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Wolfpack baseball alums in the pros

Carlos Rodon, Trea Turner, and Andrew Knizner are tearing it up in the majors so far

Oakland Athletics v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

NC State has 30 former players playing professional ball this spring (or at least rostered) with Carlos Rodon, Trea Turner, and Andrew Knizner leading the way at the MLB level. Let’s take a look at how they’re all doing.


MLB

Carlos Rodon (2012-2014) - LHP - San Francisco Giants

3-0, 1.17 ERA, 23.0 IP, 11 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 8 BB, 1 HBP, 38 K

So far, Rodon has been earning every penny of that $44.0M contract he signed with San Fran in the offseason. If he continues as this pace all year, he’ll opt out of the $22.5M portion of it he’s due in 2023 for a far larger (and longer) contract. Rodon was brilliant for the White Sox last year before arm fatigue shut him down over the tail end of the season, but he was a legit Cy Young Award candidate for the majority of the season. He’s been even better thus far.

Trea Turner (2012-2014) - SS - Los Angeles Dodgers

.263/.315/.375, 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 9 R, 18 RBI, 7 BB, 19 K, 0 HB, 4-5 SB

Turner was traded in the middle of the 2021 season to the Dodgers as the Nationals began their teardown-rebuild cycle and the Dodgers were chasing another championship. Turner wasn’t able to bring home his second World Series Trophy, but he did play well enough to push Corey Seager into free agency and claim the starting shortstop job all to himself this year. The Dodgers decided not to lock up Turner to a long-term deal in the offseason, but that may well work out better for him anyways. As it stands right now, Turner’s slated to be the top free agent on the market (well, unless Rodon keeps doing what he’s doing) with a market valuation north of $30.0M per season. Spotrac has him projected for an 8-year, $243.7M deal.

Andrew Knizner (2014-2016) - C - St. Louis Cardinals

.300/.382/.467, 2 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 3 R, 6 RBI, 4 BB, 10 K, 0 HBP, 0-0 SB

Now in his fourth season at the MLB level, The Kniz is finally - FINALLY - getting a chance to be a regular contributor. 74-year-old Yadier Molina is technically still the starter, but Knizner has just 14 fewer plate appearances thus far this year and has been far more productive in them. Knizner has posted a 155 OPS+ over his 34 PAs, and while that’s a small sample size, it’s a positive and hopefully will push the organization to finally let Knizner take over full-time behind the dish. He’s also thrown out 2-of-5 base stealers.


AAA

Joe Dunand (2015-2017) - 3B - Miami Marlins

.250/.377/.432, 5 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 11 R, 5 RBI, 7 BB, 15 K, 2 HBP, 2-2 SB

Dunand has bounced back nicely to date from a lackluster 2021 campaign (.201/.276/.373). He’ll need to produce more power if he’s going to make it to the show as a third baseman, especially with those strikeout numbers, but the on-base skills have greatly improved and the bat is finally playing up to what the Marlins hoped they had when they picked him in the 2nd round. In the field, he’s only committed one error this year and has also got a couple looks over at first base.

Scott Manea (2015) - C/1B - Houston Astros

.192/.339/.255, 3 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 3 R, 6 RBI, 10 BB, 15 K, 1 HBP, 0-0 SB

You’ll be forgiven if you don’t remember Manea, considering he only played in six games with three plate appearances in his Wolfpack career. He went the JUCO route after his freshman season at State and then signed a UDFA deal with the Mets. Things have gone well for him since as he’s climbed a level with each successive season. The next jump will be the hardest - and he’ll need to tackle AAA pitching first - but he had an impressive .286/.405/.462 season in AA in 2021).

Evan Mendoza (2015-2017) - SS - St. Louis Cardinals

.278/.355/.500, 3 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 9 R, 9 RBI, 6 BB, 7 K, 1 HBP, 0-0 SB

In his third season now at the AAA level, Mendoza has shown an improvement at the plate that may get him a look at the MLB level soon. He doesn’t quite have the fleetness of foot or arm strength that you’d want at shortstop, but he’s a true utility player having played 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, and OF over the last two seasons. He’s also Rule 5 Draft eligible after this year, so if he continues to hit, the Cardinals will be forced to put him on the 40-man roster or he’ll certainly get scooped up by another team and given a shot at the bigs.

Tim Naughton (2016-2017) - RHP - Baltimore Orioles

0-0, 0 SV, 0.00 ERA, 8.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 1 HBP, 9 K

Naughton was a lightly used arm for State during his two years on campus, amassing just 15.0 innings total. He still parlayed that into being drafted and has slowly found his groove within the Orioles organization. He’s off to a fantastic start and while he’s not considered a high prospect, he could find himself getting a chance in the majors if he keeps up the good work in AAA.

Jon Olczak (2013-2015) - RHP - Houston Astros

1-0, 0 SV, 3.29 ERA, 12.2 IP, 15 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 17 K

This is Olczak’s third year in AAA, having spent 2021 across AA and AAA with the Astros after having done the same with the Brewers organization in 2019. Olczak spent spring training with the Astros and did quite well (0.00 ERA, 4.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K). He’s not on the 40-man roster, but should get a chance with the big club this year.


AA

Jack Conley (2016-2018) - C/OF - Philadelphia Phillies

.211/.388/.316, 1 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 4 R, 5 RBI, 10 BB, 8 K, 1 HBP, 1-1 SB

Conley has had the hardest time getting consistent playing time since he left high school, but he still shot up through the Phillies org, reaching AAA for a seven-game stint last year. Part of that was due to organizational needs for catching, but still, that’s great for him. He’s started off this year in AA and was off to a rough start, but a recent move to the outfield has him getting more playing time and producing much better. He’s hitting .304/.448/.478 over his last eight games and even has two outfield assists.

Evan Edwards (2018-2019) - 1B - Miami Marlins

.180/.323/.360, 0 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 6 R, 10 RBI, 11 BB, 27 K, 0 HBP, 1-1 SB

Edwards got off to a blistering start to the season (.357/.500/.786 over the first five games), but has since cooled off mightily (.111/.238/.194 over 11 games). He’s shown his power has translated from aluminum to wood bats (22 HR last year in A+), but he’ll need to cut down on the strikeouts if he’s going to continue his climb up the org ladder. Edwards power, on-base skills, and defense will always play, though. Nice calling cards to have.

Preston Palmeiro (2014-2016) - INF - Los Angeles Angels

.208/.283/.340, 4 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 5 R, 8 RBI, 6 BB, 11 K, 0 HBP, 0-0 SB

Palmiero had a rough 2019 campaign, was released by Baltimore, and then hit the Indy ball level in 2020. That led to speculation that he may be on his way out of the sport, but he bounced back with a pretty impressive 2021 season at the AAA level for the Angels org. He’s back with LAA this year, except at the AA level. So far he hasn’t been stroking the ball, but he has been walking at a higher clip, and that’s good to see. He also continues to show off the defensive flexibility that will aid him in getting back up to AAA and hopefully getting a cup of coffee in The Show.

Will Wilson (2017-2019) - 2B/3B/SS - San Francisco Giants

.246/.374/.507, 3 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 16 R, 13 RBI, 14 BB, 22 K, 0 HBP, 1-2 SB

Wilson did well in A+ ball last year, but absolutely struggled in AA. He tumbled in the prospect rankings accordingly, but he’s doing well to start 2022 back up in AA. He’s also getting a more distributed look at playing time across the infield, although still primarily a shortstop. He even played a bunch of outfield in the Arizona Fall League. A solid season should push him back up the prospect lists and keep him on pace for a 2023 MLB debut.


A+

Patrick Bailey (2018-2020) - C - San Francisco Giants

.167/.226/.292, 0 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 3 R, 6 RBI, 4 BB, 11 K, 0 HBP, 0-1 SB

Bailey has not had the start to the season that one would desire. He did really well in A ball last year (.322/.416/.531 in 47 games) and the Arizona Fall League (.292/.375/.417), but struggled in A+ ball (.185/.290/.296 in 33 games). He’s been playing better of late, slashing .250/.316/.438 over his last five games.

Alec Barger (2019) - RHP - Atlanta Braves

1-0, 0 SV, 2.61 ERA, 10.1 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 6 BB, 2 HBP, 12 K

In his lone season with the Wolfpack, Barger had a rough go of it. The Braves saw the potential, though, and after a so-so first year in Rookie ball (and then the absence of the 2020 minor league campaign), Barger bounced back with an impressive 2021 season. Part of last year was his moving from the starting rotation to the bullpen, a move that has served him well.

Michael Bienlien (2017-2019) - RHP - Detroit Tigers

1-1, 0 SV, 3.38 ERA, 8.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 0 HBP, 10 K

Bienlien split time between A and A+ in 2021 and was basically a different pitcher at each level. He’s pitching better this year in A+, although walks are still a major issue. He moved to from a starter to a bullpen arm while with State and has continued in the relief role in the minors which allows his stuff to play up.

Jonny Butler (2019-2021) - OF - Oakland Athletics

.333/.372/.462, 3 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 4 R, 8 RBI, 3 BB, 7 K, 0 HBP, 1-1 SB

Butler is off to a solid start over his first 12 games of 2022. He’s been splitting time between the outfield corners and even turned a double play with an outfield assist. He’s currently playing for the Lansing Lugnuts, which is a hilarious team name.

Nolan Clenney (2018-2019) - RHP - New York Mets

1-1, 0 SV, 4.82 ERA, 9.1 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 7 K

Clenney went the unconventional route to minor league baseball. Going undrafted in 2019, he played three seasons in the Indy League (including fantastic 2020 and 2021 campaigns) before getting his first shot in affiliated baseball with the Mets organization last year. He pitched well enough to get another shot this year.

Tommy DeJuneas (2015-2017) - RHP - Houston Astros

0-0, 0 SV, 3.38 ERA, 2.2 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 HBP, 5 BB, 1 K

Control has always been the issue for DeJuneas; nobody has ever questioned the stuff. After the Indians Guardians took him in the 26th round in 2017, it looked like they got a steal. DeJuneas issued 23 walks over 57.1 innings and appears to be harnessing his pitches. He was then traded to Houston and it’s been off again since.

Evan Justice (2018-2021) - LHP - Colorado Rockies

Justice is currently on the 7-day IL and has yet to pitch in 2022. He made three brief appearances last year (3.00 ERA, 3.0 IP, 4 K) as the Rockies wanted to limit his innings after a high usage 2021 campaign for State. He should be making his season debut soon.

Tyler McDonough (2019-2021) - 2B/OF - Boston Red Sox

.220/.273/.390, 5 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 11 R, 12 RBI, 6 BB, 23 K, 0 HBP, 3-3 SB

McDonough’s only issue right now is the high strikeout rate and the low walk rate. Those are both likely to level out, and he’s still showing his defensive versatility, splitting time between second base, center field, and left field. He should continue to move up through the Red Sox org quickly.

Austin Murr (2020-2021) - 1B/OF - Detroit Tigers

.231/.338/.339, 7 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 10 R, 10 RBI, 11 BB, 14 K, 0 HBP, 3-3 SB

Murr continues to show off his impressive on-base skills. The power has yet to show up (just 1 HR in 246 career minor league plate appearances), and he’ll need that to continue moving up, but the on-base skills and defense will play anywhere. He already has two outfield assists this year.

Jose Torres (2020-2021) - 2B/SS - Cincinnati Reds

.298/.353/.596, 3 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 11 R, 8 RBI, 3 BB, 8 K, 1 HBP, 5-5 SB

If Jose keeps this going, he’ll be up to AA in no time. I don’t really know what else to say. Dude’s just been getting after it and it’s awesome to see!

Nick Swiney (2018-2020) - LHP - San Francisco Giants

1-1, 3.29 ERA, 13.2 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 7 BB, 14 K

Swiney battled injuries in 2021 during his first taste of pro ball, but when he was on the mound, he was lights out (0.84 ERA, 32.1 IP, 58 K). He’s moved up a level to start this year and the results have been just fine. In his last outing on May 1st, he tossed 5.1 innings of hitless, scoreless ball, walking one and striking out seven.

Luca Tresh (2019-2021) - C - Kansas City Royals

.307/.397/.516, 4 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 12 R, 12 RBI, 9 BB, 20 K, 1 HBP, 1-3 SB

Like Torres, Tresh is off to a phenomenal start to the season at the dish. He does need to cut down on the strikeouts, but the hot hitting is nice to see after he struggled some with the bat last year for State. He’s also been getting some time at DH, which is nice considering he caught 56 games for the Pack in 2021.

A

John Creel (2019) - RHP - Seattle Mariners

0-0, 0 SV, 4.76 ERA, 5.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 5 K

Creel is a guy who never actually appeared in a game for NC State. He transferred to the Wolfpack from Wake Tech in 2019 known for his big velo, but was hurt and never played. He transferred out in 2020 and spent the 2021 season with Akron. He was a UDFA after last year and is getting his first taste of pro ball this year.

Reid Johnston (2018-2021) - RHP - Cleveland Guardians

1-0, 0 SV, 3.46 ERA, 12.0 IP, 12 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 0 HBP, 15 K

After tossing just shy of 100 innings for State last year, the Guardians shut down Johnston for the remainder of 2021. He’s starting off this year in A ball, but should move up quickly to A+ by the end of May. He’s also likely to get stretched out from his current relief role to a starting gig.

Vojtech Mensik (2019-2021) - 3B/SS - Los Angeles Angels

.204/.295/.259, 1 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 8 R, 6 RBI, 6 BB, 15 K, 1 HBP, 7-9 SB

Mensik was a surprise UDFA signing after the 2021 draft, opting to leave eligibility at NC State in favor of starting his pro career. Despite not appearing at the minor league level for the Angels org last year, he’s acquitting himself just fine at the A ball level this year. Most surprising is that he’s already stolen seven bases in just 16 games after stealing a total of 22 in 115 games at NC State.

Jason Parker (2019) - RHP - New York Yankees

Parker has not thrown yet this year and was recently placed on the 60-day injured list, which is never a good sign. No indication what the injury is, but typically the 60-day is for something major. Best of luck to Jason. Get healthy, man!

Terrell Tatum (2018-2021) - OF - Chicago White Sox

.320/.528/.400, 2 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 6 R, 1 RBI, 11 BB, 11 K, 0 HBP, 6-7 SB

After killing it in Rookie ball last year, Tatum started off this year at the A+ level. He was sent down to A ball after just three games, where he’s since been killing it. He’s likely to get moved back up soon if he continues this domination. It would be nice to see an uptick in power, but he just needs to keep doing what he’s doing right now because it’s working.


Independent Leagues

Cody Beckman (2014-2017) - LHP - Atlantic League

Beckman had a rough 2021 in AA (6.36 ERA over 46.2 innings), although from July on he posted a 3.24 ERA over 25.0 innings with a 7:33 BB:K ratio. I figured that would have been enough to get him another shot this year. Hopefully he shines in the Atlantic League and gets another go at it.


Other

Cam Cotter (2018-2021) - RHP

Cotter had an absolutely brutal run of injuries during his college career. Seriously, just take some time to read this. He’s coming back from a second Tommy John Surgery and is working his way back. If the videos on his Twitter page are any indication, he should get a look by a team soon. Good luck, Cam! Go get ‘em!