Patrick Bailey could have embarked on a professional baseball career straight out of Wesleyan Christian Academy in North Carolina in 2017.
Professional scouts considered Bailey a top-10-round prospect in the 2017 MLB draft. But signability concerns caused the switch-hitting catcher to fall to the 37th round where the Minnesota Twins selected him.
Bailey opted to honor his commitment to North Carolina State University instead of signing with the Twins.
“I think it came down to I didn’t get the amount of money I wanted,” Bailey said. “I knew I wanted to go to NC State and it’s gone well. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
The decision to attend North Carolina State has paid off for Bailey. He’s thrived in his first two years of college baseball and enters this spring as one of the top players in the country.
Bailey is the top college catching prospect in June’s MLB draft class and likely will be a first-round pick. He even could be a top-10 pick, if he displays more consistency this spring.
“We will see when the season comes around, but I think it definitely will help having the draft experience from high school,” Bailey said.
As a freshman in 2018, Bailey hit .321 with 13 home runs and 40 RBIs in 187 at-bats. He drew 28 walks and struck out 32 times. His success at the plate earned him numerous honors, including ACC Freshman of the Year and freshman All-American honors from four publications.
Hid didn’t quite experience the same success as a sophomore last year. He hit .288 with 10 home runs and 46 RBIs. He did increase his extra-base hits, hitting 17 doubles and three triples compared to eight doubles and three triples in 2017. Last year, he also drew 41 walks and struck out 43 times.
Bailey is 6-foot-2 and 192 pounds and profiles as a catcher long term. He’s a defensive-first catcher, who possesses athleticism, above-average arm strength and solid receiving skills.
He also understands how to handle a pitching staff and called about 75 percent of the pitches thrown by North Carolina State pitchers last season, he said.
“I think I’m really defensive-minded,” Bailey said. “I think it’s one of the biggest contributions to the team. I also think I try to get the most out of a pitching staff.”
Offensively, Bailey naturally was a right-handed hitter but started switch hitting when he was 11 years old to increase his value. Over the last nine years, Bailey has developed into a solid hitter from both sides of the plate and believes he’s better as a left-handed hitter.
He has solid raw power and plate discipline from both sides of the plate. He has proven he can barrel up pitches, regardless of what side he’s hitting from, but wants to improve his approach as a junior this spring.
“I want to improve on my consistency,” Bailey said. “I want to be the same guy every day, whether that’s midweek or a big weekend series. I just want to go out and do my job and have some fun.”
North Carolina State has produced two consecutive 42-win seasons. This season, the Wolfpack have high expectations. They haven’t made it to the College World Series since 2013, but with pitching depth and a veteran offense, they hope this season could be the year they make a deep postseason run.
“I think the biggest thing for us is we need to have fun and enjoy the game,” Bailey said. “Late in the season, it can get kind of tense and you can put a lot of pressure on yourselves. That’s when your team can start to struggle, so I think for us we just need to go out and play hard and have some fun.”
Read more stories on top 2020 MLB draft prospects here.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for five years. He’s interviewed 191 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.