Earlier in the week we took a peak at how the NC State baseball 2016 draft class was faring in their respective pro debuts. With Carlos Rodon and Trea Turner now graduated to The Show, there are no buzzworthy Pack prospects in the minors. Nonetheless, there are a number of pre-16 draft alums toiling away in the bushes and some of them have a shot to dine on that big league per diem a time or two one day down the line. And for the Brad Stones of the world, well we care about you too, bro.
To organize this hefty bit of info, I'm going to group the Pack in the pros in two categories: "guys who might have a career in MLB" and "guys who appear to be organizational filler" (with one bonus category: "guy who now pitches in Korea").
Guys Who Might Have A Career In MLB
Jake Buchanan, 8th round, 2010
Buchanan has not toed the rubber in The Show this season, but he has 22 career appearances in the majors with decent results (4.06 ERA). Released by the Astros in the offseason, Buchanan was picked up by the best team in baseball, the Chicago Cubs, where he has mostly pitched well for AAA Iowa. He's 11-7 with a 4.64 ERA in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. The ERA is a bit misleading; he's allowed three runs or less in 16 of his 22 starts and basically a couple of "took one for the team" bad outings have stained the stat line.
The knock on Buchanan has always been his low strikeout rate, so it's encouraging to see that he's posting a career best 6.8 K/9. He's had a high BABIP and low strand rate, so advanced metrics judge him more kindly than the traditional ERA measure. His FIP is 3.88, and that's a very solid mark for the PCL. Buchanan will get another shot at the MLB level at some point.
Jake Fincher, 29th round, 2015
Fincher is a bit of a stretch to be included in the could have a career section, and his ceiling is a fifth outfielder/defensive replacement/pinch hitter type, but so far this year (in an extraordinarily small sample) he's absolutely raked. His triple slash line: .533/.632/.600. Due to injury, Fincher didn't take the field until about a week ago, but he's had quite the first week of 2016. He posted a solid .360 OBP in his pro debut last year. If he can keep finding a way on, stealing bases (20 so far in 50 minor league games), and making the web gems he was noted for with the Pack, he should keep climbing the minor league ladder. You can catch him with the Kannapolis Intimidators, where he's patrolling right field.
Cory Mazzoni, 2nd round, 2011
Mazzoni's injury-riddled career has most likely cost him a chance to have a lengthy stay in MLB despite once having the stuff (mid-90s heat) to be a top prospect. He did make it up briefly with the Padres in 2015 but struggled mightily (20.77 ERA in eight appearances), and yet another injury has shelved him for nearly all of 2016. After offseason shoulder surgery, he logged just two appearances at AAA El Paso before a recurring issue in the shoulder shut him down. If he can regain his stuff, Mazzoni will likely get another shot in some team's bullpen, but shoulders are not elbows and are much less likely to recover once damaged from the rigors of hurling baseballs.
Jon Olczak, 21st round, 2015
Olczak is a pretty generic fastball-slider righty reliever but has had good results so far and may find himself in a seventh-inning or ROOGY role one day. He's 1-3 with a 3.28 ERA and eight saves for the Brewers' A+ Brevard County club. He has a fantastic 1.176 WHIP and is overpowering hitters to the tune of 11.3 K/9. Righties have managed a meager .602 OPS off of him. Walks were always a problem for him with the Pack but not so far in his professional career; Olczak is issuing just 2.7 BB/9 through 77 professional innings. Like Buchanan, advanced metrics like his work more than traditional numbers; Olczak's FIP is 2.86. He should start next season at AA, and, if he does well, have a shot at earning a Big League gig as soon as 2018.
Eric Peterson, 37th round, 2014
Peterson has enjoyed more success than his twin brother, Pat, steadily rising to AA in the Astros' system. For his career, Eric is 12-7 with a 3.25 ERA and 17 saves. It's been tougher sledding in AA, where he has a 4.20 ERA through 23 appearances. He'll need to make some adjustments to truly be on the radar as a relief prospect, but his K rate (9.4/9) and miniscule BB rate (1.4/9) suggest that he's got a shot. Like Buchanan, he's been the victim of some bad BABIP luck and a low strand rate, so, once again, FIP suggests he's pitching a lot better than the ERA indicates. Peterson's FIP is a stellar 2.90.
Guys Who Appear To Be Organizational Filler
For every Jonathan Diaz, a 12th round pick in 2006, there are literally thousands of organizational guys who never, ever have a set of fortuitous circumstances result in even a brief spell on the 40-man roster, much less an actual chance to play even one inning in The Show. The minor leagues exist so that a handful of prospects, maybe as few as three or four on a given roster, have someone to play against while they develop. The rest, the vast majority, are just filler. Alas, Diaz, despite being a career .226 hitter in 11 minor league seasons, enjoyed brief stints with Boston in 2013 and Toronto in 2014 and 15. So, there could be a guy below who holds on long enough to fill in at the highest level someday, but they are the longest of long shots. (Diaz, by the way, is still toiling that toil for the Yankees' AAA club, where he is batting a robust .213.)
Brett Austin, 4th round, 2014
If you followed his NC State career, you're probably surprised to find Austin in this section. But he's been bad, really bad, as a pro. His .216/.313/.360 line at Winston-Salem might seem to be negated somewhat if he was holding up well behind the plate. Catcher is a premium defensive position and hundreds of light-hitting backstops have had long careers in the majors. But Austin is getting run on like a treadmill. Opponents have swiped 104 bases on him in 80 games. He's thrown out just 20% of runners attempting to steal. He's got to hit a ton to make it if he can't shut down the run game, and that .673 OPS, while the best of his career so far, is well shy of a ton.
Austin has set career highs in doubles (14) and homers (8), and historically catchers' bats develop later, but it seems like he made a bad career move when he turned down a million bucks (he was a supplemental first round pick in 2011) to play college ball. I'm not saying that playing for the Pack held him back as player; it's just that it turns out that he left money on the table he'll never make back.
Chris Diaz, 11th round, 2012
The younger Diaz is turning out to be a lot like his brother. He plays second, third, and short, he can't hit (.219 average at AA Altoona), but at least gets on base at a decent clip for a glove-first guy (.319 OBP despite the Mendoza-like average). It's possible that Chris becomes the next Jonathan and gets his own cup of coffee, but his glove does not play as well as big brother's, making the already long odds that much longer. He can likely have a job as a AA/AAA utility guy for as long as he wants one, and that beats working a real job (probably...these guys barely make a living wage).
Pat Peterson, 23rd round, 2014
Though he was a higher selection than his brother, Pat has not enjoyed the same success in the minors. He had a 4.49 ERA for Clinton in the A-level Midwest League a year ago, got bumped from the starting rotation, and was set to repeat the same level as a reliever in 2016. But Peterson was shut down due to an injury after just three appearances.
Logan Ratledge, 13th round, 2015
Rat has been better after a truly abysmal pro debut (.560 OPS in 2015), but he's been moved from the middle infield to 3B/LF, where his still struggling bat (.624 OPS in 2016) simply doesn't play. It doesn't help his prospects as a prospect that he's about a year and a half older than the competition in the SALLY league. At least he's had some fun as the designated shit we're out of pitchers position guy for West Virginia. He's made four emergency relief appearances and actually won a game. He's 1-0 with a 9.00 ERA in four innings.
Brad Stone, 24th round, 2015
Stone couldn't manage consistent time on the bump for NC State, but the Boston Red Sox must've seen something they liked. It's most likely "seen" strictly in the past tense now. Stone has followed up a 6.89 ERA debut season with a 5.70 ERA in 2016. He's walked 53 batters, hit nine, and uncorked 17 wild pitches in 39.1 professional innings. Showing the questionable worth of the W-L record as a stat to judge pitchers, somehow he's 4-3 in his career despite that alarming inability to throw strikes. It would be surprising to find him on a roster in 2017.
Andrew Woeck, 31st round, 2014
Woeck, a two-time recipient of TJS, was released after one season with the Tampa Bay organization during which he posted a 4.35 ERA over 16 appearances, almost entirely at the rookie level of the minors. He's now trying to earn his way back to organized ball with Washington of the independent Frontier League, where he's gone 2-1 with a 3.89 ERA in 28 games. His excellent 1.038 WHIP suggests he could earn another shot, though he's already 24 and has pitched all of one game above rookie ball.
Guy Who Now Pitches In Korea
Eric Surkamp, 6th round, 2008
Due to a slew of injuries, Eric Surkamp actually broke camp as a rotation starter with the Oakland Athletics this year. It did not go well. Surkamp went 0-5 with a 6.98 ERA in nine starts, earning him his release. The Rangers picked him up only to release him before he ever appeared at any level in their organization so that Surkamp could sign with the Hanwha Eagles of the KBO. It ain't going well there either. Surkamp is 0-3 with a 7.12 ERA through six starts. It's been quite the forgettable year for the crafty lefty.
Surkamp has made at least one MLB appearance in four straight seasons since coming back from TJS, but he's been hit hard each time. It's hard to write off a guy with a career mark of 52-23 and a 3.15 ERA in the minor leagues, but it seems likely that the former Giant, Pale Hose, Dodger, and A is likely done at baseball's highest level. He's just never been quite the same since he blew out his elbow.