2024 ACC College Baseball Preview


Image credit: Nick Kurtz (Photo by Eddie Kelly / ProLook Photos)

The ACC has won just two baseball national championships: Wake Forest in 1955 and Virginia in 2015. Miami won four titles—1982, 1985, 1999 and 2001—but all before joining the ACC in 2004.

Wake Forest is one of the preseason favorites to win the national title, but keep an eye on teams like Virginia, Duke, Clemson and North Carolina to make a run to Omaha. The Cavaliers are no strangers to Omaha, having made the College World Series in two of the last three seasons, and are again mightily talented on paper.

Duke has one of the most talented pitching staffs in the country, headlined by potential Day One draft picks Jonathan Santucci and Fran Oschell III. If they can produce on offense, the Blue Devils could be in line for their first trip to the CWS since 1961. Clemson returns plenty of talent from last year’s ACC championship squad, while UNC has an exciting blend of returning talent and a stacked freshman class.

Below, find the following as we dive deep into the ACC…

  • Predicted order of finish
  • Player, Pitcher and Freshman of the Year predictions
  • Team-by-team breakdowns
  • Top draft prospects
  • Top newcomers
  • Best scouting tools

ACC Projected Standings (2023 records)

1. Wake Forest (54-12, 22-7)
2. Virginia (50-15, 19-11)
3. Clemson (44-19, 20-10)
4. North Carolina (36-24, 14-14)
5. Duke (39-24, 16-13)
6. Miami (42-21, 18-12)
7. NC State (36-21, 13-16)
8. Louisville (31-24, 10-20)
9. Florida State (23-31, 9-21)
10. Georgia Tech (30-27, 12-18)
11. Virginia Tech (30-23, 12-17)
12. Notre Dame (30-24, 15-15)
13. Boston College (37-20, 16-14)
14. Pittsburgh (24-31, 10-18)

Player of the Year: Nick Kurtz, 1B, Wake Forest

Kurtz is a near-impossible at-bat for opposing pitchers with his professional approach and advanced bat-to-ball skills. With his feel for the barrel and long levers, he is able to consistently square up the ball no matter where it’s thrown. Kurtz’s operation is uniquely compact and explosive for someone of his 6-foot-5 stature. He has double-plus raw power, as well as a comfortably plus hit tool. Kurtz is a nimble, sure-handed defender at first base who moves extremely well around the bag.

Pitcher of the Year: Chase Burns, RHP, Wake Forest

Burns was a first-team Freshman All-American in 2022 at Tennessee after pitching his way to a 2.91 ERA with 103 strikeouts in 80.1 innings. While his 2023 effort was more up-and-down, he still notched 114 strikeouts against just 22 walks in 72 innings while working as both a starter and reliever. Burns sits 96-100 mph and throws a hellacious power slider that generated an exemplary 61% whiff rate last season. After transferring to Wake Forest this season, he has rounded out his arsenal with a high-80s changeup that reportedly took a big step forward this fall. Burns has the chance to be the first pitcher off the board this July.

Freshman of the Year: Drew Burress, OF, Georgia Tech

Burress has an impressive tool set packed into his compact 5-foot-9 frame, with three that grade out as at least plus. With the departures of two regulars in the Yellow Jackets’ outfield, Burress will be the starting center fielder. He has thunderous bat speed and does a nice job creating leverage in his swing, and shows off plus power, especially to his pull side. He is also a plus runner  who covers plenty of ground to either gap and has a borderline 70-grade arm. Burress’ power-speed combination is a tantalizing one.

ACC Team-By-Team Breakdowns

1. Wake Forest (54-12, 22-7)

The 2023 season will forever be etched in the Wake Forest history books. It was one of the best seasons in program history, and certainly the best since 1955. The Demon Deacons won a program-record 54 games, a program-record 22 ACC games and appeared in their first College World Series since 1955. They did not lose a conference series all year, and entered the tournament as the No. 1 overall seed. The Deacs rolled through regional and super regional play, going a perfect 5-0, while scoring a whopping 15 runs per game. They continued their hot play in Omaha and started off 2-0 after beating both Stanford and eventual national champion Louisiana State 3-2. A 5-2 loss to LSU set the stage for what ended up being one of, if not the best game in College World Series history. 

Eventual seventh overall pick Rhett Lowder went toe-to-toe with eventual No. 1 overall pick Paul Skenes, and fired seven shutout innings. The game remained deadlocked at zero until the 11th inning, when Tommy White launched a walk-off, two-run home run to send LSU to the College World Series final. While its season could not have ended in more gut-wrenching fashion, Wake Forest this offseason reloaded and is poised for another deep run.

Wake Forest returns a key group of players from last year’s team that led the program to its first College World Series appearance since 1955. Offensively, it starts with first baseman and potential No. 1 overall draft pick Nick Kurtz. The first-team All-ACC selection hit .353/.527/.784 with 10 doubles, 24 home runs and 69 RBIs. On top of his ability with the bat, Kurtz is also a great defender. Sophomore shortstop Marek Houston (.220/.328/.307) had a modest year offensively, but he is a true plus defender with silky smooth actions and a sound game clock. In what is a positive development, his offense took a step forward this fall. If he is able to be an impact bat, it makes this lineup all the more dangerous. 

Shifting focus to the mound, junior lefthander Josh Hartle (11-2, 2.81 ERA) will anchor the rotation. He is perhaps the best strike-thrower in the country and his pure stuff has continued to tick up. Junior righthander Michael Massey (3-1, 2.59 ERA) joins the rotation after spending last year pitching out of the bullpen. Massey has a lethal fastball-slider combination, but his changeup has begun to develop into a quality third offering. Wake Forest also had a few big-time wins in the transfer portal. Most notably, it landed former Tennessee righthander Chase Burns (5-3, 4.25 ERA). Burns is one of the premier arms in all of college baseball, and could be the first arm off the board in this July’s draft. The Demon Deacons also added former Wingate (Division-II) star Seaver King, who last year hit .411/.457/.699 and earned a spot on Team USA’s Collegiate National Team. King is an exceptional athlete and runner, which are two traits that will translate well to playing center field. 

Another position player to follow closely is Ball State transfer Adam Tellier (.317/.394/.515). He is a career .314/.395/.465 hitter and brings loads of experience to this year’s club. Tellier is a wiry athlete who can play all over the diamond, but expect him to hold down the hot corner this spring. He can run, has a solid feel for the barrel, and has recently started to impact the ball better. Tellier will be able to impact the game in a number of ways and his fingerprints are sure to be all over the box score game in and game out.

On top of the star power, there are a number of players from last year’s squad who project to again be key contributors as well as a few guys who seem poised to take their game to another level. Also, keep an eye on true freshmen pitchers Haiden Leffew and Blake Morningstar as guys who could make an immediate impact in year one.

2. Virginia (50-15, 19-11)

The Cavaliers enjoyed yet another strong season that culminated in their second trip to the College World Series in the last three years. Outside of a rough three-week stretch in April that included back-to-back-to-back series losses to Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Duke, the ‘Hoos more-or-less rolled through their schedule. They earned a top-eight national seed and beat a quality East Carolina team twice to advance to supers. In the super regional round, UVA dropped its first game to Duke 5-4 before outscoring the Blue Devils the next two games by a combined margin of 26-6 to punch its ticket to Omaha.

In the College World Series, they lost two incredibly hard-fought games. In game one, they lost 6-5 to eventual finalist Florida after the Gators scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Just two days later, TCU took down the Cavaliers 4-3 to end their season. It was an abrupt end to what was otherwise a great year, but head coach Brian O’Connor again has a talented roster to work with in 2024.

Two of Virginia’s three leading hitters from last year’s team—that led the country with a .323 average—Griff O’Ferrall (.396/.453/.495) and Ethan Anderson (.375/.469/.649) will be the two centerpieces of this year’s lineup. On top of the dynamic duo of O’Ferrall and Anderson, corner outfielders Anthony Stephan (.329/.450/.519) and Casey Saucke (.299/.392/.418) provide plenty of depth. Stephan is a bat-to-ball specialist who consistently moves the baseball, but also showed off the ability to drive the ball into the gap or over the fence. Saucke came back down to earth last season after a great freshman year, but he was still productive and laced 21 extra-base hits and drove in 41 runs. Luke Hanson showed positive flashes in his 26 games and will be the everyday third baseman, while stud freshman Henry Ford could be the next great hitter to come out of Charlottesville. A potential X-factor in the lineup is sophomore outfielder Harrison Didawick. Didawick last year had a solid freshman year and hit .252/.366/.428 with four home runs, 34 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. He ended up carving out an everyday role for himself and plays quality defense in the outfield, where his long legs and speed allow him to cover ground to either gap. At 6-foot-4 and 215-pounds, Didawick has a big league body with upside to boot. He had a great fall season and seems destined for a breakout sophomore year.

There are gaping holes to fill in the rotation, but sophomore righthander Jack O’Connor will be the headliner after a strong freshman year, in which he pitched his way to a 6-3 record with a 3.86 ERA. Last year’s closer Jay Woolfolk (2-1, 2.91 ERA) will now be used as a starter, and if he shows that he is able to pitch deep into games with improved command, it will be a serious boost to the pitching staff. Virginia’s biggest strength pitching-wise is its bullpen depth. While a few arms from last season—Brad Hodges (2-0, 4.32 ERA), the aforementioned Woolfolk and sophomore Evan Blanco (1-0, 3.04 ERA)—will now be used as starters, Seton Hill transfer Blake Barker (4-1, 2.00 ERA), sophomore strike-thrower Kevin Jaxel (2-0, 3.75 ERA) and the uber-experienced Joe Savino (5-1, 3.86 ERA) is a high-quality bullpen trio. Another arm who will be in the mix to notch plenty of appearances in relief is sophomore righthander Cullen McKay (0-0, 3.78 ERA). Armed with a lively fastball, McKay could end up being a force if he is able to hone in on his command and improve his secondary stuff. 

3. Clemson (44-19, 20-10)

Year one of the Erik Bakich Era in Clemson was a massive success. Clemson went 44-19, including 20-10 in the ACC, en route to its first ACC Tournament championship since 2016 and first time hosting a regional since 2018. After a 12-5 win over Lipscomb to kick off tournament play, the Tigers dropped their next two games. Following a 6-5 loss in what was a rollercoaster of a 14-inning game, third-seeded Charlotte took down the hosts 3-2 to end their season. It was a premature end to what was a special year, but the 2023 Clemson Tigers were ahead of schedule in a number of ways.

Reigning ACC freshman of the year Cam Cannarella will be the centerpiece of the lineup after hitting .388/.462/.560 with 26 extra-base hits and 24 stolen bases. He will be the straw that stirs the drink this year, and has gamechanging talent. Alongside Cannarella in the outfield will be junior Will Taylor. A former football player, Taylor last year enjoyed a breakout sophomore season to the tune of a .362/.489/.523 slash line with 23 extra-base hits and 11 stolen bases. Junior second baseman Blake Wright (.250/.326/.401) had a modest junior season, but will look to return to his sophomore year self this season. Coach Bakich and his staff also brought in a pair of key transfers who will be everyday guys in former Michigan catcher Jimmy Obertop (.200/.324/.367). Obertop’s biggest asset is his defense, and he calls a great game behind the dish and has a plus throwing arm. Finally, Richmond transfer Alden Mathes was a career .320/.408/.522 hitter in his four years with the Spiders and will slot in in right field. 

On the mound, the Tigers return talented righthander Austin Gordon (2-4, 4.61 ERA), who is in line to be the Friday night starter. Sophomore lefthander Tristan Smith (0-1, 4.55 ERA) is an electric arm talent who will either be used as the staff’s midweek starter or again in a late-inning role. Workhorse righthander and Wofford transfer Matthew Marchal (11-4, 4.58 ERA) rounds out the rotation and provides advanced strike-throwing as well as veteran leadership. Sophomore righthander Joe Allen (3-0, 3.94 ERA) is another big-time arm talent who is on track to log meaningful innings, while grizzled veteran Rob Hughes (0-1, 1.56 ERA) will take over as closer. 

For as good as their rotation could be, one of my favorite arms on the staff is Wofford transfer Lucas Mahlstedt. He bring advanced strike-throwing and a funky look out of the bullpen. The junior sidewinder last season pitched his way to a 7-2 record with a 2.69 ERA en route to a first-team all-SoCon selection. He can be stretched out to throw as many as four innings at a time, can throw multiple times each weekend and this year will be one of Clemson’s most relied upon arms. Another veteran in Nick Clayton (8-0, 3.17 ERA) is also in line for a hefty workload out of the bullpen and should eat plenty of innings.

4. North Carolina (36-24, 14-14)

While the Tar Heels last year struggled at times, they did just enough to earn their sixth-straight tournament berth. They notched key series wins over Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and N.C. State, and marquee midweek wins over East Carolina, Charlotte and UNCW. Their two wins in the ACC Tournament over Georgia Tech and Virginia proved to be just enough for the Heels to earn the No. 3 seed in the Terre Haute Regional. They proceeded to go 1-2 in regional play, with a 5-0 win over Wright State sandwiched between two, one-run losses to Iowa. For as tough as the end of the season was, the Tar Heels return plenty of talent from last year’s squad.

The main attraction is center fielder Vance Honeycutt. He is one of the best defenders in the country, and while his production took a step back last year, his bat-to-ball skills and swing decisions—two of his bugaboos in 2022—both improved. Joining Honeycutt in the outfield are two high-quality pieces in Casey Cook (.317/.428/.415) and Quinnipiac transfer Anthony Donofrio. Donofrio last year was a first-team all-MAAC selection after hitting .364/.432/.684 with 17 doubles, 16 home runs and 31 stolen bases. Not only can Donofrio really go and get it in the outfield, but he also provides an exciting hit-power combination at the dish. Another newcomer to the lineup who is on track for a productive season is Georgia transfer Parks Harber. Harber was a three-year standout at Georgia who last year had his most productive season to date after hitting .283/.342/.576 and set new career-highs in doubles (8), home runs (18) and RBIs (56). He has plus power and will be a middle-of-the-order bat this year for the Heels.

Blue chip freshman Luke Stevenson is ready to take over for Tomas Frick, who was selected in the 15th round of the 2023 draft. Stevenson had a loud fall and is a plus defender behind the plate who can also do damage with his bat. Jackson Van De Brake (.307/.439/.486) packs a great glove on the dirt and can hit for average and a bit of power. Patrick Alvarez is also in line to again be a spark plug after hitting .347/.441/.484 with seven extra-base hits across 95 at-bats last year. 

This year’s Tar Heel squad also boasts its fair share of pitching depth. While they were dealt a brutal blow last week when it was announced that veteran righthander Jake Knapp (5-4, 5.04 ERA) will be out for the season, a pair of highly-touted freshmen in Folger Boaz and Jason DeCaro will headline the rotation. Elon transfer Shea Sprague (7-3, 2.69 ERA), who was initially slated to be the team’s midweek starter, will now likely round out the weekend rotation. There will be a number of weapons in the bullpen as well, with Dalton Pence (4-3, 3.33) taking the reins at closer, Matt Poston (3-3, 1.90 ERA) and Ben Peterson (3-0, 5.40 ERA). That is a trio of talented, experienced arms who know what it takes to win and will be incredibly valuable in the backends of games.

5. Duke (39-24, 16-13)

In what has become the norm under head coach Chris Pollard, Duke last season was an incredibly competitive club and made its first super regional appearance since 2019. It notched big-time series wins over eventual ACC champion Clemson, ranked Boston College, Louisville and Virginia. Additionally, the Blue Devils beat Campbell twice and East Carolina once. After an 0-2 showing in the ACC Tournament that included a pair of one-run losses to N.C. State and Miami, Duke went 3-1 in the Conway Regional en route to a regional title. It carried its strong play into the Charlottesville Super Regional, where it knocked off Virginia 5-4 in game one. However, the ‘Hoos really turned it on in games two and three to send the Blue Devils home. While they will need to replace some key pieces, the Blue Devils head into the 2024 season with a pitching staff that is one of the best in the conference.

The Blue Devils pitching staff this season will be able to keep them in every game. Lefthander Jonathan Santucci (2-2, 4.30 ERA) is a bonafide ace who could be selected in the first round of the draft. He missed most of last year due to an injury, but he is now fully healthy and looked excellent this fall. Third-team All-American closer Fran Oschell III (6-0, 0.69 ERA) and his invisi-ball fastball are back as well, and he could wind up being deployed as a starter. First-team freshman All-American and second-team all-ACC selection James Tallon (1-1, 1.64 ERA) will again be the team’s closer after notching 12 saves in 2023. Slender southpaw Andrew Healy (5-1, 2.32 ERA) is fresh off a strong freshman season and will also pitch in the weekend rotation, while Owen Proksch (4-3, 4.50 ERA), Ryan Higgins (3-1, 4.04 ERA), Edward Hart (1-1, 7.80 ERA) and Aidan Weaver (3-3, 4.86 ERA) all figure to log meaningful innings. Princeton transfer Jackson Emus (2-3, 7.22 ERA) will also be in the mix. Don’t let his numbers fool you, Emus has a funky, deceptive delivery and nothing he throws his straight. He had a great fall and could be used as a weekend or midweek starter, or even in a bullpen role. Emus is versatile and brings valuable experience to the pitching staff. 

True freshmen Kyle Johnson and Macon Winslow are also poised to make their mark in year one. The pitching is undoubtedly the strength of the club, but outfielder Tyler Albright (.312/.408/.416) and catcher Alex Stone (.315/.379/.579) are two key returning bats. If Duke is able to reach its high ceiling, an uptick in production from Obee will be a key reason why. The ultra-physical outfielder has hit .214/.308/.459 in his first two seasons in Durham, but this past summer he was an all-star on the Cape and showed improved plate discipline and his plus power. Obee has always had big-time raw power, but he has struggled to get into it in games. If he carries the momentum he built from this summer and fall into the spring season, it will go a long way. Also joining the mix is Harvard transfer Logan Bravo, who hit .302/.383/.516 over the course of his four-year career in Cambridge. He figures to slot in at first base and brings power to the lineup.

6. Miami (42-21, 18-12)

In what was head coach Gino DiMare’s last year, the Hurricanes won 40+ games for the second year in a row, appeared in the ACC championship game and hosted a regional. Miami took down No. 4 seed Maine and No. 3 seed Louisiana, but lost to Texas twice. Miami this season will take on a new look, as longtime pitching coach J.D. Arteaga is now the head coach. On top of a change in leadership, a number of top contributors from last year’s team have moved on.

Leading hitter Yohandy Morales (.408/.475/.713), C.J. Kayfus (.348/.464/.581), Dominic Pitelli (.294/.380/.525) and Zach Levenson (.292/.397/.554) were all drafted. That quartet of hitters accounted for nearly half of the team’s home runs hit from last year and 210 of the team’s 441 RBIs. There is no doubt that’s a ton of production to replace, but the Hurricanes do boast a quality crop of returners. Offensively, it starts with second baseman Blake Cyr. Cyr lit the world on fire as a true freshman to the tune of a .305/.427/.620 slash line with 17 home runs and 63 RBIs. 

Junior Lorenzo Carrier (.253/.326/.520) has big-time thunder in his stick and will man an outfield spot, while veteran outfielder Ian Farrow (.291/.385/.555), who is also a power threat, will look to have a more productive season. Wake Forest transfer Lucas Costello (.288/.402/.429), who was an everyday player last spring, rounds out the outfield. Highly regarded freshman Daniel Cuvet also figures to factor into the lineup somewhere, most likely at third base, and might have the most raw power of any hitter on the team. 

Elsewhere on the infield, former University of Tampa standout J.D. Urso (.368/.454/.568) is in line to be a key contributor, and so will Dorian Gonzalez (.193/.305/.330). Gonzalez is a talented defender, but his hitting ability will need to improve. If it does, it would provide a serious boost to the ‘Canes lineup.

There is also plenty to replace on the mound as all-world closer Andrew Walters (4-0, 1.21 ERA) and  Aljeandro Rosario (5-6, 7.11 ERA) were drafted, Alejandro Torres (4-1, 4.62 ERA), Carlos Lequerica (5-1, 4.71 ERA) and Ronaldo Gallo (2-4, 7.55 ERA) signed as free agents and Karson Ligon (3-2, 4.80 ERA) transferred to Mississippi State. Likely top five–round draft choice Gage Ziehl (8-4, 4.30 ERA) will headline the rotation and funky lefthander Rafe Schlesinger (3-1, 3.38 ERA) will make the jump to the weekend rotation after pitching exclusively out of the bullpen. Schlesinger has a delivery that is reminiscent of former Miami standout Carson Palmquist, and he is an incredibly uncomfortable at-bat for opposing hitters. The backend bullpen will feature a couple junior college transfers in Julian Hernandez and Slaide Naturman, but returners Chris Scinta (1-1, 3.53 ERA) and Ben Chestnutt (7-0, 5.71 ERA) will again log plenty of innings. 

Even with the amount of production that the Hurricanes lost from 2023, they still figure to be one of the more competitive teams in the conference and are in line to make a regional for the fifth straight year.

7. NC State (36-21, 13-16)

The Wolfpack last year made their sixth tournament appearance in the last seven years. It wasn’t easy, however, as they were one of the last teams in the tournament field. Last year was not as strong a season as what N.C. State has been accustomed to, but it still included key series wins over Miami, Louisville and Florida State, as well as a few quality midweek wins. The Pack got off to a strong start in the Columbia Regional, taking down No. 2-seed Campbell by a score of 5-1. Unfortunately, its bats went silent over the next two days as it was outscored by a combined margin of 17-4 by South Carolina and Campbell. N.C. State this year will feature a number of new faces—many of whom are from their loaded freshmen class—as well as a few high-profile returners.

In recent years, the biggest strength of each N.C. State ball club has been its offensive prowess. However, this year, it boasts one of the deepest pitching staffs in the ACC. Fifth-year senior Matt Willadsen (5-5, 3.78 ERA) will again be a weekend starter for the Wolfpack, while sophomore lefthander Dominic Fritton will make the jump to the rotation full time. Last year, Fritton worked a 3-4 record with a 3.59 ERA and split time between the bullpen and rotation. He has an above-average riding fastball and a quality curveball, and could be in line for a standout season. Also look for SUNY-Cortland (Division-III) transfer Shane Van Dam (2-1, 3.07 ERA) to make his mark in his first season in Raleigh. A former quarterback on the Cortland football team, the 6-foot-6 Van Dam moves well on the mound and is armed with a mid-90s fastball and a sharp slider. In relief, veteran righthanders Logan Whitaker (5-3, 4.29 ERA) and Sam Highfill (6-4, 4.83 ERA) will handle the late-inning duties. Tennessee transfer Hollis Fanning (0-0, 1.26 ERA) will also be a key relief arm. 

In addition to its returners and strong transfer class, a trio of freshmen arms in Ryan Marohn, Chance Mako and Jacob Dudan also figure to log their fair share of innings. Marohn has a chance to be the team’s midweek starter come opening day. At the plate, the dynamic duo of catcher Jacob Cozart (.301/.392/.546) and outfielder Eli Serrano III (.292/.389/.470) lead the way, while fifth-year Noah Soles (.305/.443/.466), Wichita State transfer Garrett Pennington (.289/.351/.534), East Carolina transfer Alec Makarewicz (.258/.356/.476) and Western Carolina transfer Brandon Butterworth (.301/.370/.479) really lengthen the lineup and provide a blend of power and hitability. 

One transfer to watch is former Sante Fe (JC) outfielder Joshua Hogue. Last year, he hit .412/.481/.608 with 12 doubles, seven home runs and 41 RBIs while playing quality defense in left field. Hogue then proceeded to enjoy a productive 18-game stint in the Valley League to the tune of a .360/.429/.613 slash line with 10 extra-base hits and 18 RBIs. He has quick hands at the plate, above-average barrel skills and advanced baseball sense. Freshmen Luke Nixon and Alex Sosa also seem to be in line for everyday roles after strong showings this fall.

8. Louisville (31-24, 10-20)

Last season was a down year for the Cardinals, who failed to reach the tournament for the second time in the last three seasons. They got off to a roaring 18-2 start, but proceeded to win just one conference series to finish the season with an underwhelming record of 31-24. However, with a revamped pitching staff and a few key returners on offense, the Cardinals will be in a strong position to return to a regional. 

There is no doubt that a handful of hitters will have to step up after the departures of Jack Payton (.374/.472/.643) and Christian Knapczyk (.331/.455/.408). Those two made the offense go in 2023 and were two of the team’s most productive hitters. However, the Cardinals boast a quality returning core of toolsy outfielder Eddie King Jr. (.274/.350/.457), fellow outfielder JT Benson (.288/.397/.497), infielder Logan Beard (.282/.379/.471) and breakout candidate Gavin Kilen (.265/.321/.338). Kilen will be the team’s everyday shortstop and has advanced barrel skills at the plate. 

Another key returner is first baseman Ryan McCoy (.247/.399/.489), who led the 2023 team in both RBIs (44) and home runs (12). Marist transfer Dylan Hoy (.245/.381/.371) packs a solid defensive skill set, while fellow transfer and first-team Division-II All-American Luke Napleton (.352/.421/.824) will handle the catching duties.

The Cardinals boast a deep pitching staff, led by 2023 Horizon League pitcher of the year Sebastian Gongora (10-1, 3.25 ERA). Gongora’s experience combined with his advanced pitchability makes him the perfect option to get the ball each Friday. Sophomore Patrick Forbes (0-0, 7.71 ERA) will follow Gongora. He logged just 9.1 innings last spring, but he performed well this fall and has some of the best stuff on the staff. Rounding out the weekend rotation is righthander Carson Liggett, who enjoyed a very strong sophomore season to the tune of a 7-2 record with a 3.42 ERA.

True freshman Parker Detmers—the younger brother of big leaguer Reid Detmers—is in line to be the team’s midweek starter and could be the next great arm to come out of Louisville. The bullpen is another strength of this year’s squad and will feature the vaunted trio of Jake Karaba (7-2, 1.62 ERA), fifth-year Evan Webster (4-2, 3.09 ERA) and senior lefthander Riley Phillips (4-2, 4.08 ERA). Those three will handle the vast majority of the late-inning responsibilities and boast a valuable “slow heartbeat” type of mentality on top of a strong track record of performance.

With a plethora of returning players on top of a few big-time transfers, Louisville has the talent to once again be a contender in the ACC.

9. Florida State (23-31, 9-21)

For the first time in 44 years, Florida State last year failed to make the tournament. It was a less-than-ideal start to the Coach Link Jarrett tenure in Tallahassee, but the Seminoles are my darkhorse team in the ACC. On top of returning five high-impact regulars from last year’s squad, this year’s team will have a new look up the middle and on the right side of the infield.

Florida State’s “big three” of James Tibbs III (.339/.471/.682), Jaime Ferrer (.324/.369/.533) and Cam Smith (.258/.326/.517) gives it one of the more vaunted middle of the orders in the conference. They last year combined for 36 of Florida State’s 55 home runs, and all three are serious draft prospects—especially Smith and Tibbs. After a solid true freshman season, Smith had an MVP-type summer on the Cape to the tune of a .347/.406/.575 slash line with 22 extra-base hits. He showed a more mature, refined approach as well as an above-average defensive skill set at third. North Florida transfer Alex Lodise (.306/.369/.607, 32 extra-base hits) and Central Florida transfer Drew Faurot (.252/.342/.510, 15 home runs) will play second base and shortstop, respectively, and both figure to hit in the top half of the lineup. 

South Florida transfer Daniel Cantu (.302/.399/.557, 11 home runs) will man first base and figures to be an impact bat, while returners McGwire Holbrook (.217/.275/.241) and DeAmez Ross (.287/.363/.371) round out the order. Holbrook’s leadership skills are invaluable, while Ross has the speed and athleticism to again handle center field. When all is said and done, this could end up as one of the more productive lineups in the conference.

The pitching staff did lose Jackson Baumeister (5-5, 5.09 ERA), Wyatt Crowell (3-0, 0.87 ERA) and Carson Montgomery (0-2, 7.00 ERA) to the draft, but this year’s rotation boasts three quality options in Central Florida transfer Cam Leiter (3-2, 4.92 ERA), Indian River State College transfer and 11th-round draft pick Gavin Adams and southpaw Jamie Arnold (2-5, 6.34 ERA). Leiter has a mid-90s fastball and quality breaking ball, Adams has a thunderous arsenal of his own and Arnold is a low-slot lefty who throws nothing straight. Arnold also had a great summer on the Cape, and he is in line to take a step forward this spring.

Key bullpen arms include sidearmer Noah Short (4-0, 3.65 ERA), Joe Charles—who is now fully healthy—and lefthander Carson Dorsey. Add in other returning arms like Ben Barrett (0-0, 5.20 ERA) and Conner Whittaker (5-6, 4.33 ERA), and you are suddenly looking at a pretty complete pitching staff.

In writing the breakdown of this year’s Seminoles team, I have come to realize that I may have severely underrated them. They have the talent to play with anyone in the ACC. There is little doubt they will be able to hit, and if the pitching staff rounds into form, this is a group that could be playing well into June.

10. Georgia Tech (30-27, 12-18)

After getting off to a blistering 13-2 start, the Yellow Jackets last year failed to make the tournament for the first time since 2018. The wheels came off during conference play, but they still managed to notch series wins over eventual ACC champion Clemson and Duke. There is a lot to replace on offense, as five of Tech’s leading hitters from 2023—Angelo DiSpigna (.393/.509/.667), Kristian Campbell (.376/.484/.549), Jake DeLeo (.366/.426/.651), (.333/.423/.596), Jackson Finley (.328/.397/.672) and Drew Compton (.306/.397/.552)—were all either drafted or signed.

However, for as much as Tech lost, it returns two key players in Stephen Reid (.339/.426/.616, 15 home runs) and John Giesler (.333/.423/.596), and also brought in a handful of potentially high-impact transfers. The middle of the infield will take on an entirely new look with Fairfield transfer (.329/.438/.586) at second and N.C. State transfer Payton Green (.274/.350/.476). Both defend their respective positions very well, while also being productive at the dish. The starting centerfielder for the Yellow Jackets will be blue-chip freshman Drew Burress. He showed well this fall and is an above-average defender with a plus arm. Georgia State transfer Cam Jones (.337/.458/.431) will play alongside Burress, and so will Parker Brosius (.182/.308/.182). Don’t let the modest numbers fool you; Brosius had an excellent summer in the Northwoods League and hit .292 with 42 stolen bases. He is a prime candidate to break out and he can impact the game in a number of ways.

It’s no secret that the Yellow Jackets in 2023 struggled mightily on the mound. They had a total ERA of 7.01 and struggled to get guys out. Heading into 2024, there is reason for optimism. Terry Busse (1-2, 5.10 ERA) will be the Friday guy after showing flashes out of the bullpen in 2023, Camron Hill (1-1, 7.98 ERA) was named the Most Outstanding Pitcher in the Cape League after working a 1.09 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 33 innings. He has a fastball that has been up to 96, a budding slider and a borderline plus split-changeup. Hill has immense upside and could end up being a dominant starter.

True freshman Tate McKee, who has also been up to 96, will be the team’s midweek starter and veteran Ben King (6-2, 3.73 ERA) will anchor the bullpen. Aeden Finateri (2-4, 4.64 ERA) had a solid 2023 season and will also log plenty of innings. While there are a lot of “what ifs” for the 2024 Yellow Jackets, they have the upside to play their way back into the tournament.

11. Virginia Tech (30-23, 12-17)

The Hokies in 2022 made the tournament for the first time since 2013 and made their first-ever super regional. However, in 2023, they took a bit of a step back and were unable to earn an at-large bid. This year, they could end up with one of the most productive lineups in the conference. Yes, they lost Jack Hurley (.320/.414/.714) and Carson Jones (.300/.429/.615) to the draft, but they return from last year’s lineup five regulars and also picked up key transfers. 

The offense will revolve around third baseman Carson DeMartini (.323/.455/.593), who led the team last year with 57 RBIs. He has big-time power and will also play a solid third base. Joining DeMartini on the left side of the infield is sophomore shortstop Clay Grady (.307/.386/.433). Grady is an excellent defender at shortstop, maybe the best in the ACC, and also has some thump in his stick. He is a serious dude.

The team’s three leading hitters—Christian Martin (.345/.455/.471), Garrett Michel (.339/.465/.626) and Chris Cannizzaro (.337/.397/.570)—will again hit in the middle of the order. Michel has legit plus power, Martin is a baseball rat whose fingerprints will be all over the box score night in and night out and Cannizzaro was the team’s hottest hitter for most of last season. Sam Tackett (.308/.413/.513) logged just 39 at-bats last season, but he may have the most raw power on the team and has a plus arm in the outfield.

After putting up video game–like numbers at Division-III Elizabethtown, Ben Watson (.486/.559/.814) will be the team’s everyday centerfielder. He has an advanced feel for the barrel and the defensive chops to hold down center field. George Washington transfer Eddie Micheletti (.384/.460/.563) will also be an everyday member of the lineup.

The rotation will have a new look given the departures of Drue Hackenberg (5-8, 5.80 ERA) and Anthony Arguelles (3-1, 4.90 ERA). Two 2023 bullpen arms—Griffin Stieg (1-0, 6.75 ERA) and Brady Kirtner (1-1, 4.62 ERA)—will be the Friday and Saturday starters. Stieg has been up to 95 from a lower slot, while Kirtner has the best pure stuff on the staff. Rutgers transfer Wyatt Parliament (1-0, 5.00 ERA) will be the team’s closer, and this fall he was up to 96 with a slider that flashed plus. 

There are some unknowns on the pitching staff, but the Hokies this year have the lineup to hit with anyone. Should Stieg and other arms take a step forward, this will be a very dangerous team.

12. Notre Dame (30-24, 15-15)

After making a Cinderella run to the College World Series in 2022, the Fighting Irish in 2023 failed to make the tournament. However, they did win 30 games and notched quality ACC series wins over Louisville, Virginia and Florida State. Unfortunately, they lose from that team the four biggest run producers and leading hitters in Vinny Martinez (.301/.399/.587), Zack Prajzner (.301/.399/.488), Carter Putz (.290/.373/.473) and Brooks Coetzee (.255/.423/.373).

On the bright side, shortstop Jack Penney (.241/.347/.453) is a likely top 10–round draft choice. He is a mature hitter with an advanced feel for the strike zone and is also a fundamentally sound defender who will make every play that he should. A quartet of transfers is also poised to make a serious impact. Playing alongside Penney on the left side of the infield will be Tulane transfer Simon Baumgardt. On top of having an above-average arm, Baumgardt last year hit .277/.383/.530 with 13 home runs. At first base, UCLA transfer Josh Hahn was a great transfer portal addition and last year hit .326/.379/.395. The outfield will feature St. John’s transfer David Glancy (.284/.411/.597) and Michigan transfer Tito Flores (.274/.367/.441). Both are strong defenders who can do damage from gap-to-gap at the plate. 

The Fighting Irish lost both Blake Hely (3-3, 5.23 ERA), Will Mercer (3-1, 2.43 ERA) and Aidan Tyrell (8-3, 3.36 ERA) from last year’s pitching staff, but righthander Jackson Dennies (0-4, 3.11 ERA) will again be a weekend starter and lefthander Jack Findlay (4-2, 3.79 ERA) is in line to return from injury. Sophomore David Lally logged just 17 innings in 2023, but his fastball—and stuff in general—has taken a step forward and he will round out the rotation. Caden Spivey (4-1, 4.11 ERA) could be deployed in a number of different ways, while Evansville transfer Nate Hardman (2-1, 5.21 ERA) will assume the closer role.

Notre Dame will have a lot to replace, but with an intriguing group of transfers and a trio of high-profile returners, it will remain competitive all season.

13. Boston College (37-20, 16-14)

Last year marked one of the most memorable seasons in program history for the Eagles. On top of a thrilling road victory at Tennessee, the Eagles won their first four conference series and found themselves ranked inside the top 10. They faltered a bit down the stretch, but they did more than enough to earn an at-large bid and the No. 2 seed in the Tuscaloosa Regional. After an 11-10 loss to Troy in its opening game, BC beat Nicholls and Troy in consecutive days to take on host Alabama in the regional final. The Tide knocked out the Eagles, but the 2023 season will be remembered in Chestnut Hill forever.

After the season, head coach Mike Gambino took the same position at Penn State. While that was certainly a tough blow, the Eagles made a slam dunk hire with Todd Interdonato. A proven winner at every stop and an excellent recruiter, Coach Interdonato should certainly go on to do great things on the Heights.

The departures of Joe Vetrano (.315/.407/.671) and Travis Honeyman (.304/.383/.534) leave the Eagles with big shoes to fill on offense. Experienced centerfielder Barry Walsh (.314/.416/.490) will play high-quality defense in center field, Cameron Leary (.258/.422/.503) will be the team’s everyday rightfielder and has above-average power, while the middle of the infield from 2023 remains intact with both Patrick Roche (.294/.403/.398) and Sam McNulty (286/.371/.405) returning. The ever-experienced Vince Cimini (.277/.373/.312) provides invaluable leadership qualities and an advanced defensive skill set at third. Nick Wang will now be the starting first baseman, and his 43 RBIs and 11 home runs in 2023 both ranked second on the team. Backstop Adonys Guzman (.239/.370/.284) transferred to Arizona, which means the experienced Parker Landwehr will step into a starting role.

Two of last year’s weekend starters in Chris Flynn (7-3, 4.34 ERA) and Henry Leake (5-5, 5.85 ERA) both graduated, which leaves a gaping hole in the rotation. Although he received significant draft interest and could have signed if he wanted to, the towering John West (5-3, 4.50 ERA) is back for the 2024 season and will anchor the rotation. Sean Hard (0-0, 9.58 ERA) has some of the highest upside and loudest stuff on the staff, but he will need to refine his command in order to maximize his effectiveness. Senior righthander Joey Ryan (1-1, 5.57 ERA) will be the team’s go-to arm in relief, and has a true plus changeup with above-average command.

This season may be a bit of a step back from 2023, but there is no doubt BC has the right guy at the helm in order to turn it into a consistent tournament team. The future is bright in Chestnut Hill.

14. Pittsburgh (24-31, 10-18)

Although the Panthers last year could not snap their 28-year tournament drought, head coach Mike Bell continued to guide the program in the right direction. Pitt last year earned series wins over Virginia and Virginia Tech, and also took a game from Wake Forest. It returns much of its roster from last year, but it is faced with four key departures. Kyle Hess (.327/.415/.626) and Noah Martinez (.306/.442/.558)—the team’s two leading hitters—both graduated, while pitchers Logan Evans (5-3, 5.88 ERA) and Dylan Simmons (2-2, 4.58 ERA) were drafted in the 12th and 15th round, respectively.

C.J. Funk (.267/.425/.549) laced a team-leading 28 extra-base hits and in 2023, and he will again anchor the offense. Catcher Jayden Melendez (.261/.359/.550) last year clubbed 10 home runs and provides stability behind the dish. Coach Bell dipped into the transfer portal and brought in three quality additions who figure to make an immediate impact. Replacing Martinez at first will be Fairleigh Dickinson transfer, Luke Cantwell (.330/.490/.709). Cantwell in 2023 wallopped 14 home runs and will be a middle-of-the-order bat, while New Orleans transfer Luke Bischke (.309/.397/.530) figures to consistently turn in quality at-bats. Virginia transfer Chris Baker (.313/.389/.438) will get the chance to prove himself in an everyday role, as he will be the team’s leftfielder.

The Panthers pitching staff is without a doubt the biggest strength of this year’s club. Rhode Island transfer Ryan Andrade (1-2, 4.09 ERA) will get the ball on Fridays, and he features a fastball that has been up to 97 with life through the zone as well as a quality breaking ball. Jack Sokol (6-5, 7.54 ERA) will be the team’s Saturday starter, and Ryan Reed (0-0, 2.08 ERA)—the team’s Sunday starter—could be the pitching staff’s X-factor. He logged just 4.1 innings last spring, but he showed well this summer in the Valley League, where he pitched his way to a 4.71 ERA and collected 42 strikeouts across 36.1 innings. The closer role this season will belong to Gardner-Webb transfer Phil Fox, who is fresh off a strong season with the Bulldogs in which he worked a 4.45 ERA and struck out 11.3 hitters per nine innings.

Coach Bell has a re-tooled roster that should be able to remain competitive for the entirety of the 2024 season. It is arguably better on paper than the 2023 team was, and it could take some teams by surprise.

2024 Top 100 Prospects

See the full Top 100 entering the 2024 season headlined by Orioles SS Jackson Holliday.

Top 20 Draft Prospects For 2024

1. Nick Kurtz, 1B, Wake Forest
2. Seaver King, OF, Wake Forest
3. Vance Honeycutt, OF, North Carolina
4. Chase Burns, RHP, Wake Forest
5. Josh Hartle, LHP, Wake Forest
6. Jonathan Santucci, LHP, Duke
7. Griff O’Ferrall, SS, Virginia
8. Cam Smith, 3B, Florida State
9. Michael Massey, RHP, Wake Forest
10. James Tibbs III, OF, Florida State
11. Jacob Cozart, C, North Carolina State
12. Will Taylor, OF, Clemson
13. Carson DeMartini, 3B, Virginia Tech
14. Ethan Anderson, C/1B, Virginia
15. Fran Oschell III, RHP, Duke
16. Andrew Healy, LHP, Duke
17. Gage Ziehl, RHP, Miami
18. Eli Serrano III, OF, NC State
19. Dominic Fritton, LHP, NC State
20. Jay Woolfolk, RHP, Virginia

Top 10 Draft Prospects For 2025

1. Cam Cannarella, OF, Clemson
2. Jack O’Connor, RHP, Virginia
3. Luke Stevenson, C, North Carolina
4. Clay Grady, SS, Virginia Tech
5. Gavin Kilen, SS, Louisville
6. Marek Houston, SS, Wake Forest
7. Cam Leiter, RHP, Florida State
8. Blake Cyr, 2B, Miami
9. Jamie Arnold, LHP, Florida State
10. James Tallon, LHP, Duke

Top Newcomers

1. Seaver King, OF, Wake Forest
2. Chase Burns, RHP, Wake Forest
3. Drew Burress, OF, Georgia Tech
4. Luke Stevenson, C, North Carolina
5. Jason DeCaro, RHP, North Carolina
6. Henry Ford, 1B, Virginia
7. Cam Leiter, RHP, Florida State
8. Blake Morningstar, RHP, Wake Forest
9. Alex Lodise, 2B, Florida State
10. Sebastian Gongora, LHP, Louisville

Best Tools

Best pure hitter: Nick Kurtz, 1B, Wake Forest
Best power hitter: Nick Kurtz, 1B, Wake Forest
Best strike-zone discipline: Nick Kurtz, 1B, Wake Forest
Best athlete: Vance Honeycutt, OF, North Carolina
Fastest runner: Vance Honeycutt, OF, North Carolina
Best baserunner: Cam Cannarella, OF, Clemson
Best defensive catcher: Jacob Cozart, C, NC State
Best defensive infielder: Clay Grady, SS, Virginia Tech
Best infield arm: Cam Smith, 3B, Florida State
Best defensive outfielder: Vance Honeycutt, OF, North Carolina
Best outfield arm: Lorenzo Carrier, OF, Miami
Best fastball: Michael Massey, RHP, Wake Forest
Best breaking ball: Chase Burns, RHP, Wake Forest (slider)
Best changeup: Joey Ryan, RHP, Boston College
Best control: Josh Hartle, LHP, Wake Forest

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