State Report: North Carolina




THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
North Carolina has produced three No. 1 overall picks in its history—the last being prep outfielder Josh Hamilton in 1999—and continues to make an ever-increasing impact on the draft as the state's population grows and the state's college baseball programs improve. In this decade, Charlotte, East Carolina, North Carolina, N.C. State and UNC Greensboro all have built impressive ballparks, with the Tar Heels topping the list with a $25 million new Boshamer Stadium that opened in 2009. Coach Mike Fox's program has been to three straight College World Series and is one super regional series away from a fourth straight trip, and the Tar Heels have made a strong impact on the draft in recent years as well. First baseman Dustin Ackley and righthander Alex White will give UNC its second first-round duo in the last four years (Daniel Bard, Andrew Miller in 2006).

Meanwhile, the state's high school ranks are as strong as ever, with another potential first-rounder in High Point catcher Wil Myers and a potential supplemental pick in Rocky Mount outfielder Brian Goodwin. The class would have been even stronger if not for a hand injury that slowed Charlotte's Richie Shaffer and the decision by the state's top infielder, Levi Michael, to enter college a semester early at North Carolina and pass up the draft.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Dustin Ackley, 1b/of, North Carolina (National Rank: 2)
2. Alex White, rhp, North Carolina (National Rank: 6)
3. Wil Myers, c, Wesleyan Christian Academy, High Point (National Rank: 31)
4. Brian Goodwin, of, Rocky Mount HS (National Rank: 65)
5. Kyle Seager, 3b, North Carolina (National Rank: 97)
6. Mark Fleury, c, North Carolina (National Rank: 125)
7. Rob Gilliam, rhp, UNC Greensboro (National Rank: 191)
8. Daniel Tuttle, rhp, Randleman HS (National Rank: 192)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

9. Richie Shaffer, 3b/rhp, Providence HS, Charlotte
10. Adam Warren, rhp, North Carolina
11. Jimmy Gillheeney, lhp, North Carolina State
12. Christopher Manno, lhp, Duke
13. Devin Harris, of, East Carolina
14. Alex Hassan, rhp/of, Duke
15. Andrew Wolcott, rhp, Duke
16. Cody Stubbs, 3b/1b, Tuscola HS, Waynesville
17. Bryan Mitchell, rhp, Rockingham County HS, Reidsville
18. Walker Gourley, ss/c, Eastern Wayne HS, Goldsboro
19. Brian Moran, lhp, North Carolina
20. Nick Liles, util, Western Carolina
21. Demetrius McKelvie, of, East Columbus HS, Lake Waccamaw
22. Cory Harrilchak, of, Elon
23. Chris Masters, lhp, Western Carolina
24. Rob Lyerly, 1b, Charlotte
25. Nate Freiman, 1b, Duke
26. Chase Austin, 3b, Elon
27. Matt Williams, c, Duke
28. John Lambert, lhp, North Carolina State
29. Tyler Joyner, lhp, Northern Nash HS, Rocky Mount
30. Michael Maples, lhp, Belmont Abbey
31. Seth Frankoff, rhp, UNC Wilmington
32. Corey Martin, rhp, Western Carolina
33. Collin Bates, rhp, North Carolina
34. Kyle Wilson, of, North Carolina State
35. Ryan Wood, 2b/rhp, East Carolina
36. Pat Irvine, of, Elon
37. Sam Brown, rhp, North Carolina State
38. Stephen Batts, of, East Carolina
39. Brent Greer, 2b/of, Western Carolina
40. David Cropper, rhp, UNC Wilmington
41. Drew Poulk, of, North Carolina State
42. Justin Hilt, of, Elon
43. Mike Murray, c, Wake Forest
44. Daniel Ottone, rhp, Western Carolina
45. John Wooten, 1b, Eastern Wayne HS, Goldsboro
46. Chris Overman, rhp, Myers Park HS, Charlotte
47. Bennett Davis, if, Elon
48. Robert Penny, rhp, Pitt CC
49. Dallas Poulk, 2b, North Carolina State
50. Evan Ocheltree, of, Wake Forest

SCOUTING REPORTS

DUSTIN ACKLEY, 1B, NORTH CAROLINA

Ackley played at a 1-A high school against modest competition, and while area scouts knew about him they couldn't pull the trigger three years ago. Their loss was North Carolina's gain, as Ackley is in the midst of his third consecutive .400 season. The 2007 BA Freshman of the Year, Ackley has the best pure swing and pure bat in the '09 draft class, and maybe the best this decade. He's also a 70 runner (on the 20-80 scale) underway and should be a top-of-the-order, base-stealing threat in pro ball. Ackley has a disciplined approach and makes hitting look easy thanks to his advanced athleticism. He's balanced at the plate and has amazing hand-eye coordination, getting the barrel of the bat to the hitting zone quickly and leaving it there as long as possible. After hitting 17 home runs in his first two seasons, he was tied for second in the Atlantic Coast Conference with 16, and scouts grade his raw power as average, if not a tick above. His lone below-average tool is his arm, which he injured as a prep senior while pitching. He has played primarily first base at North Carolina and had Tommy John surgery at the end of the summer of 2008. He made two starts in the outfield in mid-May, and most scouts project him as a future center fielder and potential plus defender. He's a solid-average defender at first base if he winds up there. Scouts struggle to come up with comparisons because he's such a unique player. If he becomes a batting champion and premium leadoff man as a pro, he'll become a player others are compared to.

ALEX WHITE, RHP, NORTH CAROLINA

The Dodgers drafted White in the 14th round in 2006 and made a strong run to sign him, but he wound up at North Carolina, spending three seasons in the weekend rotation and emerging as the staff ace as a sophomore. White was electric for the Tar Heels out of the bullpen in the 2008 College World Series, sitting at 96 mph with excellent life on his fastball, and some scouts see him in that role. However, he has shown three plus pitches at times during his career, though not all at once in a somewhat inconsistent junior season. White's arm action varied a bit during the year, starting out a bit high and long in the back, and despite his excellent athleticism this caused him to struggle to command his fastball. The pitch touches the mid-90s and sits in the 91-94 mph range when White starts. His slider, a plus pitch at times, also has lacked consistency, but his split-finger fastball has supplanted it as his best secondary pitch. It has good depth and deception and neutralizes lefthanded hitters. As good as his stuff can be, White's competitiveness and athleticism may be better attributes. With more consistency he could become a front-of-the-rotation starter, though his command may preclude him from being a true big league ace.

WIL MYERS, C, WESLEYAN CHRISTIAN ACADEMY, HIGH POINT

Myers emerged last summer and fall as one of the more intriguing bats in the class, and he earned first-round buzz as the year progressed despite poor private-school competition in North Carolina. Most clubs were judging him based on his strong showcase performance, where he showed the athleticism and feel for hitting to project as an average or above-average big league bat. Scouts consider him one of the draft's safer hitters, with a smooth swing he repeats and quick, strong hands. He has the bat speed and leverage to produce future power. A South Carolina recruit, Myers plays all over the field for his high school team—showing upper 80s velocity as a pitcher—but scouts want to try him behind the plate, where he's shown solid catch-and-throw tools. He has yet to handle premium stuff on a consistent basis, so there's no guarantee he'll remain a catcher. An average runner, he has even drawn Dale Murphy as a comparison, right down to a move to right or even center field if catching doesn't work out. Myers doesn't figure to last past the supplemental round.

BRIAN GOODWIN, OF, ROCKY MOUNT HS

One of the better athletes in the draft class, Goodwin was part of a strong North Carolina prep class. He has very good tools across the board but wasn't having a tremendous spring, and his signability was thrown into question when he became a client of Scott Boras Corp. Goodwin does a lot of things well and doesn't have a below-average future tool. His bat will be the question, because unlike players such as Donavan Tate or Dustin Ackley, he's just a good athlete, not a great one. Goodwin shined on the showcase circuit last summer, winning MVP of the Aflac All-American Game. The lefthanded hitter has above-average speed, and scouts generally grade him as average or above across the board, with the question coming with his power. Goodwin has present strength and a football body, which makes sense as he was an excellent kick returner in high school. A North Carolina signee, Goodwin could go in the supplemental first round or not until much later due to his college commitment and adviser.

KYLE SEAGER, 3B, NORTH CAROLINA

A three-year starter for North Carolina, Seager is an area scout favorite, not to mention a player opposing coaches respect immensely. National evaluators have a harder time pegging him because he doesn't fit a neat profile. His best tool is his bat. He has a smooth, balanced swing and makes consistent contact with gap power. He ranked third in the nation in 2008 with 30 doubles and was on a similar pace in 2009. He has a patient approach but doesn't project to hit for much home run power because of his modest bat speed and flat swing plane. While he's a fringy runner, he's a fine baserunner. Seager played second base for his first two seasons and moved to third this year, where he has played good defense. Featuring an average arm and impressive agility, he's an average defender at third, if not a tick above. Scouts who like him see a Bill Mueller type who doesn't fit the profile but grinds out at-bats and outs in the field. His detractors see him as a safe pick with low upside and a future reserve or utility player.

MARK FLEURY, C, NORTH CAROLINA

Fleury was a reserve and part-time DH for most of his first two seasons at North Carolina, then emerged as one of the Tar Heels' most important performers as a junior. He'd started every game this spring and led the team in RBIs while throwing out 33 percent of basestealers. Fleury's lefthanded bat and solid catch-and-throw skills should push him up draft boards, particularly with so few college catchers available. He doesn't have a standout tool, but he was one of the better all-around catchers in the Cape Cod League last summer and built on that this year. He's a patient hitter with solid-average power, and his discipline gives him a chance to have a solid hit tool as well. He hangs in well against lefthanded pitchers, having seen plenty in North Carolina's lefty-heavy lineup. Fleury's arm earns mixed reviews, with some scouts rating it above-average and others as solid-average. He has handled velocity well at North Carolina and earns plaudits from scouts for his leadership skills and ability to lead a pitching staff.

ROB GILLIAM, RHP, UNC GREENSBORO

Gilliam could move up draft boards if he has strong workouts for teams, as he's an arm-strength pitcher who hasn't had a great deal of success in college. He grew up in San Jose, Calif., but moved to Chapel Hill, N.C., as a senior in high school and wound up staying in the area for college, attending UNC Greensboro. Playing in the extremely offensive Southern Conference, Gilliam has been a member of Spartans' rotation for three seasons. He consistently shows average to plus fastball velocity, touching 94 mph regularly and usually sitting in the 89-93 mph range. He has enough control and secondary stuff to lead the SoCon with a .224 opponents batting average, and he ranked seventh in strikeouts with 78 despite working primarily in relief. Gilliam throws a slow 12-to-6 curveball that has its moments, and the fact he's shown the ability to spin the pitch gives scouts some hope for his breaking ball. His changeup showed plus potential in the Cape Cod League last summer in shorter bursts. When he misses, he tends to miss up and was homer-prone, giving up 10 this spring. He wasn't easy to scout at UNCG, where he made 20 of his 24 appearances in relief and frequently pitched multiple innings out of the bullpen. Scouts like his toughness and see him in the bullpen down the line. He should go in the five-to-seven round range.

DANIEL TUTTLE, RHP, RANDLEMAN HS

Tuttle overcame injuries from a severe car accident when he was 12 to become an Aflac All-American last summer. The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder plays shortstop and pitches in relief for his high school, and North Carolina State had signed him to perform a dual role for the Wolfpack. But a velocity jump this spring has Tuttle's college career in doubt, as he's likely headed for the first six rounds of the draft. Scouts have mixed feelings on Tuttle, who does a lot of things wrong in his delivery but delivers the goods nonetheless. Using a slinger's low-three-quarters arm angle, Tuttle throws across his body and lands on a stiff front leg. For some clubs, all of those are red flags. Tuttle still generates premium velocity and an attractive, sweeping slider despite (or because) of it all. His fastball sat in the 90-93 mph range with good sink this spring, and at times he ran it up as high as 96-97 mph, with plenty of 94-95s as well. His slider occasionally has depth as well, though more often it's a sweepy chase pitch rather than a plus offering. He has shown a slow curve and changeup as well but both are below-average. He's a power arm signable in the first seven rounds.

Prep Talent May Be Too Expensive This Year

North Carolina should have one prep in the first-round range with Wil Myers, while Brian Goodwin's stock had fallen during the season. Another player who might have gone in the first two rounds, Richie Shaffer, was one of the hardest players to peg this season. He has shown premium power tools both as a hitter and pitcher, and Clemson covets him as a two-way recruit. The Tigers' chances to get him improved when he injured his left hand in December and then had surgery at the end of March to repair a broken hamate bone. Scouts like Shaffer better as a position player because he has lots of leverage in his swing, plus raw power and a third-base arm. He pitched more this spring because of his hand injury and showed excellent stuff, with a 90-93 mph fastball that hit 94. He's also been in the upper 80s in other outings. He's a solid athlete with below-average speed. Shaffer likely would need top-three-round money to pass up his Clemson scholarship, and teams may be reluctant to pay that after his hand injury. He also could be a summer follow.

Outfielder Demetrius McKelvie, a Marshall recruit, and shortstop Cody Stubbs, a Tennessee signee, both moved up draft boards thanks to their bats, which dominated low-level competition. McKelvie, who performed well last summer at an Area Code Games workout, is the better athlete of the duo and is a lefthanded hitter with a simple swing he repeats well. He has the strength to hit for power, but scouts question his feel for hitting and see more production in batting practice than in games. He was a fine defensive back as a prep football player, yet his athleticism doesn't translate defensively and he'll be limited to left field. Stubbs has excellent size at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, and projects to move to third base, left field or first base in pro ball. He has lefthanded power and a big swing, smashing 16 home runs this spring, and scouts are torn about how much power he'll have with wood and where he'll play defensively. He does have good arm strength. Stubbs also has some swing-and-miss and wasn't even the player of the year in his conference. He has close ties to Volunteers coach Todd Raleigh from Raleigh's days at Western Carolina and it may take top-three-rounds money to sway him from his Tennessee commitment.

Eastern Wayne High teammates Walker Gourley and John Wooten were both committed to East Carolina, and led their team to the state 3-A championship series. Gourley was considered the better prospect, with a short swing from the right side and plus arm strength. He lacks the speed to go out as a pro middle infielder and might wind up at third base or perhaps behind the plate. Wooten is a first baseman with power who should fit into a college lineup early in his career. His father played at East Carolina in the mid-1970s.

Northern Nash High lost to Eastern Wayne in the East 3-A regionals, led there by lefthander Tyler Joyner, who struck out 16 in a sectional playoff game. Joyner has an 88-90 mph fastball and good size, though he lacks much projection. The East Carolina signee also has shown a fringe-average breaking ball with average future potential.

Righthanders Bryan Mitchell and Chris Overman entered the spring as the top prep pitchers in the state before Daniel Tuttle passed them with his explosive stuff out of the bullpen. Mitchell is 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, and has some life on his downhill fastball, which can touch 90-91 mph. He also spins a power slider and throws his fastball for strikes. Concerns about his future projection, as well as a commitment to North Carolina could cause him to fall out of the first 10 rounds. Overman, an N.C. State signee, is 6-foot-3 but doesn't stand out enough in any phase to go out in the single-digit range, either.

College Depth Impresses

North Carolina righthander Adam Warren wasn't considered on the same level as other Tar Heels pitcher as a prospect, but the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder had a breakout senior season and was the team's most consistent pitcher. He was 29-4 over the last three seasons entering super regional play, and his stuff took a step forward this spring. Warren figures to go in a single-digit round after improving the velocity on his four-seam fastball and honing his command. He was hitting 94 mph late in the season and sitting 88-92. He has added a two-seam fastball and cutter over the years to go with his solid-average changeup. He throws a slow, early-count curveball, and his inability to spin a better breaking ball is his biggest limitation.

The trickiest players for scouts on North Carolina's roster were relievers Brian Moran and Colin Bates. A redshirt sophomore who had a rib removed during thoracic outlet surgery in November 2006, Bates has low-90s velocity and bulldog tenacity out of the bullpen but doesn't hold his velocity on back-to-back days. Moran, a lanky, deceptive 6-foot-3, 185-pound lefty, has been the key to North Carolina's bullpen the last two years. He leaves hitters at a loss with a funky delivery and command of an 86-88 mph fastball that has good movement. Moran, the nephew of 1985 No. 1 overall pick (and Carolina alum) B.J. Surhoff, has proved durable. His secondary stuff is below-average, and his lack of a consistent breaking ball makes it difficult to see him in the lefty relief role in a big league bullpen.

Beyond the standout players at North Carolina, the state's college ranks are deep with solid if not spectacular college players, many of whom will be good senior signs. East Carolina had several such players, like seniors Trent Ashcraft, Stephen Batts and Ryan Wood. Ashcraft hit .327 in the Cape Cod League last summer, then missed this season with a lower back strain. Wood has plus arm strength and a fairly athletic body. He profiles as a utilityman as he lacks a true position, without the range or agility to stay at second base full-time as a pro. He has big-time arm strength but has pitched sparingly in college, touching 94 mph. Batts, a former soccer player, is limited to left field and is more of an organizational player, albeit one with solid hitting ability and average speed.

East Carolina's top prospect could go in the first five rounds or not until very late. Sophomore-eligible outfielder Devin Harris has big tools and looks the part of a prototypical right fielder. He's an average runner at 6-foot-3, 227 pounds, with a plus arm suited for right field. Harris has massive raw power as well and the athletic ability to make adjustments. He also struck out 60 times through regionals due to a lack of pitch recognition, and he tends to take bad routes in right field as he fails to pick the ball up off the bat quickly. Harris fits in the first five rounds for a team that believes in his bat, but could fall because of the signing leverage he has as a sophomore.

The Southern Conference had a strong season, with two regional teams and four others than won at least 30 games. Elon won the conference with a veteran lineup full of juniors and seniors. The team's top junior is Chase Austin, who has played all over the infield but mostly at third base. He's athletic, runs well and has shown a consistent ability to get the barrel of the bat to the ball. Scouts question whether his power will translate to wood. Teammate Justin Hilt has average speed, a plus arm and solid power. He also struck out 74 times in just 228 at-bats.

Outfielder Cory Harrilchak is just 5-foot-11 but hit .410 as a junior before adding power as a senior, when he hit 16 homers. He also has arm strength but is more of a grinder than a tools guy. His feel for hitting should land him in the first 15 rounds. Harrilchak's fellow seniors, outfielder Pat Irvine and infielder Bennett Davis, also should get drafted based on their feel for hitting. Irvine batted .402 this spring, while Davis hit 18 homers and showed solid-average defensive tools.

Western Carolina fell just short of regionals, even though it won a series at Southern California. The Catamounts will have several players drafted, though many of them might be better values as senior signs. Nick Liles entered the year with the biggest reputation after hitting .292 with 14 stolen bases in the Cape Cod League last summer. As he did on the Cape, Liles showed gap power and above-average speed this spring while lacking a feel for defense. He is athletic and can play second base, shortstop in a pinch, third base or the outfield. Another utility player on the roster, Brent Greer, hit .402 this spring but doesn't run as well as Liles. He's a solid-average hitter who has a better throwing arm and fits better in the outfield than at third base.

The Catamounts also should send out a pair of senior pitchers in righthander Corey Martin, who has good velocity (up to 94 mph) as a starter but little else, and lefthander Casey Masters, a portly senior who sits at 88-91 mph at times and has a big curveball. Reliever Daniel Ottone had more success than either of them with a lively 88-91 mph fastball to go with a solid-average slider.

In the Atlantic Coast Conference, Wake Forest bottomed out this season before firing its coach, and wasn't expected to contribute heavily to the draft. North Carolina State also had a down year, but the Wolfpack should have more players drafted, led by lefthander Jimmy Gillheeney. He worked as the Wolfpack's Friday starter this season after closing in 2008. Gilheeney has plenty of polish and throws his fastball, plus changeup and breaking balls in any count, and locates them all. Teams that saw his fastball in the upper 80s will be more inclined to buy into his great feel for pitching than those that saw his 84-86 mph games. Fellow Wolfpack lefty John Lambert had a big game against North Carolina with plenty of scouts in attendance, striking out 10 but walking nine. He also showed an average fastball and slider and power pitcher's approach to go with his 6-foot-7 frame. His delivery tends to get mechanical, making it tough for him to repeat his delivery.

The Wolfpack has several other pitchers who could go in the first 15 rounds, such as righthander Sam Brown, a tease who was a seventh-rounder out of high school in 2006 and an 18th-rounder last year as an eligible sophomore. He has low-90s velocity from a low-three-quarters slot. Lefthander Alex Sogard starred late last season for the Wolfpack out of the bullpen, hitting 93-94 mph regularly, but had a tender arm this season. He has below-average command and doesn't consistently throw his hard curve or solid changeup for strikes. He's the younger brother of Padres farmhand Eric Sogard.

Duke had one of its best seasons in years, narrowly missing out on the school's first NCAA regional bid. The Blue Devils will miss three solid senior signs next year, led by all-ACC righthander Andrew Wolcott, a 6-foot-6 workhorse who throws downhill with a fastball in the 88-90 mph range. He went 8-3, 2.77 and led the league in innings during the regular season, pitching off his fastball 80 percent of the time. Wolcott's slider and changeup are just decent. First baseman Nate Freiman is 6-foot-8 and has huge raw power, but he has a slider-speed bat in the eyes of most scouts. Catcher Matt Williams is a grinder with an opposite-field approach at the plate that limits his power. Williams is a good blocker and receiver behind the plate with average arm strength and a slow transfer that limits him to 2.1-second pop times. He is fairly accurate.

Junior lefthander Christopher Manno is the Blue Devils' best prospect and could go anywhere from the fifth to 10th round. Like Wolcott, he works primarily off his fastball. He's long and lean with deception and some projection left in his body. Manno at times sits at 83-87 mph, though he often throws harder and was 89-91 mph at times in the Cape last summer, when he went 3-0, 1.93 with 45 strikeouts in 42 innings. His changeup can be plus at times, while his slider is below-average. Manno is young for his draft class and doesn't turn 21 until November.

While Manno is likely to begin a pro career, Duke does have hope to get righthander/outfielder Alex Hassan back for his senior season. Pro scouts like him better as a pitcher at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds and think he could pick up velocity when he ditches hitting and playing center field. He has touched 95 mph in relief outings with his fastball, but he's more effective in the low 90s with some sink. His slurvy breaking ball and changeup need tightening up, and he needs to improve his command as well.

The state's top small-college prospect is lefthander Michael Maples, who helped Belmont Abbey reach the Division II College World Series. A car wreck that left him with a head injury, plus shoulder and knee issues, prompted him to give up his baseball career at Charlotte, but he wound up joining a high school teammate at Belmont Abbey. While he posted a 6.69 ERA there, he's a lefthander with arm strength, pitching at 87-91 mph with a curveball and slider that can be solid pitches at times. His changeup is his fourth pitch, and he doesn't throw enough strikes to merit an early pick.