See also: Baylor Locks Up Top Class
Below are the nation’s top 25 recruiting classes. For 2006 draft picks, the team and round are in parentheses. Asterisks denote junior college transfers.
Recruiting coordinator: Mitch Thompson. Key recruits: Aaron Miller, of (Rockies, 11); Dustin Dickerson, 1b/of (Nationals, 15); Kendall Volz, rhp (Diamondbacks, 50); Shawn Tolleson, rhp; Shaver Hansen, if; Raynor Campbell, if; Gregg Glime, c.
Miller, Dickerson, Volz and Tolleson are four of the nation’™s top recruits, headlining a class that includes impact players all over the diamond. Quality RHPs Willie Kempf, Craig Fritsch and Ryan Jenkins make this a deep class, as well.
2. South Carolina
Recruiting coordinator: Jim Toman. Key recruits: Lonnie Chisenhall, 3b/rhp (Pirates, 11); Nick Fuller, rhp (Devil Rays, 3); *Jay Brown, rhp (Devil Rays, 18); Sam Dyson, rhp (Nationals, 19); *Travis Jones, 2b; *Jordan Costner, rhp; Blake Cooper, rhp.
South Carolina’™s top four rivals Baylor’™s for star power, led by Chisenhall, the nation’™s top two-way player. Fuller touches 95 with his fastball and owns a filthy but inconsistent slider. Dyson has serious arm strength and has touched 97 but needs to refine his secondary stuff. Transfers Jones and Costner should make immediate impacts at second base and in the bullpen.
3. Southern California
Recruiting coordinator: Dave Lawn. Key recruits: Robert Stock, c/rhp; Grant Green, ss (Padres, 14); Brad Boxberger, rhp (Royals, 20); Hector Rabago, rhp/ut; Kevin Couture, rhp; *Nick Buss, of (Dodgers, 35); Keith Castillo, c/1b.
The Trojans’ class got a major boost from the unprecedented early enrollment of Stock, the top prep junior in the country a year ago. Even if he struggles against older competition as a freshman, he probably has a higher ceiling than any other recruit in the country. Green is one of the nation’s top shortstop recruits and should step into the starting job right away. Boxberger, Rabago and Stock could give the Trojans a very formidable bullpen immediately.
Recruiting coordinator: Kevin O’Sullivan. Key recruits: Josh Thrailkill, rhp (Phillies, 34); Addison Johnson, of/lhp; *Alan Farina, rhp; Graham Stoneburner, rhp/ss; Ben Paulsen, 1b/of; Matt Zoltak, lhp.
Thrailkill headlines one of the country’s most exciting groups of incoming arms. His stock slipped this spring when his velocity dipped, but he is back in the low 90s now, to go with a hard-breaking slider and developing changeup. Farina, the top pitching prospect in the Florida Collegiate Summer League this year, owns a firm fastball (up to 95) and a hammer curve. A stress fracture in his back turned big league clubs off Stoneburner, but he’s healthy now and showing athleticism and plus stuff on the mound. Johnson is undersized but has solid tools across the board.
Recruiting coordinator: Gino DiMare. Key recruits: Mark Sobolewski, 3b/ss (Astros, 20); Ryan Jackson, ss; Eric Erickson, lhp (Yankees, 43); *Enrique Garcia, rhp (Diamondbacks 20); Mike Rudman, rhp; Jason Hagerty, c.
This is a balanced class with difference makers on the mound and in the field. Sobolewski is a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat who will probably start at third base, assuming defensive whiz Jackson hits enough to hold down the shortstop job. Erickson, who was Sobolewski’s Sarasota High teammate, has a feel for pitching that rates among the best of any freshmen in the nation, and Garcia has a power arm that could give him a chance to replace closer Chris Perez or earn a rotation spot.
Recruiting coordinator: Ross Jones. Key recruits: Cole Figueroa, ss (Blue Jays, 9); Billy Bullock, rhp (Dodgers, 20); Kevin Chapman, lhp (Tigers, 42); Jonathan Pigott, of (Athletics, 31); Riley Cooper, of (Phillies, 15); Hampton Tignor, c; Ryan Lockwood, of.
Florida’s class compares favorably to its banner 2003 class, which featured Adam Davis, Matt LaPorta and Brian Jeroloman. The difference is this class also boasts two front-line arms in Bullock and Chapman, and has pitching depth the Gators desperately need. Figueroa should step right into a starting job, and Pigott, Lockwood and Cooper–a receiver on the Gators football team–could give Florida the best outfield in the country by 2008.
7. Oklahoma State
Recruiting coordinator: Billy Jones. Key recruits: Andy Oliver, lhp (Twins, 17); Dylan Brown, of; *Martin Beno, rhp (Dodgers, 19); Dusty Harvard, of (Giants, 28); Thomas Keeling, lhp; Eric Walker, c; Tyler Blandford, rhp (Orioles, 34).
One of the top arms in a loaded Ohio high school crop, Oliver has a classic pitcher’s frame and runs his fastball up to 93 from the left side. He’ll challenge for a rotation spot this spring, and Beno could as well, unless he winds up as the Cowboys’ closer. Brown, the brother of OSU outfielder Corey Brown, was an all-state player in Florida in both football and baseball. He has serious raw power and plus speed. Blandford’s electric arm could end up as one of the gems in this deep class.
8. North Carolina
Recruiting coordinator: Chad Holbrook. Key recruits: Alex White, rhp/if (Dodgers, 14); Rob Catapano, lhp; Dustin Ackley, of/1b; Kyle Seager, if; Matt Petiton, lhp; Drew Poulk, of; Tim Fedroff, of; Jared Bard, rhp/of.
White headlines another deep class that includes polished arms like Petiton and Catapano who should help fill the void left by Andrew Miller and Daniel Bard. UNC was worried it might lose White when his velocity jumped into the mid-90s this spring, yet his 78-81 slider might be his best pitch. Seager and Ackley provide versatility to the Tar Heels’ already deep lineup.
9. Cal State Fullerton
Recruiting coordinator: Jason Gill. Key recruits: Khris Davis, of (Nationals, 29); Nathan Bridges, ss; Michael Morrison, rhp; *Nick Mahin, of; Corey Jones, 2b; Travis Kelly, rhp; *Brad Barrager, rhp, *Jeff Kaplan, rhp.
Fullerton has plenty of voids to fill, and high-end recruits Davis and Bridges are two of the top incoming position players on the West Coast who should both earn starting jobs immediately. Morrison has been up to 93 with a hard, overhand curve, and Kelly could be a vital part in the Titans bullpen. Kaplan could wind up as the Sunday starter.
Recruiting coordinator: Todd Butler. Key recruits: *Jess Todd, rhp; *Duke Welker, rhp; *Travis Hill, rhp; Dallas Keuchel, lhp; *Aaron Murphree, 1b/of; *Jeff Nutt, c/of; *Jacob Julius, of.
Todd and Welker highlight the nation’s strongest group of junior-college transfers. The 6-foot-6 Welker is the key for Arkansas–he has the power arm and stuff to pitch in the weekend rotation behind Nick Schmidt and Shaun Seibert, but he needs to harness his command. If Welker holds down a starting role, the Razorbacks can move Todd to the closer spot, where his 90-94 mph fastball and 84-87 slider will make him devastating. Keuchel is Arkansas’ top incoming freshman, a polished lefty who should pitch right away in some role.
Recruiting coordinator: Tim Tadlock. Key recruits: Devin Shepherd, of (Twins, 5); Teddy Hubbard, rhp (Devil Rays, 12); *Aljay Davis, 2b (White Sox, 29); Aaron Baker, c/if (Twins, 37); Andrew Doyle, rhp (Nationals, 39); Bryant Hernandez, ss; Vincent Biancamano, if (Royals, 35).
Shepherd is one of the best pure hitters in the country, with enough tools to play anywhere in the outfield as a freshman. Davis, the Sooners’ top junior college transfer, has game-changing speed and will provide occasional power as Oklahoma’s starting second baseman. Hubbard, the key arm in this class, has outstanding stuff, with a fastball that has been up to 93 and a good, hard breaking ball. He’ll compete for a midweek job this year and could anchor the Sooners’ staff by 2008.
Recruiting coordinator: Tommy Harmon. Key recruits: Russ Moldenhauer, c (Angels, 3); Michael Demperio, if; Josh Prince, if Kyle Lusson, of; *James Russell, lhp; Blake Williams, rhp; Clint Stubbs, of (Rangers, 49).
Despite losing Marcus Lemon to the draft, Brandon Belt and Jordan Walden to the junior college ranks and Jess Todd, Nathan Karns and Carmine Giardina to other Division I schools, Texas retained several high-impact recruits. Moldenhauer leads the way, one of the top incoming bats who is a work in progress behind the plate. Russell owns an above-average changeup and will pitch right away in some capacity, and Prince and Demperio provide a nice foundation in the middle infield.
Recruiting coordinator: Brian Green. Key recruits: Charles Brewer, rhp (Angels, 18); Gavin Brooks, lhp/of; Matt Drummond (Orioles, 35); Gabe Cohen, of; Casey Haerther, inf. (Padres, 34); Jeff Rapoport, of; Raul Duran, of (White Sox, 45); *Mickey Weisser, 1b/of.
Brewer and Brooks are the jewels of a deep class with an emphasis on pitching. Brewer, who went undefeated in his prep career at Arizona’s Chaparral High, has a projectable 6-foot-4 frame and throws plenty of strikes with an 88-90 mph fastball, a promising changeup and developing curveball. Brooks, who has had shoulder problems, also has a very good feel for pitching and size (6-foot-3, 195), and he has touched 92 with his fastball when healthy. Drummond has a loose arm and should add velocity as he fills out. Rapoport and Cohen have very intriguing tools, and Weisser and Haerther could get plenty of playing time this spring.
14. UC Irvine
Recruiting coordinator: Sergio Brown. Key recruits: Luis Tovar, ss; Christian Bergman, rhp; Francis Larson, c; Reid Suitor, rhp; Daniel Bibona, lhp; Corey Hamilton, rhp; *Wes Etheridge, rhp.
Irvine’s class lacks the cachet of Southern California’s or Cal State Fullerton’s, but it is filled with quality players from top to bottom. Tovar, a fluid, graceful defender with plus speed and gap-to-gap power, is not far behind such elite incoming shortstops as USC’s Grant Green and Fullerton’s Nate Bridges. Larson is a big, athletic catcher who needs a little polish, particularly at the plate. Bergman is a poor man’s Jered Weaver, with plenty of movement on all his pitches and good command, while Hamilton is a poor man’s Derek Lowe, with a lively sinking fastball but little command. Bergman and Bibona will be significant factors for Irvine as freshmen.
Recruiting coordinator: Mike Bell. Key recruits: Bryan Morgado, lhp (Red Sox, 34); Nick Hernandez, lhp (Athletics, 32); Ryan Butner, rhp (Giants, 38); *Lance McClain, lhp (Rangers, 24); *Danny Lima, 2b; Yan Gomes, c/inf.; Jeffrey Lockwood, lhp/1b; *Chad Maddox, of.
Morgado and Hernandez are the two prized arms in this pitching-rich class. Morgado’s electric fastball has been up to 93 mph and he has flashed a plus breaking ball. Hernandez, the son of Brewers 1978 first-round pick Nick Hernandez, is more polished, with a three-pitch mix highlighted by a plus changeup and a fastball up to 90 mph. The rail-thin, 6-foot-4 Butner has plenty of projection and already touches the low 90s with his heavy fastball, while McClain is a short lefty that works in the high 80s with a plus changeup. Several of those arms should make immediate impacts, as should Lima (a classic No. 2 hole hitter), Gomes (a versatile defender with some pop in his bat) and Maddox (who led the junior college ranks with 25 homers last year).
16. Texas A&M
Recruiting coordinator: Matt Deggs. Key recruits: *Brandon Hicks, ss/rhp; *David Newman, lhp; *Kirkland Rivers, lhp/1b; *Darby Brown, 1b/of; Jeff Hulett, inf.; Brody Greene, ss; Scott Migl, rhp (Orioles, 41); *Ben Feltner, of; *Josey Parker, 3b/rhp; Shane Minks, rhp.
Despite losing lefthanders Clayton Kershaw and Zach Britton and outfielder Matt Sulentic to the first three rounds of the draft, the Aggies wound up with a deep, talented group on campus, thanks largely to a strong crop of juco transfers. Hicks is an athletic shortstop with good speed and arm strength who will hit in the middle of A&M’s lineup and could even be its closer thanks to a low-90s fastball and decent curveball. Newman, whose fastball has touched 95, and Rivers, who gets plenty of movement from a low-three quarters arm slot, could step right into the Aggies’ weekend rotation. Both missed 2006 with Tommy John surgery. Brown, Hulett, Parker and Greene all have a chance to start in A&M’s infield.
17. Kent State
Recruiting coordinator: Scott Daeley. Key recruits: Kyle Smith, rhp; Brad Stillings, rhp; *Doug Sanders, 2b; Jon Pokorny, lhp; Robert Sabo, rhp; Brandon White, c; Jared Bartholomew, of; Anthony Gallas, of.
It was a five-star year for draft talent in Ohio, and Kent State took full advantage, bringing in its best class in 15 years built around impressive Ohio prep stars. Leading the way is Smith, an athletic, 6-foot-6 righthander who is already starting to tap into his boatload of potential. Smith threw a mid-80s fastball in high school, but he was throwing 88-91 with a plus slider in fall ball. Stillings profiles as a potentially dominant closer, with a fastball up to 93 and good feel for a changeup. Pokorny and Sabo both have mid-to-upper-80s fastballs and good sliders, and both could see innings out of the pen or as midweek starters as freshmen. White is a switch-hitter with good catch-and-throw skills, and Bartholomew and Gallas are both former prep football stars with some power and speed.
Recruiting coordinator: Butch Thompson. Key recruits: Ross Smith, of (Cardinals, 32); Scott Shuman, rhp (Brewers, 23); Taylor Thompson, rhp; Austin Hubbard, rhp; Robert Brooks, ss; David Cunningham, 3b; Joseph Sanders, 1b/3b.
Auburn’s athletic class features three players who were high school quarterbacks in Smith, Hubbard and Brooks. Smith, the son of a Cardinals crosschecker, has classic center-field tools and a strong arm to go along with quick hands at the plate, though his offensive approach remains raw. Shuman has closer stuff–an 88-92 mph fastball and hard slider from a three-quarters arm slot. Thompson has outstanding size (6-foot-5, 225 pounds) and a lively fastball that has reached the mid-90s, though his command can be erratic. Cunningham and Sanders have loud bats and could become Auburn’s corner infielders of the future. The Tigers would have ranked higher had the Cubs not lavished $1.3 million on righthander Chris Huseby, an Auburn recruit.
Recruiting coordinator: Mark Wasikowski. Key recruits: Jason Stoffel, rhp; Kevin Rodland, inf.; Dwight Childs, c; *C.J. Ziegler, 1b; Robert Abel, inf.; Erik Castro, 3b.
A class heavy on position players also includes Stoffel, one of the most high-profile arms to arrive on a West Coast college campus this year. While he struggled as a senior, he’s shown a fastball in the low 90s and a plus curveball when he’s right. Childs is an elite defensive catcher whose offensive skills lag behind for now. Ziegler, a Tucson product (Canyon del Oro High) who led the Coastal Plain League with 13 homers this summer, and Castro are both power bats who could add thunder to Arizona’s lineup right away.
20. Oregon State
Recruiting coordinator: Dan Spencer. Key recruits: Joey Wong, 2b (Astros, 46); *Jordan Lennerton, 1b (Brewers, 41); *Chris Hopkins, of (Brewers, 37); *Drew George, 3b (White Sox, 44); Blake Keitzman, lhp; Chad Nading, rhp (Tigers, 37); Jorge Reyes, rhp, Ryan Ortiz, c.
Oregon State needed to plug a number of holes left by departing veterans, and this class should be just what the doctor ordered. Wong, Lennerton and George are all quality hitters who are likely to join Darwin Barney in the Beavers infield, potentially pushing LSU transfer Jason Ogata to the outfield. Hopkins has a similar profile to departed OSU center fielder Tyler Graham, who he will be asked to replace. Keitzman, a polished lefty, and Reyes, a slight righty with a loose arm, could see midweek or bullpen innings as freshmen, while Nading and RHP Tyler Graham are intriguing down-the-road arms.
Recruiting coordinator: David Seifert. Key recruits: Wade Kapteyn, rhp (White Sox, 20); Jared Baehl, 3b/rhp (Mariners, 14); *Tristan Facer, lhp/1b; Dan Holcomb, rhp; Andy Pascoe, c/3b/rhp; Cory Allen, 1b.
Not only did Evansville land an elite arm in Kapteyn–the No. 2 prospect in Illinois and the No. 88 draft prospect in the nation this spring–the Aces significantly increased their overall athleticism with a number of multi-sport and two-way recruits. Kapteyn has an explosive, sinking 89-93 mph fastball and a workhorse 6-foot-5 frame. Baehl stands out most for his power bat and solid arm strength at third base, though he figures to help Evansville on the mound as well. Facer has a power arm and plus breaking ball, Holcomb is a winner who threw nine no-hitters in high school despite a mid-80s fastball. Allen’s compact swing generates legitimate home run power, and he should push for at-bats.
Recruiting coordinator: Tony Vitello. Key recruits: Kyle Gibson, rhp (Phillies, 36); Aaron Senne, of/lhp (Twins); *Lee Fischer, ss; Greg Folgia, rhp/inf; Trevor Coleman, c (Reds, 30); *Ryan Gargano, lhp.
Gibson is a premium arm in the same class as Seton Hall’s Sean Black and Evansville’s Wade Kapteyn. The top prep prospect in Indiana, Gibson already throws an 88-92 mph fastball and should only add velocity as he grows into his lanky 6-foot-5 frame. He has a very good feel for his secondary stuff–a promising slider and a changeup. Senne, the top prep prospect in Minnesota this spring, has a quiet, line-drive swing with occasional pop and a solid offensive approach. Fischer is a smooth defender at shortstop with good speed. Folgia has a quick arm that generates 87-91 mph heat and a quality slider.
Recruiting coordinator: Gary Henderson. Key recruits: Tyler Henry, rhp; Clint Tilford, rhp; James Paxton, lhp; Chris Welden, rhp; *Aaron Lovett, rhp; Jason Chowning, rhp; Neiko Johnson, 2b/ss.
The strength of Kentucky’s class is on the mound, where Henry and Tilford highlight a talented group. Henry flew under the radar for most of his prep career before touching 92 mph with his fastball this year to complement his plus breaking ball. He will have the largest immediate impact of Kentucky’s freshmen, though Tilford has good command of a three-pitch mix and could push for a job as well. Paxton, like Henry, is a late bloomer, with a mid-80s fastball and tight slider. Lovett is coming off a strong summer in the Coastal Plain League and could be UK’s Saturday starter thanks to his ability to throw strikes with three pitches. Johnson is a silky smooth defender who should start as a freshman at second and could move to shortstop down the road.
24. Arizona State
Recruiting coordinator: Turtle Thomas. Key recruits: Matt Leake, rhp/inf. (Athletics, 7); *Tim Smith, of (Brewers, 17); *Brett Davis, lhp; *Scott Mueller, rhp (Diamondbacks, 36); Kyle Williams, of (White Sox, 47); Jason Mitchell, rhp; Dustin Brader, rhp; Adam Bailey, of.
A strong group of juco transfers bolsters an Arizona State class that lacks its usual freshman star power once you get past Leake–one of the top two-way players on the West Coast. Smith has a tantalizing power-speed mix that helped him rate as the No. 6 prospect in the Northwoods League this summer. Mueller sits in the 89-91 mph range with his fastball but needs to improve his secondary stuff, while Brader doesn’t have quite as much velocity but has better feel for pitching. Williams, the son of White Sox general manager Ken Williams, is a good athlete who also played football at Scottsdale’s Chaparral High.
Recruiting coordinator: Erik Bakich. Key recruits: Mike Minor, lhp (Devil Rays, 13); Richie Goodenow, lhp; Alex Hilliard, inf.; Caleb Cotham, rhp; Mike Lamm, rhp; Steve Liddle, of; Jordan Wormsley, of.
Vanderbilt’s class does not have a superstar in the class of Pedro Alvarez, who helped the Commodores rank atop this list a year ago. But Vandy did bring in a solid group that addresses its need for pitching depth, led by Minor, a projectable lefty with a mid-80s fastball, excellent changeup and advanced feel for pitching. Minor could earn a weekend rotation spot as a freshman, and Goodenow could emerge as an important cog in the Vanderbilt bullpen thanks to an 88-92 mph fastball and a late-breaking power curveball.
Lamm and Cotham are both good athletes who can touch 93, and Hilliard has enough power to be Alvarez’ eventual successor at third base. For now he’ll fill in all over the infield.
BEST OF THE REST
A region-by-region glance at the top classes that didn’t quite crack our top 25:
1. North Carolina State
Righthanders Nate Karns and Sam Brown and lefty Jimmy Gillheeney give the Wolfpack three potential impact arms.
2. Georgia Tech
Athletic outfielder Curtis Dupart from Woodinville (Wash.) High and toolsy, enigmatic shortstop Jeff Ussery headline a fairly balanced class.
Catcher Joey Lewis should hit in the middle of the Bulldogs lineup right away, while infielders Luke Stewart and Mike Freeman should shore up the infield defense and provide solid lefthanded bats.
1. Seton Hall
Righthander Sean Black, the highest-drafted player to attend school this year, gives a major boost to a class that also includes first baseman Kenny Gregory, a first baseman with a polished bat who should step right into a starting job.
Dewey Oriente, a high school teammate of Orioles first-rounder Billy Rowell, and Justin Bencsko give this class a pair of impact bats.
A pair of juco transfer arms–righthander Joel Thorney and lefty Brad Hertzler–and powerful freshman catcher Myckie Lugbauer could help Maine return to an NCAA regional.
1. Notre Dame
Third baseman A.J. Pollack, a Connecticut prep product, will likely start as a freshman, and outfielder Billy Bookford and second baseman Ryne Intlekofer could earn starting jobs as well.
Nebraska’s class is heavy on raw high school players with a chance to make an impact down the road (like infielder Brett Sowers and righty Sam Sharpe). Outfielder D.J. Belfonte figures to push his way into a starting job immediately.
3. Wichita State
Two-way players Andy Dirks and Dusty Coleman (the top prospect in the Dakotas this year) add versatility and depth, and speedy outfielder Ryan Jones has solid tools across the board, including a smooth lefthanded stroke.
Two-way stud Preston Claiborne leads a small but talented group that also includes outfielder Ryan Scott, lefthander Aaron Loup and righty Drew Zizinia.
2. Louisiana State
Jared Bradford, Chris Sorce and Blake Dean add pitching depth, and outfielder/wide receiver Jared Mitchell could turn out to be a big star.
The Owls bolstered their pitching depth by adding righthanders Zack Harwood, Ryan Berry and Mike Ojala and lefty Abel Gonzalez
Hard-throwing righthanders Jeff Inman and Brandt Walker should be factors as freshmen for the Cardinal, but outfielder/running back Toby Gerhart–perhaps the best athlete in the nation–is the X-factor.
2. Fresno State
Tom Mendonca and David Hernandez could start side-by-side on the left half of the Fresno State infield this spring, and juco transfer Jake Hower is a closer candidate.
3. San Francisco
Righthander/first baseman Tommy Peale has outstanding command of a good fastball and could be the Dons’ Saturday starter, while righty Chase Tigert has a projectable 6-foot-6 frame and tantalizing stuff.