Baseball Preview: North Carolina

North Carolina went into 2010 with high expectations despite suffering some major personnel losses, including number two overall draft pick Dustin Ackley, after going to Omaha the previous four seasons.

North Carolina Tar Heels

  • Overall Record – 38-22
  • Conference Record – 14-16 (8th place - tied; 5th place in the Coastal Division)
  • Post-Season – 2-2 in the Oklahoma regional (wins vs. California and Oral Roberts; 0-2 against Oklahoma)
  • RPI/ISR – 23/36
  • Predicted Conference Finish – 4th in the Coastal Division, 6th overall in the ACC by the conference coaches and Baseball America


2010 Summary and 2011 Preview

North Carolina went into 2010 with high expectations despite suffering some major personnel losses, including number two overall draft pick Dustin Ackley, after going to Omaha the previous four seasons. The Tar Heels got off to a fast start at 11-2 during a mediocre non-conference schedule played entirely at home before losing their first three ACC series to Duke, Florida State and Georgia Tech. North Carolina went 11-14 during the middle of the season before righting the ship with a series win at CWS participant Clemson to start a 10-1 run.

The Tar Heels were cooled off in a series sweep at national seed Virginia, which basically eliminated them from the ACC tournament, and finished the regular season with a sweep vs. Virginia Tech that put them in position to receive an at-large bid despite missing the ACC tournament. North Carolina played well at the Oklahoma regional, winning games against California and Oral Roberts and losing two close games to the Sooners, who won a super regional at Virginia to advance to Omaha.

North Carolina was an inconsistent team both offensively and on the mound as they attempted to reload after four straight seasons when their season ended in Omaha. The Tar Heels went 22-4 against a soft non-conf schedule but hit only .286 in ACC games and scored five runs or less 23 times. North Carolina had a team ERA of 5.27 in ACC games (3.14 in non-conf games), blew seven leads in the eighth or ninth innings and went 9-13 in games decided by either one or two runs.

The Tar Heels look like they could be poised to have a better season with four hitters returning who hit over .300 along with two of their starting pitchers and all of their relievers in addition to a recruiting class that was ranked thirteenth by Baseball America. North Carolina has been ranked in the 20's in most of the pre-season polls and rankings.

Offense

  • Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 110 (increases offense by 10%).
  • Batting Average – .308 (5th in the ACC, 115th in the NCAA)
  • Runs Per Game – 7.8 (8/68)
  • Home Runs – 45 (10/161)
  • Stolen Bases – 91 (6/56)
  • Slugging Percentage – .453 (9/145)
  • Walks – 301 (5/11)
  • HBP's – 74 (3/63)
  • Sac Bunts – 35 (5/103)


Lineup

C - JR #5 Jacob Stallings (RH - 2010 stats - .307 BA/.417 OBP/.457 SLG; 2 HR, 24 RBI, 3 SB. .246 in 57 AB's in 2009) started most of the time behind the plate because he was the best defensive C and figures to catch most of their games. He will probably hit 5th or 6th.

1B - FR #19 Tom Zengel (LH) has displayed some good power in fall ball and looks like he could earn a spot in the lineup and will probably hit 6th or 7th. FR #18 Colin Moran (LH) could also hit his way into getting some playing time.

2B - Soph #1 Tommy Coyle (LH - 282/388/351; 1-25-14 in 2010) moved right into the lineup as a FR after several infielders moved on from the 2009 team. Coyle has good speed and will probably be hitting 2nd.

SS - JR #6 Levi Michael (Both - 2010 - 346/480/575, 8-54-20; 290/377/527, 19-57-5 in 2009) came to school a year early and bypassed his SR year of HS. He is projected to be drafted in the first two rounds, is a pre-season third team All-American and a candidate for ACC player of the year honors. Michael has moved his way around the diamond, going from 2B as a FR to 3B as a soph to SS this season. He was 4th in the ACC in R, 5th in SLG and 8th in SB last year and had an outstanding 44/26 BB/K ratio. He will probably be hitting 3rd.

3B - SR #34 Jesse Wierzbicki (RH - .307/.410/.495, 8-52-6) played at DH, 1B and C last season but it looks like he will be moving to 3B to try to get more power into the lineup. He was second on the team in HR's last season and a solid run producer. Wierzbicki will probably hit cleanup.

CF - SR #3 Ben Bunting (LH - 313/391/402, 2-25-9; 336/423/431, 2-37-5 in '09) is in his third year as a regular and will be moving over from LF, replacing Brian Goodwin (projected to be drafted in the first two rounds) after he left school for academic reasons. Bunting has good speed and will likely be the leadoff hitter.

LF/RF/DH - These spots are unsettled and could end up being platoon situations. The leading candidates for playing time are JR #16 Seth Baldwin (LH - .344-3-17-5 in 90 AB's) who has very good speed, Soph #2 Chaz Frank (LH - .286 in 63 AB's), Soph #23 Brett Knief (RH - .294 in 34 AB's) and FR #12 Jeff Bouton (RH) and most of these players will be hitting towards the bottom of the lineup. FR #7 Matt Roberts (RH) will figure into the mix for AB's at DH a few weeks into the season after he recovers from a broken hand. He has solid power and could end up hitting in the middle of the order later in the season.

Defense

Fielding % - .970 (5/55) – 68 errors. Solid up the middle with Michael and Coyle. Questions on the corners with Wierzbicki and Zengel. Good speed in the OF, especially Bunting and Baldwin.

Stolen Base Attempts – 46-65. Had the second fewest attempts against them in the ACC. Pitchers hold runners close. Runners were 27-41 against Stallings.

WP's/PB's Allowed – 47. Stallings does a solid job of blocking pitches.

Pitching

  • ERA – 4.19 (4/25)
  • BA – .258 (3/xx)
  • HR – 50 (3/xx)
  • H's/9 IP – 8.83 (xx/17)
  • BB's/9 IP – 4.19 (8/173)
  • K's/9 IP – 8.0 (2/9)


Starters

North Carolina lost first round pick Matt Harvey but returns pitchers who started 40 of their 60 games in 2010.

SR #17 Patrick Johnson (RHP - 6-3, 3.71 ERA, 14 GS, 78 IP, 86 H, 30 BB, 67 K, .286 BA, 10 HR, 6 HBP, 0 WP, 12-18 SB) was a weekend SP last season after being a midweek SP in 2009 (2-2, 3.49 ERA, 23 app, 7 GS, 57 IP, 46 H, 37 BB, 77 K, .222 BA, 10 HR). He threw well in ACC games with a 4-2 record and a 3.91 ERA. Johnson had minor surgery during the off-season and has a fastball in the low 90's with solid secondary pitches and has been throwing well during his recovery.

Soph #37 Chris Munnelly (RHP - 3-2, 5.40 ERA, 23 apps, 8 GS, 67 IP, 68 H, 26 BB, 60 K, .264 BA, 11 HR, 7 HBP, 5 WP, 13-16 SB) was a middle reliever most of his FR year before being moved into the rotation after North Carolina lost their first three ACC series. He was much more effective in relief and struggled in his six ACC starts, ending up with a 6.98 ERA in conf games. Munnelly has a good arm and projects to be one of the first ten ACC players picked in the 2012 draft.

Soph #28 Michael Morin (RHP - 5-3, 5.45 ERA, 24 apps, 1 GS, 3 saves, 40 IP, 47 H, 14 BB, 43 K, .294 BA, 4 HR, 7 HBP, 3 WP, 1-3 SB) pitched almost exclusively out of the bullpen last year. Morin is 6'4" and a hard thrower who was often used as the closer. He has good upside and projects to be one of the first ten ACC players picked in the 2012 draft.

FR LHP #41 Kent Emmanuel was drafted in the 19th round after being projected to go much higher in the draft and sliding due to his commitment to go to school. Emmanuel is 6'4" with a fastball in the upper 80's and a solid changeup and has good upside.

Relievers

North Carolina had major problems with their bullpen last season that resulted in many blown leads and close losses. The Tar Heels are hoping with almost every reliever returning and an influx of FR talent that their bullpen will be improved.

SR #14 Greg Holt (RHP - 3-4, 5.11 ERA, 26 apps, 2 GS, 3 saves, 44 IP, 36 H, 22 BB, 40 K, .231 BA, 4 HR, 3 HBP, 3 WP, 3-4 SB) split time with Morin as the closer last year and will probably start the season as the closer.

JR #31 Jimmy Messer (RHP - 2-1, 3.66 ERA, 18 apps, 5 GS, 1 save, 32 IP, 33 H, 21 BB, 22 K, .275 BA, 2 HR, 1 HBP, 2 WP, 3-3 SB) is projected to be the second Tar Heel drafted in June and will be one of the main options in the late innings. He throws hard but had control issues last season.

JR #20 Garrett Davis (RHP - 3-3, 4.59 ERA, 15 apps, 7 GS, 1 save, 33 IP, 25 H, 24 BB, 35 K, .210 BA, 2 HR, 3 HBP, 2 WP, 0-0 SB) was mostly a midweek SP last season and is similar to Messer - hard thrower, control issues.

Soph #4 Zach Bernard (LHP - 0-0, 2.45 ERA, 24 apps, 18 IP, 21 H, 11 BB, 18 K) and Soph #11 R.C. Orlan (LHP - 0-0, 4.38 ERA, 16 apps, 12 IP, 12 H, 9 BB, 14 K) were the lefty specialists last season.

Two incoming FR who figure to battle for innings are RHP's #25 Jake Cole (24th round pick) and #36 Andrew Smith (40th round pick), who both figured to go higher in the draft but slid due to their commitments to going to school.