Compilation: Diamond Heels in the draft
Nine players with Tar Heel ties were selected in this week's MLB Draft. We've compiled their destinations, plus a look at whether they're likely to sign or could return to school and the ramifications for the 2013 Tar Heels.
Jacob Stallings, C (Pittsburgh Pirates, 7th round): Stallings's draft status slipped some in 2011 after he made it clear it would take a significant number to dissuade him from returning for his senior year. He was a 42nd round pick, never gave serious consideration to signing, and returned for 2012. It paid off. The Pittsburgh Pirates made him a seventh round pick, vaulting him 35 rounds from his 2011 selection. The organization also picked a catcher with their second-round pick, so there will be catching depth in the organization. Stallings' pro career could begin with Pittsburgh's Rookie League club in Bradenton, Florida. The Pirates' A team is in Charleston, West Virginia.
Michael Morin, P (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 13th round): The Tar Heel closer completed a remarkable journey from last-second Carolina signee in the summer of 2009 to major league prospect when he was chosen by the Angels. The club went heavy on relievers this year, and more specifically wanted to focus on college pitchers. Immediately after his selection, Morin tweeted that he was was happy to be an Angel. It's likely that he'll sign, but not an entirely foregone conclusion.
Cody Penny, P (Cleveland Indians, 16th round): The righthanded reliever struggled with command at times this year, but has unquestionable stuff. Penny is likely to sign and could begin his professional career with the Rookie League club in Arizona.
Tommy Coyle, IF (Tampa Bay Rays, 16th round): The Tar Heel second baseman (the position at which Tampa Bay picked him) hit .315 in the Cape Cod League, making him an attractive pro prospect. Coyle seems to fit the Rays profile and is likely to begin his professional career this summer.
R.C. Orlan, P (Washington Nationals, 30th round): Here's the most intriguing of the five Carolina draft picks. Orlan is a left-handed pitcher who can throw 90 miles per hour, which usually translates into a high draft pick. He's had good success at a high level for two years for the Tar Heels, and showed an emerging breaking ball this year as a junior. But he walked off the mound during Sunday's NCAA regional game against East Carolina with an arm injury. In the past, Washington would've had a couple months to evaluate his progress before making a determination on signing him. This year, however, with new draft rules in effect, players must sign by mid-July. That gives Orlan only a month to decide if he wants to sign, or if he'd prefer to return to school, play a major role for a 2013 Carolina team that appears to be loaded, and make a draft leap similar to what Stallings did this year.
Tar Heel signees who were drafted include...
Matt Smoral, P (Toronto Blue Jays, compensation round): Smoral is one of those players a college team signs only on the chance that something crazy happens and they end up in school for an unexpected reason. Smoral did suffer a foot injury as a high school senior, but that didn't stop Toronto from making him a compensation round pick. Peter Gammons has already reported that Smoral has signed, although not everyone agrees. Regardless of whether the ink is dry, Smoral will be a pro this summer.
Landon Lassiter, IF (Arizona Diamondbacks, 16th round): Here's where it gets interesting. Lassiter has already said he plans to go to college. Of course, his brother, a former Carolina signee, said something very similar right before the New York Yankees threw a bucket full of cash at him, and he signed before arriving in Chapel Hill. But Lassiter seems serious about his college intentions, and if Coyle leaves, there is playing time available in Carolina's middle infield. College teams usually know they're not going to get the players who are drafted in the first couple rounds. The quality depth comes when players like Lassiter, picked in the middle rounds, are willing to defer their pro dreams and try to improve their pro standing with three or four years of college baseball.
Skye Bolt, OF (Washington Nationals, 26th round): In addition to having one of the best names in the draft, Bolt has the kind of raw talent that could make him an instant-impact player in college. And that's exactly what Bolt's father says is going to happen, as the family indicated after the draft that the outfielder will attend college. Bolt is listed among ESPN's top 40 players in the country but also has a unique off-the-field story.
Korey Dunbar, C (Los Angeles Dodgers, 39th round): With Stallings' departure, there will be a battle for the starting catcher job in 2013. Dunbar could be a part of that competition, as he said immediately after being drafted that he plans to attend college. "I'm definitely going to college," he told his hometown paper, which means he'll join the fray in the fall with Matt Roberts and any other possible late additions to be Carolina's everyday catcher.
Summary: It's going to be a very, very competitive fall. It's been several years since the Tar Heels had good draft luck with their signees, and Carolina lost four commitments each to the draft in 2011, 2010 and 2009. If only Smoral signs this year, that would bode very well for the Tar Heels not just for the 2013 season--when it appears the entire weekend starting rotation will return intact, plus key members of the bullpen and seven players who were in the starting lineup for the season finale against St. John's--but also for 2014 and 2015, as Carolina would be building quality depth that would eventually be quality experienced depth. And just how important can that experienced depth be? The little-known St. John's team that won the Chapel Hill regional quietly had four players taken in the top six rounds of the 2012 draft (the Tar Heels had zero).
As a bargaining tool, virtually every prepster taken in the draft initially says they plan to attend college. This year's group of signees, however, seems a little more serious about their declarations. The next date to keep an eye on is July 13, the signing deadline for drafted players.