Top 10 Players to Come Through the ACC Baseball Championship

The 43rd ACC Baseball Tournament will get underway this week in Durham, North Carolina. With yet another field of nationally ranked teams and player of the year candidates, we decided to take a look back at the best players to have played in the ACC Championship. (Rankings based on a player’s college and professional career) 

10. Dustin Ackley – North Carolina, 2007-09
Dubbed the best hitter of the 2000s by Rivals.com, Ackley is one of the best pure hitters the ACC has seen in recent memory – shattering a number of UNC records that previously stood for decades. In three seasons Ackley posted batting averages of .402, .417, and .399, becoming the only player in UNC history with two seasons hitting over .400. He is just the second Tar Heel to score 200 runs and record 300 hits in his career. During his time in Chapel Hill, Ackley was named NCAA Freshman of the Year, ACC Player of the Year, and became the first Tar Heel to be named an All-American three times. He holds the record for most hits in the College World Series, his career batting average of .412 is the best in UNC history, and he is the all-time UNC leader in hits, runs scored and total bases. Ackley was the 2nd overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft and currently plays for the New York Yankees.

9. Kevin Brown – Georgia Tech, 1984-86

Brown may have gone to Georgia Tech as a shortstop, but he left as the best pitcher in school history. As a freshman, Brown went 7-2 in 11 relief appearances and set himself up to move to the top of the Yellow Jacket rotation. He did just that his sophomore season, and helped lead Georgia Tech to ACC baseball titles in 1985 and 1986. Brown emerged as one of the top college pitchers in the country as a junior, posting an 11-5 record with a 3.57 ERA and career-high 122 strikeouts. He was named a First-Team All-American and was picked 4th overall in the 1986 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers. Brown continued to progress into his pro career, winning 21 games in 1992 and tossing a no hitter on June 10, 1997. During his 1996 to 2000 peak, Brown was arguably the best pitcher in the game, topping a historic class of greats. Over those five years, he threw 1,209 2/3 innings (first in the majors) and posted a 2.51 E.R.A (second to the 2.45 compiled by Pedro Martínez, who pitched 88 fewer innings). He was a six-time All-Star, 1997 World Series champion and his 211 career wins make him the winningest pitcher to ever come out of Georgia Tech. 

8. B.J. Surhoff – North Carolina, 1983-85
Many of the records that Dustin Ackley broke at UNC previously belonged to B.J. Surhoff. A two-time First-Team All-American, Surhoff led the Tar Heels to back-to-back ACC Championships in 1983 and 1984. He was so good in his final season he was named the 1985 ACC Male Athlete of the Year and was the 1st overall pick in the 1985 Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. His career batting average of .392 stood for 24 years at UNC before Ackley broke it in 2009. In an amazing 18-year MLB career, Surhoff tallied 2,326 hits, 188 home runs, and 1,153 RBIs while playing every position except for pitcher. He was a career .282 hitter, a 1999 AL All-Star and has been inducted into the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame. 

7.  J.D. Drew – Florida State, 1995-97
It didn’t take long for J.D. Drew to prove that he was one of the best players in Florida State history. As a freshman, he received Freshman All-American and CWS All-Tournament Team honors. He followed that up with a sophomore season that won him ACC Player of the Year and named him a First-Team All-American. But his first two seasons in Tallahassee paled in comparison to his absolutely absurd junior year. In his third and final season for the Seminoles, Drew set an FSU record hitting an astounding .455. He was the first player in college baseball history with 30 home runs and 30 steals in the same season, and is one of just three players ever to record 100 hits, 100 runs and 100 RBIs in a season. His 1997 season was so unbelievable, he swept the Player of the Year awards, winning the Dick Howser Trophy, Golden Spikes Award, Collegiate Baseball Player of the Year, Sporting News Player of the Year and was a consensus First-Team All-American. During his three years at Florida State, Drew broke 17 school and conference records before being drafted 2nd overall in 1997 by the Philadelphia Phillies. Drew won the World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2007, was named an AL All-Star in 2008 and this year became just the second Seminole to be inducted in to the College Baseball Hall of Fame.

6. Matt Wieters – Georgia Tech, 2005-07

Wieters is the latest on a long list of major league All-Stars to come out of Georgia Tech. A standout catcher and hitter, Wieters was so good the Yellow Jackets even used him as their primary closer during his first two seasons.  As a freshman, Wieters wasted no time making a name for himself, batting .366 with 83 hits, 10 home runs and 68 RBIs. He was named ACC Rookie of the Year, a Freshman All-American and First-Team All-ACC. His sophomore and junior seasons produced more of the same, as Wieters hit .355 and .358 and was twice named a First-Team All-American. He is one of just three Georgia Tech players to be named First-Team All-American twice and finished his Yellow Jacket career having played in 169 consecutive games. He was drafted 5th overall in 2007 by the Baltimore Orioles, where he has since become a three-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove winner and has established himself as one of the key pieces of the Orioles organization. 

5. Jason Varitek – Georgia Tech, 1991-94

Before “Tek” was helping break curses in Boston, he was abusing baseballs in Atlanta. Considered by many as the best player in Georgia Tech history, Varitek hit over .400 and was named an All-Amercian in each of his final three seasons. His junior campaign saw him hit .404 with 22 home runs and 72 RBIs. He hit a home run every 10.4 at bats and posted a career-high .798 slugging percentage. Baseball America named him the 1993 Player of the Year, but instead of leaving for the MLB Draft, Varitek returned to Atlanta for his senior season. The decision proved to be monumental for “Tek”, as his senior year saw him break records and pull in awards at an alarming rate. Varitek hit a career-best .426 with 106 total hits, 17 home runs and 86 RBIs. He was so feared at the plate opposing teams walked him an unreal 76 times. He took home the 1994 Golden Spikes Award and Dick Howser Trophy, and left Georgia Tech holding the school records for career games, hits, doubles, home runs, and RBIs. The Seattle Mariners picked him up with the 14th overall pick in the 1994 MLB Draft before playing more than a decade with the Red Sox. His illustrious MLB career includes three All-Star teams, two World Series rings, a Gold Glove and caught an MLB record four no-hitters. He is the only player in Georgia Tech baseball history to have his number retired. 

4. Mark Teixeira – Georgia Tech, 1999-2001

Just five years after “Tek” left his mark on Georgia Tech baseball, “Tex” arrived looking to do the same. He did so immediately, batting .387 with 87 hits, 13 home runs and 65 RBIs on his way to being named Collegiate Baseball’s Freshman of the Year and First-Team All-ACC. His sophomore season was enormous, batting .427 with 104 runs, 103 hits, 18 home runs and 80 RBIs. His OPS was a jaw-dropping 1.319 and he even stole 13 bases. He finished the season as the ACC leader in batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, home runs and runs scored. He fell just three RBIs short of an ACC triple crown. Teixeira was a near unanimous ACC Player of the Year selection, won the Dick Howser Trophy and led the Yellow Jackets to an ACC title and an appearance in the College World Series in Omaha.  A broken ankle derailed his junior season, but “Tex” still hit .419 in just 16 games and ended his career as one of just three ACC players with a career .400 or higher batting average. The Texas Rangers took Teixeira with the fifth pick of the 2001 MLB Draft and he made his MLB debut less than two years later. Currently in his 14th season, “Tex” is a three-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove winner and three-time Silver Slugger. He won the 2009 World Series with the New York Yankees and holds the MLB single-season record for RBIs by a switch hitter with 144. 

3. Ryan Braun – Miami, 2003-05

Braun barely qualifies for the list, as Miami played in its first ACC Championship in Braun’s final season (2005). Nevertheless, Braun’s numbers certainly justify his place. Born and raised in California, Braun passed on baseball scholarships to Stanford and Cal Berkeley to take an academic scholarship to Miami due to his outstanding high school grades. Braun immediately made an impact as a special five-tool player. He hit .364 with 88 hits, 17 home runs, 74 RBIs and 13 stolen bases as a freshman and was named National Freshman of the Year and a First-Team Freshman All-American. Braun’s best season came in 2005, when he batted .388, hit 18 home runs, drove in 76 runs, stole 23 bases and had a slugging percentage of .726. His numbers earned him ACC Player of the Year and All-American honors along with being a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award. The Milwaukee Brewers picked Braun fifth overall in the 2005 MLB Draft. Currently in his 10th major league season, Braun is a career .305 hitter, a six-time All-Star, five-time Silver Slugger, was the 2007 NL Rookie of the Year and 2011 NL MVP. 

2. Nomar Garciaparra – Georgia Tech, 1992-94

Anthony Nomar Garciaparra wasn’t necessarily the most intimidating player when he arrived at Georgia Tech in 1992. Nomar checked into the first day of practice barely six feet tall and weighing a mere 135 pounds. His teammates, including Jason Varitek, wondered if he would make it through the season. In classic Nomar style, he hit .363 with 51 RBIs and 23 extra-base hits and was named ACC Rookie of the Year and a Freshman All-American. His junior season proved to be his best, as he and the Yellow Jackets thrived. Nomar hit .427 with 16 home runs, 73 RBIs and 33 steals. He and Varitek led the Yellow Jackets to the College World Series, where another chapter of Nomar’s legacy was written. With the Yellow Jackets scheduled to play two games on a day where temperatures easily exceeded triple digits, Nomar refused to pace himself in game one. He became dangerously dehydrated and was rushed to the hospital. After an hour on the IV, Nomar unplugged himself, made his way back to the ballpark and emerged in Georgia Tech’s dugout for game two. Yellow Jackets’ coach Danny Hall refused to play Nomar, until he realized Nomar wasn’t going to stop asking. Hall caved, and sent Garciaparra in as a pinch-hitter. Minutes later, Nomar ripped the first pitch he saw out of the ballpark. Georgia Tech would lose in the finals to Oklahoma, but the legend of Nomar was born. The Red Sox picked Nomar 12th overall in the 1994 MLB Draft. During his illustrious 14 seasons in the majors Nomar was a career .313 hitter, a six-time All-Star, two-time batting champion, the 1997 AL Rookie of the Year and has since been inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame.

1. Buster Posey – Florida State, 2006-08

It’s hard to believe that a guy who made his MLB debut just seven years ago could top this list, but Buster Posey is just a different kind of animal. Currently one of the top players in all of major league baseball, Posey went to Florida State to play shortstop, not catcher. His freshman season, Posey started all 65 games for the Seminoles at shortstop – and let’s just say he didn’t switch positions because he couldn’t play there.  He hit .346 with 48 RBIs and 20 extra-base hits on his way to being named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American. Taking his coach’s advice, Posey moved to catcher his sophomore season, where he hit .382 with 65RBIs and 26 extra-base hits. He finished second in Johnny Bench Award voting (nation’s top catcher) in his first year at the position. Posey’s junior and final season at Florida State is when things really got to an “are you serious?” kind of level. Buster hit .463, belted 26 home runs, drove in 93 runs and posted an unheard of 1.445 OPS. Things seemed to get so boring for Buster, that in a game on May 12, 2008, he hit a grand slam and played all nine positions in a 10-0 win over Savannah State. Naturally, he struck out both batters he faced. It was hard to find an award that Posey didn’t win his junior season, bringing home ACC Player of the Year, the Johnny Bench Award, Collegiate Baseball’s Player of the Year, the Dick Howser Trophy and the Golden Spikes Award. It will go down as one of the best seasons in college baseball history and propelled Posey to the fifth overall pick in the 2008 MLB Draft by the San Francisco Giants. With one of the best young careers of all-time, Posey was the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year, 2012 NL MVP, is a three-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger and has three World Series rings. At his current pace, Posey will go down not only as one of the best college players of all-time, but also as one of the best pros of his generation. 

Here are some other ACC greats to have played in the ACC Championship:

Honorable Mentions
Marcus Stroman – Duke
Carlos Rodon – NC State
Walt Weiss – UNC 
Matt Harvey – UNC 
Kyle Seager – UNC
Colin Moran – UNC
Steven Drew – Florida State 
Yasmani Grandal – Miami
Jon Jay – Miami
Gaby Sanchez – Miami
Jay Payton – Georgia Tech
Marlon Byrd – Georgia Tech
Ryan Zimmerman – Virginia