parker, and Michael Choice to that list. I’m not sure I see a future big league first baseman of worth out of that trio, but you never know, right? I suppose the point here is that recent historical trends point towards college first basemen lasting longer than one might think. Or maybe it’s a coincidence based on the fact that we’ve had an unusually underwhelming group of college sluggers in this time frame. Or maybe it’s an arbitrary endpoints thing. Who knows!)

JR RHP Cory Wilder might have to go by Cory Wildest if he has another season like his past one. From a performance perspective, the good (11.06 K/9 and 3.50 ERA in 64.1 IP) outweighed the bad (8.26 BB/9) and his stuff has always been on point (88-94 fastball that hits 95 with an average or better breaking ball that flashes plus and a usable low- to mid-80s change), so the package on balance is appealing in spite of his wild ways. Even a small jump in improved control will have him flying up boards this spring. He’s the current 1b to JR RHP Joe O’Donnell’s 1a when ranking the team’s 2016 pitching prospects. O’Donnell has the best shot of any member of the team’s 2016 pitching staff to continue starting as a professional. He’s got the sinker/slider combo at the top (some have called his breaking ball a curve, FWIW), a low-80s changeup with average upside, and no red flags with command, control, delivery, or size. I’m a fan.

rJR RHP Johnny Piedmonte might be the most interesting Wolfpack pitching prospect to a casual fan. I’d venture that guess based on Piedmonte’s size (6-8, 240) more than any other factor. Big guys always get extra attention. Vince McMahon was on to something, I guess. Piedmonte is more than just a monster on the mound, of course. He’s got a good fastball (88-92, 93 peak), a pair of breaking balls with average upside, and a change that he can at least work in from time to time. The size undeniably makes him that much more appealing, so keep an eye on whether or not he can sharpen up one of his two main offspeed pitches and get his mechanics in order this spring.

rSR RHP Kyle Smith might be the most interesting Wolfpack pitching prospect to me. I won’t pretend to know a ton about him just yet, but everything I’ve read and heard is quite intriguing. We know he’s a fantastic athlete with a big arm (90-96 FB) and a slider with promise. We don’t yet know he’ll perform under the bright lights of ACC competition. I’m obviously bullish on his future and will be keeping close tabs on him all spring. I try to be stingy with my FAVORITE designations in my notes — obvious early round players that I like along with everybody else, like Zack Collins of Miami from yesterday’s preview, aren’t given the nod — so it’s worth mentioning that Smith is the first guy profiled so far to get the honor.

SR LHP Will Gilbert gets a mention for missing bats (9.89 K/9 last year) with average stuff (upper-80s FB, average breaking ball) and not much size (5-11, 160). JR LHP Ryan Williamson is similar yet better in most of those areas: 11.04 K/9 last year, 87-92 FB, average upper-70s slider, and listed at 6-3, 200 pounds. That said, if run prevention is your thing then Gilbert (2.47 ERA) tops Williamson (5.17 ERA) based on what they both did last year. rSR LHP Travis Orwig tops them both in that area (1.85 ERA) and offers a decent compromise in terms of stuff (88-92 FB, average or better mid-70s curve) and size (6-2, 210). I don’t have a clever way of tying in rJR LHP Sean Adler into this discussion other than to point out that we’ve got ourselves yet another North Carolina State lefthanded pitching prospect of note. The transfer from USC has some projection left that gives hope he’ll continue to add on to a fastball that lives 85-90 (92 peak).

I’m fairly certain rJR RHP Karl Keglovits is on my top ten list of players I’ve written about the most disproportionate to their draft impact to date. His size (6-6, 230) and movement on his fastball continue to make him an arm I can’t quit, but the next sustained run of effective innings at the college level will be his first.