Dustin Ackley – No. 2 overall pick to Seattle
There was little surprise when the Mariners selected Ackley with the second pick, considering the junior first baseman has been tabbed the best hitter in the draft.
Seattle’s front office has admitted to watching Ackley closely during the season to see how he responded to Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow in the fall, due to their desire to move him back to the outfield in the pro ranks.
Ackley feels comfortable that his arm is ready for the challenge.
“I probably could have played in the outfield a month or so ago, if I wanted to,” Ackley said. “It was just that this year they kind of needed me at first base. But I’ll honestly play wherever they want me to. If it’s the outfield, I think my arm will be ready to do that, or anywhere else for that matter.”
And even though Seattle is 2,800 miles from Ackley’s hometown of Walnut Cove, N.C., the lure of the Dance should help qualm any feelings of homesickness.
“I hope I am in Seattle at some point, so I think if I get to there I won’t be homesick,” Ackley said. “I think it’ll be so exciting that I won’t even know to be homesick.”
Alex White – No. 15 overall pick to Cleveland
It didn’t take long after White was selected by the Indians for speculation to begin about his potential move to the bullpen. For the junior righty from Greenville, N.C., the opportunity to play matters more than where he plays.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get there, whether it’s in the bullpen or starting,” said White, who currently doesn’t have an agent. “I love doing both. As long as I can play baseball, I really don’t care.”
The move makes sense, considering his mid-90s heat and his strong showings at the College World Series last June – White won back-to-back games in relief, throwing 4 2/3 innings while allowing just one hit and no runs.
“I think some guys see that and say, ‘Hey, he can do both,’” said White, who also indicated that the Indians have said nothing to him about a move.
Kyle Seager – No. 83 (3rd round) overall pick to Seattle
One of the luxuries of attending college two hours away from home is the ability to make quick trips for important situations. It’s hard to fathom any situation more important than being drafted and potentially setting your family up for life, which explains why Seager made the journey to Kannapolis, N.C., to share Tuesday’s experience with his family.
“I was getting so nervous that I was actually walking around the house,” Seager said. “They were at the kitchen table [looking at a computer] and I was in the other part of the kitchen just walking around and I heard my name called and they all started yelling and everything. It was really emotional and I was really glad that I was home with them.”
The junior may be seeing the final action of his career at third base this coming week in Omaha, as a position change is likely.
“I think they like me more at second base,” said Seager, who does not have an agent. “I think that’s where I profile more in the professional game. I’ve played second base [at UNC], but it was best for the team for me to move to third base this year after losing Chad [Flack].”
Mark Fleury – No. 119 (4th round) overall pick to Cincinnati
The knock on Fleury heading into his junior season was his trouble hitting left-handed pitching, but the catcher made a good point on Wednesday in suggesting that he had few opportunities to dispel that myth in 2008 as former catcher Tim Federowicz had the honors when facing opposing lefties.
Even so, the left-handed batter believes he knows the secret to success at the plate.
“It’s all about confidence,” Fleury said. “You’ll get in there and you won’t be able to see a ball against a lefty or a righty, but I feel confident that I can hit lefties. I always have and I think I always will.”
One thing he does have going for him is a resume full of catching for elite-level pitching talent in Chapel Hill.
“You catch big-time arms like theirs [and] it’s going to help you make the transition,” Fleury said. “But I’ve got to get better catching them over the next two weeks.”
Adam Warren – No. 135 (4th round) overall pick to New York Yankees
What does a strong postseason – six earned runs in 22 1/3 innings, with 23 strikeouts and two walks – do for a pitcher hoping to make a move up major league draft boards? How about a 966-spot march up the ticker from the season before?
That’s exactly what Warren has accomplished after being selected with No. 1101 overall pick (36th round) of the 2008 draft.
“What a great story going from the 36th round to the fourth round,” Fox said. “That’s an incredible story. We might have to use that one with some of our juniors.”
High school signees Donovan Tate (No. 3 overall to San Diego) and Jacob Turner (No. 9 overall to Detroit) went early in the draft on Tuesday night as expected, and appear to be the most likely of UNC’s 18 incoming recruits to skip college and sign a professional contract.
The Tar Heels were hit hard in 2008 by the draft as six of their 10 incoming freshmen were signed and never showed up on campus, highlighting the need for such a large class in 2009. When you’re recruiting elite-level talent, sometimes you have to hedge your bets and expect to lose a few of your prospects to the allure of those green rectangular bills.
“We have to protect ourselves – we have to,” Fox said. “You have a choice here of protecting yourself against a draft or just trying to hit it right on the nose, and then you walk into the dugout and you look into the other dugout and you think that team has better players than you do. I don’t like that feeling. So I’d rather sit here and sweat out a couple of guys in the draft and know that we have some other ones that may slip through it and may attend here… There’s no rhyme or reason to it – you just try to do the best you can.”
The decision is not as cut and dry as one may think. Starting UNC pitcher Matt Harvey was selected in the third round in the 2007 draft by Anaheim, and relief pitcher Nate Striz was taken by Minnesota two rounds later.
“One path is for one type of kid and one path is for another type of kid,” said White, who was drafted in the 14th round by the L.A. Dodgers in 2006. “We obviously made the right choice, and it’s been a great time here.”
Other Tar Heels (current and future) Drafted
P Matt Graham, San Francisco, 6th round, (177 overall)
P Brian Moran, Seattle, 7th round (203 overall)
P Bryan Mitchell, New York Yankess, 16th round (495 overall)
OF Brian Goodwin, Chicago White Sox, 17th round (523 overall)