The ACC is one of the more talent filled, competitive conferences in all of college baseball. With numerous first rounders coming out of the ACC annually, many eyes will be on the conference this spring.
Due to the number of teams in the ACC, I will break it down by division: Coastal and Atlantic. The Coastal Division includes talented teams such as: Georgia Tech, Duke, and Miami. Other teams like North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, and Virginia are on the younger side, leaning on underclassman who will gain valuable experience as these programs try to keep up with the forces at the top.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Head Coach: Danny Hall (29th Season)
2021 Record (ACC): 31-25 (21-15)
The Yellow Jacket’s lineup features a powerful trio of catcher Kevin Parada, along with infielders Andrew Jenkins and Drew Compton. Parada, a preseason All-American, is regarded as one of the best catchers in this upcoming draft. In a breakout 2021 campaign, the California native slashed .318/.379/.550 in 220 at-bats, continuing the tradition of high-quality catchers at Tech.
Switch-hitting infielder Drew Compton will look build off of past success in his first two seasons for the Yellow Jackets. In 243 at-bats between 2020 and 2021, Compton has turned in an impressive .300/.393/.567 slash with 16 homers.
Other key contributors include outfielder Tres Gonzalez, who had a productive freshman year for the Yellow Jackets, as well as a nice summer on the Cape. The centerfielder gets on-base at a high rate while playing high-caliber defense.
After the departure of some key arms, Tech will look for contribution from sophomore arms Marquis Grissom Jr. and Zach Maxwell. Grissom, who’s father spent 17 seasons in the big leagues, looks to build off of a 2021 where he made 7 starts. The Atlanta product certainly has the stuff to be successful, featuring a mid-90s fastball and an above-average changeup.
Georgia Tech will attempt to stretch Maxwell into a starter, despite strike throwing issues in his high-90s fastball. In an attempt to improve control, Maxwell is willing to take a drop in velocity. He is also working on a changeup that is still raw, despite a fastball/slider combo that would find him success by themselves.
Tech has an interesting group of freshman arms on the roster, including 6-foot-3 righty Logan McGuire, who’s projectable frame features a low-90s fastball and good changeup. Other interesting names include southpaw Cody Carwile and an advanced righty in Aeden Finateri.
If Maxwell stays on track as a starter, an area of concern is the bullpen, where the core group has struggled. Vanderbilt transfer Chance Huff posted a 9.99 ERA in 24.1 innings of work in 2021 and other upperclassman arms haven’t done much better.
After winning the Coastal Division and making an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2021, Georgia Tech will look for more this spring. The time is now for the Yellow Jackets, with a possibility of ten or more of their players being drafted in July.
The only concern seems to be the depth and experience of a pitching staff that lost two key members last season. This lineup is poised to do some damage and make a deep run toward Omaha.
Head Coach: Gino DiMare (4th Season)
2021 Record (ACC): 33-21 (20-15)
The Hurricanes’ lineup is headlined by star infielder Yohandy Morales, who has been widely regarded as a first round talent in 2023. With a 6-foot-4 frame and strong arm, Morales reminds me a lot of free agent shortstop Carlos Correa. After a strong 2021 spring campaign, the Miami native hit .500 with five homers and just nine strikeouts this fall.
Miami has a very young roster, and their lineup will reflect that. Outside of Morales, the Canes will look to sophomores CJ Kayfus and speedy outfielder Jacoby Long for the majority of their production. Other true freshman will compete to fill the infield holes, more specifically at second base.
At catcher, the Hurricanes have a couple of good options. Sophomore Carlos Perez is regarded as one of the better defensive catchers in the country, and is said to have improved his bat this fall. Vanderbilt transfer Maxwell Romero Jr. was a big get for Miami. The lefty hitting backstop will more-than-likely split time behind the dish and at DH this spring. The Florida product was drafted out of high school, but decided to go to Vandy, where he was productive in limited time.
The best pitcher on Miami’s staff is no doubt sophomore lefty Carson Palmquist. In 25 games as the team’s closer, Palmquist struck out 75 in 44 2/3 innings, producing 15 saves. The 6-foot-3 southpaw comes out of a low, three-quarters slot with tremendous command. This spring, Palmquist is planned to be used in the rotation, rather than the bullpen.
A pair of sophomore righties in Alejandro Rosario and Jake Garland will have to step up come spring. Both had sizable playing time but with limited success in 2021. Sophomore Alex McFarlane was up to 99 this fall, and will be in the competition for a rotation spot along with a trio of true freshman. Those names include Gage Ziehl, Rafe Schlesinger, and Karson Ligon, who has been up into the mid-90s.
Miami’s bullpen is an experienced group, with probable closer Andrew Walters leading the charge. Through 24 2/3 innings last year, Walters posted a 1.46 ERA and struck-out 36. Others among the ‘pen include FIU transfer Alejandro Torres, graduate student Matt Raudelunas, and junior Anthony Arguelles.
The Hurricanes have a very young team that contains two of the better players in the country. Most of their lineup is up-in-the-air, as is the pitching staff. With a couple years of seasoning and experience, Miami could be a force in 2023 and beyond.
Head Coach: Brian O’Connor (20th Season)
2021 Record (ACC): 36-27 (18-18)
Headlining the Cavaliers lineup is catcher Kyle Teel. Although there are questions surrounding a positional home for Teel, the freshman impressed in 2021. In 54 games for Virginia, the New Jersey native slashed .355/.416/.526 in a campaign that thrusted him to the top of 2023 draft boards.
After a 2021 draft that saw infielders Zac Gelof and Nic Kent selected, many true freshman will get legitimate playing time this spring. Highly regarded recruit Casey Saucke is in competition with sophomore Jake Gelof for the third base spot. The Cavs will no-doubt have a true freshman at shortstop, with Griffin O’Ferrall being the favorite. Other freshman impact candidates include Ethan Anderson and Justin Rubin.
To balance out the order, fifth year seniors Devin Ortiz and Alex Tappen will be core pieces in the UVA lineup. Ortiz is the more experienced of the two, playing in 61 games last spring. Another seasoned bat is outfielder Chris Newell. The 6-3 lefty is projected to go in the middle rounds during this July’s MLB draft. Newell had a solid season last year, but will look to stay healthy and rack up more at-bats.
With the departure of second round pick Andrew Abbott to the Reds, fellow lefty Nate Savino will look to fill the “ace” role. Savino was highly regarded coming out of high school, with many believing he was a first round talent. The Virginia native will look to have a productive spring and get himself into the first round conversation once again.
Helping to fill out the rotation will be southpaw Brandon Neeck, a once highly-regarded recruit. The New York native was sidelined due to shoulder issues during his underclassman years, but found tremendous success for UVA out of the bullpen.
Sophomores Matt Wyatt and 6-foot-10 lefty Jake Berry will also get looks in the rotation. For Wyatt, a high 90s fastball and good slider profile well in the bullpen, owning a 3.86 ERA in 39 2/3 innings there last spring.
Virginia was active in the transfer portal this winter, landing four useful arms for the Cavaliers. Junior college transfer Joe Miceli broke out last summer in the MLB Draft League, landing him a potential long relief or starting role for Virginia.
Other transfers include Will Geerdes (Columbia), Dylan Bowers (Northern Colorado), and Brian Gursky (USC).
Virginia lost a lot of key pieces to the draft and graduation. With a rebuilt pitching staff, many underclassman and transfers must step up in a big way. This is also the case with the lineup, which features mostly underclassman.
Head Coach: Scott Forbes (2nd Season)
2021 Record (ACC): 28-27 (18-18)
The Tar Heels’ best hitter last spring was no doubt Angel Zarate. While he doesn’t possess a ton of power, Zarate slashed .324/.424/.497 in 48 games for UNC. Despite the redshirt junior’s productive campaign, North Carolina was one of the worst offensive teams in the ACC last year.
Like many other teams in this preview, UNC will rely on mostly underclassman and transfers on the offensive side of the ball this spring. Junior college transfer Alberto Osuna is a big, powerful bat who could fit nicely in the designated hitter spot.
Infielders Mac Horvath and Danny Serretti look to follow-up a down spring with a productive one. Horvath, a sophomore, was a highly regarded recruit coming out of high school but failed to put it all together at the plate last year.
Unlike their lineup, the Tar Heels have a very experienced pitching staff. Their bullpen will be headlined by fifth-year senior Gage Gillian. A junior college transfer, Gillian has posted a 2.35 ERA in 57 1/3 innings since joining UNC in 2020. The Tennessee product’s fastball jumps out of his hand, with an arm-slot that hides the ball well.
While many members of the pitching staff have been here awhile, not many have experience as a starter. Since the departure of third rounder Austin Love, the Tar Heels have a lot of questions regarding the rotation.
Lefties Will Sandy, Caden O’Brien, and Shawn Rapp will all surely be in the discussion. Other possibilities include sophomore Max Carlson and junior Connor Ollio, both of whom have limited experience starting.
The Tar Heels have a ton of upperclassman on the roster, which should help their chances this spring. UNC will hope that some under performers from last year step up in a big way. The rotation is another big question, which will probably be figured out early in the year.
Head Coach: Chris Pollard (10th Season)
2021 Record (ACC): 33-22 (16-17)
Even after losing outfielder Joey Loperfido (7th Round – Astros), catcher Michael Rothenberg (12th Round – Tigers), and shortstop Ethan Murray (5th Round – Brewers), the Blue Devils’ lineup is very strong.
An impressive recruiting class will surely make the transition easier for the 2021 ACC Champs. Shortstop Alex Mooney was very highly regarded coming out of high school, a first round lock to many in the industry.
Andrew Yu, a catcher out of Nashville, has impressive defensive ability and a bat that shined in the spring. Like his predecessor Michael Rothenberg, he will likely start behind the dish as a freshman.
One of the more impressive freshman, Devin Obee has a chance to be an absolute star. The 17-year-old recorded an exit velocity of 116 mph this fall and has the build of a middle linebacker.
To compliment the new freshman additions, Duke has a very solid core of returning upperclassman. The biggest name is senior outfielder R.J. Schreck, who slashed .337/.435/.635 with 18 bombs in 54 games. If he repeats his 2021 campaign, Schreck will surely hear his name called this July.
Other impact upperclassman include first baseman Chris Crabtree, infielder Wil Hoyle, and backstop Chad Knight, who could transition into a designated hitter role this spring.
News broke on Tuesday that ace Henry Williams will miss the 2022 season with Tommy John surgery. This will be a big blow for the Blue Devils and Williams, who was expected to go in the early rounds of July’s draft. Fortunately for Duke, they have plenty of options behind him.
All-American closer Marcus Johnson, a 6-foot-6 righty, is expected to move to the rotation following a dominant year, posting a 3.05 ERA in 56 innings. For Johnson, a mid-90s fastball, effective changeup and slider that has reached 3,000 rpms make him someone to watch this spring.
Another candidate to start Friday nights is 6-foot-1 lefty Luke Fox. The Wisconsin native might have been Duke’s most productive pitcher last year, owning a 3.05 ERA in 20 games (9 starts). He might be on the verge of a velocity bump, topping out at 95 last fall. Being that Fox is just a sophomore, he is someone to watch this spring.
One of the more intriguing names in the ACC is junior Billy Seidl. While he didn’t have great numbers in 2022, the right-hander has a fastball that reaches the upper 90s and has seen spin rates of 2600 RPMs. Seidl was sidelined with Tommy John Surgery his freshman year, but made back the innings with four starts on the Cape.
Duke’s bullpen is one of the deepest in college baseball, and even with Marcus Johnson flipping to the rotation, they have a ton of quality options. Sophomores Adam Boucher and Nick Conte both feature mid-90s fastballs and will be in the conversation to close.
Coming off of an ACC Championship and a run in the Knoxville regional, the Blue Devils come into 2022 with high expectations. The coaching staff filled their holes nicely with a stacked recruiting class, along with a ton of depth on the mound. Look for Duke to do big things this spring, and possibly repeat as ACC champions.
Head Coach: Mike Bell (4th Season)
2021 Record (ACC): 23-20 (16-17)
The lineup is headlined by catcher Tatem Levins, who spent the last three seasons at La Salle before their program folded. In 119 career games, the lefty-swinging backstop posted a tremendous .318/.416/.503 slash-line. Levins backed it up last summer on Cape Cod, where he had a .402 on-base percentage and .780 OPS in 29 games.
Another possible impact performer is second baseman Jeffrey Wehler, a Youngstown transfer. In 170 career games for the Penguins, Wehler hit .285 with 88 stolen bases in 110 attempts.
The rest of the infield is about set as well, with Brock Franks at shortstop, Sky Duff at third, and Bryce Hulett at first. Hulett is highly regarded on the defensive side of the ball, while getting on-base at a .364 clip in 2021. Duff is another impact performer for Pittsburgh, breaking out in 2021 with a .366/.461/.524 batting line.
The outfield is lead by senior Ron Washington Jr., who has slugged .460 and hit 20 homers in 152 games for the Panthers. Fellow outfielder Jordan Anderson, widely hailed for the most speed and best defense on the team, will man center field for Pitt.
With the departure of 12th-round-pick Mitch Myers to the Athletics, Pitt will look toward senior Matt Gilbertson to fill the Friday night void. Gilbertson had a solid season last spring, starting 13 games and owning a 4.45 ERA.
Transfers will likely fill out Pitt’s rotation, including Ben Dragani (Michigan), Logan Evans (Penn State), Baron Stuart (South Florida), and Hayden Summers (Walters State CC).
The Panthers’ bullpen is where the staff thins out. While the above names who don’t make the rotation will likely move to the bullpen, there isn’t too much to work with here. The favorite to close is South Carolina transfer Tyler Kennedy, who showcases a high-spin fastball that has reached 97.
With a roster mostly constructed with transfers, it is hard to tell how Pitt will do this spring. Their rotation has some depth, but the bullpen doesn’t, which could cause problems late in games. With an experienced roster, Pitt must invest heavily into recruiting to stay competitive in the years beyond 2022.
Virginia Tech Hokies
Head Coach: John Szefc (5th Season)
2021 Record (ACC): 27-25 (16-20)
Tech’s lineup features one of the best collegiate bats in the nation, outfielder Gavin Cross. In a dominant 2021 season, the lefty outfielder slashed .345/.415/.621 in 234 plate appearances. Last spring was complimented by a successful summer with Team USA, propelling Cross into early first round consideration for this July’s draft.
Another impact bat for the Hokies is infielder Tanner Schobel, who put up an .800 OPS in 52 games. The sophomore then followed up his spring campaign with a strong summer on Cape Cod, slashing .302/.378/.465 in 29 games.
Flanking Cross in center will be sophomore Jack Hurley and junior Nick Biddison. Hurley, a highly regarded recruit coming out of State College, PA, may be the next breakout star for VT. He was productive in his freshman year but has the tools to do much more this spring.
Other possible impact names for the Hokies include Penn graduate transfer Eduardo Malinowski and highly-regarded freshman Carson DeMartini. Due to the Ivy League’s quickness to cancel games and seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Malinowski hasn’t had four full years. However, in 95 career games, the Texas native has dominated with a .917 OPS.
Virginia Tech’s pitching staff is where the roster thins out, but there is room for upside. Sophomores Griffin Green, Brady Kirtner, and Christian Worley will likely get most of the looks in the rotation. Green had some success on the Cape last summer and is trending in the right direction.
An intriguing name on the staff is 6-4 lefty Grant Umberger. The Pennsylvania native had a nice summer in the NECBL, making it’s all-star game. With a fastball that reaches the mid-90s and quality secondary offerings including a slider, curveball, and change-up; Virginia Tech may have a Friday night starter in the making.
As a side note, it would be illegal as a Penn State fan not to mention that legend quarterback Christian Hackenberg’s brother Drue is a freshman pitcher for the Hokies.
Virginia Tech’s lineup features one of the best hitters in the country, along with a few interesting underclassman. Unfortunately, the pitching staff lacks overall talent and depth, which will make it hard to compete for Omaha in 2022.