State Report: North Carolina

Another strong college class in the Tar Heel State




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THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
Rating compares this year's group to what a state typically produces, not to other states
It's a commentary on North Carolina's growth as a baseball talent producer that the state can place nine players in the Top 200 and go 75 players deep, yet not have it considered a five-star year. The 2011 class lacks an elite player like recent top 15 picks Matt Harvey, Alex White and Dustin Ackley, though it offers amazing depth on both sides of the ball. The state hasn't been shut out of the first round since 2004, when the Athletics took righthander Michael Rogers out of North Carolina State in the second round. The first-round run should continue with Levi Michael's all-around tools, but he's not likely to go in the top 15 picks.

Michael would also make it three straight years with a first-rounder for the University of North Carolina, which has stamped itself as a legitimate national program under Mike Fox. The university's rising tide has raised all boats in the state, as the high school talent continues to improve. A lot of the top prep talent this year is committed to in-state schools, so the state's outlook continues to be bright.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Levi Michael, ss, North Carolina (National Rank: 22)
2. Dillon Maples, rhp, Pinecrest HS, Southern Pines (National Rank: 46)
3. Brett Austin, c, Providence HS, Charlotte (National Rank: 61)
4. Cory Mazzoni, rhp, North Carolina State (National Rank: 121)
5. Carter Capps, rhp, Mount Olive (National Rank: 151)
6. Pratt Maynard, c, North Carolina State (National Rank: 187)
7. Mike Wright, rhp, East Carolina (National Rank: 188)
8. Carlos Rodon, Holly Springs HS (National Rank: 198)
9. Chris Lamb, lhp, Davidson (National Rank: 199)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

10. Benton Moss, rhp, Rocky Mount HS
11. Rookie Davis, rhp, Dixon HS, Sneads Ferry
12. Harold Riggins, 1b, North Carolina State
13. Josh Tobias, 2b, Southeast Guilford HS, Greensboro
14. Shawn Armstrong, rhp, East Carolina
15. Cody Allen, rhp, High Point
16. Jacob Stallings, c, North Carolina
17. Zach Wright, c, East Carolina
18. Zach Houchins, ss, Louisburg JC
19. Tyler Molinaro, 1b, Pitt CC
20. Andrew Cain, of, UNC Wilmington
21. Jarett Miller, rhp, UNC Greensboro
22. Andy Bass, rhp, Davidson
23. Xavier Macklin, of, North Carolina A&T
24. John Gianis, of, North Carolina State
25. Mason McCullough, rhp, Crest HS, Shelby
26. Jeremy Null, rhp, Bunker Hill HS, Claremont
27. Chris McCue, rhp, Ardrey Kell HS, Charlotte
28. Tyler Poole, rhp, Hickory HS
29. Jesse Wierzbicki, 1b, North Carolina
30. Will Piwnica-Worms, of, Duke
31. Steven Brooks, of, Wake Forest
32. Brad Mincey, rhp, East Carolina
33. Neal Pritchard, ss, Elon
34. Ken Ferrer, rhp, Elon
35. Jordan Ramsey, rhp, North Davidson HS, Lexington
36. Logan Jernigan, rhp, South Johnston HS, Four Oaks
37. Mitch Conner, rhp, Elon
38. Greg Holt, rhp, North Carolina
39. Tyler Powell, rhp, Myers Park HS, Charlotte
40. Jason Creasy, rhp, Clayton HS
41. Thomas Girdwood, rhp, Elon
42. Matt Benedict, rhp, Western Carolina
43. John Brebbia, rhp, Elon
44. Andrew Smith, rhp, Charlotte
45. Mac Williamson, of, Wake Forest
46. Ben Bunting, of, North Carolina
47. Andrew Ciencin, 2b, North Carolina State
48. Adam Griffin, rhp, Forsyth Country Day HS, Lewisville
49. Max Povse, rhp, Green Hope HS, Cary
50. Steven Antolik, 1b, High Point
51. Ryan Arrowood, rhp, Appalachian State
52. Ross Heffley, 2b, Western Carolina
53. Kyle Reed, rhp, Louisburg JC
54. Marquis Riley, 2b, North Carolina A&T
55. Ethan Carter, rhp, Louisburg JC
56. Pete Levitt, rhp, Mount Olive
57. Patrick Johnson, rhp, North Carolina
58. Dennis O'Grady, rhp, Duke
59. Brett Williams, of, North Carolina State
60. Josh Powell, rhp, Brunswick CC
61. Mike Knox, 1b, Mount Olive
62. Jordan Jankowski, rhp, Catawba
63. Logan Ratledge, ss, Ardrey Kell HS, Charlotte
64. Mikal Hill, ss, Mallard Creek HS, Charlotte
65. Brandon Culbreth, rhp/3b, Forsyth Country Day HS, Lewisville
66. Tyler Bolton, rhp, Kerr-Vance Academy, Henderson
67. Cameron Conner, of, North Carolina State
68. Kenny Mickens, of, UNC Pembroke
69. Jay Cannon, ss, Brunswick CC
70. Christian Pfaff, rhp, Pitt CC
71. Kyle Deese, rhp, Western Carolina
72. Ben Grisz, rhp, Duke
73. Demetrius Ingram, rhp, West Stanly HS, Oakboro
74. Kyle Wooden, 1b, Guilford
75. Rob Chamra, rhp, North Carolina State

SCOUTING REPORTS

Levi Michael, ss
North Carolina

Michael was a solid high school prospect in Lexington, N.C., but he graduated early in order to join the Tar Heels for the 2009 season. He has played a new position each season, moving from second base as a freshman to third base as a sophomore, before settling in at shortstop this year. He's been a reliable defender at all three spots, and scouts are warming up to the idea that he could stay at shortstop at the pro level. He missed a couple of games with an ankle injury and was still getting back to 100 percent, but he still showed ability in all facets of the game and was hitting .311/.461/.464 with 14 stolen bases in 15 attempts in 196 at-bats. He is a patient hitter with a good eye for the strike zone from both sides of the plate, with a 43-27 walk-strikeout ratio. He hits to all fields and could hit at the top of the batting order, though he shows pop and is naturally stronger from the right side. He's an above-average runner, though he hadn't quite returned to that level since the injury. Scouts don't view the ankle as a long-term concern. Defensively, he has good actions and enough arm strength for shortstop. The only concern is his range, but he'll get every chance to prove himself before potentially sliding to second base.

Dillon Maples, rhp
Pinecrest HS, Southern Pines

Maples has had the benefit of professional insight. His father, Tim, was a second-round pick of the Orioles in 1979, and his pitching coach at Pinecrest is James Baldwin, the former White Sox all-star. Scouts got a good look at Maples during his junior season when they went to see Baldwin's son, outfielder James Baldwin III, who signed with the Dodgers as a fourth-rounder. Maples' best assets are athleticism and arm strength. Also a standout kicker on the football team, he stands at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds with a strong lower half. His fastball sits 91-94 mph and has touched the mid-90s throughout the season. His curveball is an above-average pitch that has left his competition in the state overmatched. He lacks command of his fastball and actually does a better job of spotting his curveball. He has shown a changeup in warm-ups but doesn't need it in games, so the pitch will need development. Maples has a short arm action and questionable mechanics that lead to his below-average command. Scouts say his athleticism will allow him to make the necessary adjustments. He is committed to North Carolina, where he would play baseball and have a chance to walk on as a kicker for the football team.

Brett Austin, c
Providence HS, Charlotte

Scouts in the Carolinas consider Austin the most improved player in the area this spring after seeing him on the showcase circuit last summer. He gained favor in May as crosscheckers and scouting directors came in to watch his team wrap up a conference title against rival Ardrey Kell High, a nationally ranked team at the time. Austin tied the game in the seventh inning with a missile home run, leaving scouts impressed with his sweet lefthanded swing. At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, he has improved his top-hand strength from the left side and is more fluid than in the past. A switch-hitter, Austin is a natural righty and has more strength from that side, but his swing can get long at times. In addition to his swing, Austin has improved his body, though questions remain about his defense. He's not athletic, and his arm strength is average at best, but some scouts believe he could be an average defender. Couple that with his ability to hit to all fields and Austin could find himself off the board in the second round. He is part of an impressive North Carolina State recruiting class.

Cory Mazzoni, rhp
North Carolina State

Mazzoni has been the Wolfpack's ace this season, and he leads a pack of righthanders in North Carolina because he has the best chance of remaining a starter at the pro level. Solidly built at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, he has been durable and holds his velocity deep into games while doing a good job of repeating his delivery. He will typically sit at 90-94 mph with his fastball and can dial it up to 97 when he needs it. He also works with a power breaking ball that isn't always consistent but can be above-average, and a splitter. It's not a conventional package for a starter because he doesn't throw a soft pitch to his glove side. His 3-6, 3.93 record is misleading. In 92 innings, Mazzoni had 105 strikeouts and 27 walks while opponents were hitting .229 against him. Scouts like his competitive nature and think he could be a back-of-the-rotation starter or move quickly as a late-inning reliever. Mazzoni figures to go off the board around the third round.

Carter Capps, rhp
Mount Olive

A catcher in high school, Capps redshirted as a college freshman and then moved to the mound at the behest of Mount Olive coach Carl Lancaster. That idea looks brilliant, as Capps has a career mark of 12-0, 1.59 with 110 strikeouts and 13 walks in 96 innings. He has a big, durable body at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, and arm strength to boot. His fastball can range from 90-96 mph, usually sitting in the low 90s with hard sink. He has a slider that shows occasional depth, as well as a curveball and changeup, though those two pitches need work. Capps will likely shift to a bullpen role because his stuff plays better there and he has issues with his delivery. He throws across his body and has a long stride that makes it difficult for him to get out front. Scouts think his mechanics can be ironed out, but still like him better as a reliever.

Pratt Maynard, c
North Carolina State

The first thing scouts notice about Maynard is his hitting ability from the left side. He hit just .273 as a sophomore, but with 11 home runs and more walks (64) than strikeouts (42). The new bats in college baseball this season haven't seemed to affect him, as he was hitting .330/.408/.481 in 212 at-bats. His power is more in the form of doubles this season and scouts think he'll continue to show more line-drive power than home runs as a pro. He hasn't walked as much this season, but still shows good plate discipline. The doubts surround Maynard's ability to catch, though teams will give him every chance given the lack of depth at the position. He needs polish in all facets defensively, and if he has to move to a corner, his lack of home run power dents his profile. If a team believes in Maynard behind the plate, he could go off the board in the fifth round.

Mike Wright, rhp
East Carolina

In his first full season in the weekend rotation, Wright has been one of the Pirates' better arms. He has a good frame at 6-foot-5, 195 pounds and has a chance to remain a starter. He works with a sinker/slider combination, getting ground ball outs and keeping the ball in the park rather than racking up strikeouts. His sinker will work in the low 90s, and he throws strikes with both his fastball and slider. He has flashed a decent changeup this season, though it needs more consistency. Scouts like his competitiveness on the mound. He feeds off big situations and struck out Rice's Anthony Rendon twice, challenging him inside. Wright is probably best suited to a relief role and could get popped in the sixth round, but if a team thinks he can start he could go a little higher.

Carlos Rodon, lhp
Holly Springs HS

An important part of a quality North Carolina State recruiting class, Rodon may not make it to campus because he's left-handed and athletic. At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds with room to fill out, Rodon has been inconsistent this spring but gives scouts a lot to like. When he's on, he features an 88-92 mph fastball, a curveball and slider with solid command. The slider is arguably his best secondary pitch, and both pitches are sharp and show plus potential. On off nights, Rodon has dipped into the mid-80s and struggled with command. While that may scare some teams off, others see a raw pitcher who will benefit from advanced coaching. Consistency with his mechanics, tempo and arm slot could help him blossom. Because of the raw material, Rodon could see himself gone before the fourth round concludes.

Chris Lamb, lhp
Davidson

Davidson hasn't had a player drafted in the first 10 rounds since the Yankees took shortstop Robert Eenhorn in the second round in 1990, but Lamb will likely change that this season. A 6-foot-1, 185-pound southpaw, Lamb hasn't had much support from the Wildcats offense, so he was 1-7 in spite of a 3.75 ERA. He works with an 88-92 mph fastball and a splitter that is an average to plus pitch. There is some funk and deception to the delivery, with a herky-jerky motion and high arm slot, and scouts don't see any long-term problems with it. His curveball is just OK, but scouts see him as a lefty specialist so he likely won't need it in his arsenal long-term.

College Value Available In Middle Rounds

While North Carolina produced plenty of Top 200 candidates, the colleges also have enough depth to provide value after the fifth round. First baseman Harold Riggins has worked hard to improve his body and now stands a strong 6-foot-3, 230 pounds. He has well above-average raw power and is a good athlete, providing solid defense at first base. He has good bat speed, though he doesn't handle breaking stuff and his swing will need adjustments to work in pro ball. In 191 at-bats this year, Riggins was hitting .304/.433/.424 with 63 strikeouts.

Scouts had hopes for East Carolina righthander Shawn Armstrong coming into the season, but he was inconsistent. He has a strong body at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds and a good arm, and he's at his best when he sits 91-92 mph down in the zone. He'll touch 94 and show a curveball and slider, with the former being a better pitch. He had made 18 appearances—six starts—going 3-1, 4.22 in 43 innings with 49 strikeouts and 21 walks. The Pirates' top position player prospect is catcher Zach Wright. He's a physical 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and has been solid behind the plate. He has good power, leading the Pirates with 13 home runs, and like all catchers could go higher than expected based on the lack of depth at the position.

Another catcher to watch is North Carolina's Jacob Stallings, who has added 30 pounds since his freshman year yet is still a lean 6-foot-5, 215 pounds. Scouts aren't worried about Stallings' defense. He has a strong arm and has shut down the running game for North Carolina. His bat is the question. He has just five home runs in 392 at-bats and was batting .272/.389/.400.

Aside from Stallings and Levi Michael, the Tar Heels have a few senior signs in first baseman Jesse Wierzbicki and righthanders Greg Holt and Patrick Johnson. Wierzbicki has shown some power in his two years in Chapel Hill, hitting 14 home runs in just over 400 at-bats. Holt can work 89-91 mph, touching 92, and flashes a decent breaking ball out of the bullpen.

Johnson is an interesting case. He ranked No. 173 on BA's predraft Top 200 Prospects as a high schooler in 2007, and his scouting report reads almost exactly as it did four years ago. He battles in every start and has been masterful as the Heels' Friday starter this season, going 11-1, 2.56 heading into regionals, with 102 strikeouts and 28 walks in 91 innings. He is a savvy pitcher with a quick arm, but his stuff hasn't gotten any harder in college. His fastball sits 88-90 mph, touching 92, and he shows good feel for a curveball and changeup, but none of his pitches is overpowering.

Elon won the Southern Conference regular season but got bounced in two games in the tournament after losing a 20-inning contest in the first round. Righthanded arm strength was the team's strong suit with Ken Ferrer and Thomas Girdwood both sitting in the low 90s. Ferrer's fastball ranges from 90-94, but he lacks command thanks to a long arm stroke. His stuff can be electric and he has a strong frame at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds. His inconsistent command may relegate him to a relief role.

Girdwood generated strong interest as a junior when he was closing for the Phoenix and set the school's career saves record, but he stumbled down the stretch and slid to the Twins in the 15th round. He chose not to sign and lost the closer's job this season, moving into a starting role. Girdwood can sit in the low 90s and has touched 95 mph, with a sharp slider, but command is his bugaboo. He went 4-5, 3.39 this year with 45 strikeouts and 33 walks in 64 innings.

Righthander John Brebbia doesn't have the same velocity, sitting in the high 80s and touching 92 mph, with a poor arm action. He was Elon's most effective pitcher this season, though, going 7-1, 1.76 in 27 appearances covering 41 innings. He struck out 35 while walking only eight and allowing 24 hits. Mitch Conner has a plus fastball and will flash a good breaking ball, but he has a hard time maintaining velocity so he is best suited for a couple of innings out of the bullpen. He has a good frame at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds. Elon's best available hitter is shortstop Neal Pritchard. He handled the position at the college level, but would likely shift to third in pro ball. He has solid power, hitting 36 home runs in his four years.

Cody Allen, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound righthander at High Point, has attracted interest because of a good curveball. His fastball ranges from 88-92 mph and he can sit 90-92 on good nights, though his fastball doesn't have much life. He was 4-6, 3.16 in 84 innings with 89 strikeouts and 29 walks.

Just up the road at UNC Greensboro, Jarrett Miller pitches at 90-92 mph and can touch the mid-90s, and he mixes in a curveball and slider. He struggles with his control at times. Righthander Andy Bass worked out of the bullpen for Davidson with an 88-92 mph fastball and decent slider. There's some effort to his delivery, but he has a good frame at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds.

A few athletic outfielders come with both tools and questions. Andrew Cain passes the eye test at 6-foot-6, 215 pounds and puts on a show in batting practice. The power has translated to games—10 home runs and 15 doubles in 215 at-bats—but he has a slow bat and struggles with offspeed stuff. Xavier Macklin is a raw outfielder who was tied for second in the nation with 22 home runs and profiles in right field.

The best junior-college prospect in the state is either shortstop Zach Houchins or first baseman Tyler Molinaro. Houchins has good strength and bat speed and has consistently hit the ball hard this season. He has a good arm but lacks the speed and actions to stay at shortstop. Molinaro has a tall, thin frame and offers power from the left side, with the leverage in his swing.

In addition to Houchins, Louisburg also has righthander Ethan Carter, who was one of the top high school prospects in Virginia heading into 2009. He sat in the low 90s then before a stress fracture set him back as a senior, and he wasn't drafted because of that and his strong commitment to South Carolina. He went 3-0, 5.46 in 28 innings as a freshman and transferred to Louisburg. He has been mostly in the 86-89 mph range this spring, touching 90-91, and hasn't shown the same stuff that he did in high school.

Preps Provide Future Promise

It's easy to forget about Benton Moss because he's one of the most unsignable players in the country. A winner of the prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship at North Carolina, modeled after the Rhodes Scholarship, Moss excels on and off the field. He is a skinny righthander at 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, and a tireless worker, honing his craft on the mound and maintaining a rigorous academic load. He sat at 88-91 mph with his fastball this spring, touching 92. He had a loopy curveball last summer, but he adopted a new grip and now sits in the mid-70s with good, sharp bite. He also has solid command. It's a safe bet that Moss will end up on campus in the fall, but with his current arsenal, projection and makeup he could take off in his time with the Tar Heels.

Rookie Davis is an ox, standing at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, and as a first baseman he offers huge raw power. Most teams prefer him as a righthander, though, with an 89-92 mph fastball that can sit 90-91. His curveball has some shape to it and can be an average pitch at times. Davis enjoys hitting, but righthanded-hitting first baseman have to be exceptional. If he doesn't sign, Davis could play both ways at East Carolina.

The North Carolina high school ranks are loaded this year with projectable righties who could develop into more significant prospects after three years of college. Mason McCullough was a sleeper coming into the spring and pitched at 90-92 mph, touching 94 at an indoor workout in January. He also showed a solid changeup and curveball, though his stuff needs polish. He was suspended from his high school team in April for the remainder of the season, but he was pitching American Legion ball in Shelby before the draft, so scouts could get late looks at him. He's committed to North Carolina.

Jeremy Null is 6-foot-8, 215 pounds and pitches with an upper-80s fastball, touching 90-91 mph. His delivery is well controlled for his age and size. His offspeed stuff leaves a lot to be desired for now, but he obviously offers plenty of projection. Null is headed to Western Carolina.

Jordan Ramsey, Logan Jernigan and Jason Creasy have all shown upper-80s stuff in the past, but didn't take a step forward as hoped this spring. Jernigan and Creasy are both committed to North Carolina State, while Ramsey will pitch for UNC Wilmington. Max Povse, a UNC Greensboro signee, is 6-foot-8, 190 pounds. He doesn't yet use his height to his advantage, as he is slight hunched over in his delivery. He has an 86-89 mph fastball and the makings of a decent curveball.

Chris McCue doesn't fit the mold of projectable righthander, but he still has intriguing stuff. He's just 6-foot-1, 165 pounds, so scouts wonder if his stuff will hold up over the course of a season. He sits 90-92 mph with his fastball and works in a changeup with straight sink and a sharp curveball. He's another North Carolina commitment.

Outside of Brett Austin, Josh Tobias is the most interesting hitter in the state. He has a short but strong build at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, has shown the ability to hit and has good speed. His position is a big question. He plays shortstop for his high school but is better suited for center field or second base. While he has recorded good 60-yard dash times in showcases, scouts aren't sold on him being able to handle center. He is listed as a switch-hitter but rarely does it in games, sticking to the right side.