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NC State 2022 MLB Draft Primer

20 members of the 2022 Wolfpack team are draft eligible

COLLEGE BASEBALL: MAY 24 ACC Championship - NC State v Wake Forest Photo by David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2022 MLB Draft is just under a month away as this year’s 20-round event will run from July 17-19. At least one NC State player has been drafted in the top three rounds in four of the last five drafts, but this year likely will not be one to add to that tally. That doesn’t mean there won’t be multiple NC State players hearing their names called come July. State will surely extend the current 21-year run of having at least one player drafted (they’ve actually had at least two in each of those years).

The Wolfpack have 20 draft eligible players from the 2022 squad. They are:

  • Logan Adams* (rJR) - RHP - 2-1, 2 SV, 7.90 ERA, 27.1 IP, 30 H, 16 BB, 24 K, 6 HBP, .280 OBA
  • Devonte Brown (SR) - CF - .304/.433/.570, 12 2B, 2 3B, 15 HR, 68 R, 44 RBI, 50 BB, 67 K, 5 HBP, 6-7 SB
  • DeAngelo Giles (SO) - INF - .273/.273/.909, 1 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 3 R, 6 RBI, 0 BB, 6 K, 0 HBP, 0-0 SB
  • Jacob Godman* (JR) - C - .250/.429/.278, 1 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 13 R, 1 RBI, 9 BB, 10 K, 3 HBP, 2-2 SB
  • David Harrison (SR) - LHP - 2-2, 0 SV, 8.71 ERA, 20.2 IP, 27 H, 10 BB, 15 K, 1 HBP, .321 OBA
  • Sam Highfill (SO) - RHP - 1-1, 0 SV, 5.53 ERA, 27.2 IP, 29 H, 10 BB, 29 K, 2 HBP, .271 OBA
  • Josh Hood (rJR) - SS/3B - .268/.350/.498, 14 2B, 0 3B, 13 HR, 42 R, 52 RBI, 31 BB, 57 K, 3 HBP, 4-5 SB
  • J.T. Jarrett (SR) - 2B - .258/.359/.416, 12 2B, 0 3B, 6 HR, 30 R, 39 RBI, 28 BB, 60 K, 4 HBP, 1-1 SB
  • Brady Lavoie* (rJR) - OF - .222/.300/.556, 0 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K, 0 HBP, 0-0 SB
  • Justin Lawson (SO) - RHP - 5-3, 0 SV, 3.82 ERA, 37.2 IP, 37 H, 18 BB, 41 K, 2 HBP, .253 OBA
  • John Miralia (SO) - RHP - 0-0, 0 SV, 7.50 ERA, 6.0 IP, 7 H, 3 BB, 8 K, 0 HBP, .318 OBA
  • Baker Nelson (JR) - RHP - 3-1, 1 SV, 8.37 ERA, 23.1 IP, 31 H, 13 BB, 32 K, 4 HBP, .316 OBA
  • Matt Oldham (SR) - C - .250/.308/.333, 1 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HBP, 0-0 SB
  • Dominic Pilolli (SO) - OF - .261/.382/.494, 9 2B, 3 3B, 9 HR, 34 R, 33 RBI, 32 BB, 62 K, 5 HBP, 4-5 SB
  • Canaan Silver (SR) - LHP - 8-1, 1 SV, 3.21 ERA, 70.0 IP, 69 H, 15 BB, 65 K, 8 HBP, .248 OBA
  • Noah Soles (SO) - OF - .321/.396/.458, 11 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 37 R, 28 RBI, 20 BB, 25 K, 2 HBP, 6-7 SB
  • Andrew Tillery (JR) - RHP - 0-0, 0 SV, 27.00 ERA, 0.1 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 HBP, .500 OBA
  • Chris Villaman (SO) - LHP - 3-3, 11 SV, 3.40 ERA, 55.2 IP, 44 H, 14 BB, 85 K, 2 HBP, .210 OBA
  • Logan Whitaker (rSO) - RHP - 2-4, 0 SV, 4.73 ERA, 66.2 IP, 62 H, 32 BB, 62 K, 7 HBP, .240 OBA
  • Matt Willadsen (SO) - RHP - 5-4, 0 SV, 4.19 ERA, 88.0 IP, 81 H, 45 BB, 95 K, 9 HBP, .241 OBA

(* denotes player is currently in the transfer portal)

As noted above, Lavoie, Adams, and Godman are all in the transfer portal and are unlikely to return to the Pack next year regardless of whether or not they get drafted - although none are projected to be draft selections this year. With the exception of Miralia, all the sophomores listed above are three years removed from high school and are thus eligible for the draft. Miralia is a second-year player, but over 21 years old and is thus also eligible to be drafted.

From the above list of 20 players, here are the group that I project to be drafted, as well as where I project them to be drafted.

[Quick aside: projecting MLB Draft picks is an even more futile effort than projecting NFL Draft picks. There are 20 rounds and you never know how teams will value certain players. Case in point, I would have put serious money down last year that Devonte Brown would have been selected, and yet he went undrafted.]

  • Villaman - projected: 4th round
  • Hood - projected: 7th round
  • Brown - projected: 10th round
  • Highfill - projected: 11th round
  • Soles - projected: 17th round
  • Willadsen - projected: 18th round

Villaman was State’s best pitcher this year, filling in the stopper/closer role vacated by Evan Justice, a fellow LHP who was a 2021 5th round MLB Draft selection. After playing with the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team last year (along with Sam Highfill) and putting up some silly numbers this year, Villaman will be on every team’s draft radar. Villaman’s velocity dropped this year, although that appeared to be due to going from a lower-spin, higher-velo cut fastball to a higher-spin, lower-velo fastball with more life up in the zone. It became an out pitch for Villaman, but also explains why he got hit harder in a few outings when he likely wasn’t getting the desired spin rates to get that movement. He will likely be given a look as a starter first in the pros, with a floor of a quality relief option. This likely won’t allow him to fall past the fifth round.

Hood was a 20th round pick of the Red Sox last year despite not playing a single inning of college baseball. That alone speaks to how he’s viewed among the scouting community. He was a Freshman All-American at Penn before heading to Raleigh. He has a cannon for an arm and will likely slot in as a third baseman at the pro level, although he has the athleticism to also play shortstop and corner outfield. Of course, he could also play second base at the next level, but that’s like using a 50-cal to punch a hole in a a sheet of paper.

Brown inexplicably went undrafted in 2021 despite putting up impressive numbers over the back half of the year; his 2021 first half numbers were dampened by poor batted-ball luck. Brown’s surge during the back half of 2021 was a huge part of the Wolfpack’s run to the College World Series (and what should have been a national title). He spurned undrafted free agent offers to return to State and lead the 2022 Pack. There’s still a lot of swing-and-miss in his game, but Brown has a great blend of on-base skills, power, and athleticism that should get him drafted this time around where he should quickly shoot up through the lower minor league levels.

Highfill was another great 2021 storyline as he turned in a true ace-level performance for State’s CWS squad. After pitching with Villaman on the USA Baseball CNT, there were a lot of high expectations placed on the righty. Unfortunately, injuries derailed the season for him after just six starts and his numbers suffered as you could tell he was battling through pain to try and help the team win. He’ll still be on a lot of teams’ radars for this draft, but his stock will have been hurt. As a third-year sophomore, he could significantly improve his stock by returning for another year in Raleigh while also maintaining his negotiating leverage in 2023. Then again, if a team likes his medicals they could throw some serious money at him anyways.

If you’ve followed any of our baseball threads as this past season has progressed, you’ll know that I’ve often referred to Soles as a breakout candidate for 2023. That’s kind of a dumb statement when you look at his numbers from 2022, though. He was a 19th round pick (Diamondbacks) out of high school in 2019 and was a small sample size stud in the abbreviated 2020 season. Soles struggled in limited playing time in 2021 (it was hard to break into the lineup with that group), but finally got his shot this year and put up an impressive line. The defense in right field left a lot to be desired and there are going to be serious questions around his arm strength, but Soles has the potential to bust out in a big way in 2023 and I’m already saying he’ll easily hit double-digit homers if he’s back in Raleigh. You can bet MLB scouts are seeing the same thing. The question is whether a club will like him enough to pull the trigger as a late rounder - and if they do, can they throw enough money at Soles to get him to sign rather than returning to State with another season of negotiating leverage and an opportunity to increase his stock for 2023?

Control is the biggest issue for Willadsen. His stuff has flashed tremendously at times and he’s a workhorse on the mound. For his own sake given his usage with the Wolfpack, he should go pro, but he could also increase his stock greatly with another solid year in Raleigh. If a team believes the control issues are correctable (I do), then you could see him be a top ten round pick. Willadsen and Highfill are the two toughest to project a draft round.

You can never fully guess how MLB organizations and their respective scouts will view prospects and sometimes there are surprise selections. There are three candidates in that regard.

Lawson is a former junior college transfer who bolstered the bullpen this year. He pitched sparingly to start the season (6 appearances over the first two months), but became a staple of the Pack relief corps down the stretch (13 appearances over the last two months). There are some holes in Lawson’s game right now (control, quality third pitch), but he also flashed some promise that might intrigue scouts.

Pilolli is a transfer from Charlotte who battled through knee surgery recovery this year to produce for the Pack. His profile coming to Raleigh was that of a very good athlete with great wheels, but his knee injury clearly zapped him of that in 2022. The raw power was evident as was the ability to work walks, but the strikeouts and pull-only approach will be limiting factors. He’s a 2023 breakout candidate.

Whitaker’s story of battling back from multiple arm injuries to finally take the mound in his fourth year on campus is inspiring. He performed above expectations for the Pack this year and the team would have been in serious trouble had he not stepped up. Whitaker still has two years of eligibility so his best move is returning to campus, but he did flash the workings of what made him a big signing for State coming out of high school.

I’m also going to list Silver here. I don’t think he gets drafted, but dude was a workhorse for State this year and deserves some recognition for his efforts. Like Whitaker, he stepped up huge for State when they needed reliable arms.

Of course, currently rostered players aren’t the only ones that we need to worry about with respect to the MLB Draft. Incoming freshman and junior college transfers are also eligible and should thus be accounted for here. Junior college transfers are harder to track, but among the incoming freshman there are a few names to watch:

  • Robert Evans - LHP
  • Michael Gupton - OF
  • Cannon Peebles - C
  • Eli Serrano - OF
  • Graham Smiley - C
  • Derrick Smith - RHP
  • Bryant Zayas - INF

Depending on who you’re listening to, either Serrano or Gupton are considered the top prospect. Serrano’s bat is rated higher and he’s an advanced hitter for his age. He has an athletic frame that projects incredibly well for adding good weight without sacrificing athleticism. The only defensive limitations are because he’s a lefty. He can play first base or corner outfield well. His bat, though, will make him a Day One starter for the Wolfpack.

Gupton is an electric player and if he can make it to State, the moment he steps foot on campus he’ll be the fastest player to ever suit up on the diamond for the Pack. Yes, I know Trea Turner played here. That’s how fast this kid is. His speed overshadows his other abilities, but he’s an instant starter in center field to take the mantle from Devonte Brown. Think an even faster version of Enrique Bradfield with more power potential.

Evans is a well-built lefty with a low-effort three-quarter motion and a fastball that sits in the low 90’s. He has a nice changeup, too, that has a completely different path than the fastball from a similar arm angle and arm speed.

Peebles is a stocky switch-hitter, although he has a bit more athleticism than his build would show. The dude has a top level arm with room to improve his release that could make him almost impossible to run on. The defense will translate even if the bat doesn’t immediately take off, but he has great tools to work with.

Smiley is a right-handed hitter with an incredible hit tool, but his defense behind the plate needs some work. From the last I saw of him (which, admittedly, has been a while) he has an average arm and his mechanics behind the dish need some cleaning up. He should be able to hit regardless and may well be a third base guy long-term.

Smith is the top ranked prep pitcher in Minnesota and features a low-to-mid 90’s fastball with excellent arm side run. His off-speed offerings will need a bit of work, but have great foundations to work with.

Zayas would be the speedster of the class if not for Gupton. He’s a middle infielder with the tools to stick there, but also the athleticism to play anywhere in the outfield and the arm strength and hands to also cut it as a third baseman. The glove is ahead of the bat right now but the bat projects well.