MLB Draft’s first day loaded with NC picks

NC State’s Will Wilson went 15th overall to the Angels, and six others were taken in the first 66 picks

NC State shortstop Will Wilson, who was drafted 15th overall in the MLB Draft on Monday by the Angels, slides into home plate under the tag of Radford's Will Harless during a game on May 5 in Raleigh. (Ben McKeown / AP Photo)

A large haul of North Carolina-based talent in the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft was even bigger than projected, as six players with state ties had their names called Monday night.

The group includes NC State shortstop Will Wilson, the 15th overall pick to the Los Angeles Angels, Elon pitcher George Kirby at No. 20 to the Seattle Mariners, UNC Wilmington shortstop Greg Jones to the Tampa Bay Rays at No. 22, Wilmington high school pitcher Blake Walston to the Arizona Diamondbacks at No. 26 and North Carolina first baseman Michael Busch to the Los Angeles Dodgers at No. 31.


Campbell pitcher Seth Johnson was also selected at No. 40 by the Rays in the “Competitive Balance” phase sandwiched between the first and second rounds.

Of the six new draftees, Walston is by far the most intriguing pick.

A 6-foot-4 left-hander who helped New Hanover win its second straight 3A state championship last weekend, Walston is signed to play at NC State next season.

The natural assumption as a first-round pick is that he will never play a game in a Wolfpack uniform and that’s likely to happen. But unlike Green Hope’s Jordyn Adams, who passed up a two-sport career at UNC to sign for $4.1 million as the 17th overall pick last year, it’s still up in the air as to what Walston might do.

As one of the youngest players in this year’s draft, with a low-90 mph fastball that promises to improve as he gains experience and physical maturity, some scouts project him as the possible first overall pick in 2022 if he chooses college over the minors.

“There’s so much more growth and development for him,” Diamondbacks scouting director Deric Ladnier said on a conference call Monday night. “Over the course of the spring, we watched him develop into a power pitcher. Obviously, he’s young, big, strong and has tremendous upside.”

One player that definitely won’t be returning to the Wolfpack is Wilson.

The ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2019, the junior from Kings Mountain led State in average (.335), doubles (20), homers (16) and slugging percentage (.661) this season while also drawing 33 walks.

Although Angels scouting director Matt Swanson described Wilson as having “high-end upside” during a conference call Monday night, he believes that the Wolfpack star is polished enough to play in the majors sooner rather than later.

“We think extremely high of Will,” Swanson said. “Obviously on the field, I think the performance in a major conference speaks for itself. I think sometimes what is lost in the shuffle is the makeup and character, and this is just an awesome, awesome young man who is going to blend right in.

“He has a chance to move quick, but (he’ll) work on his own pace and just get acclimated to being an Angel and see how quickly he can move.”

Busch also has the potential to be a fast mover through the Dodgers’ system, provided the club can decide on where to play him defensively. Dodgers scouting director Billy Gasparino said during a post-first round conference call he was impressed with the ACC Tournament MVP’s maturity at the plate.

“He’s been a staple in the UNC program,” Gasparino said of Busch, who is hitting .294 with 16 homers and 57 RBI this season. “They rave about his makeup and his character, and we’re excited to add him to our organization.”

On the flip side of Wilson and Busch is UNCW’s Jones.

A draft-eligible sophomore, his selection in the first round was something of a surprise after being ranked No. 51 in this year’s class by Baseball America. His rapid rise up the board has a lot to do with his speed — he ranks sixth nationally with 40 stolen bases in 50 attempts — along with defense, potentially as a center fielder.

“He’s somebody we think has a really good chance to contribute on both sides defensively and offensively,” Tampa scouting director Rob Meltzer said. “We’re really excited to have him.”

The Rays’ other local first-round pick, Campbell right-hander Jones, is also something of a project after being converted from shortstop just two years ago.

“He has a shorter track record; this is his first year of full-time pitching,” Meltzer said. “But in terms of his arm action, delivery, body type, he really fulfills all the things we’re looking for in a young starting pitching prospect.”

Elon’s Kirby is an even more attractive prospect because of his combination of power — his fastball tops out at 98 mph — and control — he walked only six hitters in 88⅓ innings on the way to becoming his school’s first first-round draftee.

UNC right-hander Tyler Baum was the only player with state connections taken in the second round, going No. 66 overall to the Oakland Athletics.

Here is the complete list of draftees with NC ties through all 40 rounds:

Round 1

Will Wilson, SS, NC State (15th overall) Angels

George Kirby, RHP, Elon (20) Mariners

Greg Jones, SS, UNCW (22) Rays

Blake Walston, LHP, New Hanover HS (26) Diamondbacks

Michael Busch, 1B, UNC (31) Dodgers

Seth Johnson, RHP, Campbell (40) Rays

Round 2

Tyler Baum, RHP, UNC (66) Athletics

Round 4

Evan Edwards, 1B, NC State (111) Brewers

Graeme Stinson, LHP, Duke (128) Rays

Jake Agnos, LHP, ECU (135) Yankees

Round 5

Bryant Packard, OF, ECU (142) Tigers

Round 6

Matthew Barefoot, OF, Campbell (196) Astros

Round 7

Spencer Brickhouse, 1B, ECU (212) Diamondbacks

Round 8

Kyle Brnovich, LHP, Elon (241) Angels

Ty Adcock, RHP, Elon (246) Mariners

Davidjohn Herz, RHP Terry Sanford HS (252) Cubs

Round 9

Tyson Messer, RHP, Campbell (260) White Sox

Austin Bergner, RHP, UNC (262) Tigers

Round 10

Colin Peluse, RHP, Wake Forest (284) Athletics

Ben Gross, RHP, Duke (299) Twins

Chad Sykes, RHP, UNCG (301) Angels

Round 11

Nick Neal, OF, Randleman HS (327) Blue Jays

Round 12

Corey Joyce, SS, NC Central (352) Tigers

Round 14

Kennie Taylor, OF, Duke (418) Mets

Patrick Frick, SS, Wake Forest (426) Mariners

Ike Freeman, 3B, UNC (430) Indians

Round 15

Trey Benton, RHP, ECU (460) Indians

Cam Devanney, SS, Elon (463) Brewers

Round 16

Jason Parker, RHP, NC State (474) Reds

Brandon Martarano, C, UNC (476) Giants

Round 17

Morgan McSweeny, RHP, Wake Forest (498) Orioles

Alec Barger, RHP, NC State (517) Braves

Round 18

Tyler Driver, RHP, Crossroads FLEX HS (546) Mariners

Ashton McGee, 2B, UNC (553) Brewers

Evan Voliva, RHP, ECU (555) Yankees

Round 19

Noah Soles, OF, Ledford HS (572) Diamondbacks

Zarion Sharpe, RHP, ECU (575) Cardinals

Turner Brown, SS, ECU (579) Rockies

Adam Laskey, RHP, Duke (582) Cubs

Round 20

Peyton Williams, RHP, Catawba (607) Braves

Round 21

Andrew Blake, RHP, NC State (631) Angels

Round 24

Michael Bienlien, RHP, NC State (712) Tigers

Hansen Butler, RHP, UNC (740) White Sox

E.P. Reese, OF, Winston-Salem State (766) Astros

Round 29

Jake Washer, C, ECU (882) Cubs

Round 30

Daniel Milwee, C, High Point (890) White Sox

Justin Crump, RHP, UNCW (896) Giants

Michael Horrell, RHP, Campbell (916) Astros

Round 31

Matthew Koehler, OF, Western Carolina (944) Athletics

Harris Yett, C, Charlotte (948) Orioles

Round 32

Chase Walter, RHP, Western Carolina (961) Angels

Chandler Redmond, 2B, Gardner-Webb (965) Cardinals

Round 33

Justin Kunz, C, Gardner-Webb (991) Angels

Thayer Thomas, OF, NC State (1007) Red Sox

Round 34

Carter Bach, RHP, Wake Forest (1028) Rays

Joey Lancellottti, RHP, UNC (1035) Yankees

Round 35

Leon Hunter, RHP, NC A&T (1045) Rangers

Round 36

Isaiah Bennett, RHP, Pine Forest HS (1073) Padres

Kyle Smith, C, New Hanover HS (1082) Diamondbacks

C.J. Mayhue, LHP, Crest HS (1086) Mariners

Round 37

Cole Weiss, 3B, UNCW (1106) Giants

Bryce Jarvis, LHP, Duke (1125) Yankees

Round 39

Evan Justice, LHP, NC State (1161) Brewers

Chris Lanzilli, OF, Wake Forest (1166) Giants

Round 40

Gianluca Dalatri, RHP, UNC (1191) Tigers