BA Newsletter: Get Analysis, Rankings Delivered To Your Inbox!

2019 Preseason Top 25 Capsule: No. 5 North Carolina

Last Year: 44-20 (22-8 in ACC); reached College World Series.
Final Ranking: No. 4.
Coach (record at school): Mike Fox (890-378-1, 20 years).
Top 100 Draft Prospects: OF Michael Busch (No. 31), RHP Austin Bergner (No. 89).

The Good News: There are a lot of familiar faces in key positions. Brandon Martorano returns as the team’s starting catcher, Ike Freeman will man shortstop, and Ashton McGee and Michael Busch—the latter moving from first base to the outfield—will patrol the outfield corners. Ben Casparius wasn’t a regular all season, but he was by the time the Tar Heels made it to the College World Series and will now take over at third base. On the mound, a nucleus of Gianluca Dalatri, Austin Bergner, Tyler Baum, Caden O’Brien, and Joey Lancellotti will give the Tar Heels the talent and experience to handle a grueling Atlantic Coast Conference slate and any postseason opponents that come their way.

The Bad News: The Tar Heels are returning a number of key pieces from last year’s College World Series team, but the losses they do have are significant. Gone are UNC’s leading hitter, third baseman Kyle Datres, along with outfielders Brandon Riley and Cody Roberts and second baseman Zach Gahagan. To help fill in some of those gaps, Fox will turn to a couple of freshmen in second baseman Danny Serretti and first baseman Aaron Sabato. How well they perform in their first taste of Division I baseball will have a lot to do with how well the UNC offense picks up where it left off last season. It’s a similar story on the pitching staff with the departures of workhorses like Brett DanielsCooper Criswell, and Josh Hiatt. With O’Brien potentially moving into a starting role, the Heels will need some fresh faces to step up into big roles right away to provide adequate depth.

Player To Know: Michael Busch, OF.

After hitting just .215 with three homers as a freshman, Busch made the jump into stardom in his second season, hitting .317/.465/.521 with 13 homers and 63 RBI as the team’s primary first baseman. With some holes to fill offensively, North Carolina will look for Busch to lead the offense once again, this time while manning a new position in left field. Putting up similar, or better, offensive numbers in 2019 will take some pressure off of the new faces in the lineup, and proving capable in the outfield will allow Fox and the coaching staff more defensive flexibility as they look for the right combinations early in the season.

Path To Omaha: Health is a key for every program in the country, but it’s particularly important for this UNC team on the mound. Last season, Dalatri was limited to just seven appearances due to an injury. While he was out, the staff was able to mix and match in the rotation, as evidenced by the fact that several pitchers saw time in both a starting and relief role. This season, if the projected weekend rotation is able to provide a combined 35-40 starts, they’re capable of putting the team on their backs and leading the way to a repeat Omaha appearance.


Dodgers' Michael Busch On Verge Of Helping MLB Club

The 2019 first-rounder turned in an impressive 2022 season while drawing comparisons with a Dodgers two-time all-star.

2019 Lineup 

CBrandon MartoranoJr..246.375.491936171
1BAaron SabatoFr. (HS -- Rye Brook, NY)
2BDanny SerrettiFr. (HS -- Berkeley Heights, NJ)
3BBen CaspariusSo..326.409.40401557
SSIke FreemanJr..305.383.377351223
LFMichael BuschJr..317.465.5211363240
CFDylan HarrisJr. (JUCO -- Walters State CC)
RFAshton McGeeJr..257.367.366228191
DHJackson HesterleeSr..316.453.43911057
RHPGianluca DalatriJr.223.3327310
RHPAustin BergnerJr.734.2582.2841
RHPTyler BaumJr.414.5765740
LHPCaden O'BrienSo.702.6248520
RPJoey LancellottiSo.333.9638.2431

Are you a member?

In order to access this exclusive content you must have a Baseball America Account. 

Login or sign up  

Additionally, you can subscribe to Baseball America's newsletter and receive all of our rankings, analysis, prospect insight & more delivered to your inbox every day. Click here to get started. 

of Free Stories Remaining