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2019 Mariners draft preview: ACC draft-eligible prospects

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Previewing the MLB draft conference-by-conference

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-North Carolina vs Oregon State
Michael Busch has one of the best hit tools in the class. Is he a fit for the Mariners?
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

As we’ve done in previous years, this year we’re previewing some names of college baseball players you might hear called on draft day(s), conference-by-conference. We started with the SEC, home to some of this year’s most prominent first-round talent; today we look at the ACC, every bit as impressive in its own right. We’ll highlight a few draft-eligible prospects from each team, including the projected first-rounders, and discuss whether or not they’ll be available at spot 20, where the Mariners pick, and if we think that’s a direction the team might go.

ACC - Atlantic Division:

Louisville

Logan Wyatt is limited to 1B, but his hit tool is solid enough to look past that, as he walks more than he strikes out, and as he was named to a Golden Spikes watch list, his 1B defense isn’t too shabby. INF Tyler Fitzgerald doesn’t have Wyatt’s hit tool, but he’s steadily improved each of his past three seasons after an impressive summer on the Cape and fits the Mariners’ draft strategy of pouncing on breakout players. LHP Nick Bennett has a solid four-pitch mix and 72 Ks in 73 innings, and RHP Bryan Hoeing would be an interesting senior sign; despite being drafted in the 36th round by the Giants last year, he opted to return and cut his ERA from over 5 down to 2.88 this season. RHP Michael McAvene has been lights-out as Louisville’s closer, with a 94-96 fastball which he pairs with a hard curve/slider in the low-80s.

Florida State

Drew Mendoza has big power but also some big questions about his ability to stick at 3B; he leads a poor-fielding Seminole team with double-digit errors. The power is tantalizing, though, and he’ll probably go somewhere late in the first or in the first supplemental round, past where the Mariners pick but not likely lasting to their second pick:

NC State

SS Will Wilson is projected to be a late first-round choice, putting him right in Seattle’s crosshairs; he pairs solid defensive chops alongside double-digit home run power, although scouts say due to a lack of arm strength he’ll probably move to second base at the next level, where his bat will still play. He’s got a smooth right-handed swing with some nice natural loft:

Infielder Evan Edwards would be an intriguing senior sign; as a junior he slashed close to a .300/.400/.500 line, and he’s already got double-digit homers in his senior season. Edwards was a JUCO transfer; at Spartanburg Methodist he was a third-team 2017 JUCO All-American, and a first-team NJCAA Region X selection.

Clemson

There’s a good chance SS Logan Davidson is available at #20; the question is if the Mariners would want to use the pick on Davidson, who has struggled with strikeouts and hasn’t shown well with a wood bat on the Cape despite flashing tantalizing power at times. Despite a larger frame, Davidson has the potential to stick at short thanks to clean mechanics and quick-twitch athleticism, but could also shift over to third. The Mariners need all the help they can get on the infield, but Davidson’s plate discipline doesn’t fit the organization’s values at present, although maybe they see a tweak they could make.

Wake Forest

With Wake Forest’s new pitching lab, it would make sense that the analytically-inclined Mariners might look more carefully at the Deacon arms. RHP Morgan McSweeney features some overwhelming power, but he can struggle to throw strikes; he has 33 walks to 37 strikeouts so far this season. McSweeney is one of the early beneficiaries from the new pitching lab; his stuff has ticked up to the mid-90s since beginning training in the lab. RHP Colin Peluse has also benefited from the lab; he has gone from the pitcher with the highest stress on his elbow to the lowest thanks to a simple mechanical adjustment, and while he doesn’t have McSweeney’s stuff, he has a much better K-BB ratio. McSweeney has more draft buzz thanks to the big fastball, but Peluse is the better fit for the Mariners.

Notre Dame

The unfortunately-named Cameron Junker is a 6’5” righty who works 91-93 on his fastball, plus two solid secondaries in his slider and changeup. He’s cut his ERA in half since his sophomore season and has had some 8 or 10-strikeout performances this season.

And I can’t do Notre Dame and not talk about staff writer Tim’s favorite player, superutility Eric Gilgenbach. In addition to being team captain, Gilgenbach is the winner of the Byron V. Kanaley Award, given to exemplary student-athletes & leaders at Notre Dame, and is an honor roll student. He’s got some power (double digit home runs each of the past two seasons) and can play all over the diamond and would be a solid senior sign.

Boston College

The Mariners have two BC alums in the system in Justin Dunn (AA) and Johnny Adams (A+), and might be tempted to add to that stockpile with RHP Matt Gill, who has been splitting time as a starter and reliever but seems most effective as a bullpen arm. Senior catcher Gian Martellini is the kind of pop-up prospect the Mariners seem to like; he’s posted a line of .300/.360/.400, improving significantly on his 2018 numbers, and showed well on the Cape this past summer.

ACC - Coastal Division:

North Carolina

Michael Busch might not have a defensive home on the diamond, but his hit tool is so pretty it doesn’t matter. Busch has a preternatural understanding of the strike zone, and is perfectly willing to wait pitchers out until they throw him something he can barrel. We are big fans of him on the site, with Ben going so far as to overdraft him in our mock by about ten spots. Busch wouldn’t be quite as much a reach at 20, but it’s a tricky profile. Ike Freeman is a glove-first shortstop with a cannon for an arm. North Carolina has a trio of interesting arms that are all draftable. RHP Austin Bergner has a starter’s arsenal of a 92-94 FB, a biting curve and a solid change. He’s fairly wispy—listed at 6’4”/200 but it’s a very lean 200—and could potentially build more power with a pro regimen. RHP Tyler Baum has solid stuff (90s FB, plus breaking ball) but not the results to match. Draft-eligible sophomore Joey Lancellotti, in addition to having a deliciously Italian name, has slashed his ERA in half from last year; walks are a problem, but he’s struck out 38 batters in 35 innings. Similarly-deliciously-Italian-named RHP Gianluca Dalatri is also draft-eligible, but missing this season with a hip injury.

Georgia Tech

More like the draftable wreck, although none of the names here are projected first-rounders. Catcher Kyle McCann was recently named to the Buster Posey Award watch list; he had the unenviable task of replacing Joey Bart this season, and while the bat is there (20 home runs and counting), the defense is a question mark. If a team believes they can coach McCann into sticking behind the plate, he’ll be a supplemental/second-rounder, which he might be anyway given the sorry state of college catching prospects this year. OF Chase Murray has some pop and showed well on the Cape last summer; after injuries plagued his freshman season, he rebounded with a big sophomore season and has kept up that production as a junior. LHP Connor Thomas has been a workhorse and put up an incredible 133:15 K:BB ratio this season. His fastball isn’t big, but puts batters away with a sharp slider.

RHP/1B Tristin English has rebounded from having TJ in 2017 to put together an incredible junior season. He’s a true two-way player who hits bombs but also has an electric fastball that can touch mid-90s and has earned national Player of the Week honors twice this season.

Miami

RHP Evan McKendry is 6’3”/200 with a strong, athletic frame; his fastball is 89-92 but might tick up with pro training. He also features a slider and a plus change, and cut his walk rate way down this season, although an injury has kept him from repeating the 100-strikeout season that garnered him a ton of buzz last year. Closer Greg Veliz has posted an impressive 61 strikeouts in just 37-plus innings for the Hurricanes with a mid-90s fastball/slider combo. He’s got a pretty sweet celebration, too:

Duke

Top prospect LHP Graeme Stinson has been shut down with an arm injury, exacerbating concerns over his durability despite his 6’5”/220 frame. He’s fallen out of the top ten and maybe even to the supplemental/second round on many draft boards despite his elite slider, regarded by some as the best in the draft, and plus fastball (91-96). There’s a good chance he’d be available with the Mariners’ pick at 20, but Stinson is a project; he’s struggled with command at times and might top out as a late-innings reliever if his changeup doesn’t develop. LHP Adam Laskey had a big summer on the Cape, earning POTY honors, but shoulder inflammation delayed his start to the season, and he hasn’t pitched since late April. When healthy, Laskey has a fastball in the low 90s, a good slider, and a solid changeup.

Virginia

Tanner Morris is a SS for the Cavaliers, but scouts think he’ll likely move to the OF or the hot corner in pro ball, where he’d still be useful to the Mariners. He’s a draft-eligible sophomore, so if he doesn’t get a solid offer in this draft, he could easily return to Virginia for his junior year. Morris has a solid hit tool and good plate discipline, walking more than he strikes out. He was recently named to the Brooks Wallace Award watch list, an award given to the nation’s top shortstop.

Virginia Tech

Tanner Thomas is a light-hitting but plus-fielding utility player. Dalton Harum is a junior outfielder from Ellensburg who spent the first two years of his collegiate career at Wenatchee Valley College. Both these players are JUCO transfers, so will likely play out their senior seasons for Tech, but are useful to keep in mind.

Pitt

RHP Dan Hammer doesn’t have incredible-looking numbers, ERA-wise, but he’s struck out 73 batters in just 54 innings and could be a solid bullpen arm or back-end starter.