With 7 teams ranked among the nation’s Top 25, the upcoming ACC baseball tournament in Charlotte promises to be a wide-open affair.

But that’s not the only competitive race waiting to be decided.

The list of candidates battling for the league’s Player of the Year award is just as long.

It’s a race that will likely be decided by 1 of these 6 players depending on who has the strongest finishing kick during the final 2 weeks of the regular season.

James Tibbs III, Florida State

Tibbs has been a driving force in the Seminoles’ resurgence this season. The junior right fielder leads the ACC with 70 RBIs and an .820 slugging percentage while ranking among the top 10 in batting average (.370), homers (19), hits (67) and runs (52).

In the process, he’s solidified himself as a 1st-round pick in this summer’s Major League Baseball draft.
While FSU’s return to the top tier of the ACC may have been unexpected after finishing last season below .500 and out of the postseason, Tibbs’ emergence as the Player of the Year frontrunner is hardly a surprise.

After putting together a solid sophomore season in which he led the Seminoles in virtually every offensive category, he parlayed that success into an All-Star nod at the Cape Cod League last summer. He also won the league’s Home Run Derby.

Nick Kurtz, Wake Forest

Kurtz hasn’t generated the kind of buzz that was expected of him after earning preseason national Player of the Year recognition by multiple college baseball sites.

But that’s more his team’s fault than his own.

With 19 homers, 49 RBIs, 56 walks and an ACC-best .522 on-base percentage, he’s on pace to match or exceed the numbers he posted while helping the Deacons to the College World Series last season. He’s still projected to be the first ACC player off the board in the MLB Draft.

The junior first baseman just isn’t surrounded by as much firepower as he was a year ago. As a result, the Deacons have fallen from the No. 1 ranking they held at the start of the season to a middling 12-12 record in the ACC.

And yet, they’re still 32-16 overall. That keeps them squarely in contention to host an NCAA regional – and their star in the running for Player of the Year honors – with a strong finish over the final 2 weekends of the regular season.

Vance Honeycutt, North Carolina

Sure, it was way-too-early, but Honeycutt was ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2024 draft class by D1Baseball.com after a standout freshman season that saw him hit 25 home runs, drive in 57 runs and steal 29 bases while leading the Tar Heels to the ACC Tournament championship.

Although his numbers dropped last year, in part because of a back issue that slowed him at the plate, he still won the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year award.

Healthy again as a junior, Honeycutt is back showing off the full range of his 5-tool skill set. He’s hitting a career-high .328 with 19 home runs, 52 RBIs and 26 stolen bases – totals that rank among the league leaders in each category.

With the first of his 2 homers against Coastal Carolina on April 16, Honeycutt became the first player in UNC history with at least 50 career homers and stolen bases. His 57 dingers are 1 shy of tying Devy Bell’s school record, set from 1984-87.

Blake Wright, Clemson

The senior third baseman has caught fire over the past month, winning ACC Player of the Week honors twice since late March, to thrust himself into the thick of the conversation for full-season awards.

He’s tied for 2nd in the league with 19 homers and 65 RBIs while hitting .335 for the Atlantic Division-leading Tigers. Those numbers have the potential to become even more impressive between now and the end of the regular season because of Wright’s penchant for hitting in bunches.

Wright has driven in 3 or more runs in a game 10 times this season, with a career-high of 7 in a game against Georgia Tech last weekend. He also had 6 RBIs to go with a school-record 3 home runs in a win against Presbyterian on March 20, and is currently on a 15-game hitting streak.

He is 1 of 45 players named by USA Baseball to the midseason watch list for the Golden Spikes Award, presented annually to the nation’s best amateur player.

Drew Burress, Georgia Tech

It didn’t take long for Burress to show the ACC why he was considered one of the most explosive hitters in this year’s freshman class. Batting leadoff in his first college game, he made an immediate impression by hitting 2 home runs in a win against Radford. Ten days later, he hit 4 homers in a game against Georgia State.

Heading into the final 2 weeks of the regular season, the compactly-built 5-9, 180-pound outfielder leads the conference and all 1st-year players nationally with 21 home runs. He’s hitting .368 overall with 59 runs scored and 66 driven in. He’s also shown great discipline at the plate for a freshman by drawing 40 walks.


Burress has more than lived up to his promise as the top outfield prospect in Georgia and No. 4 nationally. But as impressive as his debut performance has been, he’s a more realistic candidate for Rookie of the Year honors rather than Player of the Year.

Chase Burns, Wake Forest

Burns has been the best, most dominant player in the ACC this season.


His work in Wake’s heralded pitching lab has helped him correct the command issues that led to his relegation to the bullpen at Tennessee last year and he’s once again blowing away the opposition with a fastball that regularly hits triple digits.

The Deacons’ ace is 9-1 with a 3.00 ERA. He leads the ACC with 140 strikeouts, and his .180 batting average against is the lowest in the league. It’s a foregone conclusion that he’ll win the conference’s Pitcher of the Year award.

But Player of the Year?

It all depends on the discretion of the voting panel.

No one has won both awards in the same season since Pitcher of the Year was introduced in 2005. And while 4 2-way performers have been named Player of the Year recently – Louisville’s Brendan McKay in 2017, Wake’s Will Craig in 2015, Virginia’s Sean Doolittle in 2006 and Joe Koshansky in 2005 – the last pure pitcher to win the award was Clemson’s Kris Benson in 1996.