“Deeper than ever” is a phrase you have probably heard tossed around about the 2021 college baseball season a dozen times. But with the ACC, the cliche rings true. Ten ACC teams cracked College Baseball Nation’s Preseason Top 50, so whoever emerges victorious from the ACC will be battle tested.
The ACC Coastal provides four of the ACC’s ranked teams—all four of them ranked in the top 25 (#10 Virginia, #15 Georgia Tech, #18 Duke, and #22 Miami). North Carolina, the projected fifth best team in the Coastal, won 46 games and made it to a Super Regional two years ago. However, the loss of Head Coach Mike Fox to retirement and key offensive weapons like first-rounder Aaron Sabato set the Tar Heels up for a rebuilding year.
Regardless, the ACC Coastal will likely boast at least one regional host and possibly two or three.
After finishing fifth in the ACC Coastal in 2019, Virginia is poised for a breakout year. On the mound, the Cavaliers will be led by Andrew Abbot, a surprising escapee from the five-round 2020 MLB Draft. “We thought he was a second or third-round type of guy,” Virginia Head Coach Brian O’Connor told College Baseball Nation. “And with the way the draft went, we got him back. It was a shot in the arm having him back.” Nate Savino, a 6-03 lefty with a mid-90s fastball, will be Virginia’s Saturday starter after earning a rotation spot in freshman year.
At the plate, CF Chris Newell and 3B Zack Gelof are a pair who could hear their names called in the first round of the 2022 MLB Draft. Newell, Gelof, and Savino all earned Preseason All-America honors. A host of freshmen could be major contributors for the Cavaliers, but most noteworthy is freshman catcher Kyle Teel, who will almost certainly get playing time behind the plate for Virginia.
The ceiling of this Virginia team is Omaha and beyond. After winning it all in 2015, the Cavaliers will once again have their eyes set on the grand prize.
It’s difficult to call a team that finished the 2020 season ranked eighth a dark horse, but after Miami lost its entire weekend rotation and arguably its best bullpen piece, the dark horse label begins to make a little more sense. “Losing those four guys is a big blow,” Miami Head Coach Gino DiMare told College Baseball Nation. However, he was quick to refocus on the future. “We can’t be rebuilding if we are going to have a program like I'd like to have at Miami. I’d like to try to get it to where we were at one point, consistently at the top.”
Preseason All-American Adrian Del Castillo will anchor a prolific offense. The best hitter in the 2021 MLB Draft class, Del Castilllo also offers improving defense behind the plate. 1B Alex Toral adds a power bat that will make the middle of the Canes’ lineup a difficult path to traverse. Miami, like Virginia, boasts a deep freshmen class. Chad Born, out of southern California, was not only the most impressive freshman in the fall but earned offensive MVP honors from Miami’s fall world series. The Canes are a near-lock for a regional bid, and should the pitching staff step up, could find themselves in contention for hosting a regional.
What to Watch For
The youth movement in the ACC Coastal is the major storyline heading into the 2021 season. Five freshmen from the Coastal made the Freshmen All-American Teams, and that’s without the aforementioned Teel and Born. Whoever’s freshmen can grow up the fastest may have the best shot at winning the division.