UNC's Ackley is the top college hitter, and maybe the No. 2 pick
Ackley's hitting .399 and leads the ACC in slugging percentage (.759)
He could be the second pick in next month's draft, behind Stephen Strasburg
Scouts will get another look at Big 12 pitchers Kendal Volz and Andy Oliver
DURHAM, N.C. -- Everyone assumes that San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg will be the top pick in next month's draft, but who will be No. 2? Scouts may have seen the answer at this weekend's ACC tournament, where North Carolina first baseman Dustin Ackley solidified his place as the top college hitter available.
Ackley's hitting .399 with 20 HRs and 61 RBIs and ranks second in the ACC in on-base percentage (.505) and first in slugging (.759). The 6-foot-1, 184-pounder, praised as an above-average runner who could move to the outfield or perhaps second base in pro ball, is eliminating concerns about his power by tying for the league lead in homers. He smashed three in the ACC tournament, including a deep shot to right and an opposite-field smash against Clemson.
"I've only seen him get three hits all year, and I've seen him a lot," said one national scout with a National League club, "but even though I haven't seen him play great, I'm still impressed. When he leaks out with his front shoulder, he gets out of rhythm a little, but he has such good hands, his bat stays in the hitting zone a long time. And he's more physical than you'd think. He's got solid size and he definitely looks the part."
The Mariners pick second, and general manager Jack Zduriencik is famous for keeping his choices secret until the draft. But the other teams picking in the top 10 assume that Ackley will be off the board with the No. 2 selection, and that if he's not taken second, he won't last long. The Padres, Pirates and Orioles round out the top five selections.
The Memorial Day weekend brings pro scouts out in droves to Division I conference tournaments, especially to those in power conferences. In baseball, that means the Atlantic Coast, Big 12 and Southeastern conferences, as the Pac-10 doesn't have a tournament.
The ACC tournament was supposed to be played in Boston's Fenway Park this year, but a scheduling snafu forced a late relocation to the home of the Triple-A Durham Bulls. Several major league scouting directors and dozens of scouts were on hand for most of the action, and every team with a top-10 pick in next month's draft was on hand to watch North Carolina's duo of Ackley and right hander Alex White.
The Tar Heels went 1-2 on the week (with losses to Virginia and Clemson and a win against Duke), and the 6-foot-3, 200-pound White didn't make it out of the third inning against Virginia in an 11-1 loss on Thursday, throwing just 51 pitches. Some observers speculated that White would have been used in relief on one day's rest had the Tar Heels advanced to Sunday's championship game.
White's fastball touched 97 mph and mostly sat anywhere from 91-96, but command of that fastball remains his bugaboo. His slider has become less consistent this spring, and his split-finger fastball, while a plus pitch, is more of a chase pitch than one he throws for strikes. He has not helped his cause to be the second college pitcher drafted after Strasburg, a near-lock to go No. 1 overall to the Nationals.
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