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Draft : : State Preview
State Preview: North Carolina
Allan Simpson        
Published: Thursday, May 19, 2011

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Perfect Game will be providing a detailed overview of each state in the U.S., including the District of Columbia, as well as Canada and Puerto Rico. These overviews will list the state's strengths, weaknesses and the players with the best tools, as well as providing mini-scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players.

North Carolina State-by-State List

North Carolina Overview:
By North Carolina’s Own Improving Standards, It’s a Thin Year Again in State

As one of the nation’s steadily-improving talent sources, North Carolina produced at least two first-round picks in each baseball draft from 2005-09. That number slipped to one in 2010, but it was a noteworthy selection: University of North Carolina righthander Matt Harvey, the seventh pick overall.

No other player with a connection to the state was taken with the first 100 picks, however, and that downward trend may be repeating itself in 2011, to a degree, as there has been little buzz among national-level scouts for North Carolina prospects. In fact, the state may not produce a first-rounder at all this year.

That flies in the face of the state’s growing reputation as a top producer of college talent, with only California, Florida and Texas consistently producing more players from that demographic in recent years. UNC shortstop Levin Michael is the state’s most-draftable college talent, and he may be just a sandwich pick, although he has some late first-round support.

The North Carolina high-school class, which held out significant promise last fall for becoming one of the deepest crops in the state in years, has also not panned out as hoped. Where once it was believed it would yield anywhere from 8-10 prospects in the first 10 rounds, the reality has set in that there may be only four prep players going off the board in that area.

The top two high-school talents, Pinecrest High righthander Dillon Maples and Providence High catcher Brett Austin, have pretty much held form at Nos. 1 and 2, and are both serious candidates to be selected before the start of the second round. Beyond that duo, only Dixon High righthander/power hitter Rookie Davis and Holly Springs High lefthander Carlos Rodon are solid bets now to go in the top 10 rounds.

The University of North Carolina has produced three first-round picks in the last two years (Harvey a year ago; Dustin Ackley and Alex White in 2009), and Michael, who entered college a year ahead of schedule and is playing his third different infield position in three years, is the school’s only hope to have that streak continue. He has handled his transition to shortstop quite seamlessly, while also remaining an offensive force for the Tar Heels. Catcher Jacob Stallings is the only other UNC player given a shot to go in the first 10- rounds.

North Carolina made four straight College World Series appearances from 2006-09. It hasn’t been quite as big a factor in college circles this year, or last, but at 41-12 (17-10 in the Atlantic Coast Conference), it may have exceeded expectations this season with a talented group of underclassmen carrying the team.

Though neither East Carolina nor North Carolina State is having a particularly noteworthy season, even by their own modest standards, those schools may have the greatest impact on the early rounds of the draft. Each of those schools is expected to provide three players in the top 10 rounds, led by N.C. State righthander Cory Mazzoni. Despite a 3-6, 3.93 record that pales beside most of the other top college arms in an extraordinarily deep draft for college pitchers, Mazzoni may be claimed as early as the second round. His fastball, which has peaked at 95-96 mph in most outings, has spoken loudly.

Curiously, the college player that has made the greatest strides this spring might be Davidson lefthander Chris Lamb, who has made a significant move up draft boards despite posting just a 1-7, 3.75 record. He has proven to be especially tough on lefthanded hitters, though, with his 86-92 mph fastball, two solid secondary pitches and deceptive delivery, In 82 innings, he has walked just 19 while striking out 85.

No draft-eligible college pitcher in the state, though, has come close to dominating his competition quite like 6-foot-6 Mt. Olive College righthander Carter Capps, who is 12-0, 1.59 on the season and recently set an NCAA Division II record for most consecutive wins (22). He was also undefeated a year ago, going 10-0 as a red-shirt freshman.

Scouts have been somewhat slow to embrace Capps as an elite-level prospect, not knowing whether to project him as a third-rounder or eight-rounder, because he is still relatively new to pitching—he enrolled in college as a catcher, and red-shirted a year in order to learn the finer points of his new craft—and projects as a reliever at the next level, though has been only a starter in college. Nonetheless, with his size and a fastball that has peaked at 97 mph, he is not expected to last long.

A year ago, Pinecrest High righthander James Baldwin III became the highest pick from the North Carolina prep ranks, going in the fourth round to the Los Angeles Dodgers. That school could produce the top pick again as Maples is expected to be the first high-school player drafted in the state.

Interestingly, the fathers of both players were significant draft picks themselves as righthanded pitchers out of the same school—Tim Maples as a second-round pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 1979, James Baldwin as a fourth-rounder of the Chicago White Sox in 1990. The latter went on to pitch 10 years in the big leagues.

Maples represents North Carolina’s best bet to advance. Even a year ago, when Maples and Baldwin were on the same staff, Maples, a junior, was a much-more heralded prospect than his teammate, Baldwin, as his fastball was clocked consistently then in the mid-90s. He has maintained that velocity since then in summer and fall competition, and this spring in high school.

Most of the best prep talent in the state spent last summer and fall playing for the North-Carolina-based Dirtbags, one of the nation’s elite travel teams. That club, a perennial contender at Perfect Game national tournaments, shared the championship at last fall’s World Wood Bat Association World Championship, played in Jupiter, Fla. It was expected that several players off that club would make greater inroads on this year’s draft, but most, with the exception of Maples and Austin, didn’t perform this spring to the level that scouts expected.

As the new coach at Forsyth Country Day High, Dirtbags coach Andy Partin assembled at least five of his summer-league players on his school team, all major Division I signees. The team played a rugged 2011 schedule that included a season-opening game against Pinecrest High that pitted summer-league teammates Maples and Adam Griffin, against one another. With some 50 scouts in attendance, Maples outdueled Griffin, but both pitchers were clocked in the mid-90s. Griffin didn’t maintain that velocity through the spring, and his stock dropped off.

North Carolina in a Nutshell:

STRENGTH:
Depth of college talent.
WEAKNESS: High-end college talent.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 2.

BEST COLLEGE TEAM:
North Carolina.
BEST JUNIOR-COLLEGE TEAM: Pitt.
BEST HIGH-SCHOOL TEAM: Providence HS, Charlotte.

PROSPECT ON THE RISE:
Chris Lamb, lhp, Davidson College. Lamb can be as deceiving to hit, especially for lefthanded batters, as his 1-7, 3.75 record can be to the naked eye. Scouts, though, have seen vast improvement in the funky lefty, who has three quality pitches in his 86-92 mph fastball, splitter and changeup.

PROSPECT ON THE DECLINE: Shawn Armstrong, rhp, East Carolina University.
The 6-foot-5 Armstrong has the best pure arm on the ECU staff, but has struggled to find consistency throughout his college career. Used as both a starter and in relief this season, he has gone 3-1, 3.79 with 17 walks and 44 strikeouts in 38 innings, with a fastball up to 96 mph. But his inability to command his stuff or repeat that velocity on a recurring basis has hurt his development.

WILD CARD:
Josh Tobias, ss, Southeast Guilford HS, Greensboro. On the basis of his two best tools, his speed and natural hitting ability, Tobias would normally be a serious contender to be the first high-school player drafted in the state. But he is heavily committed to attending college at Florida, where both his parents graduated, and his lack of arm strength, his weakest tool, will almost certainly push him off shortstop at the next level, probably to second base or the outfield. Those two issues alone will, in all probability, compromise his draft value.

BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, North Carolina Connection:
Brian Goodwin, of, Miami-Dade (Fla.) JC (attended high school in Rocky Mount; college at North Carolina).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT: Corey Seager, ss, Northwest Cabarrus HS, Kannapolis.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT: Colin Moran, 3b, University of North Carolina.

HIGHEST DRAFT PICKS
Draft History: B.J. Surhoff, c, U. of North Carolina (1985, Brewers/1st round, 1st pick); Brien Taylor, lhp, East Carteret HS, Beaufort (1991, Yankees/1st round, 1st pick); Josh Hamilton, of, Athens Drive HS, Raleigh (1999, Devil Rays/1st round, 1st pick).
2006 Draft: Andrew Miller, lhp, U. of North Carolina (Tigers/1st round, 6th pick).
2007 Draft: Madison Bumgarner, lhp, South Caldwell HS, Lenoir (Giants/1st round, 10th pick).
2008 Draft: Allan Dykstra, 1b, Wake Forest (Padres/1st round, 23rd pick).
2009 Draft: Dustin Ackley, of, U. of North Carolina (Mariners/1st round, 2nd pick).
2010 Draft: Matt Harvey, rhp, U. of North Carolina (Mets/1st round, 7th pick).

BEST TOOLS
Best Hitter: Pratt Maynard, c/1b, North Carolina State.
Best Power: Rookie Davis, 1b/3b, Dixon HS, Sneads Ferry.
Best Speed: Josh Tobias, ss, Southeast Guilford HS, Greensboro.
Best Defender: Jacob Stallings, c, University of North Carolina.
Best Velocity: Dillon Maples, rhp, Pinecrest HS, West End.
Best Breaking Stuff: Cory Mazzoni, rhp, North Carolina State University.

TOP PROSPECTS, GROUP ONE and TWO

GROUP ONE
(Projected ELITE-Round Draft / Rounds 1-3)

1. LEVI MICHAEL, ss, University of North Carolina (Jr.)
+ athleticism/6.6 speed have enabled him to settle in at SS; solid offensive skills (.312-4-45, 44 BB, 14 SB).
2.DILLON MAPLES, rhp, Pinecrest HS, West End
+ quick arm, nasty raw stuff, 91-94 FB/T-97, + 80-mph power CU; some effort; father ex-minor league RHP.
3. BRETT AUSTIN, c, Providence HS, Matthews
+ versatile athlete; switch-hitter, + bat speed on both sides, calm/L-D approach, quick feet defensively, + arm.
4. CORY MAZZONI, rhp, North Carolina State University (Jr.)
Secondary nos. (92 IP/27 BB/105 SO) more telling than 3-6 record; clean arm, FB at 92-95/T-96, + 81-84 SL.

GROUP TWO
(Projected HIGH-Round Draft / Rounds 4-10)

5. CARTER CAPPS, rhp, Mt. Olive College (So.)
22-0 in career as starter, stuff (91-92 FB, + SL) profiles more for relief (97 FB in short bursts, no third pitch).
6. PRATT MAYNARD, c, North Carolina State University (Jr.)
LH bat with + on-base potential (.336-5-38, 30 BB); athletic enough to catch, + arm, but footwork/skills raw.
7. ROOKIE DAVIS, rhp/3b, Dixon HS, Sneads Ferry
XL 6-5/230 build, potential 2-way college star; FB up to 95 mph, fair CU, quick/compact arm, big HR power.
8. CARLOS RODON, lhp, Holly Springs HS
Mature 6-2/210 frame, + easy delivery/arm action, ball comes out easy, FB 89-93, sharp 78 CU, good CH.
9. MICHAEL WRIGHT, rhp, East Carolina University (Jr.)
6-5 RHP always had + stuff (FB 90-95, SL as out pitch), just needed to harness it (5-3, 3.06, 21 BB/63 SO).
10. CHRIS LAMB, lhp, Davidson College (Jr.)
Funky LHP, late bloomer; limited success (1-7, 3.75), but + tough to hit with 86-92 FB, + CH, + splitter.
11. HAROLD RIGGINS, 1b, North Carolina State University (Jr.)
Raw pull power evident in BP, not in games (.318-3-28); OK athlete in 6-3/230 frame, but 1B is best option.
12. JOSH TOBIAS, ss, Southeast Guilford HS, Greensboro
5-9/190, + switch-hitter, + power/speed combo, 6.35 runner, leadoff hitter, + base runner, .434-6-19/35 SBs.
13. JACOB STALLINGS, c, University of North Carolina (Jr.)
Athletic actions in 6-5/185 C, son of Vandy BKB coach; solid arm/receiver, bat starting to come (.269-2-32).
14. ZACH HOUCHINS, ss/3b, Louisburg JC (Fr.)
Blew past LHP Ethan Carter, South Carolina transfer, as team’s best prospect; + arm/actions in field; OK bat.
15. SHAWN ARMSTRONG, rhp, East Carolina University (Jr.)
R/S SO has more upside than Wright (No. 9), but ++ inconsistent; FB at 96, + cutter at 87 when on his game.
16. TYLER MOLINARO, 1b/of, Pitt CC (So.)
Best power bat in state JC ranks (.393-12-46); serious juice in LH swing, 6-2/220 frame; headed for UNC-W.
17. ZACH WRIGHT, c, East Carolina University (Jr.)
Good raw pop in 6-2/200 catcher (.292-12-35), shortened swing, still holes (46 SO); + arm, just OK defender.



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