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Saturday September 25th

Analysis: How UNC baseball's undrafted free agent signees can find roles in their new teams

UNC senior Dylan Harris (3) at bat on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 in Boshamer Stadium against NC A&T. UNC beat NC A&T 8-0.
Buy Photos UNC senior Dylan Harris (3) at bat on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 in Boshamer Stadium against NC A&T. UNC beat NC A&T 8-0.

Former North Carolina outfielder Dylan Harris and right-handed pitcher Gianluca Dalatri inked free-agent deals with the Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals, respectively, following the shortened MLB draft in June. Here's how the former Tar Heels might fit in with their new organizations.

Dylan Harris

Prior to transferring to UNC before his junior year, Harris played two seasons at Walters State Community College. Harris batted .388 with 93 runs scored, 14 home runs and 59 RBIs in 2018.

​In his first season at UNC, the speedy outfielder played in 65 games — all of which he started — and hit .268 on top of 15 doubles and seven home runs. With 62 runs scored in the 2019 campaign, Harris was second on the team, and his 53 walks on the season were tied for the seventh most in North Carolina history.

Harris finished 2020 batting .274 and slugging .575 while crushing five home runs in just 19 games before the COVID-19 pandemic cut his senior season short in March. 

In 84 games as a Tar Heel, Harris finished with a .270 batting average, stole eight bases and belted 12 home runs.

Harris was one of seven undrafted free agents to join Baltimore. Four of the seven are pitchers, while JD Mundy and TT Bowens project as infielders.

Baltimore drafted outfielder Heston Kjerstad from the University of Arkansas and added more depth later with Hudson Haskin from Tulane.

Within their minor league system, the Orioles have plenty of young talent to boast including their No. 5 and No. 16 prospects being outfielders Austin Hays and Ryan McKenna.

With Baltimore’s outfield depth, Harris will need to excel in the minors and outshine the competition in order to move up to the big league club.

Gianluca Dalatri

​After amassing a 30-0 pitching record during his high school career at Christian Brother Academy, Dalatri was selected in the 40th round of the 2016 MLB draft by the Colorado Rockies.

​Dalatri opted to play at UNC in 2017 and pitched a terrific first-year campaign, amassing a 7-3 record, a 3.34 ERA and a team-high 97 innings pitched.

In his first ACC start against Virginia, Dalatri allowed just one run in 8.1 innings pitched. Dalatri also struck out 15 batters against Radford, making him the first Tar Heel to do so since Matt Harvey in 2010.

At the end of the 2017 season, Dalatri earned third-team All-ACC and first-year All-ACC honors, earning a spot as a member of the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team during the summer.

However, injuries in the next three years plagued Dalatri’s career at UNC. In 2018, Dalatri pitched just twice before an injury sidelined him for three months. The right-hander pitched in only six starts in 2019 before another injury and did not take the field in 2020.

The main concerns for Dalatri as he moves through the Cardinals' minor league system are his health and the pitching depth that St. Louis has.

In the 2020 draft, the Cardinals selected three pitchers, two of which are right handed — in Missouri’s Ian Bedell and Tink Hence from Watson Chapel High School in Pine Bluff, Arkansas — and signed another two right handers on minor league contracts.

The top 30 prospects in the St. Louis organization are swarming with right handed pitchers — taking up 12 spots in the top 30 list — with seven of those already at the Triple-A level. The top right-handed pitcher, No. 10 prospect Junior Fernandez, already had MLB service under his belt and may see more in the shortened 2020 season.

Between the young pitching talent already in the big leagues, the prospects coming up the pipeline and the pitchers being drafted this year, it will be hard for Dalatri to rise through the ranks of the Cardinals organization. 

The talent to do so is there for Dalatri, but his health will be something to monitor as he starts in the Gulf Coast League and tries to advance up the minor league ladder.

@A_ReynoldsDTH

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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