2020 NCAA Top 25 Preview: No. 17 North Carolina State
Last season: 42-19 (18-12 in ACC); reached regionals
Final ranking: NR
Coach (record at school): Elliott Avent (875-528, 23 seasons)
The good news: As usual, NC State boasts an exciting group of position players. Patrick Bailey is a premier defensive catcher who doubles as a power bat in the middle of the order. Second baseman Tyler McDonough is a power and speed threat at the plate who can also play a lot of different positions in the field. Catcher Luca Tresh, blocked behind Bailey, showed impressive power last season in a small sample with a .522 slugging percentage in 67 at-bats, but after hitting nearly .500 in the fall with eight homers, he looks ready to force his way into the lineup in the outfield. And hitters don’t come more experienced than DH Brad Debo, who has a .285/.368/.429 slash line in 492 career at-bats. The Wolfpack’s pitching depth should also be quite good, as nine of the team’s top 11 pitchers in terms of innings pitched are back, led by projected Friday starter Nick Swiney, Saturday starter Reid Johnston, and top relief options Kent Klyman and Dalton Feeney.
The bad news: Losing shortstop Will Wilson as a first-round pick left a huge hole to fill on the infield, and NC State will look to freshman Jose Torres (who will wear Wilson’s No. 8) to do so. The Baltimore native has been lauded as an advanced defender at the position with outstanding hands and instincts, but that’s a tough ask for a first-year player, even if the expectation is not that he will be the same caliber of player right away. On the mound, Swiney has shown that he can dominate in a relief role, but he only has four starts to his name in his two seasons on campus. Having the lefty develop into the type of starter they can feel comfortable putting out there on Friday in a regional would be a huge boon for the Pack.
Player to know: Patrick Bailey, C.
Bailey showed up in Raleigh as one of the best defensive catchers in the 2017 high school class, but with questions about how much he could be expected to hit. Two years later, he has lived up to the hype defensively and turned into a power bat in the middle of the Wolfpack order. He goes into his junior year sporting a .303/.403/.553 slash line with 25 doubles, 23 home runs and 86 RBI and coming off of a summer spent with Team USA. As a switch-hitting catcher with power on both sides of the plate who also affect games with his defense behind the plate, Bailey will be the unquestioned centerpiece of an NC State team looking to make a deep postseason run.
Path to Omaha: NC State teams have a very high floor every year. You know they are going to hit and you know they are going to have a versatile pitching staff that will allow guys to shuffle in and out of roles as needed throughout the season. You can pencil them into regionals every year. If Swiney can develop into a workhorse at the front of the rotation to take some innings away from the bullpen, Torres can bring a steady glove to the shortstop position and a couple of returning lineup pieces like Tresh, third baseman Vojtech Mensik, center fielder Jonny Butler or right fielder Devonte Brown take a step forward to support Bailey and second baseman Tyler McDonough, the Pack can break away from the pack in the ACC and get to Omaha.
Ranking the Top 25 College Baseball Offensive Performances of the 2020 Season
Standout offensive performances come in all shapes and sizes, and even in a shortened 2020 season, there were plenty worth celebrating.
|C||Patrick Bailey, Jr.||.289||.390||.513||10||46||236|
|1B||Austin Murr, Jr.||Transfer -- Des Moines Area (Iowa) JC|
|2B||Tyler McDonough, So.||.320||.392||.452||5||47||250|
|3B||Vojtech Mensik, So.||.250||.366|
|SS||Jose Torres, Fr.||HS -- Baltimore|
|LF||Luca Tresh, So.||.224||.372||.522||6||17||67|
|CF||Jonny Butler, Jr.||.267||.378||.359||3||29||251|
|RF||Devonte Brown, Jr.||.286||.397||.347||0||5||49|
|DH||Brad Debo, Sr.||.242||.352||.397||4||39||194|
|LHP||Nick Swiney, Jr.||7||1||4.61||56.2||95||1|
|RHP||Reid Johnston, Jr.||6||2||3.71||77.2||65||0|
|LHP||Chris Villaman, Fr.||HS -- High Point, N.C.|
|RP||Dalton Feeney, R-Jr.||1||1||1.86||29||23||7|
|RP||Kent Klyman, Sr.||5||2||3.41||29||30||2|