2018 Top MLB Draft Prospects In North Carolina
1. Jordyn Adams, OF, Green Hope HS, Cary, N.C. (BA Rank: 45)
HS • 6-2 • 180 • R-R •
One of the most athletic players in the class, Adams is at least a 70-grade runner and many scouts have called him a legit, top-of-the-scale 80 runner. Committed to North Carolina to play both baseball and football, Adams is a four-star wide receiver whose father, Deke, is the defensive line coach for the Tar Heels football team. Adams has long been seen as a talented football player whose reputation among baseball circles was a raw, athletic player with tools who had real questions about his ability in the batter’s box. That perspective changed at USA Baseball’s National High School Invitational in late March, when Adams was arguably the tournament’s best hitter in a field that included many of the top prep bats in the draft class. At the NHSI, Adams had the fifth-highest average exit velocity thanks to a number of well-struck line drives. Teams immediately started watching Adams’ games with Green Hope High (Cary, N.C.) with more interest, as he put himself in the conversation to be a potential day one pick. Adams is an 80-grade athlete with impressive makeup, a chance to become an impact defender in center field and possesses a better hit tool than most scouts believed a year ago. Late in Green Hope’s season Adams has also shown enough power in games that might allow evaluators to project future plus power considering his bat speed and wiry frame, although there are scouts who have already put 60-grade power on Adams now. Between his collection of tools and his performance in front of the league’s top decision-makers, Adams has positioned himself to go on day one to a team that has the money to invest in a high-risk, high-reward player who could take large steps forward if he ever focuses exclusively on baseball. As a highly rated receiver with a potential in professional football, the price tag will likely be a high one.
2. Griffin Roberts, RHP, Wake Forest (BA Rank: 47)
4YR • 6-3 • 210 • R-R •
After being used out of the bullpen during his first two seasons with Wake Forest, Roberts has made a phenomenal transition to a starting role this spring. Through his first nine starts, Roberts has pitched to 2.67 ERA with 90 strikeouts and 22 walks in 64 innings. His impressive numbers are a byproduct of a plus fastball in the low to mid-90s with natural running life and one of the best breaking balls in the country in a 70-grade slider that has exceptional movement and depth. The pitch regularly locks up both righthanded and lefthanded batters and creates swings and misses inside and outside of the strike zone. There will always be reliever risk with Roberts, as he has a lot of effort in his delivery and throws from a very low, three-quarter slot that can occasionally border on sidearm. He also has a history of control issues, although those concerns have been lessened this spring and in the Cape Cod League last summer, when he managed just 1.69 walks per nine innings.
3. Griffin Conine, OF, Duke (BA Rank: 50)
4YR • 6-1 • 200 • L-R •
The son of two-time All-Star and 17-year major league veteran Jeff Conine, Griffin entered the spring as one of the best college power hitters in the 2018 class. He hit 13 home runs during his sophomore season with Duke and had a loud summer in the Cape Cod League, where he hit .329/.406/.537 with nine home runs in 42 games. His junior campaign has been disappointing, however, as Conine hit just .211/.344/.436 through his first 38 games with significant strikeout concerns. In that same span of games, Conine has struck out 45 times (27.6 percent) and has struggled to make contact with offspeed offerings of varying quality, frequently expanding his zone and swinging over the top of pitches below the strike zone. When he does hit the ball, he usually hits it hard. The plus raw power that he possesses hasn’t disappeared, as evidenced by a laser beam home run that he hit in March against Virginia—which left the bat at 111 mph with an 18-degree launch angle. Conine’s impressive summer on the Cape and bloodlines will keep him in consideration as a day one selection, but his swing-and-miss concerns have only grown as he’s striking out at the worst rate in his career. As an outfielder limited to a corner, much of his value will come from his bat. Some scouts even wonder if Conine might eventually have to move to first base, although he does possess an above-average to plus arm. (CC; edited)
4. Owen White, RHP, Carson HS, China Grove, N.C. (BA Rank: 59)
HS • 6-3 • 175 • R-R •
White has been on scouts’ radars for some time now, as he emerged on the national scene a few years ago with impressive stuff and a projectable, athletic frame. Prior to last fall, the 6-foot-3 righthander had fallen off a bit with his velocity and evaluators wondered if he would ever return to the form that had allowed him to stand out in previous years. White removed all doubt, however, when he re-found his electric stuff and preformed well at the Wilson Premier Class, where he threw a complete game, one-hit shutout with a fastball in the low 90s, a sharp curveball and feel for a changeup. A few weeks later, at Perfect Game’s World Wood Bat Association World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., White threw another seven-inning shutout with 13 strikeouts and no walks, holding his fastball velocity into the final innings. White re-established himself as one of the more exciting prep arms in the 2018 class with his fall outings last year, and has been equally electric this spring at Carson High in China Grove, N.C. He’s been up to 95 with his fastball, sitting more in the 91-93 mph range with an above-average curveball and a changeup that scouts are dreaming on thanks to White’s athleticism. In addition to a curveball, White has also experimented with a slider that has a chance to be an above-average breaking pitch down the line. Committed to South Carolina, White is expected to be a tough sign, but could go as high as the supplemental first round or early in the second.
5. Justin Jarvis, RHP, Lake Norman HS, Mooresville, N.C. (BA Rank: 120)
HS • 6-2 • 160 • R-R •
A UNC Wilmington commit, Jarvis in an enticing combination of projection and present stuff. The 6-foot-2, 160-pound righthander has touched as high as 95 mph this spring, often working in the 91-94 mph range with occasional sink. His 11-to-5 curveball flashes plus with good depth but sometimes lacks bite and can earn varying grades depending on what day a scout sees him. Jarvis shows at least some feel for a changeup as well, giving him starting pitcher upside. He throws from a high three-quarters arm slot with a stab in the back of his delivery that could use some cleaning. He has shown pitching feel and projects to develop above-average to plus command. With room to add good weight to his frame, Jarvis offers the kind of projectability teams look for in high school pitchers. He is not a lock to get to campus in Wilmington.
6. Austin Bergner, RHP, North Carolina (BA Rank: 130)
4YR • 6-4 • 195 • R-R •
Drafted in the 38th round by the Red Sox out of Florida in 2016, Bergner opted to honor his commitment to North Carolina. The lanky 6-foot-4, 195-pound righthander ranked No. 165 in the BA 500 and was one of UNC's blue-chip pitching recruits that year, along with fellow Floridian righthander Tyler Baum. Bergner pitched primarily out of the bullpen his freshman year but has started on Saturdays this season. He's been inconsistent as a starter, posting a 5-2, 4.70 record through 10 starts, but he has the stuff to dominate in any given outing. Bergner sits comfortably in the mid-90s, averaging 94 mph with his fastball, and holds that velocity deep into games. His fastball command has improved over the course of the season, but he still has spurts where it gets away from him. He complements his fastball with a plus, low-80s changeup with sharp downward action and a fringy upper-70s breaking ball that sometimes shows better. While his arsenal gives him the chance to start, Bergner's effortful, unconventional arm action scares off some scouts and could ultimately push him to the bullpen at the next level. Just a sophomore, Bergner has leverage if teams don't meet his number in the draft, as he could return for another season in UNC's weekend rotation and attempt to build his stock further.
7. Brett Kinneman, OF, North Carolina State (BA Rank: 160)
4YR • Jr. • 6-0 • 197 • L-L •
A three-year starter and middle-of-the-order bat for North Carolina State, Kinneman surged up draft boards earlier this spring, when he hit 12 home runs in his first 106 at-bats—at that point an NCAA-leading total—and slashed .340/.413/.774. The York, Penn., native has since cooled, adding only one homer in his 80 at-bats since then and seeing his average nosedive to .285, which is more in line with career norms. Kinneman has a quick lefthanded bat and thunderous raw power that can lead to majestic shots when he connects. However, like many power hitters, he’s hamstrung by swing-and-miss issues and can be pitched to, striking out 49 times to 31 walks through 46 games this spring. Pushed to left field due to the presence of the more dynamic Josh McClain and Brock Deathrage, Kinneman runs well enough and has enough arm strength to handle center field if needed, but he has more of a corner outfield profile long term. Kinneman’s torrid start had him looking like a potential third-round pick, but he could fall a round or two further due to his second-half slide. He’s a college performer who has fared well against premium arms in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but questions with his overall hit tool and swing-and-miss tendencies drag him down.
8. Jimmy Herron, OF, Duke (BA Rank: 165)
4YR • 6-1 • 185 • R-L •
Draft-eligible last June as a sophomore, Herron was drafted by the Yankees in the 31st round but elected to play in the Cape Cod League instead, where he impressed scouts by ranking third in the league in batting average (.338). Herron has put up similar numbers in his career at Duke, slashing .316/.414/.446 in two and a half seasons. An immediate contributor for the Blue Devils, Herron has served as a spark plug at the top of the order, using a compact righthanded swing that is geared for line drives and employing his plus speed on the basepaths. Herron hasn’t been as consistent at the plate this season, with a bat path that has been more uphill than scouts are used to seeing. But when he stays within himself, Herron is among the best pure hitters at the college level. As far as his other tools, Herron’s below-average arm strength limits his versatility in the outfield. He has the speed and range to handle center field, but his arm has relegated him to left field for Duke and could cap his ceiling as a fourth outfielder at the next level. A righthanded, contact-oriented left fielder is typically not a highly sought-after profile, but Herron’s hitting ability, makeup and baseball IQ elevate his stock.
9. Kyle Datres, 3B, North Carolina (BA Rank: 180)
4YR • 6-0 • 192 • R-R •
Datres came to North Carolina as a blue-chip recruit who also pitched, played quarterback and played basketball in high school. Mostly a starter since he stepped on campus, Datres has shown steady improvement at the plate and is enjoying his best season as a Tar Heel in 2018, finishing the regular season as the team’s leading hitter at .344/.435/.493 after hitting .259 the last two seasons and struggling in the Cape Cod League. In particular, Datres has shown better plate discipline this spring, striking out less and showing better restraint on breaking balls outside of the zone. Datres crowds the plate with a slightly open stance but has the righthanded bat speed to get to fastballs inside. An above-average hitter with average power, Datres doesn't have one key carrying tool. Scouts are divided on whether or not the 6-foot, 192-pound infielder has the hands or feet to stay at third. He has enough arm strength for the position and has the athleticism to make the occasional highlight-reel play, but the game can speed up for him at times and he might need to find another long-term defensive home.
10. Johnny Aiello, 3B, Wake Forest (BA Rank: 182)
4YR • 6-2 • 200 • B-R •
After a huge sophomore season (.328, 20 HR) for Wake Forest and a strong summer for USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team and in the Cape Cod League, Aiello hit a wall this spring. As one of the last remaining big bats in Wake Forest's once-loaded lineup, Aiello pressed at the plate early in the season. His timing suffered, his swing got a little long, and his swing-and-miss issues were exposed. Aiello finished the regular season batting .237/.355/.401 with just nine homers and 75 strikeouts in 207 at-bats. Aiello possesses above-average power, but he had trouble consistently getting to it in 2018, and his high strikeout rate could prohibit him from hitting for contact at the next level. A solid third baseman with a plus arm, Aiello fits the prototypical third baseman profile. Junior season aside, Aiello's ACC track record and summer performance still give him a chance to go in the first five rounds.
11. Zack Kone, SS, Duke (BA Rank: 228)
4YR • 6-3 • 202 • R-R •
Though he didn’t draw quite as much buzz as Duke teammates Griffin Conine and Jimmy Herron, Kone was a Cape Cod League all-star in the summer of 2017 and has been a three-year starter for the Blue Devils with a track record of hitting. Kone has inconsistent—and sometimes violent—righthanded swing mechanics, but he has excellent feel for barreling the baseball and could hit more consistently with some polish. A thick-bodied shortstop at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Kone throws with a plus arm that could also play at third base if he outgrows the position. Kone shows average raw power in batting practice but hasn’t yet been able to unlock it in games. He’s an intriguing prospect whose value would increase if he can smooth over his rough edges in the batter’s box.
12. Cody Roberts, C/OF, North Carolina (BA Rank: 274)
4YR • Jr. • 6-0 • 202 • R-R •
A three-year starter for North Carolina behind the plate and a 38th-round draftee of the Marlins as a sophomore, Roberts is as defensively advanced as they come at the college level. An excellent receiver who routinely catches mid-90s velocity at UNC, Roberts’ throwing arm earns 70 grades on the 20-80 scale, and he has above-average athleticism and versatility for a catcher. He’s made several starts in right field for the Tar Heels this spring. Roberts’ bat is his big question mark. At one point batting leadoff for UNC to start the season, Roberts cooled to a .277/.374/.391 line by season’s end. The righthanded hitter doesn’t project to hit for much power at the next level, but he makes decent contact, and with his defensive prowess, he just needs to hit enough to not be a liability. Roberts is a safe pick with a high floor as a backup catcher at the pro level. His bat will determine how much staying power he has.
13. Ryan Jeffers, C, UNC Wilmington (BA Rank: 295)
4YR • Jr. • 6-2 • 220 • R-R •
Jeffers has put up remarkably consistent numbers in his three years at UNC-Wilmington, and is a career .325/.452/.623 hitter with the Seahawks through the first 54 games this spring, with none of his individual season lines far off from that mark. Since becoming an everyday player as a sophomore, Jeffers has tapped into double-digit home run power, though there are scouts who are skeptical of that sort of home run production continuing at the next level. A team not convicted in his power might be out on Jeffers, as he’s a below-average runner with an average arm behind the dish, and questions about whether he can stick there. If a team buys into the bat being real—and there’s also wood bat track record to suggest it’s not—he could be an interesting offensive option in the middle of the top ten rounds.
14. Brock Deatherage, OF, North Carolina State (BA Rank: 296)
4YR • Sr. • 6-1 • 186 • L-L •
Deatherage is an off-the-charts athlete with dynamic tools who slipped to the 27th round (Pirates) last June due to a junior season in which he had more strikeouts (57) than hits (41). Determined to rebound, Deatherage returned for his senior season and has had a polar opposite year, slashing .305/.395/.554 with a career-high 14 home runs and 16 stolen bases in 23 attempts. Like several N.C. State hitters, Deatherage has far too much swing and miss in his game, leading the Wolfpack with 72 strikeouts to 27 walks in 213 at-bats. While he has legitimate above-average power in his lefthanded bat, the length of his swing and propensity to chase breaking balls below the zone limit his chances of hitting for a high average at the next level. His other tools could carry him, though, as Deatherage has elite speed that earns 80 grades on the 20-80 scale as well as a plus throwing arm. Deatherage plays right field for N.C. State because of the slightly more gifted Josh McClain in center field, but he profiles as a center fielder at the next level. Whether he’s a backup or a starter will depend on his ability to smooth out his swing mechanics and make consistent contact.
15. Clark Cota, RHP, UNC Wilmington (BA Rank: 378)
4YR • Jr. • 6-2 • 225 • R-R •
A shutdown reliever for UNC Wilmington, Cota throws a plus fastball that’s been up to 96 mph with plus life and an average breaking ball. After splitting time as both an outfielder and reliever early in his college career, Cota has been strictly a reliever in 2018, where he’s posted a 1.95 ERA with 44 strikeouts and 18 walks in 32.1 innings. Because of his two-pitch repertoire, Cota projects as a reliever at the next level. His fastball sits in the 90-94 mph range, but the life on the pitch should allow it to play up in short stints. Cota throws a 12-to-6 curveball and goes right after hitters with both pitches. He has sprinkled in a changeup at times, but it’s well behind his other offerings.
16. Dwanya Williams-Sutton, OF, East Carolina (BA Rank: 387)
4YR • 6-2 • 215 • R-R •
Williams-Sutton has been on teams’ radars since high school, and he was drafted by the Reds in the 26th round in 2015, but he’s never quite become the player that his toolset suggests he could at East Carolina. An athletic outfielder with a powerful, 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame, Williams-Sutton stands out for his plus raw power, but that hasn’t translated into games as much as teams would like. His bat can get slow at times, and it’s an uphill bat path that has failed to produce double-digit home runs. Williams-Sutton has struggled to stay on the field with various nagging injuries, but this spring he’s posted his best statistical line since getting to Greenville, hitting .343/.493/.619 with 20 walks and 26 strikeouts. Aside from his 60-grade raw power, Williams-Sutton’s tools are average across the board.
17. Julian Smith, LHP, Catawba Valley (N.C.) JC (BA Rank: 424)
JC • So. • 6-4 • 192 • R-L •
Smith missed the 2017 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but the skinny 6-foot-4 lefthander has shown no ill effects from the surgery this year, as he’s sat 90-93 mph in his best outings and has touched 95. His breaking ball is a power curve that sits in the upper 70s at its best, but there are other times it gets bigger, loopier and less effective as a mid-70s slower curve. He has worked on a still immature changeup as well.
18. Josh McLain, OF, North Carolina State (BA Rank: 430)
4YR • Sr. • 6-0 • 167 • R-R •
McLain is a speedy, athletic center fielder with the tools to stick and a strong track record of hitting in the ACC. He rivals teammate Brock Deatherage with 70 to 80 grades from scouts on his speed and he puts it to good use, playing shallow in the N.C State outfield, which also helps compensate for a below-average throwing arm. A righthanded hitter with below-average power, McLain shows great barrel control and led the Wolfpack in hitting this spring at .337/.365/.447. While he often hits leadoff for the N.C. State, McLain lacks the discerning eye most pro teams look for in that role, walking just 10 times this spring. He’s an aggressive hitter who looks for a fastball early and generally puts a solid swing on it. His defensive ability and elite speed give him a high floor as a fourth or fifth outfielder, but his lack of power and patience weaken his overall profile.
19. Andrew Moritz, OF, UNC Greensboro (BA Rank: 442)
4YR • Jr. • 5-11 • 170 • L-R •
Moritz had only one scholarship offer coming out of high school and he’s made the most of it. He’s done nothing but hit since arriving at UNCG. He is a career .400 hitter and has led the Southern Conference in hitting all three years of his career. He has exceptional feel for the barrel and has geared his swing to take advantage of his plus speed and line balls into the gaps. He’s undersized at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds and power won’t ever be a big part of his game. Moritz is a solid defender in center field, where his speed is an asset. His hitability, track record and analytics figure to make him just the second position player drafted in the top 10 rounds out of UNCG.
20. Rodney Hutchison, RHP, North Carolina (BA Rank: 462)
4YR • Jr. • 6-6 • 225 • R-R •
While his numbers (3-3, 4.79) don’t stand out, Hutchison has been an important, versatile piece of the North Carolina pitching staff who has started midweek, on the weekend and pitched in late relief. Listed at a thick, 6-foot-6, 239 pounds, Hutchinson’s stuff has taken a jump in 2018 and he throws a heavy fastball with late arm-side run from a low three-quarters arm slot. Primarily working at 90-92 mph his first two seasons, Hutchinson has lived 92-94 mph more frequently this spring and touched 96 mph in an eye-opening outing in front of several rows of scouts at the ACC Tournament. Hutchison pairs his fastball with a plus, mid-80s changeup with late fade away from lefthanded hitters and he’s improved the feel of his slider, throwing it harder and tighter. Because of his low slot and the sheer movement of his pitches, Hutchinson can lose the zone at times, getting him into trouble. He’s a creative pitcher who varies the timing in his delivery and plays with his arm slot. While he needs more polish and to tighten his command, Hutchinson’s velocity spike, plus changeup and improved breaking pitches give him intriguing upside.
21. Josh Hiatt, RHP, North Carolina (BA Rank: 481)
4YR • RS-So. • 5-11 • 190 • R-R •
A 5-foot-11, 190-pound righthander with an upper-80s fastball, Hiatt didn’t make UNC’s team as a freshman in 2016, when the Tar Heels redshirted him and pushed him to improve. He returned a different pitcher the next fall, showcasing a slider he learned from former teammate Brendon Little to go along with what was already an outstanding changeup. Adopting an analytical approach that fall, UNC found that Hiatt’s offspeed pitches both registered spin rates above big league averages and complemented each other with movement in near opposite directions. Hiatt’s slider sweeps across the strike zone and he can throw it with bigger shape in the upper 70s or can feature a tighter, more cutter-like, low-80s version. His low-80s changeup is a weapon against both lefthanded and righthanded hitters with both horizontal and downward movement. Those two pitches, combined with an 88-91 mph fastball that occasionally reaches 93 mph, made Hiatt a first-team All-American closer in 2017 and he’s replicated that success as UNC’s go-to reliever once again in 2018. While not the traditional, mid-90s power closer, Hiatt has been dominant at the college level due to the excellent tunneling of all three pitches and his above-average command and confidence with each. Stretched out often for multiple-inning appearances, Hiatt has the arsenal and command to at least merit a look as a starter at the next level. But he’s also shown he has the aptitude to thrive in high-leverage, late-inning situations.
22. Alex Royalty, RHP, UNC Wilmington (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Jr. •
23. Austin Warren, RHP, UNC Wilmington (BA Rank: N/A)
4Y • Sr. • 6-0 • 170 • R-R •
24. Chris Proctor, C, Duke (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Jr. •
Fantasy: Trust The Tools For These Nine Dynasty Prospects
The minor league season was lost, but dynasty players are advised to keep the faith—to trust the tools—for these nine prospects.
25. Jake Mueller, 3B, Wake Forest (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Jr. • 6-2 • 200 • R-R •
26. Bradley Hallman, RHP, Gardner-Webb (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Sr. • 5-11 • 180 • R-R •
27. Logan Jarosz, RHP, Eastern Alamance HS, Mebane, N.C. (BA Rank: N/A)
28. Holden Laws, LHP/1B, South Granville HS, Creedmoor, N.C. (BA Rank: N/A)
29. Kennie Taylor, OF, Duke (BA Rank: N/A)
30. Brandon Riley, OF, North Carolina (BA Rank: N/A)
31. Dalton Feeney, RHP, North Carolina State (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • DE-So. •
32. Blake Deatherage, INF/RHP, UNC Wilmington (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Jr. •
33. Will Sandy, LHP, Leesville Road HS, Raleigh, N.C. (BA Rank: N/A)
34. Trent Fennell, RHP, Barton (N.C.) (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Sr. •
35. Brooks Baldwin, INF, Whiteville (NC) HS (BA Rank: N/A)
37. Zack Gahagan, 3B, North Carolina (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Sr. • 6-0 • 188 • R-R •
36. Brett Daniels, RHP, North Carolina (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Sr. • 6-0 • 180 • R-R •
39. Jared Drayton, RHP, Montreat (Ga.) (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Jr.