Preston Palmeiro waited until the 11th hour, or, more precisely, about two hours before the July 15th, 5 p.m. deadline, but ultimately chose to ink a deal for slot value ($204,700) with the Baltimore Orioles. Palmeiro went in the seventh round to the O's (211th overall) in the June draft.
Palmeiro's departure means that Cody Beckman is the only NC State draftee eligible to return to school who will, in fact, return to school. It's not surprising that Palmeiro finally signed; just two picks in the top 10 rounds (41st pick Nick Lodolo and 217th pick Tyler Buffett) opted not to sign. And, of course, as a junior coming off a big season, Palmeiro's leverage will never be higher.
Beckman is a redshirt sophomore, so he can improve his lot significantly with another year of school under his belt. Beckman recently posted on Instagram that he would "be returning to North Carolina State University to play my junior year of eligibility and to become closer to finishing my degree." The chance to earn a higher draft spot next year and a degree from NC State was a greater lure than whatever the Mets, who selected him in the 25th round, were dangling.
Beckman's numbers don't exactly leap off the page (at least in a good way) at first glance, as he posted a 6.05 ERA. The peripherals tell a different story, however. Opponents batted just .203 off of him, and Beckman had almost a 3-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio (23-to-8) while striking out over a batter per inning. Take away one disastrous outing when he allowed four runs without recording an out, and Beckman had a 4.19 ERA that was steadily falling. If he can add a changeup to his solid arsenal of a low 90s fastball and nasty slider, he could possibly break out as a starter in 2017. If not, he and Austin Staley should serve as a competent lefty-righty tandem in the late innings.
Palmeiro was second on the team in batting average (.337), homers (9), slugging percentage (.539), walks (29), and on-base percentage (.412). He led the team in hits (82), doubles (20), total bases (131), and RBI (55). His lack of defensive flexibility and less than ideal power for first base will keep him off top prospect lists, but there's no doubt the kid can hit. If he could learn to play a passable 3B and/or LF, that versatility might help him take that hit tool to the highest level.
Palmeiro joins Williamson and Andrew Knizner as juniors the Pack lost to the draft. Williamson just underwent Tommy John surgery, thus his pro debut is a ways off. Knizner has cooled a bit after a hot start for Johnson City in the Appy league, though his .781 OPS is better than what he posted in his last year at the college level. He's thrown out 47% of runners trying to steal, an excellent mark, but continues to be plagued by questionable receiving skills (four passed balls in eight games behind the plate). He's also made starts at both third and first.
State also lost its top recruit from a season ago, Xavier LeGrant, to transfer. LeGrant homered on the first pitch he saw as a collegian against eventual national champion Coastal Carolina but couldn't hold off Stephen Pitarra for the starting job at second base. LeGrant, a former member of the U.S. 18-and-under squad, will head to JUCO Spartanburg Methodist College.