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Pack in the Pros: July Baseball Edition

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Over former 30 Wolfpack players are playing some level of professional baseball in 2018

GoPack.com

Now that the MLB season is past its halfway point, the MiLB seasons are (for the most part) past theirs, and the 2018 MLB Draft is complete with all the drafted NC State players signed and underway in their professional careers, now is a good time to take a look at former Wolfpack baseball players in the professional ranks in 2018.

There are 31 former Wolfpack baseball players playing some level of professional baseball in 2018, with one more on the road to making his professional debut this year. Let’s have a look (date of when they last played for NC State in parenthesis, current professional level to the right of that):

Major League Baseball

Cory Mazzoni (2011): AAA

For the third time in the last four years, Mazzoni has found himself pitching in the Majors. Unlike the two previous seasons (2015 and 2017 with the Padres), Mazzoni found himself some success with the Cubs this year. Unfortunately, that successful showing didn’t help him in maintaining a spot on the Cubs active roster and he was sent back to AAA (for the second time this year) in late June. Mazzoni is still, however, on the Cubs 40-man roster, so he should find himself back in the majors at the latest in September when MLB rosters expand.

Carlos Rodon (2014): MLB

Rodon had a delayed start to his 2018 season, coming back from arthroscopic surgery on his throwing shoulder last September. After a few dominating rehab starts in the minors (well, when he wasn’t getting dome doinked and picking up assists on putouts in the process), Rodon made his 2018 MLB debut in early June. Since his return, he’s been decent in his five starts (aside from his propensity to groove pitches and give up the gopher ball - six so far this year and 18 in 17 starts over the last two years - and it’s his sinker pitch that’s been getting rocked, the same as has been his entire MLB career), but not great. The peripherals are there (velo, movement) to suggest that the shoulder injury won’t affect him long term and that he’ll round into the fine, dominating Carlos Rodon form that we all know and love.

Trea Turner (2014): MLB

Turner is having himself a fine season; nothing like the heater he went on in that injury-shortened 2016 season, but nothing to scoff at either. Turner is slashing .270/.352/.405 and is on-pace to set career highs in almost every single offensive category. It helps to stay on the field to do those sorts of things. Speaking of the field, Turner is getting it done out there, too. He ranks 11th in all of MLB in Defense (that is, the metric measuring his defensive value relative to positional average (fielding runs) and positional value relative to other positions (positional adjustment)). He’s also 24th in the league in WAR (2.8 so far). He might not be an all-star this year (which is actually absurd - he absolutely should be), but Turner’s going to have plenty of those in his trophy case when his career is done.

Minor League Baseball

Brett Austin (2014): AAA (DL)

Austin has been in Charlotte playing for the White Sox AAA affiliate all this year, although injuries have all but ruined his season. He was placed on the DL on June 21 and prior to that had managed to appear in just five games due to injury. The injury comes with poor timing, too, with the White Sox MLB club being strapped for catchers and plenty of playing time on the table for Austin at the highest level of the minors.

Cody Beckman (2017): A

Beckman struggled out of the gate in A+ ball with the Carolina Mudcats (Milwaukee Brewers) , so he found a quick demotion to A. He’s been much better there (3.71 ERA, .214 OBA, 1.28 WHIP over 26.2 IP in 17 appearances) and should see a promotion back up to the Mudcats before the end of the season.

Brian Brown (2018): A-

Brown has started each of his two appearances thus far for the Lowell Spinners (Red Sox), although both have been relatively abbreviated outings (60 pitches max). He has allowed 7 runs in 6.2 innings, but thankfully (and oddly) 6 of those runs have been unearned, so Brown is sporting a nice little 1.35 ERA right now.

Jake Buchanan (2010): AAA

Buchanan is pitching in Reno, the AAA affiliate for the Diamondbacks, and probably on his last legs as a professional baseball players. Buchanan made appearances in The Show in parts of four seasons with the Astros (2014-2015), Cubs (2016) and Reds (2017), but as a 28-year-old with a 5.79 ERA, .319 OBA, and 1.60 WHIP over 88.2 IP, he’s probably seen his last appearance in the big leagues. Although I’m probably being too hard on him, his last four starts are really what’s destroying his numbers.

Jack Conley (2018): Rookie

Conley, to most, was a surprise selection in this year’s MLB Draft. As a junior back-up catcher, he wasn’t necessarily expected to be drafted, but the Phillies saw some potential in Conley and threw a bit of money at him with their 27th round pick. Unfortunately for Conley, he is one of three catchers on the Phillies’ Gulf Coast League East team and the two guys ahead of him are both younger and currently destroying the baseball. Conley, to his credit, is hitting well (slashing .333/.455/.333), but has only 11 PA in 5 G (the two guys ahead of him are slashing .500/.545/.900 in 22 PAs and .444/.474/.611 in 19 PAs). Conley has the defensive ability, though, to where he can stick in the minors for as long as he’d like.

Andy Cosgrove (2017): Rookie

Cosgrove, the guy who wrangled the starting catcher job away from Conley and parlayed that into 17th round selection in the 2017 MLB Draft, begins his second professional season back in the Appalachian Rookie League for the Twins. He’s tearing it up out of the gate, though, slashing .385/.467/.692 through the first four games. He shouldn’t be in Rookie ball long.

Brock Deatherage (2018): A

Speaking of not being in Rookie ball long, holy hell did Brock Deatherage make a profound statement in his first professional baseball experience. Deatherage (I’m very upset, by the way, that I didn’t know until just now that his full name is Andrew Brockington Deatherage) went 5-for-9 with 4 HR, 6 R, and 7 RBI in 2 G in Rookie ball before the Tigers realized he should probably be moved up. Now in A ball, he’s slashing .290/.389/.581 with 2 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 4 BB, and 5 SB in 9 G. \m/

Tommy DeJuneas (2017): A

DeJuneas is really starting to harness his true potential this year. I’ll readily admit that I doubted his pro potential, but ol’ Tommy De J is proving me wrong, and I could not be happier about that. He’s appeared in 20 games this season with an overall line of 29.1 IP, 27 H, 17 R, 11 ER, 8 BB (!!!), 39 K. He’s sporting a 3.38 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP while opponents have a .248 OBA against him.

Chris Diaz (2012): AA

Diaz, whose older brother Jonathan appears to have hung it up after last year and a few cups of coffee in the bigs over three separate years, is liking also reaching what is the end of his professional playing career. Diaz the younger is slashing just .185/.322/.194 for the awesomely named Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Marlins) of the Southern League (AA). He also played 11 games earlier in the year in AAA, but didn’t fare much better and was sent back down.

Joe Dunand (2017): AA

Dunand is currently teammates with Diaz on the Jumbo Shrimp (I can’t help but laugh at that name), which is pretty awesome to see an all-NC State middle infield in the professional ranks. Dunand received the promotion to AA in late June after starting the year in A+ ball and slashing .263/.326/.391 with 7 HR, 39 R, and 42 RBI in 66 G. His 20:54 BB-to-K ratio in A+ ball raises some concerns, but walks have never been a part of Dunand’s game as he’s a mid-lineup power hitter. The fact that Dunand has stuck at SS and not been moved to 3B yet is a very nice development for him and can only help his cause for pushing for a spot on the Marlins MLB roster in the future.

Will Gilbert (2016): A+

Gilbert is pitching pretty well this year in A+ ball with a 2.97 ERA, .233 OBA, and 1.26 WHIP in 33.1 IP over 22 G. I’m not really sure what to make of the rubber-armed slender LHP’s pro potential moving forward. He’s a groundball-inducing machine, which clubs value. If he can keep the walks down, he should continue to get chances to move up the org chart.

Brett Kinneman (2018): A-

Kinneman is playing the same league as his former NC State teammate and 2018 MLB Draft classmate Brian Brown, but sadly, the two have not had the opportunity to face off against each other. Kinneman hasn’t had the biggest jump out of the gates in pro ball, slashing just .243 .404 .270, but he at least as an even BB:K ratio (10:10) over his 12 games.

Andrew Knizner (2016): AA

Knizner has had himself a great 2018 so far and has seen his future prospects skyrocket in the process, being ranked as a Top 10 prospect in the Cardinals organization. Across both AA and AAA this year (he spent 14 games in AAA while moving up to back-fill for injured players), Knizner has slashed .324/.388/.441 with 15 2B, 3 HR, 26 R, and 29 RBI. He now finds himself firmly in the discussion of who it will be to take over the crown as the Cardinals catcher-of-the-future for whenever it is that Yadier Molina hangs up his cleats.

Xavier LeGrant (2016): A-

LeGrant is reunited with his former NC State teammate Brian Brown in Lowell this year. LeGrant, if you’ll recall, played sparingly as a freshman at NC State in 2016 before going to a JUCO as a sophomore and then getting drafted. He’s currently slashing .244/.279/.390 in 11 G.

Scott Manea (2015): A

Manea, like LeGrant, only played in a handful of games as a freshman at NC State before transferring, but he still suited up for the Pack so we’re including him here. He’s currently slashing .254/.386/.409 with 10 2B, 6 HR, 30 R, and 25 RBI in 54 G for Tim Tebow’s former outfit, the Columbia Fireflies (Mets).

Josh McLain (2018): A

McLain, like his former NC State teammate and 2018 Draft classmate Deatherage, spent only two games in Rookie ball before being promoted to A ball. Unlike Deatherage, McLain didn’t hit the spit out of the ball, but he did show enough to prove that he deserved more of a challenge than Rookie ball was presenting. Currently playing for the Great Lakes Loons (Dodgers), McLain is slashing .316/.350/.500 with 5 2B, 1 3B, 5 R, 6 RBI, and 4 SB over 9 G. That’ll get it done.

Evan Mendoza (2017):

Mendoza is teammates in Springfield (Cardinals) with his former NC State teammate Andrew Knizner (again, this is pretty cool). Mendoza has been a fast riser through the Cardinals system, going from A- to AA in just over one year, and - like Knizner - will likely start to find himself on Top Prospect lists for the Cardinals organization. So far this year across both A+ and AA, Mendoza is slashing .306/.360/.405 with 13 2B, 5 HR, 33 R, and 23 RBI in 78 G.

Tim Naughton (2017): A

This season alone, Naughton has pitched almost as many innings (14.0) as he did during his entire career at NC State (15.0). Naughton is one of those players who probably deserved more playing time than he got at State, but never capitalized on the opportunities to earn more innings. Someone in the Baltimore organization saw something, though, in that limited workload in a State uniform, drafted him late (34th round), and got him to sign. That appears to be paying off. Naughton is currently 1-2 with 3 SV and a 3.21 ERA. He’s really just had two bad outings that are ruining his overall numbers. The potential is there with some work.

Jon Olczak (2015): AA

Olczak started the trend of former Wolfpack players going two-games-and-up to start the year (which Deatherage and McLain followed on), as he began the year with the Carolina Mudcats (A+) earning saves in his first two outings and then receiving a well-deserved promotion to AA. With what Olczak has done with the Biloxi Shuckers (Brewers), one has to wonder how much longer until he gets moved up to AAA. His AA numbers this year: 4-2, 1.10 ERA, .167 OBA, 0.80 WHIP, 32.2 IP, 19 H, 8 R, 4 ER, 7 BB, 37 K. Yeah, I hope you have those bags packed, Jon (in the good way).

Preston Palmeiro (2016): A+

The Orioles decided in the fall that a 5’11, 180 lbs, right-handed first baseman may not be the best way to go, so they decided to give Palmeiro a look at second base to see how he’d take to it. Well, he doesn’t have the best range you’re going to see at the position, but he’s posted a .970 FLD% and has turned 31 DP in 66 G while being named to the A+ All-Star Game. Palmeiro can still swing the lumber, as you’d expect. On the season, he’s slashing .265/.324/.430 with 13 2B, 2 3B, 11 HR, 42 R, and 42 RBI.

Logan Ratledge (2015): AA

Ratledge is a reserve infielder for the Altoona Curve (Pirates), although he also has a save on the mound, so maybe if the hitting and fielding thing doesn’t work out, he can move to the bullpen...? Ratledge has just 36 AB in 16 G. At age 25, he’ll need to work his way into the lineup as the year progresses and on into the start of next year if he hopes to stick around after that.

Ryan Williamson (2016): Rookie

Williamson, I’m sure, will forever be a fan favorite of NC State baseball after his performance for the Wolfpack in 2016. Unfortunately, he’s had a long, tough road back to the mound from the end of his State tenure. Tommy John Surgery and whole host of other complications have kept Williamson from ever throwing a professional pitch. However, there does appear to be light at the end of the tunnel. The Nationals assigned Williamson to their Gulf Coast League team on June 21 and he’s currently on the 7-day Disabled List. We may well have ourselves a Ryan Williamson mound sighting in 2018!

Independent Leagues

Sean Adler (2017)

Adler is pitching for the Evansville Otters of the Frontier League. I’m actually surprised the Nationals released Adler prior to this season since he showed very well in their Rookie league last year. His numbers in the Frontier League suggest that he’ll get another shot with an MLB Organization, but his age (24) will start working against him pretty soon given his only MiLB experience was Rookie ball. Thankfully for him, he’s a lefty, and teams are always in need of LHPs.

Danny Canela (2012)

After spending 2016 and 2017 out of professional baseball, Canela resurfaced this year in the Canadian-American Association Independent League. He’s not hitting too bad (.322/.366/.471 with 4 HR in 32 G), but at this point he’s just playing for the love of the game.

Joel McKeithan (2015)

The former Vanderbilt transfer, McKeithan is keeping the dream alive in the Frontier League, playing for both Gateway (pretty sure not the computer company... wait... are they still around?) and Lake Erie.

Chance Shepard (2016)

After being cut just before the start of the year by the Nationals organization, Shepard has played this year with Southern Illinois of the Frontier League. While Shepard is slugging .563 with 13 HR in 41 G, strikeouts are still a huge issue for him with 49. I’m hoping he gets another shot with an MLB team, but unless he cuts down on the Ks and ups that OBP (.337), he might be a career Indy League guy.

Ryne Willard (2016)

Willard is playing with Wichita of the American Association Independent League. Similar to Canela and McKeithan, Willard’s not getting a go at it with an MLB organization; he’s just out there doing what he loves while he still can.

Andrew Woeck (2014)

Woeck spent 2015 in the Rays organization, making stops at three different levels, but was released before the start of the 2016 season. It’s a rough go of it in pro baseball as a RHP with no real special offerings; if Woeck were a lefty, he’d still be in an MLB organization somewhere. Alas, he’s spent the last three years pitching in the independent leagues (2016 in the Frontier League, 2017 and 2018 in the American Association) and has really been very impressive. This year he has a 1.80 ERA of 20.0 IP with 27 K. I’d love to see him get another shot with an MLB org, but who knows if that will happen.

Gianni Zayas (2013)

Zayas, for those that don’t remember him (and to be honest, I almost didn’t), had an incredibly brief tenure in the red & white - that is all of two games back in 2013 - before he transferred out of the program to JUCO ball and finished up his college career at Florida International. Zayas, twice drafted (Cubs, 2014; Mariners, 2015) spent 2015 in the Mariners organization before resurfacing in the Canadian-American Association in 2017. He’s spent the last two years as a starting pitcher for the Sussex County Miners in his home state of New Jersey.