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The Daily Tar Heel

Tar Heels in the Pros: Former UNC players making their mark in professional baseball

Brian Miller against Michigan
Center fielder Brian Miller celebrates during North Carolina's 8-1 win over Michigan in Chapel Hill Regional play on June 3.

Although the North Carolina baseball team’s 2018 season ended on June 20, Carolina fans still have a reason to watch the sport on the professional level.

Ten former Tar Heels have seen action in the MLB this year, including Kyle Seager, and countless more have made a mark in the minor leagues, led by 2017 first-team All-American J.B. Bukauskas.

Former UNC pitcher J.B. Bukauskas (38) is pulled out of the game against Long Beach State on March 3, 2017 in Chapel Hill. 

MLB

Seager has perhaps the most decorated career of any UNC hitter still active in the major leagues. The 2014 all-star and gold glove winner is batting a career low .217 but has bashed 20 home runs and knocked in 72 teammates this season.

 The third baseman needs just 16 more home runs to surpass the all-time Tar Heel mark of 188 set by B.J. Surhoff, and will likely reach the milestone in 2019.

The 30-year-old is joined on the Seattle Mariners by two other Tar Heels: Mike Morin, who has made three relief appearances on the season, and Adam Warren. Warren, who has struck out 45 batters in just 42 innings to go along with a 3.56 earned run average, recently joined the Mariners after a trade from the New York Yankees. The trade was unfortunate for the reliever because it took him from a team in the thick of a playoff race to one that is slowly slipping in the wild-card race.

Warren’s former Tar Heel battery mate, Matt Harvey, is not the staff ace he once was. 

After beginning the season with the New York Mets, the pitcher nicknamed ‘Dark Knight of Gotham’ was shipped to the Cincinnati Reds. His 21 earned runs in 27 innings with the Mets was too much for management to swallow, but Harvey has somewhat righted his career with the Ohio-based ball club. 

He owns a 4.43 earned run average in 105.2 innings and has a 6-6 record for the Reds, the last-place team in the National League Central.

The only two former UNC players who could make the playoffs this season are Chris Iannetta and Andrew Miller, who both played alongside Warren in 2006. Iannetta has played in 92 games for the National League West-leading Colorado Rockies this season and has hit nine home runs for the ball club.

Miller, who has become a mainstay in the postseason, is likely to make the playoffs for a fifth straight season. His Cleveland Indians are 15 games clear of the second-place Detroit Tigers in the American League Central. The lefthander is currently on the disabled list, his third such stint in 2018, but will be key to the Indians making a deep run in October. He has a 1.10 earned run average for his career in the postseason and has struck out 48 batters in just 32.2 innings of work.

Minor Leagues

Bukauskas is one of three 2017 All-Americans who have made an impact in their first full professional seasons. The Houston Astros’ No. 1 pick in 2017 just made his Double-A debut on Sept. 2, striking out eight batters and allowing just one hit in six scoreless innings. On the year, his record is 4-2. Bukauskas has struck out 71 batters in 59 innings and posesses a 2.14 earned run average. He is the No. 8 prospect in the Astros’ system, according to MLB Pipeline, and could make his major league debut in 2019.

Brian Miller and Logan Warmoth, Bukauskas’ collegiate teammates, have each seen plenty of time in the minor leagues this season. Miller, a 2017 draft pick for the Miami Marlins, has shown off his speed with 40 stolen bases and has plenty of contact. The outfielder's .295 average on the season is a big reason why he made the jump to Double-A.

Brian Miller, who was drafted in 2017, is one of numerous Tar Heels who are playing in the minor leagues.

Warmoth, a shortstop and the No. 1 pick for the Toronto Blue Jays in last year’s draft, has struggled to a .249 average in 79 games. 

Former UNC shortstop Logan Warmoth grabs some clay in front of the scoreboard at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill.

Ten Tar Heels heard their names called in the 2018 MLB Draft, but none have shone more than Rodney Hutchison Jr. Hutchison, who was drafted in the sixth round to the New York Yankees, has two victories in nine appearances for the Yankees’ short-season rookie club. He has posted an impressive 1.97 earned run average in 32 innings of work.

Junior Rodney Hutchison Jr. (48) pitches against Maryland on March 20 in Boshamer Stadium.

With 10 Tar Heels active in the major leagues and more on the way, UNC’s presence in professional baseball is evident and should continue to expand in the years that follow.

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@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com