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Pack in the Pros: July 2019 Baseball Edition

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Checking in on former Wolfpackers currently playing in the professional ranks

Kansas City Royals v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

There are 25 former Wolfpack baseball players playing some level of professional baseball in 2019. 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

Andrew Knizner (2016): St. Louis Cardinals

Who says procrastination doesn’t pay off?! Knizner was called back up to the Bigs for the second time this season just yesterday (July 11). He previously spent 11 days in early June with the Cardinals in his first taste of Major League Baseball. Knizner has only appeared in two games so far (going 0-7 total), but at the AAA level he’s been hitting .277/.360/.421 with 8 2B, 7 HR, and an 18:28 BB:K ratio. Knizner is the catcher-of-the-future for the Cardinals organization and has been ranked as high as the #2 overall prospect in the Cardinals organization.

Carlos Rodon (2014): Chicago White Sox

Steven, just go ahead and skip on down to the next player, man… Rodon was pitching to mixed results in his 5th year in Chicago. On the plus side was a career-high 11.94 K/9 rate and a 1.04 HR/9 rate that was the lowest since his debut year, and even more impressive given the overall HR rate across all of MLB this year. However, he also had a career-high (in the bad way) 5.19 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. Then things got super shitty. After just 7 starts, Rodon was shelved with left elbow inflammation in early May. That necessitated Tommy John Surgery which will keep Rodon out for at least a year. Get well soon, Carlos.

Trea Turner (2014): Washington Nationals

Turner really doesn’t get enough respect for his abilities at the MLB level. Not helping him right now is a career-low .956 Fld%, but that should only improve for him. He’s slashing .286/.340/.484 with 16 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR, and 17 SB in 50 games after missing almost all of April with an injury. Since the calendar turned over to July, Turner is 11-for-33 with 3 2B and 1 HR.

Minor League Baseball

Brett Austin (2014): AA

Austin was released by the White Sox in December and played a bit of Independent League ball for High Point in the Atlantic League where he slashed .321/.396/.583 with 8 2B, 4 HR, 16 R, and 18 RBI in 24 games. The San Francisco Giants signed him in June and he’s slashed .125/.349/.156 in 13 games in AA since. His biggest issue in AA so far has been an inability to square up the ball and hit line drives. The 26 year-old is probably running out of opportunities if his offensive game doesn’t come around.

Cody Beckman (2017): A+

Beckman is playing right down the road for the Carolina Mudcats where he’s 3-3 with 2 SV, 3.00 ERA, and 1.33 WHIP. The 24 year-old is pitching really well this year. He’s never been a strikeout guy, but he’s cut is BB% down to a career-low 7.3% this year and should get a promotion to AA soon.

Michael Bienlien (2019): Rk

Bienlien is currently in Rookie ball with the Tigers organization – although he did get moved up for a game to A+ with Lakeland where he pitched quite well (3.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K) in getting the win. In Rookie ball, he’s 1-0 with a 6.00 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, but most of those bad numbers are due to a poor performance in his pro debut. In the two appearances since, he’s been solid.

Evan Brabrand (2017): A-

After leaving NC State following the 2017 season, Brabrand spent two years at Liberty, where he turned into the Flames closer in 2019. He’s hit the pro ranks running, sporting a 1-0 record with 5 SV, 1.42 ERA, and 1.58 WHIP in 6 pro games. That includes 11 K in 6.1 IP (but also 4 BB). Not sure how long Brabrand will stick in Batavia before getting moved up if he keeps pitching like this.

Jake Buchanan (2010): AAA

Buchanan made appearances in The Show in each season from 2014-2017 with the Astros, Cubs, and Reds, but he’s currently hanging out in the level just below the Majors hoping to get another call up. The 29 year-old is 3-5 with a 5.63 ERA and 1.54 WHIP this year in AAA. A call up seems like a longshot, though, unless it’s for a September spot start or two in the 5th rotation spot, especially with the A’s in contention for the playoffs.

Jack Conley (2018): A+

Conley played extremely well in 2018 in Rookie ball for the Phillies and started off this year in A ball. Despite not playing overly well at the A level, Conley was moved up to A+ ball in June. He’s struggling with the bat in his role as a back-up catcher, hitting just .179/.250/.226 over 26 games combined across the two levels this year.

Brock Deatherage (2018): A+

Deatherage \m/ took the professional ranks by storm last summer, moving from Rookie ball to A+ ball in rapid fashion. This year has been a little tougher, but he’s been swinging the bat better as of late. Currently slashing .234/.273/.336 with 10 2B, 5 3B, 3 HR, and 33 SB in 75 games, Deatherage \m/ was slashing just .190/.230/.270 on June 3, so he’s moving in the right direction.

Tommy DeJuneas (2017): AA

DeJuneas started off the year with Fayetteville in A+ ball, but was moved up in early June to AA ball. Things have been a little rough for him there as significant control issues have surfaced of late. After pitching well in A+, in 11 games in AA, DeJuneas is 0-2 with a 7.98 ERA and 2.11 WHIP with 16 BB and 18 K in 14.2 IP. He had flashed serious potential across his first two years in professional ball, but will need to put these control issues behind him if he wants to continue to ascend in the system.

Joe Dunand (2017): AA

Over 86 games in AA this year, Dunand is slashing .235/.306/.316 with 14 2B, 3 HR, 29 R, and 27 RBI. He has 27 BB to 78 K. The big issue has been the drop in power, especially playing a position that’s no longer considered a defense-first spot in the lineup.

Evan Edwards (2019): A+

After just five games in Short-Season A ball, Edwards was moved up to Full-Season A ball and is slashing .286/.363/.371 in 19 games at that level. There’s not a lot blocking Edwards at the 1B position in the Marlins farm system, so should he continue to swing a hot bat, he’ll move like quickly through that organization.

Will Gilbert (2016): A+

The fact that Gilbert is still in A+ ball and hasn’t been moved up to AA by now is absurd. He did miss almost all of April with an injury, but since then has been solid. Now in his third season at the A+ level, Gilbert sports a 3-0 record with a 3.06 ERA and 1.27 WHIP this year. Move the man up.

Brett Kinneman (2018): A-

It’s been a rough year for the right fielder. Kinneman started the year off just down the road in Greensboro in A ball, but struggled mightily and was sent back down to Short-Season A ball in West Virginia. Things aren’t going much better there, either, as he’s slashing just .182/.333/.286 in 24 games at the A- level. The good news is that the BB:K ratio is much better than it was in Greensboro, but he’s going to need to tap into that power if he wants to get back on track in the Pirates farm system.

Xavier LeGrant (2016): A-

LeGrant, who spent only a single year with the Wolfpack, is in his second season of Short-Season ball in the Red Sox system. He’s currently sashing .244/.277/.356 in 13 games with Lowell.

Scott Manea (2015): A+

Like LeGrant, Manea only spent a single season in Raleigh. He’s back in North Carolina with the Fayetteville Woodpeckers this year after being part of a January trade between the Mets and the Astros. He’s currently hitting .224/.324/.346 with 8 2B and 6 HR in 64 games.

Josh McLain (2018): A

McLain’s season didn’t get started until mid-June. After a three-game stint in Rookie ball, McLain was moved up to A ball where – aside from a few good games – he’s mostly had bad results. Across both levels, McLain is batting .164/.190/.236 with 4 2B over 15 games.

Evan Mendoza (2017): AAA

Continuing his rise through the Cardinals’ farm system, Mendoza started off the year in AA before being promoted to AAA in early June. Unfortunately, though, after just four games in AAA (well, six total… he spent the first two games of the season with the AAA club before going to AA) Mendoza would up on the Injured List and hasn’t played since. Hopefully he returns soon. Across both levels this year, Mendoza has hit .252/.303/.315 with 9 2B, 1 HR, and 5 SB in 60 games. He’s mostly played 3B, but has seen significant time at 1B, too. Sitting near a Top 30 prospect in the Cards’ org, Mendoza will need to up his power to continue to climb both in the org and in the prospect rankings given his fielding position(s).

Tim Naughton (2017): A+

Despite not saving a single game in his NC State career, Naughton has been used mostly as a closer in the professional ranks. He was impressive in A ball to start the year (3-3, 12 SV, 3.10 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 11 BB, 44 K, 29.0 IP) and was moved up to A+ ball in late June. That level hasn’t been quite as kind to him, but small sample size and all that. He’s still been racking up the K’s, though! In A+ ball, Naughton is pitching to the tune of a 0-0 record with 3 SV, 3.52 ERA, 1.96 WHIP, 5 BB, 13 K, 7.2 IP in 9 games. His FIP in A+ ball indicates much better performance, though, with a mark of 1.95.

Jon Olczak (2015): AAA

The 25-year-old Olczak had a great 2018 in the Brewers’ farm system, moving across A+ and AA levels and earning a spot with the AAA club to start the 2019 season. The returns haven’t been as great for him at the last stop before the Bigs, but it’s not all negative. He’s sporting his lowest BB% and highest K/BB rate since 2015. On the year, he’s pitching to the tune of 1-3, 1 SV, 5.74 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 8 BB, 30 K, 31.1 IP. Over his last 8 appearances, he lowered his season ERA from 7.84 to 5.74, so things were moving in the right direction before he ended up on the 7-Day IL on July 11 – his second IL stint of the season.

Preston Palmeiro (2016): AA

The Orioles moved the 5’11 Palmeiro from 1B to 2B in 2018, but have since moved him back to 1B this year where he’s played 67 of his 69 games (the other two he was in the DH spot). Not sure if it’s related to the positional move or something else, but the offensive production is down for Palmeiro. He’s slashing .212/.263/.333 with 14 2B, 4 HR, and a 16:65 BB:K ratio for the Bowie BaySox this year. Palmeiro has been on a tear over the last three games, going 5-for-11 with 3 R and 4 RBI with 2 BB and 0 K. The 24-year-old is still slightly young for the AA level and given his lineage, he should be shown some patience to allow for growth.

Ryan Williamson (2016): A

Now in his first full season of professional ball three years after being drafted, Williamson is starting to show the talent that convinced the Nationals to draft him despite being down with Tommy John Surgery at the time. In 13 games this year (all in relief), Williamson is 1-0 with 1 SV, 4.24 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 14 BB, and 38 K in 34.0 IP. It’s hard not to root for this kid.

Will Wilson (2019): Rk

The Angels have kept their 2019 1st Round pick in Rookie ball to start the year, although a promotion up to some level of A ball will most certainly happen before the end of the season. In 15 games thus far, Wilson is hitting .254/.323/.458 with 3 2B, 3 HR, and a 6:13 BB:K ratio. There was the question at the time of his drafting where Wilson would slot in defensively at the professional level. So far, Wilson has played 11 games at SS and 4 at 2B.

Independent Leagues

Andy Cosgrove (2017)

Cosgrove played 2017 and 2018 with the Twins’ Rookie ball affiliate in the Appalachian League before being released this March. He’s currently playing for Southern Illinois of the Frontier League where he’s slashing .292/.379/.350 over 33 games and has thrown out 12-of-25 attempted base stealers. Hopefully Cosgrove gets another shot in the farm system of a major league club.

Player Who Hung It Up Or Are Currently Free Agents

Sean Adler (2017)

Brian Brown (2018)

Danny Canela (2012)

Chris Diaz (2012)

Cory Mazzoni (2011)

Joel McKeithan (2015)

Logan Ratledge (2015)

Chance Shepard (2016)

Ryne Willard (2016)

Andrew Woeck (2014)

Gianni Zayas (2013)