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NC State 2023 MLB Draft Primer

20 members of the 2023 Wolfpack team are draft eligible

NC State v Duke Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images

The 2023 MLB Draft is quickly descending upon us, with the first round kicking off on Sunday night, July 9th, at 7:00pm, with the subsequent rounds taking place on Monday and Tuesday afternoon.

NC State will keep alive it’s streak of having at least one player drafted in every draft since going unrepresented in the 2000 draft, as Gino Groover is a surefire lock to hear his name called on Monday. Below is the full list of 2023 NC State players who are eligible for this year’s draft (2023 stats listed):

  • OF Trevor Candelaria (SR) - .295/.379/.540, 9.3 BB%, 16.3 K%, 4-7 SB
  • OF Parker Nolan (SR) - .288/.376/.555, 12.4 BB%, 24.1 K%, 3-3 SB
  • RHP Baker Nelson (rSR) - 5-2, 1 SV, 5.94 ERA, 50.0 IP, 7.2 BB%, 21.3 K%
  • RHP Logan Whitaker (rJR) - 5-3, 0 SV, 4.29 ERA, 79.2 IP, 5.0 BB%, 23.4 K%
  • RHP Creed Watkins (rJR) - 0-0, 0 SV, 9.00 ERA, 3.0 IP, 20.0 BB%, 25.0 K%
  • LHP Rio Britton (JR) - 3-2, 0 SV, 4.83 ERA, 31.2 IP, 12.4 BB%, 27.5 K%
  • OF Noah Soles (JR) - .305/.443/.466, 15.9 BB%, 10.6 K%, 0-2 SB
  • 3B Gino Groover (JR) - .332/.430/.546, 13.0 BB%, 9.4 K%, 2-2 SB
  • 2B/SS Kalae Harrison (JR) - .313/.436/.426, 15.0 BB%, 11.4 K%, 4-5 SB
  • RHP Garrett Payne (JR) - Did not play in 2023
  • OF Dominic Pilolli (JR) .211/.227/.421, 0.0 BB%, 36.4 K%, 0-0 SB
  • 2B/OF Carter Trice (JR) - .248/.348/.479, 10.4 BB%, 25.2 K%, 7-8 SB
  • RHP Sam Highfill (JR) - 6-4, 1 SV, 4.83 ERA, 54.0 IP, 9.0 BB%, 19.7 K%
  • RHP Matt Willadsen (JR) - 5-5, 0 SV, 3.78 ERA, 81.0 IP, 8.8 BB%, 24.5 K%
  • LHP Tristan Sipple (JR) - Did not play in 2023
  • RHP Justin Lawson (JR) - 5-0, 3 SV, 3.27 ERA, 52.1 IP, 7.3 BB%, 28.8 K%
  • LHP P.J. Labriola (JR) - 3-0, 0 SV, 5.23 ERA, 20.2 IP, 14.3 BB%, 16.3 K%
  • LHP John Miralia (JR) - 1-0, 0 SV, 2.16 ERA, 8.1 IP, 11.4 BB%, 37.1 K%
  • INF/OF Carson Falsken (rSO) - .000/.250/.000, 33.3 BB%, 0.0 K%, 0-0 SB
  • OF Chase Nixon (SO) - .319/.402/.514, 9.8 BB%, 17.1 K% 1-1 SB

As noted above, Groover is a lock to be drafted. D1 Baseball ranks him as the #42 collegiate prospect in this year’s draft, while ESPN’s Kiley McDaniels has him projected to the Rockies in the 2nd round as the 65th overall pick. He won’t have to wait long to hear his name called. Groover is a straight up professional hitter; an effortless swing with natural pop to all fields, coupled with a fantastic feel for the zone. His lack of an obvious defensive home is the only limiting factor to his draft stock. Groover showed a fine glove at third base this year, but his arm strength is still in question for the next level. If he were faster, a move to 2B or corner OF would be obvious, but right now his likely fallback defensive home is first base, and he's not a pure enough power hitter for teams to take the risk on the right-hander.

With Groover the only draft lock, here are the other Pack players from above, in no particular order, with a shot at hearing their names called: Candelaria, Whitaker, Britton, Soles, Harrison, Trice, Willadsen, Lawson, Nixon.

All of these I would list as at best a 50/50 shot at being drafted.

Candelaria had a fine season after transferring in from Davidson. He's a full effort player who is a joy to watch and root for. His age will work against him, but I'd take a flier on him if I were an MLB team.

Whitaker turned into arguably the best starting pitcher for State this year, but his injury history and age might keep teams away. On the other hand, he has two consecutive years of solid - and improving - results while being a healthy mainstay. He's obviously only getting better after years of injury-delayed development.

Britton didn't quite have the year most had hoped after transferring in from Oregon, but he came on down the stretch. Plus, he's a lefty arm, so that'll move him up boards by itself.

A draft pick of the Diamondbacks out of high school, Soles has been very productive the last two years, even with some nagging injuries sapping some speed and power. He's certainly still on teams radars, but the steep drop in foot speed is concerning and places him squarely in a corner OF profile, which means teams will have to forecast future power development with him.

Harrison was advertised as a glove-first (and maybe glove-only) middle infielder transferring in from Texas A&M, but he was clearly more than that as the bat was solid all year. Harrison is definitely a 2B at the next level, but the BB and K numbers were excellent as he showed a good eye and good contact skills. That may entice a team to choose him.

Trice was expected to play a huge role for State this year, but didn't fall into that role. From a rate based perspective, he was pretty much the same player he was at Old Dominion, but the power didn't translate which makes it harder to keep him in the lineup when the hits aren't dropping. Trice participated in the MLB Draft Combine last month and is having a great summer in the Cape Cod League. He's got some helium under him, as the lingo goes.

Willadsen has been a workhorse for three straight years now for State, but the question is whether or not the development has stunted. If that's on him or the coaching staff is another topic. I believe he'll get drafted and will do well with a different set of coaches working to get him to that next stage in his career.

Lawson's been generally great as a two-pitch, righty reliever for the past couple years. No idea how teams value him.

Nixon obviously has the bloodlines that teams always put way too much stock in, so that's working in his favor. He's put up very good numbers over his 109 PA in a Wolfpack uniform. The eye test says he needs more time in college to develop, and he still has another year of negotiating power as he just finished up his sophomore year.

In terms of incoming recruits and transfers, the following are ones to keep an eye on:

- RHP Landen Maroudis (Calvary Christian HS; Largo, FL)

- RHP Chance Mako (East Rowan HS; Salisbury, NC)

- C Alex Sosa (Viera HS; Viera, FL)

- RHP Brett Banks (UNCW)

- 1B/OF Garrett Pennington (Wichita State)

- RHP Hollis Fanning (Tennessee)

Maroudis and Mako are big time arms, profiling as over-slot 2nd or 3rd rounders. If both make it to campus, State's pitching staff would get a huge boost for 2024, but that's unlikely to happen.

Sosa is a left-handed hitting backstop who is set to continue the line of fantastic catchers for the Wolfpack. He also has been mentioned around the same potential draft area as Maroudis and Mako.

Banks has big time stuff, but some control problems. Still, the stuff and build are loud and he just seems like the type of guy the Rays or A's drool over.

Pennington is a former DII All-American and had a solid year at Wichita State in 2023, showcasing some pop.

Fanning is huge and was very successful in 2023 for Tennessee on their run to the CWS, but he's been lightly used over three years in Knoxville.