Scouting Reports: North Carolina
After coming within an out of winning the College World Series, North Carolina had the luxury of returning most of its key position players. This year, however--between Josh Horton, Reid Fronk and Seth Williams, as well as pitchers Luke Putkonen and Andrew Carignan--the Tar Heels will lose a wealth of talent through the draft. They don't have any certain first-rounders, as they did last year when Daniel Bard and Andrew Miller were two of the best pitchers available, but Horton should go early to a team that values college performance.
|*****||One for the
|**||Not up to
|*||Nothing to see
Across the Triangle at North Carolina State, former basketball standout Andrew Brackman lit up radar guns early in the season and remained the state's top prospect, despite slumping late in the season. Duke, Wake Forest, East Carolina and High Point each had at least one prospect who could be taken in the top 10 rounds as well.
Not only is the state's college depth better than usual, but the high school class also is productive, especially in terms of high-end talent. "Loaded," said an area scout, summing up North Carolina's draft-eligible talent this year. "I burned up Interstate 85 like crazy. I was constantly going between Georgia and North Carolina this spring. To me, it's a banner year."
Andrew Brackman, rhp, North Carolina State
Madison Bumgarner, lhp, South Caldwell HS, Hudson,
3. Justin Jackson, ss, Roberson HS,
4. Josh Horton, ss, North
5. Sam Runion, rhp, Reynolds HS,
6. David Mailman, 1b,
Providence HS, Charlotte
7. Patrick Johnson,
rhp, St. Stephens HS, Conover, N.C.
8. Andrew Carignan, rhp, North Carolina
9. Jimmy Gallagher, of, Duke
10. Shane Mathews, rhp, East Carolina
11. Trent Rothlin, rhp, Foard HS, Newton, N.C.
12. Emmon Portice, rhp, High Point
13. Luke Putkonen, rhp, North Carolina
14. Dale Mollenhauer, 2b, East Carolina
15. Adam Mills, rhp, Charlotte
16. Quincy Lattimore, of, Middle Creek HS, Apex, N.C.
17. Tom Boleska, rhp, High Point
18. Brett Bartles, 3b, Duke
19. Seth Williams, of, North Carolina
20. Chris Luck, rhp, South Granville HS, Creedmoor, N.C.
21. Eric Niesen, lhp, Wake Forest
22. Justin Poovey, rhp, South Caldwell HS, Hudson, N.C.
23. Tyrell Worthington, of, South Central HS, Winterville, N.C.
24. Reid Fronk, of, North Carolina
25. Robert Woodard, rhp, North Carolina
26. Caleb Mangum, c, North Carolina State
27. Eryk McConnell, rhp, North Carolina State
28. Greg Holt, 3b/rhp, West Forsyth HS, Clemmons, N.C
29. Dustin Sasser, lhp, East Carolina
30. Chad Flack, 1b, North Carolina
|1. Andrew Brackman,
rhp (National rank:
North Carolina State. Class:
Report: As an awkward 6-foot-7 16-year-old at
Cincinnati's Moeller High, Brackman wasn't considered a top 50 prospect
in baseball or basketball. His basketball game blossomed as a senior,
and when N.C. State offered him a chance to play both sports, he
eagerly accepted. A bout with tendinitis assured he wouldn't be drafted
highly enough out of high school to buy him out of college, and after
giving up basketball as a sophomore (he had thrown just 77 innings in
his first two years at N.C. State), he's begun to come into this own.
Now a legitimate 6-foot-10, 240 pounds, his upside is considerable. His
athleticism helps him repeat his delivery, but he struggles with his
balance and release point, leading to erratic command, especially of
his secondary stuff. He touched 99 mph in the Cape Cod League in 2006
and again during an early-season outing in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and he
pitches at 94 with exceptional plane. His mid-80s spike-curveball is
filthy. Brackman's changeup was the pitch that had improved the most
this spring, and grades as a third potential plus offering. He's still
unrefined, but even without the polish, Brackman shouldn't slide out of
the top 10
Madison Bumgarner, lhp (National rank:
South Caldwell HS, Hudson, N.C. Class:
Report: In terms of physical features, arm slot and
velocity, Bumgarner could be considered a lefthanded version of
Phillippe Aumont. He pitches with less effort and has better fastball
command than his Canadian counterpart. But the knock on Bumgarner is
the lack of a true secondary pitch. He pitches off his best weapon, a
92-94 mph fastball that has been up to 97 this spring. It has late life
and finish. He has tried multiple grips and shapes with his breaking
ball, and at times has flashed a fringe-average pitch that has tilt and
late snap at 81 mph. Like Aumont, Bumgarner throws from a low
three-quarters release point, which he doesn't repeat well, and that
makes achieving downward action on his breaking ball difficult. His
changeup is a below-average pitch that should improve when and if he
throws it more often. Because of his size, athleticism and velocity,
Bumgarner is a surefire first-rounder. The club that believes he can
come up with a true breaking ball down the line could pop him as early
as 10th or 11th overall.|
|3. Justin Jackson,
ss (National rank:
Roberson HS, Asheville, N.C. Class:
Report: Cameron Maybin was the most recent former
Asheville Tourists batboy to make a splash in the draft, and the
scrawny kid that was tagging along back then has developed into a fine
prospect himself. Jackson was the starting shortstop for USA Baseball's
junior national team last fall, but after he spent most of last summer
near the top of follow lists, his bat speed has come into question this
spring. He was hitting best as the season was ending, and homered on
his final high school swing in a playoff loss. He's a long-armed, wiry
athlete with lots of holes in his swing, but shows a good feel for
hitting as well as strike-zone discipline. If Jackson gets stronger and
fills out, he could hit for above-average power, but that's a
projection not every scout will make. He's a strong defender with
above-average arm strength. His flash in the infield turns some scouts
off, but he fields the ball out front and has outstanding actions up
the middle. He's not a great runner, but shows average speed under way.
Jackson could sneak into the first round, but could slide to the second
|4. Josh Horton, ss
North Carolina. Class:
Report: Among the second tier of college position
players, Horton has the best combination of performance and tools. He
was a second-team All-American as a sophomore, when he won the Atlantic
Coast Conference batting title with a .395 mark and helped carry North
Carolina to the College World Series. He struggled in the Cape Cod
League last summer, however, and has an unorthodox approach at the
plate. What he does best as a hitter is use his hands to square balls
on the barrel and use the whole field. He has excellent strike-zone
awareness and lets balls travel deep in the hitting zone. He's an
average runner and an adequate defender with a chance to stay at
shortstop, though his range will never be a plus. He has a
solid-average arm, though he struggles with accuracy occasionally.
Scouts who like him compare him to Adam Kennedy as an offensive-minded
doubles machine who can stay in the middle of the field. Other teams
have little interest in drafting him in the top five
|5. Sam Runion, rhp
Reynolds HS, Asheville, N.C. Class:
Report: North Carolina's crop of talent is better than
it has been in years, and Runion is among the top high school players
among a deep second-tier class of prospects. He played alongside
crosstown rival Justin Jackson for the Midland (Ohio) Redskins travel
team and was one of three Aflac All-Americans from the state, joining
Jackson and lefty Madison Bumgarner. It was against Bumgarner that
Runion made his best impression as a senior, as he matched up with him
in a conference game in Asheville that drew a bevy of national
crosscheckers and a handful of scouting directors. Sam's father Larry
was a lefthanded pitcher at Union (Tenn.) University. Sam played tight
end on Reynolds' football team as a freshman and sophomore, and it's
his big, broad-shouldered frame that attracts scouts. Runion offers a
good feel for pitching as well as a hard, heavy fastball that sits near
90 mph with good sinking action. He throws from a three-quarters arm
slot and tends to drop down, leading to hanging sliders. When he stays
on top of his slider, it has hard, late break. He shows feel for a
changeup, but profiles best as a durable long reliever or set-up man in
the mold of Dan
|6. David Mailman, 1b
Providence HS, Charlotte. Class:
Report: Not unlike the sentiment regarding fellow North
Carolina prep prospect Justin Jackson, Mailman's future as a
professional draws a wide range of opinion. He has a smooth lefthanded
swing that appears to have lots of power projection, but whether his
thin frame fills out is the question stumping most scouts. His approach
is quiet and balanced, as he uses the entire field and shows the
beginnings of an ability to lift balls out of the park. Based in part
to a lack of strength, his bat speed is fringy at present and he can be
beaten with good fastballs above his hands. He's a below-average runner
but a plus defender, with good footwork around the bag and confidence
handling throws in the dirt. He has a solid-average arm. Mailman also
has championship-caliber makeup, and fits the profile of a potential
college masher if he honors his commitment to Wake Forest. It might
require third-round money to get him signed this
|7. Patrick Johnson,
rhp (National rank:
St. Stephens HS, Conover, N.C. Class:
Report: Johnson played alongside David Mailman on the
same travel team and has earned a reputation as one of the best high
school pitchers in North Carolina. While Madison Bumgarner and Sam
Runion have more physical bodies and louder stuff, Johnson pounds the
zone with his fastball and can carve up hitters with his feel for
pitching. At 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, he's undersized, but he has an
efficient delivery which he repeats well. His fastball sits near 88
mph, touching 92, and he can spot it to all four quadrants of the
strike zone. His tight curveball has plus bite and he throws it where
he wants to. He also shows feel for a solid-average changeup. Johnson
probably won't be taken in the top three rounds and was expected to
honor his commitment to North Carolina, where he could be the same kind
of pitcher as Robert Woodard, who set the school record for career wins
Leads were typically safe for Carolina when Andrew Carignan
came in as the team's closer. He has a 92-94 mph fastball, but it's quick as opposed to heavy velocity. At 5-foot-11, he has a tough time creating a downward plane on his pitches, and his fastball lacks movement, especially when it's up in the zone. But he does have some deception, and his fastball tends to get on hitters before they're expecting it, leading to swings and misses. He effectively pitches to both sides of the plate, and he shows aggressiveness and guts, challenging hitters and working ahead in counts. He throws a couple of varieties of breaking balls, neither of which shows much of a defined shape, and mixes in a cutter that comes in at 86-87 mph and has good running action away from righthanded hitters. His changeup is below-average, and he tends to tip it by slowing his arm speed. Clubs have seen plenty of Carignan, and he's been a consistent performer at the back of the bullpen for a prominent college program, factors that enhance his value. He could be taken as high as the fourth round.
Righthander Luke Putkonen's
mediocrity this season (despite a 7-1 record, he owned a 4.55 ERA and a .278 opponent average) is a result of a fastball that also lacks life. Although he's much taller than Carignan, he doesn't have the same arm speed. Putkonen's fastball has been up to 93 mph, and he pitches near 91. He showed a usable slider in the past, and some scouts gave it positive reviews last year in the Cape Cod League. But this season, he has relied more on a curveball that breaks out of his hand and lacks depth at 76-77 mph. He has a usable changeup at 82-83, but lacks a separating pitch. His control is fine, but he has below-average command, pitching too often in the middle of the plate. He also hasn't shown much ability to make adjustments or the feel for pitching required to get away with his present repertoire against better hitters. A redshirt sophomore, Putkonen had Tommy John surgery that cost him his 2005 season.
As fun as it is to say "Flack and Fronk," they can't be lumped together as prospects. First baseman Chad Flack
was a huge piece of the Tar Heels' success last season, but he has a long, aluminum-bat swing, and his power doesn't translate well with wood. Outfielder Reid Fronk
, on the other hand, has gotten the most out of his tools during his career and was showing the bat speed and surprising pop to warrant a spot in the seventh or eighth round. His defensive skills are suspect, meaning he's probably going to have to play left field, where his fringe-average power doesn't profile well.
Outfielder Seth Williams
is the sleeper of the Tar Heels group. He's a good athlete who has solid-average speed and fringe-average bat speed. He tends to work around the ball and swings and misses often. He has average raw power and is instinctive on defense, though he profiles as an extra outfielder with some upside as a professional, slotting him as a sixth- to ninth-round talent.
Perhaps no Carolina player is more praiseworthy than senior righthander Robert Woodard
. He graduates as the school's all-time wins leader and has been lauded for his poise and makeup. Woodard's stuff is below-average across the board, however, and his fastball sits near 85 mph. His deceptive delivery and uncanny feel for pitching will make him a nice addition to a minor league system in the 10th to 12th round.
Rivalries on Tobacco Road aren't as spirited in baseball as they are in basketball, but this year Duke does have two players who will generate interest in the top 10 rounds of the draft. Like Fronk, Jimmy Gallagher
is somewhat of a 'tweener. He does not show enough range and speed to play center field in pro ball, and his fringy arm plays best in left field. He'll have to make the most of his solid-average bat speed and sound feel for hitting in order to play his way to the big leagues as a left fielder.Bret Bartles
has more power than Gallagher but isn't as adept a hitter. After playing shortstop as an underclassman, Bartles played third base this season. He comes from an athletic family, and his feet and range play best at third. He has interest in signing, but one factor that could work against him is the one year of Duke's tuition the team that drafts him could have to pay if it takes him this year, which could significantly increase the financial commitment beyond his bonus.Pirate Buffet
Because he has a better slider and more projection, East Carolina closer Shane Mathews
might go off the board before Carignan. He has a drop-and-drive delivery and his fastball has below-average movement. Mathews commands the pitch well, working it to both sides of the plate and getting ahead in the count. His velocity has been inconsistent this spring, but he has most often pitched at 90-92 mph. Mathews' slider is a solid-average offering at 82-83 mph.
A broken hamate bone came at an inopportune time for Mathews' teammate, shortstop Dale Mollenhauer
. He's similar to Clemson second baseman Taylor Harbin in that his tools are fringy, but like Harbin has performed throughout his career. Both do the little things that can help a club, and Mollenhauer's fringe-average bat speed and patient, pesky approach were growing on scouts before the injury. He'll probably slide over to second base in pro ball, as his range is not a plus. He could be drafted in the sixth to eighth round.
High Point's duo of righthanders, Eammon Portice
and Tom Boleska
, are intriguing prospects, but there's no consensus on their draft stock. Boleska, a 6-footer from Canada who sat out 2005 with an arm injury, has flashed 93 mph heat, though at other times his fastball has sat in the upper 80s. He also features a hard, sharp slider in the low to mid-80s. He's a draft-eligible sophomore and scouts haven't had a chance to build a history of reports on him, but after posting 44 strikeouts and 10 walks in 32 innings for the Panthers, he could be taken as high as the eighth round.
Portice's stuff is even more electric. His fastball has been up to 94 with occasional late life and armside run. He'll also flash a solid-average curveball and splitter. He has average control but doesn't show any ability to spot his pitches, primarily because he has one of the most curious deliveries in the draft. He coils his body and rotates around to where his left knee is pointing toward second base, turning his back to the hitter. If anything it's deceptive, but he won't likely develop much command unless he cleans up his mechanics.
Charlotte righthander Adam Mills
has been a topic of much debate for a different reason: performance vs. stuff. He was having a season as good as any pitcher in the nation, setting a school record with 13 wins to go with a 1.06 ERA. He also had remarkable secondary numbers with 136 strikeouts and 26 walks in 136 innings this season. He has done it against mostly inferior competition in the Atlantic-10 Conference, however, and while he shows an outstanding feel for pitching and plus command of three pitches, his stuff is fringe-average. Mills' fastball sits at 86-89 mph, and his breaking ball and changeup are below-average offerings. Based on his performance, he could receive some consideration in the top 10 rounds of the draft, depending on his signability.
Wake Forest lefthander Eric Niesen
has plus arm strength but poor mechanics. He throws across his body and has below-average command. His stuff is inconsistent, but when he has his mechanics in sync he shows potential for two solid-average offerings in his fastball and slider. He pitched primarily in relief this season, but got a spot start against North Carolina and dealt eight-plus shutout innings on a Sunday in Chapel Hill, an outing that may have gotten him a spot in the top nine rounds of the draft.Prep Talent Headed To College?
As strong as this year's college crop is in North Carolina, the high school class is even better. Bumgarner, Jackson and Runion all have a chance to be taken in the first 75 picks, and Mailman and Johnson are two of almost a dozen other high schoolers who would be drafted in the top seven rounds if college commitments weren't a factor.Quincy Lattimore
and Tyrell Wothtington
are two of the state's most athletic prospects. Lattimore isn't a burner, but his speed plays well in the outfield and on the bases. He also has plus bat speed and the potential to hit for power. He swings and misses often, but doesn't chase pitches out of the zone and has good pitch recognition. He's the type of player that could develop into a power threat in the middle North Carolina State's lineup with some fine tuning.
Worthington was known primarily for his prowess on the football field prior to this spring. He was an all-state running back as a senior, amassing more than 2,500 yards rushing, and committed to play football at ECU. He shortened his swing and showed plus bat speed and raw power this spring. He uses his hands well through his swing and balls jump off his bat when he squares them up. He's also a 65 runner on the 20-80 scale, making for all the tools of an offensive-minded center fielder. Worthington doesn't command the strike zone, however, and his free-swinging approach needs refining. A patient team that believes in his projection could take Worthington in the fifth or sixth round, but he might be a tough sign for slot money in that range.
Like Worthington, Chris Luck
jumped onto follow lists in surprising fashion this season. He was used primarily as a shortstop as an underclassman, but worked diligently on cleaning up his delivery and improved dramatically as a pitcher this spring. At his best, Luck can touch 92 mph with a tight, sharp breaking ball with 11-to-5 shape. He's a good athlete and has a lightning-quick arm. He's still raw and has below-average command. He tends to overthrow and will spin out of his delivery. Luck has considerable room for projection, is signable in the first eight to 10 rounds, and should go off the board by the sixth or seventh.Trent Rothlin
is another slender high school righthander who will flash above-average velocity, though he's much more polished than Luck. He has a clean, quick arm, but lacks significant projection, and his fastball velocity was inconsistent, ranging from 86-93 mph this spring. He notified teams a few weeks before the draft that he planned to honor his commitment to Clemson.Justin Poovey
played on the same travel team as Rothlin, and in all likelihood will join him at Clemson this fall. He has a quick arm and a compact delivery, generating low-90s heat. Poovey had a procedure to repair the ulnar nerve near his elbow, costing him the second half of this season and effectively spoiling any shot he had of being taken in the top five rounds.