Vance Honeycutt grew up with a strong University of North Carolina athletics fandom. He lived less than two hours from campus, and his parents were student-athletes at UNC during their college careers.
Over the last two years, Honeycutt has quickly risen to prominence as one of the best players in college baseball while living out his childhood dream of playing for the Tar Heels.
“I’m a Tar Heel through and through,” Honeycutt said. “I’ve been wearing Carolina blue since I was born, honestly. I grew up only an hour and a half away. It’s been the dream. I always strived to play here one day. Once I got in contact with them in high school, I just worked my tail off to get this opportunity.”
Honeycutt has caught the attention of professional scouts during his two years at North Carolina due to his power-hitting ability and stellar defensive play in center field. He can impact all facets of the game and boasts five-tool potential.
Due to his skill set and upside, scouts project Honeycutt as the potential top overall pick in the 2024 MLB draft.
“It’s exciting knowing that you put yourself in a position because of all your hard work,” Honeycutt said. “But there is so much more to do here. We try to stay present every day, and there’s a lot to be done this season.”
Honeycutt is a 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-handed hitting center fielder with an extremely impressive toolset. He is a dynamic athlete with quality instincts and an improving hit tool.
Scouts rave about his upside. If Honeycutt can continue to develop and put all his tools together, he has the ability and potential to be a star in pro ball.
“My defense and speed are the big two strengths,” Honeycutt said. “Obviously, power is there. Now I’m trying to put it all together and become that overall good player. I want to be a better player all and all.”
Honeycutt has impacted the Tar Heels’ offense in his first two years.
As a freshman, Honeycutt hit .296 with 10 doubles, four triples, 25 home runs, 57 RBIs and 29 stolen bases in 247 at-bats. He posted 90 strikeouts compared to 41 walks. Pitchers had a better game plan for Honeycutt last year, and he hit .257 with seven doubles, 12 home runs, 43 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in 191 at-bats. He showed growth with his plate discipline, recording 51 strikeouts to 49 walks.
Honeycutt uses a short and quick right-handed swing to barrel up the baseball and drive it to all parts of the field. His top tool is his above-average raw power. Scouts want to see him improve his hit tool this spring, and if he does, it will allow him to be more of a complete hitter moving forward.
“I showed some power and speed and that I could play some defense, but the question was, can I cut down on the strikeouts, can I walk more, can I even that ratio out,” Honeycutt said. “That was the biggest thing we worked on. I got better at it and looking forward to putting it all together.”
Defensively, Honeycutt is an elite center-field defender due to his athleticism, instincts, arm strength and ability to cover tons of ground. Honeycutt has consistently made highlight-level plays in center field the last two years, including robbing multiple home runs.
Honeycutt’s development in center field is impressive. He was a high school shortstop and had only played the outfield once as a prep star. After stepping foot on campus, the North Carolina coaching staff quickly moved him to the outfield due to his intangibles. The position change has ultimately worked out well for Honeycutt.
“I got to school and went to the infield the first day with a lot of talented guys,” Honeycutt said. “It didn’t go very well, and after practice, they told me to grab a different glove tomorrow and go out in the outfield and run around. It happened quickly. I’m lucky it did. It has been kind of natural.”
North Carolina is coming off a 36-24 record and NCAA Tournament Regional appearance last season. The Tar Heels have made six straight tournament appearances, advancing to the College World Series in 2018.
Honeycutt believes the Tar Heels have the pieces to compete and make a deep postseason run this season.
“We have a lot of pieces and a lot of talent,” Honeycutt said. “We are really looking forward to it and will make some noise this spring.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for nine years. He has interviewed 518 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com, The Arizona Republic and The Dallas Morning News, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.