In case you missed it, last week, we covered the five biggest sets of shoes to fill in SEC baseball. You can find that piece here.
Today, we’re going to do the same with the ACC.
But first, let’s go over the parameters of this list, just like we did last time. First, we only took a maximum of one player from each team. So even though some teams could easily have multiple players make an appearance here, for variety’s sake, we’ve limited it to one per team. Second, we’re not concerned with how well we expect the team to replace the player. It’s all about the missing production, not about how well it will be replaced.
Here we go.
Brendan McKay – Louisville
As if anyone else in the conference could be the first name on the list. Losing your best hitter is tough to overcome. Losing your best hitter and pitcher in one offseason is even tougher. But the Cardinals are in the unique position of losing both by virtue of losing just one player.
From the first time he took the field for Louisville, McKay has been among the premier two-way players in the country. Sometimes, one facet of a two-way player’s game is ahead of the other and it takes a while for the two sides to even up, but that really wasn’t the case with McKay. From the start, he was a game-changer in both facets.
As a freshman, he hit .308/.418/.431 with 14 doubles, four homers, and 34 RBI. On the mound, he did a little bit of starting and relieving. He appeared in 20 games, with 13 of those being starts. He had a 1.77 ERA, a 117/34 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 96.2 innings, and a .159 opponent batting average. He even saved four games for good measure.
As a sophomore, he hit .333/.414/.513 with 19 doubles, six homers, and 41 RBI. On the mound, as a full-time weekend starter, he had a 2.30 ERA, a 128/42 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 109.2 innings, and a .220 opponent batting average.
During his final season, most of his numbers took a jump. At the plate, he hit .341/.457/.659 with 15 doubles, 18 home runs, and 57 RBI, all the while drawing 45 walks compared to just 39 strikeouts. Those numbers are significant because it signaled that McKay went from being a guy with a solid hit tool who showed some pop to being a legit power threat. On the mound, he had a 2.56 ERA, which was the highest of his career, but that was offset by eye-popping numbers elsewhere, such as his 146/35 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 109 innings and a .198 opponent batting average.
After the season, he was drafted fourth overall by the Tampa Bay Rays, and unlike many two-way players who become high draft picks, there was (and still is) legitimate debate about whether he’s a better pro prospect as a pitcher or hitter. That’s a debate the Rays may continue to have, but for the Cardinals, it simply represents not one, but two spots they’ll need to fill heading into 2018.
Adam Haseley – Virginia
The Cavaliers will miss Haseley for many of the same reasons Louisville will miss McKay.
He may have taken more time to get acclimated to Division I baseball than McKay did, and he wasn’t quite as dominant in either facet of the game, but he was right in the thick of things both in the lineup and on the mound throughout his entire career at Virginia.
On the mound during his freshman year, he didn’t have a defined role for the entirety of the season, but he was effective in the chances he received. He appeared in 11 games, five of which were starts. He had a 2.20 ERA and a .262 opponent batting average in 28.2 innings of work. He was a regular in the lineup as a freshman, as he started 68 games, hitting .250, with a .355 on-base percentage, and 11 doubles.
Things really started to click for him as a sophomore, though. As a weekend starter for UVA, he had a 1.73 ERA and a .194 opponent batting average in 78 innings of work. At the plate, he showed considerably more pop than he had as a freshman, hitting .304/.377/.502 with 19 doubles, six triples, six homers, and 37 RBI.
From a pitching standpoint, his junior season was something of a trying one. He was limited to 11 games (all starts) on the mound, and while he was largely effective, it probably wasn’t quite the season he would have wanted to have, at least in terms of being able to carry a full-load as a starter in the weekend rotation. He had a 3.58 ERA, a 53/18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 65.1 innings, and a .240 opponent batting average.
Chances are, though, most everyone around the program will give him a pass for a perceived disappointing season on the mound because of what he did at the plate, where he was a machine. He hit .390/.491/.659 with 16 doubles, 14 homers, and 56 RBI. He also had more than double the number of walks (44) than he had strikeouts (21) and he added ten stolen bases.
Even if he had just been a hitter, that’s quite a bit of production to replace, but the fact that he was also someone who they could plug into the rotation and trust to do the job will make it all the more difficult to replace him.
Logan Warmoth – North Carolina
Ace pitcher J.B. Bukauskas very easily could have been the pick from UNC, but Warmoth gets the nod for a couple of reasons. For one, Bukauskas came on as a junior in a big way, but prior to that, he had been somewhat inconsistent, at least as far as guys who are considered bona fide aces are concerned. But Warmoth also deserves it on his own merits because he did a lot of things really well for the Tar Heels.
He’s also someone who just simply continued to get better as his career progressed.
As a freshman, he went through some struggles. He hit just .246/.315/.282 with five extra-base hits all season (four doubles and a home run). Head coach Mike Fox stuck with him, though, and he ended up starting 58 games.
That experience ended up paying dividends as a sophomore, when Warmoth broke out. In that campaign, he hit .337/.402/.481 with 14 doubles, four homers, and 53 RBI. He also cut down on strikeouts (from 29 to 24) and increased his walk total (from 18 to 21). And once again, he played a lot, starting 53 games.
As a junior, he truly developed into an all-around offensive threat. He hit .336/.404/.554 with 19 doubles, five triples, ten home runs, and 49 RBI. He also set a career high with 18 stolen bases, and defensively, he cut down on errors and set a career high with a .970 fielding percentage.
After the season, Warmoth was selected 22nd overall by the Toronto Blue Jays, leaving a gap in the middle infield that Fox and his staff will have to work to fill.
Parker Dunshee – Wake Forest
There are any number of offensive players for Wake Forest, led by Stuart Fairchild, that could have made this list, but Dunshee gets the nod for the steadying influence he had on the Demon Deacons’ pitching staff over the last two years. Getting consistent outings from their pitchers has been a concern over the last two years, but that hasn’t been nearly as big a worry with Dunshee on the mound.
Two years ago, in Wake’s breakthrough back into the postseason, he started 15 games (plus one relief appearance), putting up a 3.20 ERA, a .253 opponent batting average, and a 102/32 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 101.1 innings of work. Rather than move on to pro baseball after that junior season as a 14th round pick of the Chicago Cubs, he decided to return to Winston-Salem, and he backed up his junior season by enjoying a quality senior season that saw him put up a 3.91 ERA, a .250 opponent batting average, and a 111/30 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 103.2 innings across 17 starts.
Those were the seasons where he was a member of the weekend rotation and helped lead the team to the postseason, but he actually had impressive freshman and sophomore seasons, albeit in different roles. As a freshman, he appeared in 27 games, all out of the bullpen. He had a 2.17 ERA, a .221 opponent batting average, and 43 strikeouts in 49.2 innings. As a sophomore, he was more of a swingman. He appeared in 19 games, five of which were starts. He put up a 2.89 ERA, with a .225 opponent batting average, 74 strikeouts in 71.2 innings, and four saves.
Over his four seasons in a Wake Forest uniform, he held down just about every imaginable role on the pitching staff, was effective in all of them, and helped get the team to back-to-back regionals for the first time since making five in a row between 1998 and 2002. And that’s what will make him tough to replace.
Pat Krall – Clemson
Just like Dunshee, a big part of what will make Krall tough to replace is how versatile he proved himself to be as a Tiger.
After transferring from Temple when that program was shuttered, Krall immediately became a go-to arm for Clemson out of the bullpen. In 2015, he had a 4.03 ERA in 27 appearances out of the ‘pen, with a .229 opponent batting average, and 38 strikeouts in 38 innings. He took things to the next level in 2016, when he became the team’s most reliable arm. He appeared in 29 games, including three starts, putting up a 1.67 ERA, a .203 opponent batting average, and a 65/17 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
He, too, was drafted after his junior season, but he also decided to return, and in his case, he did so with eyes on becoming a weekend starter.
Thrust into a role wholly unfamiliar to him before that point, he once again shined and ate up valuable innings. Over 17 appearances, 16 of which were starts, he had a 3.50 ERA in 90 innings of work, helping to form a stout weekend rotation made up of Krall, Charlie Barnes, and Alex Eubanks.
Perhaps there were more dominant relievers in the country and perhaps there were better starting pitchers, but there are few who bounced from one to the other as well as Krall, giving his team just what they needed every step of the way.
Honorable mentions, in no particular order:
Pavin Smith – Virginia
J.B. Bukauskas – North Carolina
Stuart Fairchild – Wake Forest
Drew Ellis – Louisville
Gavin Sheets – Wake Forest
Dylan Busby – Florida State
Charlie Barnes – Clemson
Alec Bettinger – Virginia
Joe Dunand – NC State