MLB draft lays claim to future and present Tar Heels
The North Carolina baseball team’s top recruit, a 6-foot-7-inch, left-handed pitcher from Ohio, won’t be a Tar Heel next year.
Matt Smoral, from Solon High School which is southeast of Cleveland, was selected 50th overall by Toronto in the Major League Baseball Draft, which took place June 4 through June 6. All signs point to Smoral signing with the Blue Jays.
In the 40 rounds of the draft, three other Tar Heel recruits along with five current players were selected, but Smoral was the first off the board.
Smoral’s stock was high, not only because of his size and his left-handedness but he’s already throwing with mid-90s velocity.
“He is just electric on the mound,” Solon head coach Damien Kopkas said. “Over the last few years he’s really developed into a pitcher and less of a thrower. He’s intelligent on the mound and he throws three different pitches for strikes that are above average pitches.”
Though the Tar Heels would have loved to have Smoral as a part of an already impressive pitching staff, he’d be turning down a large amount of money to do so — somewhere in the $2 million range.
“We’re missing out on a terrific talent and great kid but we knew it was a long shot as talented as he was,” North Carolina coach Mike Fox said. “He set his number up there pretty high and went through the process right. We’re disappointed but we understand.”
UNC will be losing at least one more pitcher to the major leagues as Cody Penny, who was selected in the 16th round by the Cleveland Indians, has decided to forgo his senior season and sign.
Second baseman turned short stop and then back to second baseman Tommy Coyle was also selected in the 16th round and Fox indicated that he too planned to sign.
All-American closer Michael Morin was selected by the Angels in the 13th round but has yet to reach a decision.
Though Morin had an excellent season, it came with an unexpected, disastrous ending. He gave up a walk-off three-run home run in the first match-up with St. John’s and dropped a routine fly ball in the second game as the end of the season became inevitable.
But Fox doesn’t want the regional to have any impact on his decision.
“I hope Michael makes the best decision that he thinks is for him, first and foremost,” Fox said. “From our standpoint, that would be the entirely wrong way to look at what his future should be. We wouldn’t have been in the regional if it wasn’t for Michael. I don’t want that to even factor in to his decision.”
Key reliever R.C. Orlan was picked by the Nationals in the 30th round, but the way his season ended is causing some trepidation on Washington’s part. Orlan left the elimination game with East Carolina after 1.2 innings complaining of tightness in his elbow.
“I think there’s an issue with R.C., in terms of whether or not the Nationals want to check out his arm and his injury more from physical standpoint,” Fox said. “So, I don’t know exactly how long that process will take.”
The deadline for players to sign is July 13, and Fox said he expects the decisions of Orlan and Morin to come well before then.
North Davidson’s Landon Lassiter was the second UNC recruit selected. Lassiter was picked by Arizona immediately after Coyle was selected by Tampa Bay.
Lassiter’s high school coach Mike Meadows described the short stop as a quiet young man with a loud bat, one that had a trio of multi-homerun games this season.
“He worked hard on his arm strength and his range is unbelievable,” said Meadows, who also coached former UNC standout short stop Levi Michael.
“(Lassiter) makes the play on the run as good as anybody we’ve had.”
The Nationals used their pick in the 26th round on Skye Bolt, a UNC-committed outfielder, that has been wowing people with his bat as well as his range in the outfield. Dylan Deal, Bolt’s coach at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Georgia, raved about Bolt’s intimidating presence from out there in the grass.
“His assists were some of the most exciting baseball I’ve ever been around,” Deal said. “If somebody ever tried to run on him or take an extra base it was a bad idea.”
Deal said Bolt coming to UNC will be the best case scenario for everyone involved.
“I personally think this is going to be good for Skye and for everybody. UNC’s got a great player and Skye’s going to develop more, he’ll get a little bigger … And facing ACC pitching doesn’t hurt anybody,” Deal said.
“I’m really excited for UNC baseball and coach Fox. Y’all are going to love him.”
Korey Dunbar a catcher from Nitro High School in West Virginia was also picked in the MLB Draft, but Fox expects him along with Lassiter and Bolt to be on campus for orientation by June 18th.
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