State Report: North Carolina

As Tar Heels go, so goes the Tar Heel State






See also: Baseball America's Complete 2010 Draft Map


THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
The state of North Carolina's draft talent has been buoyed in recent years by the surge of the University of North Carolina's baseball program. The Tar Heels made four straight trips to the College World Series from 2006-2009, and they've been heavy contributors to the top of the draft as well. Five of the first six players drafted from the state last year were Tar Heels, starting with No. 2 overall pick Dustin Ackley, and five of the state's 13 first-round picks since 2000 played for coach Mike Fox's program.

This year's squad was not as strong, however, missing the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and squeaking into regionals as a No. 3 seed. Still, the first player picked from the state will again be a UNC player in righthander Matt Harvey, a probable first-rounder. The state as a whole also was a bit down at the college level, with down years from Wake Forest and East Carolina in particular, but it was a solid year for high school talent. The bigger question was how many of the top high school players would sign, and the answer seemed to be just a handful.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Matt Harvey, rhp, North Carolina (National Rank: 20)
2. Ty Linton, of, Charlotte Christian School (National Rank: 101)
3. Matt Roberts, c, Graham HS (National Rank: 167)
4. Cody Stanley, c, UNC Wilmington (National Rank: 187)
5. Jimmy Reyes, lhp, Elon (National Rank: 196)
6. Connor Narron, ss, Aycock HS, Pikeville (National Rank: 198)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

7. Thomas Girdwood, rhp, Elon
8. Blake Hassebrock, rhp, UNC Greensboro
9. Austin Brice, rhp/3b, Northwood HS, Pittsboro
10. Tyler Barnette, rhp, Hickory HS
11. Jake Buchanan, rhp, North Carolina State
12. James Baldwin III, of, Pinecrest HS, Southern Pines
13. Ryan Rivers, 1b, Charlotte
14. Stephen Harrold, rhp, UNC Wilmington
15. Joel McKeithan, ss, Roberson HS, Asheville
16. Jay Gause, rhp, West Brunswick HS, Shallotte
17. Alex Sogard, lhp, North Carolina State
18. Seth Frankoff, rhp, UNC Wilmington
19. Kyle Wilson, of, North Carolina State
20. Dustin Harrington, ss, no school
21. Hunter Ackerman, lhp, Louisburg JC
22. Justin Bradley, rhp, UNC Wilmington
23. Ken Ferrer, rhp, Elon
24. Kyle Roller, 1b, East Carolina
25. Christian Pfaff, 3b, Rutherford-Spindale HS, Rutherfordton
26. Devin Harris, of, East Carolina
27. Jesse Wierzbicki, c/1b, North Carolina
28. Nate Roberts, of, High Point
29. Craige Lyerly, 3b, Catawba
30. Chris Schaeffer, c, North Carolina State
31. Chris Patterson, rhp, Appalachian State
32. Tyler Powell, rhp, Belmont-Abbey
33. Maverick Miles, of, South Rowan HS, China Grove
34. Ryan Butler, ss, Ardrey Kell HS, Charlotte
35. Cameron Roth, lhp, UNC Wilmington
36. Jeff Bouton, of, Hoggard HS, Wilmington
37. Dillon Hazlett, 2b/1b, North Carolina
38. Wade Moore, of, Catawba
39. Matt Benedict, rhp, Western Carolina
40. Wes Hobson, 2b, Appalachian State
41. Daniel Ottone, rhp, Western Carolina
42. Steven Brooks, of, Wake Forest
43. Jordan Smith, rhp/of, Providence Grove HS, Liberty
44. Kenny Mickens, of, UNC Pembroke
45. Macon Smith, c/of, Western Guilford HS, Greensboro
46. Nate Striz, rhp, North Carolina
47. Mike Murray, c, Wake Forest
48. Seth Maness, rhp, East Carolina
49. Russell Wilson, of, North Carolina State
50. Colin Bates, rhp, North Carolina

SCOUTING REPORTS

Matt Harvey, rhp
North Carolina

Harvey entered 2007 as the No. 1 high school prospect in the country, just ahead of fellow North Carolina recruit Rick Porcello. While Porcello signed with the Tigers as a first-rounder that year, Harvey was an unsigned third-rounder of the Angels. Five days after Porcello made his big league debut in 2009, Harvey took a loss in a midweek relief appearance for the Tar Heels against High Point. That was probably the low point of Harvey's career, as he struggled as a sophomore. As a junior, though, he has regained his mojo, with a 7-3, 3.10 record and 93 strikeouts and 32 walks in 90 innings heading into regional play. Scouts agree that Harvey's arm action is longer now than it was in 2007, but they aren't sure why. It affects his command, as it's harder for him to repeat his delivery and find the same release point. When he does, Harvey has explosive stuff, and he has worked harder than ever, thanks to improved maturity, to improve his balance and tempo. As a result, Harvey has pitched like an ace, with only one clunker start (against Duke) this spring and several gems, including a 158-pitch, 15-strikeout complete game at Clemson. His final pitch was 96 mph, which is usually where Harvey sits when he's right, in the 92-96 mph range. Once the owner of a power curveball, Harvey now prefers a hard slider that at times sits in the mid-80s with depth and late finish. Some scouts have given it a well-above-average grade. His changeup is just fair, and Harvey's command is below-average. With his stuff, he just needs control, and he has thrown enough strikes this year to get back into the first-round conversation.

Ty Linton, of
Charlotte (N.C.) Christian School

Linton is both a football and baseball recruit for North Carolina, signed to a football scholarship but needed by a baseball program woefully short on his best tool: righthanded power. Strong and physical at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Linton was an all-state linebacker known for jarring hits in football and would likely play safety for the Tar Heels' football team. He has run 60 yards in 6.5 seconds. Linton's arm rates as average, and he's athletic enough to fit the right-field profile. The biggest questions are with his hitting ability and his signability. Buying him out of his college commitment likely will require a seven-figure signing bonus, and scouts aren't convinced his bat is worthy of such a commitment. Linton's offensive approach remains raw, and at times he's a front-foot hitter who jumps at the ball and doesn't trust his hands. He has struggled at times against modest high school competition, flailing at breaking balls well below the quality he'd see even in Rookie ball. It takes only one team, though, to believe in his raw ability and sign him away from North Carolina.

Matt Roberts, c
Graham (N.C.) HS

The 2009 draft featured the nation's top defender at catcher, Steve Baron, going off the board in the supplemental first round, even though many scouts had questions about his bat. Roberts isn't quite at Baron's level defensively but does grade as above-average for both his defense and his arm. He's a quiet, consistent receiver with consistent 1.85-1.9-second pop times. Roberts is clearly good enough to step in and play as a freshman at North Carolina defensively, but as the draft approached it seemed less likely that he would make it to school. He homered off Austin Brice, one of the state's better arms, in a heavily scouted game in early May and had shown a smoother swing this season. He hasn't faced great competition, and while he's a good athlete he lacks strength and may not ever hit for much power. He plays with energy and has shown leadership skills behind the plate. Roberts wasn't necessarily considered the top pure talent in the Tar Heel State, but he was expected to be its first prep player picked.

Cody Stanley, c
UNC Wilmington

Stanley comes from a baseball family, as his father played both baseball and football at Elon, and his mother played junior-college softball. He was a high school punter at Clinton High, a powerhouse 2-A program in North Carolina, and was defensive player of the game in the state championship game. His draft credentials are less flashy, with average tools across the board, but his profile is strong. He's a lefthanded hitter who has solid athletic ability at 5-foot-11, 192 pounds. He has a track record of hitting with wood and has handled a decent pitching staff with some hard throwers. Stanley hit .299/.409/.443 in the Cape Cod League last summer, and his polished approach was evident at the plate this spring, where he had 42 walks against 23 strikeouts and batted .323/.438/.540 with 11 home runs. Stanley is a solid receiver and blocker with average arm strength. His release can get long, resulting in below-average times to second base, but he threw out 30 and 31 percent of opposing basestealers the last two seasons. Stanley has solid gap power and is a good runner for a catcher. While he has no glaring weakness, he also has no obvious strength, and for some his tools are only fringe-average. He still figures to go out in the first six rounds thanks to his profile and the lack of catching prospects.

Jimmy Reyes, lhp
Elon

College baseball offers few quality lefthanders for this year's draft, and Reyes was taking full advantage. He got off to a terrible start to his junior season, as a loss to Rice—his first after winning his first 12 decisions with Elon—sent him into a funk. He was pressing for scouts, trying to throw harder for radar guns, and lost the life and command on his fastball. When Reyes backed off to a still-firm 88-91 mph, his season took off, and he was 10-3, 3.97 heading into regional play, with 95 strikeouts against 21 walks in 95 innings. He creates some angle and downward plane on his fastball even though he's just 5-foot-10, 194 pounds. When he doesn't overthrow, he gets good life on the pitch, with boring action in to righthanded hitters. That helps set up his slider, which can be an above-average pitch when he locates it well. It has tilt, and Reyes has shown the ability to back-foot it to righthanded hitters. His changeup has come along as well, giving Reyes another weapon to combat righthanders. He had thrown at least seven innings in seven consecutive starts and had a gaudy 196-40 strikeout-walk ratio the last two seasons. Reyes offers little projection and lacks athleticism, his biggest negative. He has improved as a fielder and at holding runners, but neither will ever be a strong suit. His strong finish was pushing him up draft boards, perhaps as high as the fourth or fifth round.

Connor Narron, ss
Aycock HS, Goldsboro, N.C.

Narron's bloodlines work for him and against him. He has benefited by being around the game at a high level all his life. His father Jerry spent part of eight seasons catching in the majors—including replacing Thurman Munson after the Yankees captain died in a 1979 plane crash—and parts of five others as a manager. Connor served as a batboy for many of his father's teams and spent time observing big league behavior. His big league approach at the prep level can turn off scouts, however, who want to see him play with more intensity. Other scouts question Narron's ability to stick in the infield thanks to his below-average speed and would have liked to see him behind the plate, but that never happened. Narron's bat was tough to scout this spring because he averaged two walks a game as teams pitched around him. He has surprising power and solid hitting tools from both sides of the plate, even though he's active in the batter's box and has an unconventional load. Narron's hands and arm strength are both good enough that he should be able to step in as a freshman at North Carolina and play right away, probably at shortstop, if he doesn't sign. By the time he's draft-eligible again, he'll likely be a third baseman.

Same Time Next Year?

North Carolina's prep ranks have improved from a scouting standpoint over the years, especially as the state's population grows. However, the consensus was that this year's class was better for future college players, rather than pro talent. That will change next season, as the 2011 class is North Carolina is loaded, led by righty Dillon Maples at Pinecrest High in Southern Pines, who would have been a high first-rounder had he been eligible in 2010.

Righthander Austin Brice was the big mover in North Carolina's prep ranks this spring, and area scouts and crosscheckers converged on his small high school to see him face Matt Roberts and Graham High. As the spring went on, Brice had thrown some 93-94 mph fastballs, attracting attention after he sat in the upper 80s earlier. Roberts took Brice deep in that matchup, and Brice's velocity wasn't at its best. His secondary stuff is raw, with his curve ranking ahead of his nascent changeup. Brice has a good pro body at 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, with a quick, loose arm contributing to projections that he'll show his good velocity more regularly in the future. He's a solid athlete who could be a good college hitter (as a third baseman) and is at least an average runner, if not a tick above. He's an Appalachian State recruit, but scouts said they wouldn't be surprised if he ended up Pitt CC, the state's best junior-college program.

Rivaling Brice as the state's top prep pitcher were Jay Gause and Tyler Barnette, with Gause having the early lead but Barnette threatening to pass him as the season went on. Gause started well and has a 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame that produces three solid-average pitches when he's at his best. His fastball has touched 94 and sits at 89-92 mph when he's right. He has shown the hand speed to spin a breaking ball, with a curve that has flashed above-average, and he has a decent changeup. Gause's performance and stuff suffered after a mid-April start when he reportedly exceeded 150 pitches. He's a North Carolina State recruit, and scouts weren't sure what to make of his stock as the draft approached because he hadn't been at his best after his long outing. Barnette, a Charlotte recruit, offers less projection but sits 87-91 mph with his fastball and has looseness in his delivery. He fills up the strike zone with his fastball, which is not the case with his curve. While the breaking ball has some shape, he lacks a feel for using it or commanding it. Gause's athletic ability is superior.

The state's high school hitters dropped off after Ty Linton, Connor Narron and Matt Roberts. Joel McKeithan plays at the state's top high school program, Roberson High just outside Asheville in the western part of the state, which has produced big leaguers Cam Maybin and Chris Narveson as well as 2007 Blue Jays supplemental pick Justin Jackson just in the last 10 years. McKeithan is like Jackson in that both are shortstops and solid athletes. McKeithan's best tool is his plus arm, and he has good infield actions that should help him get on the field as a freshman if he heads to Vanderbilt. Teams that like him enough to draft him would have to buy out Vandy and buy into the bat, and McKeithan may lack the strength and fluid swing to hit with wood initially.

Outfielder Maverick Miles is High Point's best in-state recruit and was expected to go to school, though his strong spring performance merited a few more looks from scouts. Miles has pro size at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds and moves well for that size. North Carolina recruit Jeff Bouton has better athletic ability and turned in 6.6-second 60 times, with his swing generally considered too rough to work with wood at this stage.

Elon recruit James Baldwin III is the son of the former big league pitcher, James Baldwin Jr., who was drafted by the White Sox out of the same high school (Pinecrest) in the fourth round in 1990. The father threw more than 1,300 major league innings over 11 seasons, and now serves as the Pinecrest pitching coach. The son has also worked as a righthanded pitcher but is a prospect as an outfielder, with athleticism that stands out in this year's high school class. His bat is raw because he was both a football and basketball standout as well during his prep career, and he'll be a safer pick coming out of school in three years unless a team buys into his big league bloodlines.

Looking For College Diamonds In The Rough

Aside from Matt Harvey, the better arms in the state were not at the state's four Atlantic Coast Conference schools. Thomas Girdwood stands a good chance of being drafted in the first eight rounds after setting Elon and Southern Conference career saves records. He's a lower-slot righthander who has to stay on top of his slider and fastball to be effective. When he's too close to sidearm, his 91-93 mph heater flattens out and his 81-85 mph slider lacks depth, and he's prone to allowing home runs. When he's right, though, both pitches play as above-average offerings, and his fastball has touched 95. He added a changeup, which has made progress but is still a third offering. Girdwood wasn't throwing as well down the stretch, faltering in the Southern Conference tournament. He has plenty of mound presence and experience pitching in big situations and profiles as a set-up man.

UNC Greensboro had righty Rob Gilliam drafted in the eighth round a year ago. While Gilliam threw a bit harder than 2010 ace Blake Hassebrock, Hassebrock profiles better and should go in the same range, if not a couple of rounds higher. He can sit at 93-94 mph with his fastball and reaches higher in shorter stints. At 6-foot-5, 190 pounds, he has the body scouts look for, and he has shown the athletic ability to repeat his delivery—though he has not been able to actually do it. Scouts say his mechanics need significant work, and his 44 walks in 73 innings attest to that. He worked in several roles for the Spartans this season, and when he started, he generally maintained his stuff but was left in games too long thanks to a poor bullpen. He pitched better than his 0-7, 7.15 record suggests, but he's also raw for a college pitcher. He was expected to come off the board in the first six or seven rounds.

North Carolina State bounced back after missing last year's regionals to reach the finals of the ACC tournament and get an at-large bid in the 64-team field. The Wolfpack's top draftee likely will be righthander Jake Buchanan, who was outstanding in the Cape Cod League last summer, going 3-1, 0.84 with just six walks in 43 innings. He's a pitchability righthander and doesn't have a great pro body at 6 feet, 221 pounds. He commands his fastball well at average velocity, and he ran it up to 93 mph against Georgia Tech in a heavily scouted start against Deck McGuire. Senior lefty Alex Sogard came on strong late in the year as he got more distance from offseason shoulder surgery, and he wound up starting twice in the ACC tournament. He was at his best in a late-season start against High Point, hitting 94 mph and showing a power curveball. Sogard went just 2-2, 5.26 and got hammered early, and he's a fifth-year senior who's already 22.

N.C. State's top position player is Kyle Wilson, a switch-hitter and plus runner who set the school stolen-base record with 30 in 2009 but didn't hit enough to get drafted. He moved to center field this spring and hit .381 but had just 12 steals thanks to a hip injury. Initially diagnosed as a groin pull, it turned out to be a stress reaction in his pelvis. He won't need surgery, but he will need rest and may not be able to do more than DH after signing. He hadn't played in the field since April. Wolfpack catcher Chris Schaeffer had a strong offensive season with 11 homers but threw out just 11 percent of opposing basestealers. Then he got run over in a play at the plate in the ACC tournament final, sending him to the hospital and leaving his status in doubt for regional play.

Russell Wilson has been a standout quarterback for the Wolfpack for two seasons, but he's a redshirt sophomore and eligible for the baseball draft, so many observers thought he might end his football career early. He skipped spring football to focus on baseball this year but didn't do enough for teams to buy him out of his football career yet. Wilson turned down six figures coming out of high school and has some hitting ability, but he batted .306/.438/.490 in just 98 at-bats this spring and didn't show enough defensive ability at second base to wow scouts. His arm played a bit on the mound as well, as he pitched 12 innings. Scouts will be content to check in again next year after his third season on the gridiron.

North Carolina's team lacks its usual prospect depth. Two junior-college transfers, catcher/first baseman Jordan Wierzbicki and infielder Dillon Hazlett, were the position players most likely to get drafted. Wierzbicki would go in the first 10 rounds if scouts were sold on his defensive ability behind the plate. He has solid righthanded power but a bit of a stiff approach. Haizlett lacks power in his contact-oriented swing; his strength is defensive versatility.

Injury-prone righty Nate Striz, an unsigned fifth-round pick out of high school, still touches 94 mph at times, even coming off shoulder surgery. He hasn't earned innings this spring even though the Tar Heels' bullpen struggled all year.

Righty Ken Ferrer wound up winning nine games for Elon, second only behind ace Jimmy Reyes, and has one of the area's better fastballs, sitting 90-94 mph even in starting roles. His secondary stuff remains unrefined, and he didn't have a pitch to put hitters away. His control is also lacking, and he hit 15 batters in just 70 innings.

Charlotte has turned into a consistent NCAA tournament team since joining the Atlantic-10 Conference. The 49ers' top prospect is Ryan Rivers, a corner infielder whose lack of agility may limit him to first base. He has plenty of arm strength and has touched the low 90s as a pitcher, though he didn't pitch this year. He has solid-average power potential thanks to decent bat speed and strength and leverage in his swing.

Other college position players who figure to get picked include High Point's Nate Roberts, who had a big season but lacks a standout tool; and Division II Catawba's Craige Lyerly and Wade Moore. Lyerly's speed is a standout tool, and he has a chance to be a utility player if his footwork improves. He's a solid hitter with well-below-average power and a fringy arm. Moore, originally at North Carolina State, has decent tools with average power from his longish swing.

East Carolina failed to make the NCAA regional field and had a tumultuous season, with shortstop Dustin Harrington getting kicked off the team for academic problems in what was shaping up as a stellar season. Harrington, who is a below-average runner and fringy defender at short, will move to second or third base as a professional. His bat made significant progress this season, impressive considering he hit 14 homers as a sophomore. He was more selective and was hitting .443/.474/.679 through 25 games when he was removed from the roster. He was working out individually for scouts.

His former teammate, outfielder Devin Harris, figured to be drafted again but not as high as the eighth round, where he went last year as an eligible sophomore. Harris has big tools with his plus arm and raw power potential. He also has shown a disappointing lack of aptitude for hitting, ranking second in Conference USA in strikeouts for the second consecutive season.

Pirates slugger Kyle Roller, primarily a DH for the bulk of his career, has a mature body that lacks athleticism. He can hit, though, batting .342 with 10 homers in the Cape Cod League last summer and drawing 61 walks this spring for the Pirates, with 12 more homers. At the least, Roller will be a solid organizational solider in the minors.

UNC Wilmington catcher Cody Stanley attracted plenty of scouting attention to the Seahawks, who also have several pitching prospects. The safest bets were senior Seth Frankoff, who has touched 93 mph as a set-up man, and Stephen Harrold, a 6-foot-1 junior who closed and has a higher ceiling. Harrold improved his command working out of the bullpen and flashed some 94s on radar guns, sitting at 91-92 mph. His slider has improved to give him a second average pitch, and his changeup has shown signs of life.

UNCW starters Cameron Roth, a lefty with a strong curveball but command issues, and Justin Bradley, a projectable 6-foot-4, 200-pounder with a solid-average slider and upper-80s fastball, may be better senior signs.

The top junior-college talent in the state, Louisburg lefty Hunter Ackerman could sneak into single-digit consideration thanks to an 88-90 mph fastball that he drives downhill. He has a solid low-80s changeup with tailing action that he can use to both sides of the plate, and a loopy, below-average breaking ball.