The Pack Nine are ranked 13th by Baseball America and, barring an utter and complete collapse over the season's final few games and in the ACC tournament, should host a regional in the NCAA tournament. Carlos Rodon (8-0, 1.41 ERA) is the best Pack pro prospect currently in uniform, and fortunately, as he is just a freshman, we have him for two more years. SBN prospect guru John Sickels had this to say about Rodon: "Carlos has been up to 95-97 MPH this spring, also using a cutter, a changeup, and an occasional curve. I don't know exactly where he would be drafted if he was eligible this year, but he would most certainly be a first-rounder and quite possibly in the top ten."
Rodon has more than taken up the slack in the ace role vacated by Cory Mazzoni, a 2nd round pick of the Mets in 2011 and the best Pack prospect currently playing in the minor leagues, though Eric Surkamp may wrestle that title from Mazzoni soon. (Surkamp, a 6th round pick in 2008 and the 7th best Giants prospect according to Sickels, has yet to pitch this season as he recovers from an elbow strain, but is expected back soon.)
With the 2012 MLB draft set to unfold in early June, I plan to take a look at the draft prospects of current Pack players soon, but first let's look at how the 2011 draft class has panned out so far.
Six Pack players heard their name called last June, led by Mazzoni (3-0, 2.80 ERA in seven starts at high A St. Lucie). Sickels ranks Mazzoni as the Mets' 10th best prospect and thinks he may have a future in the back end of the starting rotation. Mazzoni has only allowed one long ball in 42.1 professional innings and has kept his walks per nine innings comfortably under three, but one red flag might be his low strikeout rate. He has fanned a relatively pedestrian 5.86 batters per 9 innings so far this year. Just 22, Mazzoni does have age on his side; it will be interesting to see how he fares at double A, the level that usually makes or breaks prospects. A promotion could come later this year.
The other 2011 Pack alum making noise is slugger Harold Riggins, a 7th round selection by the Rockies. Riggins, stationed with the Asheville Tourists, is lighting up low A pitching in his first crack at full-season ball. Riggins boasts a triple slash line of .311/.396/.597 and should best 30 homers and 100 RBI if he continues at this pace, but he is certainly not a cinch to do so. Riggins has a likely unsustainable .405 batting average on balls in play and strikes out in 27.3% of his plate appearances. Sickels does not list Riggins among the Rockies top prospects, but that will change if his production continues at this pace.
The results have been less promising for the rest of the Pack's draftees. Pratt Maynard, an on-base machine in his days behind the dish for the Pack and a 3rd round pick of the Dodgers a year ago, has posted a Mendoza-esque .211/.274/.263 slash line for the low A Great Lakes Loons. He has pegged out 30% of would-be base stealers, an acceptable rate, and with just 84 plate appearances on the season, there is hope that he can turn things around. He was a bit better in 2011 after signing, hitting .239/.346/.341 in rookie ball, and Sickels lists him among the Dodgers' prospects to keep an eye on.
Hopefully Dodgers' 34th round pick Rob Chamra got his degree. As a 23-year-old in rookie ball, Chamra posted a decent-on-the-surface 3.92 ERA and vultured his way to a 3-0 record out of the pen in 2011. But, Chamra's WHIP was 1.69, leading to a high FIP (fielding independent pitching) of 6.77, and he was extremely old for that level of the minors. Chamra is now out of baseball.
Outfield mates Brett Williams (25th round, Diamondbacks) and John Gianis (26th round, Dodgers) both elected to return to school. There is certainly nothing wrong with an N. C. State education, but going back for their senior seasons may have proved to be a bad baseball move. Williams, a plus defender in CF who led the Pack in triples and runs scored in 2011, played in exactly one game in 2012 before blowing out his knee. Season over. Hopefully he will get drafted again or receive a medical redshirt and resume his Pack career in 2013. The toolsy Gianis has never lived up to his promise coming out of Morristown-Beard High School in New Jersey, and has spent most of his senior season on the bench, starting less than half of the Pack's games and batting a paltry .207. His ship may have sailed.
2012 senior Ryan Mathews was not drafted after spending most of his two seasons with the Pack hurt or riding the pine, but, based on his power potential, he was offered a free agent contract after the 2011 draft. He elected to return and should get drafted this time. Mathews , batting .335 with a team-leading 10 home runs, has been the only consistent power source for the small-balling Pack.
It with be interesting to follow the Pack pros as they develop over the summer and to see who will join them after the June draft.