This years North Carolina baseball team is filled with All-Americans and future MLB prospects. Some are Freshman, and still have a ways to go. Others have already been drafted and are on their way to the pros.
A majority of the Tar Heels success can be credited to the All American 3rd basemen, National Player of the Year candidate Colin Moran. Moran was picked 6th overall by the Miami Marlins. Moran has been the heart of the UNC lineup this year, and is a big reason why the team is the No.1 team in the country. Moran had a .351 batting average this season, it does not matter who you are playing against, that is pretty good average. He also showed that he has some power, which some scouts doubted he had. Moran had 13 HR’s along with 87 RBI’s in 66 games this year.
But in order to have an elite team, you also have to have a pitching ace you can turn to in must win games. Kent Emanuel has been exactly that for the Tar Heels this season. Emanuel was selected in the 3rd round by the Houston Astros. The lefty had an impressive 2.94 ERA this year, with an 11-3 record. He is the ACC Pitcher of the Year for a reason. Kent Emanuel’s play in the NCAA tournament thus far has been overshadowed with his ridiculously high pitch count. In a regional game against Towson, Emanuel lasted 7.2 innings with a pitch count of 124. Just under 48 hours later, Emanuel came out of the bullpen to pitch against Florida Atlantic. He threw 51 pitches in that appearance. That brings his pitch count to 175 in just fewer than 2 days. Worst of all, he struggled during all of this, giving up 5 runs in each outing. Manager Mike Fox has taken a lot of heat for doing this; some believe this might hurt Kent Emanuel’s future, which brings us to the overall point of this article.
Ten to Fifteen years from now when we look back on this years North Carolina baseball team, who will we think of as a better MLB player? Moran or Emanuel? This is my opinion for both:
Kent Emanuel: What concerns me about Emanuel is that he lacks a great fastball. He can reach 93 MPH or so, but looking at a lot of MLB pitchers these days, a 93 MPH fastball might not cut it as a dominant pitch. He also lacks a dominant breaking ball. What has led to a lot of his success thus far is his pitching IQ. He has the ability to outsmart hitters at the plate. If he can carry this over to the pros. Kent Emanuel could be a No.3 to No.5 starter in a teams starting rotation some day. Emanuel reminds me some of Mark Buehrle. That might be his ceiling. Worst case scenario is that he could become a lefty out of the bullpen, to basically face left handed batters.
Colin Moran: I believe he will blossom into an everyday player. One ability that Moran has that a lot of MLB hitters lack, is the ability to lay off bad pitches. You will rarely see Colin swing at a bad pitch. The only question I have about Moran will be what position he will actually play. Some believe he might not have the range for a 3rd baseman, and might have to play 1st base instead. Either way I believe he will be a success. He reminds me a lot of Hunter Pence. Moran’s ceiling might be a Joey Votto type of player, but with less hitting power.
In the end, who will be better? Who will have more success? I believe Colin Moran will, at whatever position the Miami Marlins choose for him to play. This might seem as a easy answer, because Moran was drafted 6th overall, while Emanuel was selected in the 3rd round. But that is not always the case.
Let’s go back to the 2009 MLB draft. Former Tar Heel Dustin Ackley was drafted 2nd overall to the Seattle Mariners. A few rounds later, in the 3rd round, college teammate Kyle Seager was also selected by the Mariners. So far, Kyle Seager has been the better player. Through 65 games this year, Seager has a .285 batting average, with 8 home runs and 30 runs batted in. Meanwhile, Ackley has been demoted to Triple A because of his lack of performance. I know it is still very early in both of their careers. But my point is, being picked higher in the draft, does not mean you will have a better career than someone who was picked in the later rounds.