Welcome to Keeping It Heel’s UNC Baseball preview! Over the next four days, KIH will get you ready for Opening Day for UNC on Friday February 14th against the College of Charleston. We will cover UNC’s Infield, Outfield, Pitchers and Catchers, and Overall Season Outlook. Check back every morning for the latest installment in the series! Today we will check out the North Carolina outfield.
The biggest loss in the North Carolina outfield from last season is leadoff hitter Chaz Frank, who was drafted in the 20th round by the Blue Jays. Taking his place this season will be freshman Adam Pate, the 12th rated recruit in North Carolina. Skye Bolt is the headliner of the outfield group, and will be asked by Head Coach Mike Fox to lead the Carolina offense in the absence of the big hitters of last season like Colin Moran and Cody Stubbs. Bolt will shift into center field and can showcase his elite outfield arm alongside senior left fielder Parks Jordan. Jordan had 45 RBIs last year, but needs to improve his batting average of .252. Here is a closer look at UNC’s projected outfield and DH.
LF: Parks Jordan- Senior, .252/.351/.283
CF: Skye Bolt- Sophomore, .321/.418/.491 (Freshman All-American last year)
RF: Adam Pate- Freshman, No College Stats
DH: Tom Zengel- Senior, .357/.444/.429
The outfield will be a good mix of old and young for Carolina this season. Lets take a look at how that talent matches up defensively first. Jordan is an average left fielder, and is playing more for his bat than his arm in left. Bolt and Pate however grade out as plus defenders and both have electric arms capable of gunning down runners going to second or third. Defensively, the outfield should be very strong defensively for the Tar Heels.
As mentioned above, Bolt is the best offensively in this group and probably the best power hitter on the team. Baseball America also lists him as the highest 2015 Draft Prospect from the ACC. Bolt is also a clutch hitter, coming up with the game winning hit in Game One of the Super Regionals last year. Fast forward to the 3 minute mark in the video and you can see it.
As a freshman, he was on fire offensively until a foot injury slowed his momentum midway through the season. A healthy Bolt for a full season could end up with All-American type numbers from the outfield. He will also be UNC’s best source of warning track power, so Coach Fox will be leaning on his super sophomore to drive in runs and clear the bases for the Heels this spring.
Zengel and Jordan are the two seniors in the outfield on this young Carolina team, and figure to have productive seasons for the Diamond Heels this year. Zengel hit well mostly in a reserve role last season, but shouldn’t have any trouble adjusting to everyday at-bats at DH. Zengel also should see some time in the outfield giving Jordan and Pate days off. Speaking of Jordan, he started 38 games last year as DH and now transitions to the outfield. He hit .270 as a sophomore and .252 as a junior, so Coach Fox will find out early this season if Parks can right the ship as a senior or if he should look for other options in the outfield. Overall however, the Heels should have a really strong outfield capable of propelling the Diamond Heels deep into the NCAA tournament.