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A look at the 2018 NC State Baseball Roster

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Did Johnny Piedmonte get a sixth year of eligibility?

MLB: Cleveland Indians-Workouts Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The fall roster for the NC State Baseball team is officially up on the school’s athletic website. NCAA rules restrict baseball rosters to 35 man limits for the spring, but teams are allowed to have more than that number of participants for fall drills. As such, there are currently 40 players listed on the NC State Baseball roster for the 2018 season. This gives us our first look at what the official team may look like in the spring.

Before we jump into the fresh new faces and positional breakdowns, there’s one item that just sort of jumps out at you...

Enhance...

Enhance...

Enhance...

Well, alright then!!! I couldn’t find anything stating that Johnny Piedmonte has been officially granted a 6th year of eligibility by the NCAA, but if this is really the case, then one big (no pun intended there, Hugey McTallguy) question mark has been answered for the Pack Nine.

Piedmonte was a stud last year as a Senior, going 7-0 with a 2.77 ERA over 15 appearances, including nine starts, after being inexplicably lightly used for the first half of the season. He was, without a doubt, the best starting pitcher the team had last year. Piedmonte redshirted his first year on campus in 2013 after developing tendonitis in his pitching elbow (he had Tommy John surgery on the elbow his senior year in high school), and then missed all of 2014 following surgery for a back injury sustained in an automobile accident. He certainly has a strong case for a 6th year waiver. Piedmonte did participate in Senior Day activities in the spring with the rest of the graduating class (Suggs, Adler, Wilder).

Onward to looking at the roster on hand of guys not named Johnny, there were two transfers during the offseason. EP Reese, a highly touted freshman on last year’s team, transferred to Liberty University after not seeing the field at all this past spring. Christian Demby, a RHP who also saw some time at 1B and DH, transferred to Nova Southeastern University in his home state of Florida. Rising senior RHP Evan Brabrand is also noticeably absent from the fall roster, but he doesn’t appear to have transferred.

The 40 man fall roster consists of 25 returning players and 15 newcomers. Fresh faces in fall camp include 11 previously known signees:

  • Patrick Bailey (FR - C)
  • Hunter Baker (FR - OF)
  • Cameron Cotter (FR - RHP)
  • David Harrison (FR - LHP)
  • Cole Hooper (FR - LHP)
  • Reid Johnston (FR - 3B)
  • Evan Justice (FR - LHP)
  • Josh Pike (FR - RHP)
  • Nick Swiney (FR - LHP)
  • Terrell Tatum (FR - OF)
  • David Vazquez (FR - INF)

Bailey and Vasquez were both selected in the 2017 MLB Draft, but chose to attend college instead of turning pro (thanks, guys!). Overall this is a very talented group.

The group of newcomers also includes some guys not previously known (at least guys I did not previously know of and were not covered in any of my earlier reviews):

  • Devonte Brown (FR - INF)
  • JT Jarrett (FR - INF)
  • Evan Edwards (JR - 1B) (Transfer from USC-Lancaster)
  • Josh Jiminez (JR - LHP) (Transfer from Lake Sumter State CC)

A few notes on these guys:

Brown is from East Coweta HS in Georgia. He was the 33rd ranked player in the state of Georgia by Perfect Game and the 62nd ranked high school SS in the 2017 class.

Jarrett is from Northern Guilford HS, the same school as fellow freshman Pike and Cotter. No wonder that Northern Guilford team took home the state 3-A championship in the spring (they also had another senior pitcher who signed with UNC-Charlotte). Jarrett was the MVP of the championship series, for those wondering. He hit .398 for the year. He was unranked/unrated by Perfect Game.

Edwards is a highly productive power-hitting JUCO 1B originally from Southern Guilford HS. In 57 games this spring, he hit .342 with 17 HR, 57 RBI, 63 R, and 12 SB. As a freshman at USC-L in 2016, he hit .339 with 12 HR, 69 RBI, 53 R, and 3 SB in 59 games. He should fill a huge position of need for State as the team was unable to replace Preston Palmeiro’s offensive productivity last year at first base.

Jiminez is a lefty JUCO reliever who was 2-0 with a 2.79 ERA last year over 11 games (1 start). He struck out 27 in 19.1 innings pitched.

It will be interesting to see how the team shapes up and where the five roster cuts are made to get the team down to the 35 man limit. Let’s look at position groupings:

Catcher

  • Patrick Bailey - FR
  • Jack Conley - JR
  • Brad Debo - SO
  • Brady Gulakowski - RS-FR

Debo was one of the biggest offensive weapons for the 2017 team. He has strengths and weaknesses defensively, but his offense is his calling card. Conley was the starting catcher when the season started, but a lack of offensive productivity and the emergence of Andy Cosgrove pushed him out of the lineup. He got a little playing time at 1B late in the year, but his bat never came around. Conley is a great defensive catcher who has gap power on the offensive end. Bailey is a highly regarded catcher coming out of the high school ranks. He could push for playing time immediately, especially since neither Debo or Conley made much of a claim for the position last year.

First Base

  • Evan Edwards - JR
  • Stephen Pitarra - SR
  • Steven Oakley - RS-SO
  • Shane Shepard - SR

Shepard got first crack at the 1B job last year, but his one tool (power) couldn’t make up for the lack of defensive proficiency and the incredibly high strikeout rate. He’s a serviceable first baseman, but will probably be a pinch hitter on the 2018 team. After an early season trip through the offensive Sahara and Will Wilson taking the second base job and running with it, Pitarra made the move to first base and was absolutely phenomenal there. His bat finally showed up and the dude is just an OBP machine. He’s a known defensive playmaker and he looked natural (or at least as natural as a laughably-listed 5’10 guy can look) at the position. I would imagine that Pitarra moves back to 2B this year with Dunand vacating SS and the arrival of... Edwards, as mentioned above, should step in and take the 1B job immediately as long as he can man the position defensively. He can mash and should be a middle-of-the-order hitter from the get-go.

Second Base/Shortstop

  • Devonte Brown - FR
  • Dillon Cooper - RS-SO
  • JT Jarrett - FR
  • Stephen Pitarra - SR
  • David Vasquez - FR
  • Will Wilson - SO

Wilson, like Debo, was one of the offensive stalwarts for the 2017 team. Without his presence and production in the lineup, that team doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament. He’s no slouch defensively, either. Wilson should move from 2B to SS this season, but I’m grouping these two positions together because that’s not set in stone just yet. Pitarra could (and probably should) move back to his natural position of 2B. Vasquez is a highly talented freshman who could push for playing time in the middle infield immediately.

Third Base

  • Reid Johnston - FR
  • Steven Oakley - RS-SO

With Evan Mendoza off getting paid to play now, this is probably Johnston’s job to lose. He’s very talented both offensively and defensively. Oakley could push for the job, or if someone like Vasquez absolutely destroys it in the fall and early spring, someone else could be here. Ah, screw it. Pitarra will start at 3B and we all know it.

Outfield

  • Hunter Baker - FR
  • Brock Deatherage \m/ - SR
  • Brett Kinneman - JR
  • Lawson McArthur - SO
  • Josh McLain - SR
  • Steven Oakley - RS-SO
  • Terrell Tatum - FR

Well, this position group is pretty easy to figure out since the Pack has the luxury of running out the same outfield group for the third year in a row. Kinneman (LF), McLain (CF), and Deatherage \m/ (RF) make a pretty formidable group. Kinneman is a great hitter, but does leave something to be desired from a defensive standpoint (he has improved, though!). McLain was arguably the offensive MVP for State last year, and he’s a speedy outfielder who can cover a lot of ground. Deatherage \m/ had an incredibly down year last year after a phenomenal sophomore year. If he can return to his sophomore form, this outfield group will probably be the best in the conference... not to mention Deatherage \m/ would see his draft stock fly up; the dude has the raw tools of a top five round pick. We should also get some glimpses at the future Wolfpack OF with Baker, McArthur, and Tatum backing up.

Weekend Starting Pitching

  • Brian Brown (LHP) - SR
  • Johnny Piedmonte (RHP) - SR
  • Michael Beinlein (RHP) - SO

With Piedmonte potentially returning for a sixth year, that makes the weekend starting rotation pretty well set. Brown will be in his fourth year as a weekend rotation member, assuming he can stay healthy. Beinlein flashed great potential at times in his freshman year and should build on that for a great sophomore campaign.

Weekday Starting Pitching

  • Dalton Feeney (RHP) - SO
  • Mathieu Gauthier (RHP) - SO

Feeney and Gauthier are the only other returning members of the staff with starting experience under their belts, so they should get the first cracks at mid-week starts, unless the coaching staff feels they’re needed more for relief work on the weekends. Both guys are highly talented with the stuff to be weekend studs in the future. Any number of the other guys could and probably will see some weekday starts. There are a number of talented freshman pitchers who deserve a shot to show what they have to offer.

Relief Pitching

  • Connor Centala (LHP) - RS-FR
  • Nolan Clenney (RHP) - RS-JR
  • Cameron Cotter (RHP) - FR
  • Dalton Feeney (RHP) - SO
  • James Ferguson (LHP) - RS-FR
  • Mathieu Gauthier (RHP) - SO
  • David Harrison (LHP) - FR
  • Cole Hooper (LHP) - FR
  • Josh Jiminez (LHP) - JR
  • Evan Justice (LHP) - FR
  • Kent Klyman (LHP) - SO
  • Joe O’Donnell (RHP) - RS-SR
  • Josh Pike (RHP) - FR
  • Austin Staley (RHP) - RS-JR
  • Nick Swiney (LHP) - FR
  • Zach Usselman (RHP) - SR
  • James Vaughn (RHP) - RS-FR

O’Donnell and Staley return as the top two arms out of the bullpen and should again shoulder the large majority of high leverage situations. Coach Elliott Avent and staff brought in a number of lefty arms during the offseason to address what the coaching staff must have perceived to be a weakness. State will need at least two more reliable bullpen arms to reveal themselves before conference play arrives if they hope to avoid overuse of their top arms (O’Donnell and Staley).