|THIS YEAR’S CROP|
|*****||One for the books|
|***||Solid, not spectacular|
|**||Not up to par|
|*||Nothing to see here|
The University of North Carolina had an unexpected early exit from the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, but that did little to cool the projections of pitchers Andrew Miller and Daniel Bard. Miller has handled the pressure of being the projected first overall pick throughout the spring with aplomb. The southpaw should live up to that projection come June 6, joining B.J. Surhoff in 1985 as the lone UNC players to have their names called first in the June draft. Bard has not been as consistent as Miller, though he too projects to go among the initial dozen selections. Fellow ACC standout Matt Antonelli of Wake Forest could be a first-round pick. The high school draft class is deep with pitchers who are expected to be among the initial 50 or so players taken. Chris Archer and Ryan Morris, who have committed to Miami and Clemson respectively, are unlikely to step foot on campus if they are drafted in the first two rounds. There’s also depth after the first round, with North Carolina State’s Aaron Bates and UNC Wilmington’s John Raynor as well as prepster Alex White among those attracting strong consideration.
|National Top 200 Prospects
1. Andrew Miller, lhp, North Carolina
2. Daniel Bard, rhp, North Carolina
3. Matt Antonelli, 3b/2b, Wake Forest
4. Ryan Morris, lhp, South Mecklenburg HS, Charlotte
5. Chris Archer, rhp, Clayton HS
6. Alex White, rhp, Conley HS, Greenville
7. Aaron Bates, 1b, North Carolina State
|Other Players Of Note
8. John Raynor, of, UNC Wilmington
9. Josh Thrailkill, rhp, T.C. Roberson HS, Arden
10. Blake Murphy, c, Western Carolina
11. Chris Hatcher, c, UNC Wilmington
12. Lonnie Chisenhall, ss/rhp, West Carteret HS, Morehead City
13. Dustin Ackley, of, North Forsyth HS, Rural Hall
14. Addison Johnson, of/lhp, North Forsyth HS, Rural Hall
15. Drew Poulk, of, West Carteret HS, Morehead City
16. Eric Walker, rhp, Charlotte
17. Blair Waggett, of, Campbell
18. Jon Still, c, North Carolina State
19. Gib Hobson, rhp, North Carolina State
20. Matt Camp, 2b/of, North Carolina State
1. Andrew Miller, lhp (National rank: 1)
School: North Carolina. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Gainesville, Fla.
B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 210. Birthdate: 5/21/85.
Scouting Report: Miller entered this spring as the top-rated prospect for the 2006 draft and proceeded to live up to that lofty billing. The top unsigned player from the 2003 draft, when he was a third-round pick of the Devil Rays out of high school in Gainesville, Fla., Miller wound up at North Carolina and has improved every season, becoming more consistent and more dominant. He dominated in the wood-bat Cape Cod League each of the last two summers (2.03 ERA in 2004, 1.65 ERA in 2005 for Chatham) and was rated as the league’s top prospect by Baseball America in both years. He put it all together this spring, leading the Tar Heels to the top of the national rankings by winning his first 10 decisions, including triumphs over nationally ranked opponents in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He did not allow an earned run in seven of his first 13 starts and surrendered just four extra-base hits, and he didn’t lose his first game until May 12. He had 290 strikeouts in 270 career innings, setting the North Carolina career record with at least two starts remaining. At 6-foot-7 and 210 pounds, Miller has an ideal frame with a clean delivery and easy arm action. His fastball registers consistently in the 93-95 mph range and can touch the upper 90s. Miller also has a major league offering with a mid-80s slider with a sharp bite. He can miss his spots at times and tends to be a bit wild in the strike zone, yet such criticism is nothing more than nitpicking. A more legitimate concern for scouts is that Miller’s long, lanky body may lack the strength to allow him to be a workhorse starter or to maintain his stuff deep into starts. Similar issues affect his mechanics and could raise injury concerns as well. Still, the consensus has Miller joining a rotation at the major league level as soon as 2007.
2. Daniel Bard, rhp (National rank: 15)
School: North Carolina. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Charlotte, N.C.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 202. Birthdate: 6/25/85.
Scouting Report: Bard has not thrown with the same consistency of teammate Andrew Miller, but the righthander should give the Tar Heels two first-round picks. Bard limited opponents to a .220 average in his first 72 innings this spring while winning six of his first nine decisions. According to UNC head coach Mike Fox, Bard had his best start as a collegian on April 23 by tossing a four-hit shutout versus N.C. State. That performance followed a strong effort in the Cape Cod League, when he led the circuit in strikeouts and ranked as the second-best prospect, behind only Miller. Bard was deemed one of the premier high school pitchers in the 2003 draft before falling to the Yankees in the 20th round due to signability concerns. He proceeded to earn ACC freshman of the year honors in 2004 prior to an uneven season as a sophomore. Bard’s fastball resides in the low 90s and touches 94 after hitting 98 earlier in his college career. His curveball is just as effective, featuring a sharp bite and a late break. Scouts also love his workhorse mentality and durable body. He can struggle with the command of his fastball, and has worked on becoming more pitch-efficient.
3. Matt Antonelli, 3b (National rank: 27)
School: Wake Forest. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Peabody, Mass.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 198. Birthdate: 4/8/85.
Scouting Report: Antonelli earned his keep at Wake Forest as an exceptional athlete who put the ball in play with consistency. Scouts like the way he improved every year in college. Teams were careful against him this spring, yet he displayed his usual patience and still managed to rank among the Atlantic Coast Conference leaders in six offensive categories through mid-May. Antonelli has a compact swing that feasts on fastballs and makes pitchers pay for getting behind in the count. His plate discipline was the best in the ACC, and the results included hard and consistent contact and only 24 strikeouts in 200 at-bats. His athleticism is excellent, and he puts it to use on the basepaths and on the field. His defense at the hot corner is exceptional, but scouts wonder if he will hit for enough power in pro ball to remain at the position. While his power continues to develop, Antonelli is able to hit the ball hard to all fields, as evidenced by his going the opposite way in eight of his first 11 home runs this year. His soft hands, good lateral quickness and solid range should allow for a seamless move to second base, while his speed and arm strength could handle left and center fields and possibly right field.
4. Ryan Morris, lhp (National rank: 61)
School: South Mecklenberg HS. Class: Sr.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 180. Birthdate: 1/10/88.
Scouting Report: Morris attracted the interest of all 30 teams this spring due to his recent increase in velocity. After throwing his fastball in the 82-85 mph range in 2005, his heater sat in the upper 80s this year. He also throws a hard slider with good tilt and excellent bite. At 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, Morris has an ideal frame that projects well, although his overall physical strength can improve. He also went through a dead-arm period this spring, yet was able to work through it while maintaining good results. His bulldog tenacity and overall makeup impress organizations that put a high priority on those traits. Combined with his ability to deal from the left side, Morris has become a potential high-round pick. Equally impressive was the way Morris continued to live up to rising expectations all spring despite increased scrutiny from scouts and college recruiters.
5. Chris Archer, rhp (National rank: 65)
School: Clayton HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Clayton, N.C.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 165. Birthdate: Age: 18.
Scouting Report: Few players made greater strides in the past 12 months than Archer. A virtual unknown nationally in the spring of 2005, Archer emerged as the quintessential late bloomer last year after going 11-2, 1.09 as a junior. He then tossed two scoreless innings after a last-minute invitation to the East Coast Showcase last summer before throwing lights-out this high school season. In the process, he orally committed to North Carolina State before signing with Miami, yet has given scouts every indication that he would prefer to sign and begin his professional career. Archer’s best pitch is a sharp slider that he throws in the 78-81 mph range on two planes. His fastball sits in the 90-92 mph range but has a tendency to be a bit flat. Still, the athletic Archer, who was an outstanding high school quarterback, has a live arm, a good overall feel for pitching and impressive confidence without a hint of arrogance. He has struggled with his command on occasion, which can be attributed to minor kinks in his delivery, but his body projects incredibly well, particularly with his easy arm action.
6. Alex White, rhp/3b (National rank: 71)
School: D.H. Conley HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Greenville, N.C.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 185. Birthdate: 8/29/88.
Scouting Report: A two-sport star in high school, White’s stock has risen throughout the spring. Competitive with superior athleticism on the mound, White throws a hard slider that he uses about 75 percent of the time and mixes in an above-average fastball. His slurvy breaking ball resides in the low 80s, while his fastball sits in the 90-92 mph range and touches 94. Some scouts say his heater could reach the 97-98 mph range if not for his reliance on the slider. He received recruiting interest from several college basketball programs, but White has the potential to be something special on the diamond. Scouts love his makeup and his ability to maintain his velocity in games. The combination of tools and attitude could lead to his being drafted anywhere between the supplemental first round and the third round.
7. Aaron Bates, 1b (National rank: 99)
School: North Carolina State. Class: Jr.
Hometown: La Selva Beach, Calif.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 226. Birthdate: 3/10/84.
Scouting Report: Bates is a mature, polished hitter who could move quickly through the minor leagues. He does an excellent job of handling pitches on the outside part of the plate and is capable of crushing the ball to the opposite field. Bates projects as a hitter who will use the entire field while showing the power, strength and quickness to pull the ball at the next level. A .425 hitter as a sophomore, Bates has a good eye and excellent plate discipline, leading to 38 walks in his first 51 games this season. Some observers are concerned that his high leg kick can make his swing a little long and vulnerable to fastballs up and in. Defensively, Bates is steady with the leather at first base. He provides a big target, moves well and handles all types of throws. Bates has a pro body along with a professional makeup, which should see him off the draft board no later than the fourth round.
Depth Highlights N.C. Draft Class
After a weak draft class in 2005, the Tar Heel state has bounced back with impressive depth at both the high school and college ranks. North Carolina signee Alex White has seen his stock rise significantly this spring. Two other potential Tar Heels include Dustin Ackley and Drew Poulk, both of whom played infield in the high school ranks but project as outfielders at the next level. Ackley possesses superior athleticism, plus speed and excellent hand-eye coordination to draw comparisons to Steve Finley. Poulk’™s stock fell this spring when he struggled at the plate as well as with a series of lingering injuries. When healthy, Poulk is an aggressive hitter who generates impressive bat speed and above-average pop from the right side, but he does have a hole or two in his swing. He has a rangy body and should get bigger and stronger over the next few years.
Poulk teamed with Lonnie Chisenhall at West Carteret High to create a formidable one-two punch. Chisenhall served as his team’™s leadoff hitter and was intentionally walked in the first inning of a game this spring, a mark of the respect opponents showed him. A pure hitter with the ability to rake from the left side of the plate, Chisenhall’™s overall game is not polished. There are mixed reviews on his power potential, leading some observers to wonder if he is ready to make the jump to pro ball. Chisenhall is a below-average runner with sloppy footwork. A shortstop in high school, he rates as an average defender who will land at third base or possibly left field. He committed to play at South Carolina and is considered a tough sign.
A pair of Clemson signees also will tempt teams in the first 10 rounds. Josh Thrailkill got scouts’ attention last year when he earned a spot on the Team USA junior squad and lit up a showcase in Jupiter, Fla. After overpowering hitters with his 91-93 mph fastball, he did not display that same velocity until late spring. Not unlike former high school teammate Cameron Maybin, the 10th overall pick in the 2005 draft to the Tigers, Thrailkill’™s makeup is off the charts. He is a polished pitcher with outstanding size and arm strength. His arm works well, and his pitchability is outstanding.
Potential college teammate Addison Johnson worked tirelessly to get back on the diamond for his senior year after a knee injury in 2005 and wound up putting together his best performance as an amateur. A shortstop and pitcher in high school, Johnson has the makings of a center fielder/leadoff hitter. He creates excitement with his all-out hustle and plus speed. He can drive the ball in the gaps and is happy to use his legs as an accomplished bunter. Scouts don’t like his 5-foot-7 frame, but they expect him to get the maximum from his intriguing tools.
On the college front, the North Carolina State’s Aaron Bates is a mature, polished hitter who could move quickly through the minor leagues and should go in the first five rounds. Other Wolfpack draft candidates include Jon Still, Gib Hobson and Matt Camp. Still transferred from Stetson and has some offensive potential and decent athleticism behind the plate. Hobson went 9-1 this year, winning the majority of his games in midweek tilts against weaker competition before becoming State’s ace down the stretch after an injury to Andrew Brackman, a possible first-rounder in 2007. Camp could be a solid senior sign after he batted .382 and drove in 40 runs. He projects as a second baseman after seeing time at shortstop and in the outfield. He’s a solid runner who struggled as a junior.
One of the more interesting senior signs could be John Raynor, who has attracted the interest of scouts with his athleticism and gritty approach to the game. Drafted last year by the Orioles in the 12th round, he returned to UNC Wilmington for his senior season and likely improved his stock while nearly finishing work on his biology degree. A tough out at the college level, Raynor has plus speed, clocking 6.3 seconds in the 60 last year in the Coastal Plain League all-star game, and projects as a center fielder with good range. His routes on fly balls will need work, but he is a good baserunner who had swiped 40 bases in 44 attempts this spring. His arm strength rates above-average and is more than adequate for the middle garden. Raynor has a good, short stroke and his bat stays in the strike zone a long time, which allows him to consistently put the ball in play and use his legs to get on base. His power is a question mark, but Raynor is an excellent bunter with good overall strength and has shown the ability to make adjustments against all levels of competition.
Raynor’™s teammate with the Seahawks, Chris Hatcher, is expected to go in the first 10 rounds as well. Hatcher is an athletic catcher with a wiry body and has developed into a solid switch-hitter after giving up the practice earlier in his college career. Hatcher possesses a plus arm that has been clocked as high as 94 mph off the mound, but he tends to rush his throws on occasion. Another solid catching prospect is Western Carolina’™s Blake Murphy, who turned down a significant bonus offer from the Yankees as a 37th-round draft pick out of high school in 2003. He is eligible for the draft this year as a redshirt sophomore. After taking a medical redshirt in 2004 and struggling at the plate in 2005, Murphy bounced back to hit for both power and average this spring. He shows excellent athleticism behind the plate with an impressive combination of power and speed. Murphy has above-average arm strength with good accuracy on his throws. He needs to improve his game-calling and blocking balls in the dirt, yet has displayed the intelligence and agility to learn those skills at the next level.
Two other collegians who could go in the draft’s first day include righthander Eric Walker and outfielder Blair Waggett. Walker has averaged nearly one-and-a-half strikeouts an inning at UNC Charlotte, employing great command of a plus slider and an above-average curveball. He also has an 87-88 mph fastball, but his overall athleticism is not impressive. Waggett spent his first three college seasons at North Carolina before transferring to Campbell. He ran the 60 in 6.28 and 6.37 seconds on scout night this spring, and he has an ideal pro body with plus strength that has produced some tape-measure shots. Waggett produces high strikeout totals due to his relatively long swing and tendency to chase high fastballs, but his power potential could make him a mid-round sleeper.