Five NC State players, including three juniors, were selected this week in the Major League Baseball amateur draft. Seniors Logan Ratledge and Jake Fincher were joined by juniors Nate Britt, Jon Olczak, and Brad Stone as players potentially off to start a pro career.
Ratledge was the highest selection, going in the 13th round to Pittsburgh. As a senior without the leverage of returning to college to improve his draft stock, Ratledge will likely sign for well under the 100K maximum (without penalty) for his draft slot.
After being overshadowed by Carlos Rodon and Trea Turner, both first round picks in 2014, Ratledge was the unquestioned leader of a Pack program that came within six outs of a super regional this spring. His batting (.329), on-base (.431), and slugging average (.558) led the club. Rat also posted team bests in runs (53), home runs (10), walks (32), HBPs (13), and stolen bases (11). Though he was stretched defensively at shortstop, his bat will be sorely missed in 2016.
Ratledge will join Chris Diaz, an 11th round pick from State in the 2012 draft, in the Bucs' minor league system.
Fincher will join former teammates Rodon and Brett Austin in the White Sox organization. No doubt the Sox scouts saw a lot of him while evaluating Rodon and Austin. In Fincher they saw a solid outfield defender with a knack for getting on base. Fincher hit .291/.370/.407 last year despite being hampered by injury (illustrated in his one stolen base all season). Fincher had double-digit steal totals in each of his first three seasons and never posted an OBP lower than .342, but he has zero power (two homers in four years).
As a 29th round pick and a senior, Fincher, should he pursue a pro career, will likely sign for a plane ticket and a gently used, Chisox emblazoned jockstrap.
Fincher and Ratledge both prepped in the Charlotte area, playing for rival high schools Providence and Ardrey Kell, respectively.
Britt was the first of the juniors to hear his name called, going 19th to the Marlins. A transfer from USC-East, the burly righty ended up second on the club in ERA (2.24) among pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the NCAA leaderboard. Moved into the rotation at the end of the season, Britt won a regional contest against Stony Brook on Friday and came back to pitch in relief Monday in the regional championship.
Olczak went two rounds later to the Brewers. Another righty reliever, Olczak, like Britt, steadily improved through his junior year. He ended the campaign with a 2.55 ERA in 23 appearances, fourth most on the team. Olczak probably has more stuff and more projectability than Britt; he fanned more than a batter per inning (47 in 42.1) and held opponents to a paltry .188 batting average. But, while he is no Cory Wilder, Olczak often is unaware of where the ball might travel once it leaves his hand. He walked 29, hit nine, and uncorked nine wild pitches.
As pretty generic fastball-slider righty relievers, neither Britt nor Olczak is likely to command much of a bonus. Both could come back to try and improve their stock for next year, but, without a major breakthrough (i.e. adding about 3-5 mph on the heater), they would probably be in a worse position a year from now as leverage-less seniors.
The selection of Stone, who went in the 24th round to the Red Sox, was a bit of a surprise, though 6-3 lefties who can touch 90 do not grow on trees. Often a weekend starter as a freshman, Stone fell out of favor somewhat as a sophomore though he pitched well once relegated to the pen, posting a 3.02 ERA and holding opponents to a .190 batting average. He seemed to develop a bit of Steve Blass disease this year, as he walked 18 batters in 15.1 innings before completely falling off the depth chart. I would not be surprised if Stone is done in Wolfpack red whether he signs or not, as he may transfer in search of more mound time.
Draft eligible redshirt sophomore Johnny Piedemonte, a subject of a good bit of draft talk when he pitched against TCU, was not selected. Lefty pen stalwarts Will Gilbert and Travis Orwig should also return next year, along with Chance Shepard and Ryne Willard, all juniors who went undrafted.
Xavier LeGrant, NC State's highest rated prep prospect, does not show on a search of Baseball America's draft database, nor does Google bring me news of his selection, so it looks like Elliot Avent got lucky and got one of his top prep signee to campus this time after losing several big-time targets in the last couple of drafts.