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The state of North Carolina had never produced morel than three first-round picks until 2014, when Carlos Rodon (third overall), Jeff Hoffman (ninth), Trea Turner (13) and Braxton Davidson (32) all went out in the first round.
That’s a modest record, certainly; for comparison’s sake, California had 13 (!) first-rounders as recently as 2000, while Georgia has produced at least four first-rounders four times this century, including six in 2010 .
Less than two months away from the first day of the 2017 draft on June 12, however, it’s extremely likely that the Tar Heel State will produce at least that many first-rounders, with a chance to have five. And three players from the state—North Carolina righthander J.B. Bukauskas, Whiteville prep lefty MacKenzie Gore and Lexington prep outfielder Austin Beck—have a chance to go in the first five picks.
“No question, it’s the best it has ever been,” said one veteran scout whose team picks in the top 10. “If you combine it with South Carolina, where you could have two first-rounders as well, then you’re talking about maybe seven first-rounders between them, which is amazing.
The development of shortstop Logan Warmoth and center fielder Brian Miller, who play with Bukauskas on No. 3-ranked North Carolina, will determine whether the state gets to five first-rounders. In different draft years, neither would be a first-rounder, but Warmoth has outhit most of the rest of the college shortstops in the country, has plus arm strength and the defensive chops to stay in the middle infield. Many scouts also remember him from his Orlando prep days when he played on the Scorpions travel team with good friends and current Rockies farmhands Brendan Rogers (the No. 3 overall pick in 2015) and Forrest Wall (2014 supplemental first-round pick).
Miller—who was going to walk on at UNC Asheville before North Carolina recruited him late in the summer after his senior year at Raleigh’s Millbrook High—hasn’t quite hit for average as expected, but he’s a plus runner with a long track record of hitting with wood in the Coastal Plain (.389 in 2015) and Cape Cod (.327 in 2016) leagues, and he keeps improving in center field.