2018 ACC Preview
Tyler Holton (Photo by Richard C. Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Team to beat: Florida State.
Coming off their 22nd trip to Omaha a year ago, the Seminoles return the bulk of their roster and boast the best mix of experience and talent in the league. FSU brings back its entire weekend rotation, fronted by crafty lefthander Tyler Holton (10-3, 2.34), who is among the best starters in college baseball and is expected to take on a larger role as a hitter after seeing intermittent action in the lineup in his first two college seasons. Hard-throwing righthander Cole Sands (6-4, 5.40) and pitchability lefty Drew Parrish (6-3, 4.52) slot in behind him to form a quality weekend unit. Offensively, the Seminoles will miss lineup mainstays Taylor Walls, Dylan Busby and Quincy Nieporte, but they should have more than enough firepower at their disposable. After hitting 10 home runs in just half a season his freshman year, Drew Mendoza (.270/.400/.534) ranks among the best hitters in the conference, and switch-hitters Jackson Lueck (.318/.405/.507) and Cal Raleigh (.227/.330/.398) should fortify the top half of the lineup. Longtime head coach Mike Martin enters the year 31 wins shy of matching Augie Garrido’s all-time wins record, but a national championship has eluded him and the Seminoles. This season should provide as good a chance as any to claim their first.
Player of the Year: Seth Beer, 1B, Clemson.
One of college baseball’s biggest names since he burst onto the scene with his Freshman of the Year 2016 season, Beer’s production was somewhat down in 2017. Yet he still managed to hit .298/.419/.606 with a team-leading 16 home runs and 53 RBIs. A sophomore slump for Seth Beer is a career year for most other players in the country. A selective hitter with tremendous raw power and lightning quick bat speed, Beer should remain one of the scariest bats in college baseball.
Pitcher of the Year: Tyler Holton, LHP, Florida State.
There are pitchers in the ACC with better stuff, but none quite have Holton’s mix of command, guts and pitching feel. Despite working primarily in the upper 80s, Holton struck out 144 batters to 31 walks in 119.1 innings last season, going 10-3, 2.34 as FSU’s rotation anchor. He flummoxes hitters with his ability to add and subtract, and he has one of the best changeups in the conference. He’s been FSU’s most dependable pitcher the last two seasons, and that shouldn’t change in 2018.
Freshman of the Year: Reid Detmers, LHP, Louisville.
Though not the top freshman prospect in the league based on pure talent, Detmers has the right combination of opportunity and polish to make an immediate impact on the college level. Due to the losses of Brendan McKay and Kade McClure, the lefthander projects to slide right into Louisville’s weekend rotation—likely as the team’s Saturday starter. He pounds the zone at 88-91 mph and has a dependable three-pitch mix, which should serve him—and the Cardinals—well in that role.
Top 25 Teams: Florida State (3), North Carolina (6), Clemson (12), Virginia (15), Louisville (19).
Other Projected Regional Teams
Duke: Few players drew as much buzz in the Cape Cod League this summer than Duke junior outfielders Griffin Conine and Jimmy Herron, both of whom lead a deep, experienced offense. Conine, the son of former big leaguer Jeff Conine, wields exceptional power, while Herron is among the best pure hitters in the conference. The word from scouts is that the Blue Devils should be potent offensively; the question will be on the mound. Duke has exciting upside in the form of big-name sophomore lefthanders Graeme Stinson and Adam Laskey but will need one or both arms to take a step forward from shaky freshman seasons.
Miami: The odds are very much in the Hurricanes’ favor to return to regionals after just missing the cut last year. Prior to 2017, Miami had reached regionals 44 consecutive years. The Hurricanes will have plenty of motivation this season as they seek to return to the NCAA Tournament and send longtime coach Jim Morris into retirement with a strong final season. Miami lost a significant amount of talent from its back-to-back Omaha teams in 2015 and 2016 but should be a deeper team after a transitional season. Pulling in top freshman righthander Chris McMahon is a strong start, as is the addition of sweet-swinging first baseman Alex Toral. Veteran lefties Michael Mediavilla and Jeb Bargfeldt should help anchor the staff, and a healthy Michael Amditis behind the plate should be a boost, as well.
North Carolina State: The Wolfpack retains much of the team that went to a regional final at Kentucky last June. Much like Tobacco Road neighbor Duke, N.C. State should be a highly offensive club, thanks to experienced bats like Josh McClain, Will Wilson, Brad Debo and Brett Kinneman. The Wolfpack will also look fairly similar on the mound, as it returns its weekend rotation. It’s not an overwhelming group, however, as top starters Johnny Piedmonte and Brian Brown get by more on feel and deception than pure stuff. Sophomore righthander Michael Bienlien could be the X-factor, as he’s the most explosive of the group and flashed brilliance a year ago. N.C. State has been able to piece it together on the mound in past years, and with similar arms this season, should be also to do so again in 2018.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons finished a win away from Omaha last year after going toe-to-toe against eventual national champion Florida in Gainesville. That super regional was the Deacons’ first since 1999. Key position players Stuart Fairchild, Gavin Sheets and Ben Breazeale have all moved on, as has ace Parker Dunshee, leaving Wake with big shoes to replace. However, the return of righthander Griffin Roberts is a shot in the arm. A draft-eligible sophomore last season, Roberts will move from the bullpen to the rotation this spring and boasts a heavy mid-90s fastball with a true plus breaking ball. If he can settle into his new role, and veterans like Preseason All-American third baseman Johnny Aiello and second baseman Jake Mueller can pace the offense, then coach Tom Walter’s club should be poised for its third straight regional.
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Not only is Florida State pursuing a repeat trip to Omaha, but 11 is in the hunt to become the winningest coach in Division I history. At 1,944-694-4 all-time, head coach Mike Martin needs just 32 wins to surpass the recently retired Augie Garrido for the top spot in a highly exclusive club. If the Seminoles, ranked No. 3 in the country, play to their capability, Martin should make history this year—adding yet another milestone to the 74-year-old coach’s sterling resume. Martin has guided the Seminoles to 38 consecutive regional berths and 16 trips to the CWS. And he’s been involved—either or on the field or in the dugout—in 3,026 of the 3,919 baseball games played FSU history.
South of Tallahassee, Miami coach Jim Morris—another legend of the game—is entering his final year of coaching. The Hurricanes head coach for the last 24 years, Morris has steered Miami to two national championships (1999 and 2001) In those 24 years, Morris took Miami to Omaha 13 times, more than any other program in that span. Before Miami, Morris spent 12 seasons at the helm at Georgia Tech and has been a Division I head coach for 36 years. Morris, 67, has a career record of 1,697-729-4. He will turn head coaching duties over to recruiting coordinator Gino DiMare, who has coached under Morris for 18 seasons.
John Szefc has already turned one ACC team into a contender; now, he’ll try his hand at Virginia Tech. Szefc, the head coach at Maryland from 2012-2017, was the first coach to ever take the Terrapins to super regionals. And he did it twice, in 2014 and again in 2015 after the Terps bolted for the Big Ten Conference. Coming off a regional appearance at Wake Forest last season, Szefc returns to the ACC and will take over a Hokies team that went 23-32 (9-21 ACC) last season.
Top 20 2018 Draft Prospects
1. Griffin Conine, OF, Duke
2. Joey Bart, C, Georgia Tech
3. Seth Beer, 1B/OF, Clemson
4. Jake McCarthy, OF, Virginia
5. Cole Sands, RHP, Florida State
6. Austin Bergner, RHP, North Carolina
7. Josh Stowers, OF, Louisville
8. Jimmy Herron, OF, Duke
9. Griffin Roberts, RHP, Wake Forest
10. Jackson Lueck, OF, Florida State
11. Cal Raleigh, C, Florida State
12. Daniel Lynch, LHP, Virginia
13. Sam Bordner, RHP, Louisville
14. Tyler Holton, LHP, Florida State
15. Johnny Aiello, 3B, Wake Forest
16. Ryley Gilliam, RHP, Clemson
17. Riley Thompson, RHP, Louisville
18. Zack Kone, SS/3B, Duke
19. Devin Mann, 2B, Louisville
20. Chris Williams, C, Clemson
Top 10 2019 Draft Prospects
1. Drew Mendoza, 3B, Florida State
2. Logan Davidson, SS, Clemson
3. Tyler Baum, RHP, North Carolina
4. Will Wilson, SS, North Carolina State
5. Graeme Stinson, LHP, Duke
6. Gianluca Dalatri, RHP, North Carolina
7. J.C. Flowers, OF, Florida State
8. Brad Debo, C, North Carolina State
9. Tyler Fitzgerald, SS, Louisville
10. Adam Laskey, LHP, Duke
1. Chris McMahon, RHP, Miami
2. C.J. Van Eyk, RHP, Florida State
3. Spencer Strider, RHP, Clemson
4. Kier Meredith, OF, Clemson
5. Reid Detmers, LHP, Louisville
6. Shane Drohan, LHP, Florida State
7. Griff McGarry, RHP, Virginia
8. Joe Lancellotti, RHP, North Carolina
9. Alex Toral, 1B, Miami
10. Devin Ortiz, ss/rhp, Virginia
Best Pure Hitter: Seth Beer, Clemson
Best Power Hitter: Griffin Conine, Duke
Best Strike-zone Discipline: Seth Beer, Clemson
Best Athlete: Josh Stowers, Louisville
Fastest Runner: Jake McCarthy, Virginia
Best Baserunner: Jake McCarthy, Virginia
Best Defensive Catcher: Cody Roberts, North Carolina
Best Defensive Infielder: Logan Davidson, Clemson
Best Infield Arm: Logan Davidson, Clemson
Best Defensive Outfielder: J.C. Flowers, Florida State
Best Outfield Arm: J.C. Flowers, Florida State
Best Fastball: Riley Thompson, Louisville
Best Breaking Ball: Griffin Roberts, Wake Forest
Best Changeup: Josh Hiatt, North Carolina
Best Control: Tyler Holton, Florida State