The MLB Draft seems to be much less of an event than its NFL and NBA counterparts. Maybe it’s just because I’m not nearly as big a fan of the MLB as I am of the other two leagues, or maybe it’s got something to do with the facts that: a) drafted players are going to take some time to actually make it to the big leagues, which makes their promise a little less exciting; b) the draft is at the midpoint of the season during an All-Star Weekend people actually like, so there are bigger things going on; c) players can and often do get drafted more than once, so there isn’t really a sense of finality to it. Nevertheless, it’s still the place where young baseball players’ dreams of becoming pro ballplayers are realized, and that in and of itself is massive. UNC’s had at least one player selected in the MLB Draft every year since 2004, and that continued this year with five selections from the 2022 squad, which was the Heels’ most since 2019. Here’s who they were and where they went:
- Danny Serretti was the first Heel off the board, going to the Detroit Tigers in the sixth round with the 177th overall pick. UNC’s stalwart shortstop was announced as an infielder, suggesting there’s some uncertainty about what position he’ll play, but his defining attribute is definitely his bat, which picked up tremendously this season and led the Heels in hits, batting average, and on-base percentage. His ability to switch-hit undoubtedly makes him attractive, and everybody who’s written anything about him can’t help but talk about his leadership and old-school, tough-as-nails approach to the game. Serretti had spoken about coming back to UNC with Angel Zarate for a chance at improving their games before heading to the next level, so it seemed pretty certain the four-year starter was gone, and that was confirmed on Friday — Serretti has signed with the Tigers and will receive a bonus worth over $290,000, equal to the prescribed amount for the position he was drafted in.
- Davis Palermo, who closed several games for the Heels with his serious heat from the mound, soon followed, being taken by the Colorado Rockies in the 8th round with the 236th overall pick. You don’t see players as old as Palermo, especially relievers and closers, taken in the first 10 rounds that often, but Palermo’s lack of wear and a fastball that generates a ton of whiffs and has been reported to top out at 99 MPH (97 is the fastest we’ve seen him in live action, I think) make him a pretty enticing prospect. Palermo has not yet signed with the Rockies, and has until August 1st to decide if he will or not — he does have the option to come back to Chapel Hill for a super-senior year, where he could try and further impress as a college starter rather than a reliever.
- Angel Zarate finally heard his name called in the MLB Draft, after being a pretty surprising snub from last year’s event after a season where he led the team in batting average. He came back and improved on basically everything, setting career highs in nearly every notable batting stat and beginning the season with a 27-game on-base streak, and it paid off, as the Cleveland Guardians selected him in the 17th round with the 511th overall pick. Zarate’s got a fantastic eye at the plate and a really mature approach, and has a knack for making contact. He’s also a great defensive player in any outfield spot. But his relative lack of power has been the sticking point, and hopefully it’s something he can shore up to be not a liability in the next stage of his career. I don’t see anything saying Zarate has signed with the Guardians, but based on Serretti’s comments I noted above and this Instagram post from Saturday, I think it’s safe to say he won’t be coming back for his redshirt senior year.
- Brandon Schaeffer heard his named called soon after, in the 18th round with the 546th overall pick. The pitcher started the season as UNC’s Friday starter, before some struggles had him bounce around different positions in the bullpen before he re-emerged as a starter late in the season and shone, using his impressive command to shut down opposing offenses and help UNC maintain its late-season winning streak. The crown jewel of his season was a complete game shutout of Virginia Tech, the hottest team in the country, in the ACC Tournament, getting his team to the semifinals of the tournament they’d end up winning. Schaeffer has signed with the Mariners and seems to have gotten above-slot money, with a $100,000 bonus at signing according to MLB.com’s tracker.
- Shawn Rapp was the last Tar Heel called, in the final round of the event with the 601st pick as the Guardians went back to Chapel Hill to find some talent. Rapp is by far the youngest player on this list; he’s still got two years of eligibility left. In his redshirt sophomore year, Rapp was an extremely useful reliever for the Heels, leading the team in pitching appearances as he filled in whenever necessary. He gets a lot of strikeouts, but also wore down as the season went on and allowed a few too many runners to get on base and score. I expect he’ll be back to Chapel Hill so he keep working on his craft, be in the mix for a starting spot, and maybe get called a little earlier a year from now.
A couple of non-Heel selections will also affect next year’s team. Matt Keating, a right-handed pitcher who was transferring to UNC from Southern California, was selected in the 9th round by the New York Yankees and announced via Instagram that he’d be signing with them. Just a pick earlier, UNC commit Brooks Bannon, a high school catcher from Randleman, NC, was drafted by the Red Sox. Bannon was considered a top-150 or so prospect, so falling to the 9th was a pretty big slide for him. The Red Sox could tempt him with an above-slot offer, because they drafted a lot of college players on Day 2, but as of now, he has not signed with them — though his dad seems awfully excited about the team that drafted him being the Red Sox.