Keeping up with college baseball can be overwhelming, but pays major dividends during the draft when you get to become Extremely Outraged when a guy you have decided is your favorite player in the entire draft gets picked after some other chump. A while ago, John, Ben and I did a mock draft of our first-round favorites, which you can read here. That draft wound up being heavy on high school talent, which reflects how deep the talent pool is at the prep level this year, especially for arms. It’s good to know what’s available at the college level, however, especially since the Mariners have shown somewhat of a tendency to favor college-experienced players. Leading up to the draft, we’ll focus on covering some of the college talent available from each conference. Not all of these guys will be first-day selections, and several will have their fortunes ebb and flow over the grind of the college baseball season, but ideally this will give you some names to look out for in June as well as some players to get invested in during the long march to Omaha.
We’re starting with the top-ranked conferences and working our way down from there, with a little more time lavished on local conferences like the Pac-12 and WCC. First up is the stronghold of the ACC, which is divided into two divisions: Atlantic (FSU, Louisville, Clemson, NC State, Wake Forest, Boston College, and Notre Dame) and Coastal (UNC, Virginia, Duke, Miami, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Pitt). We’ll take half of each division at a time, starting with the Atlantic division, listed in order of projected standings. The other day we wrote on FSU, Louisville, and the Seth Beer-led Clemson Tigers; today we’ll finish up the Atlantic division.
- Brett Kinneman is the big name here. The junior outfielder is off to a monster start in 2018: in the first week of the season, he’s batting .619 with 5 home runs and 15 RBI. After a disappointing showing on the Cape this summer, Kinneman has stormed into the 2018 season ready to demand some notice.
.@NCStateBaseball takes the lead! Brett Kinneman hits the second of two three-run homers in the bottom of the seventh inning to put the Pack up 8-5. #GoPack— NC State Athletics (@PackAthletics) February 26, 2018
: https://t.co/I8rUSMLRJf pic.twitter.com/mFCbPxGB2q
- Junior closer Joe O’Donnell is one to watch, having been named to the preseason Stopper of the Year list. In 2017, he struck out 59 batters in just 48 innings. Those are the kinds of numbers Jerry loves (although the 23 walks, not as much).
Other names of note:
Senior infielder Stephen Pitarra will miss the first month of action with hamstring surgery, but has a solid set of tools offensively and defensively. Fellow senior OF Brock Deatherage was drafted by the Pirates in the 29th round but will stick around to allow internet baseball writers to delight over his name for another season (fun fact: every time they write his name over at the NC State SBN site it’s stylized as: Deatherage \m/). NC State has another pair of senior/graduate pitchers in lefty Brian Brown and Johnny Piedmonte.
- RHP Griffin Roberts has a decent enough low-90s fastball, but he might have the best collegiate breaking ball:
A FILTHY 84-mph breaking ball from Griffin Roberts. He's in the conversation for best breaking ball in the country. #mlbdraft pic.twitter.com/bJiKKyXkUe— Michael Lananna (@mlananna) February 16, 2018
Baseball America has the senior as #80 on their 2018 Top-200, and number 45 for college prospects. The Twins took him in the 29th round last year.
Aside from Roberts, the other big name for Wake Forest is junior Johnny Aiello (whose twitter handle helpfully spells his name phonetically: I-L-O), a power-hitting third baseman who slashed .328/.417/.643 last year with 20 HRs. Baseball America named him as a preseason 2nd team All-American after he played this summer for Team USA, and he’s #133 on their Top-200 list.
Other names to watch: Junior Jake Mueller can play middle infield and hit for average. Tyler Witt is a 6’5” lefty who is currently in the high 80s with command but might be worth a back-end flier. Also, it’s no Brock Deatherage, but I am duty-bound to point out that Wake Forest has a great name entry of their own in reliever Rayne Supple.
BC is not one of the strongest teams in the conference, but the Mariners did scoop infielder Johnny Adams from there last year. BC has several players who hit for average but no real power in Jake Alu, Scott Braren, or junior Gian Martellini, who didn’t show well on the Cape this summer but does play catcher, making him automatically interesting for Mariners fans. As for the arms, senior RHP Brian Rapp is a damage-limiting innings-eater who earned ACC Pitcher of the Week honors in late February after tossing six shutout innings, and junior Jacob Stevens was drafted in the 33rd round by the Yankees last year after turning in an impressive freshman season, although his numbers fell off a little over his sophomore year. He pitched well on the Cape, however, and will look to improve his draft stock with a strong 2018.
Two-way player Matt Vierling highlights a squad that lost five pitchers to the MLB draft last year and will need strong offensive performances to stay competitive. Vierling, named to the Preseason All-ACC Team by Perfect Game, is an interesting player to try to figure out: he pitched better than he hit as a freshmen, then broke out as a hitter as a sophomore while struggling on the mound. Vierling didn’t perform well in the Cape this summer, which might have hurt his draft stock some, but he should still be a second-day selection with another successful year at the plate, as his versatility stretches beyond the mound: he can play both outfield and 3B. In fact, Vierling’s versatility extends even beyond the field; he’s also showing off some wordsmith skills, writing a blog for ND called “Tales From the Eck.”
Other names of note: Senior pitcher Charlie Vorsheck is 6’4” and posted a 2.88 ERA last year; he should get a shot at starting this year after the Irish graduated a good part of their rotation. Junior 2B Nick Podkul has an interesting skill: he leads the ACC in HBPs and can really grind out at-bats. Graduate student Nick Tully is now two years removed from TJ and posted a 3.71 ERA last year and, very importantly, throws baseballs with his left hand. Junior Cole Daily also seems to have posted some good numbers, but I refuse to wade through the search results of “Cole Sprouse Daily” to try to find some video.