See also: College Top 25 Recruiting Roundup With Analysis ($)
Scouts were universally underwhelmed by the draft talent in Florida in 2013, calling it the state’s weakest crop in years. But pro baseball’s lack of interest was great news for the three college baseball powers in the state. Even in a down year, there will always be a solid baseline of talent in the Sunshine State, and many of the top players went to Florida, Miami or Florida State this spring, rather than signing pro contracts.
|Top 25 Recruiting Classes|
3. South Carolina
4. Oklahoma State
5. Oregon State
9. Mississippi State
12. Cal State Fullerton
17. Texas Christian
18. Florida State
22. Loyola Marymount
24. Southern California
All three schools landed top 25 recruiting classes this fall, with Florida topping the rankings for the first time since its watershed 2009 class. That group went on to make three consecutive College World Series appearances. Miami’s class checks in at No. 6, its highest ranking since coming in fifth in 2006—a class that helped lay the foundation for its loaded 2008 Omaha team, the best UM team of the last decade.
Miami mined South Florida heavily, as usual, but also landed a key out-of-state recruit in Colorado two-way talent Derik Beauprez. Florida brought in three in-state recruits who ranked in the BA 500 last June, but the Gators also snagged a pair of premium recruits from the upper Midwest in Iowa’s A.J. Puk and Minnesota’s Logan Shore. But signing top local talent and getting it through the draft is the bedrock of both programs’ recruiting, and both succeeded this year after getting hit hard by the draft last year.
In Miami’s case, the draft has taken a major toll seemingly every year for the last half-decade, contributing to a five-year Omaha drought. That feels like an eternity in Coral Gables; from 1978-2008, UM’s longest CWS drought was two years (1990-91). The Hurricanes have still been good enough on the mound to keep their incredible streak of 41 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances intact, but their offense has lacked punch.
“We just haven’t been able to score runs—no power, no speed,” said recruiting coordinator Gino DiMare, who rejoined the program in 2011 after a three-year absence. “I think offensively we’re making the right adjustments to get the guys who can hit with authority in here. This is a deep group, a physical group—a lot of big, strong kids. We got some guys that turned down a lot of money. No excuses; we’ve just got to develop them.”
Willie Abreu, Zach Collins, Bradley Zunica, Jacob Heyward and Beauprez instantly make this Miami’s most physical team since 2008. Perhaps in time, that quintet will develop into a murderer’s row to rival Blake Tekotte, Jemile Weeks, Yonder Alonso, Dennis Raben and Mark Sobolewski—the pillars of that ’08 offense.
Florida’s class is more pitching-centric, although Puk, John Sternagel, Buddy Reed and Pete Alonso also should become impactful everyday players in time. Puk figures to be a two-way star in the mold of Brian Johnson, a 2009 Florida recruit who went on to become a first-round pick. Righthanders Brett Morales, Logan Shore, Dane Dunning and Shaun Anderson plus lefties Scott Moss and Tyler Deel give Florida the pitching foundation to rival 2009’s group of Johnson, Hudson Randall, Paco Rodriguez and Austin Maddox. This class lacks a pair of premium up-the-middle stars to rival Mike Zunino and Nolan Fontana, but its depth of arms still makes it elite.
For three decades, Miami proved that success on the field breeds success on the recruiting trail, which in turn leads to more success on the field. Over the last half-decade, Florida has out-recruited just about everybody, helping the Gators elevate their program to new heights. This is coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s sixth consecutive top-25 class at Florida, and his fourth top-10 class in that span. Florida’s trips to Omaha have helped make the Gators a recruiting juggernaut, and so has their ability to develop top-tier talent.
“In 2010, we had five guys that have gotten to the big leagues: Rodriguez, (Kevin) Chapman, (Nick) Maronde, Zunino and (Matt) den Dekker,” O’Sullivan said. “The more success you’ve had with players, that helps you with the next class coming in. Players want to win a national championship, but they also want to know they’ll have a chance to develop and get to the big leagues.”
The states of Oregon and Oklahoma also produced a pair of top-10 recruiting classes this fall. The Ducks and Beavers each built classes around a marquee arm (Matt Krook and Chandler Eden, respectively), while new Sooners coach Pete Hughes inherited a class that features four BA 500 players. Shortstop/righthander Sheldon Neuse is advanced enough in all phases of the game to be an instant star for Oklahoma, while righthander Alec Hansen, lefty Octavio Rodriguez and outfielder Cody Thomas have serious long-term upside, although they could use additional polish.
Oklahoma State landed the deepest class of the quartet, headlined by three players who ranked in the Top 200 for the 2013 draft. At No. 4 and No. 10, respectively, the Cowboys and Sooners each earn their highest-ever positions in the BA recruiting class rankings, which began in 2000.
It should be no surprise that Oklahoma State secured a banner class given the recruiting chops of the coaching staff. Second-year head coach Josh Holliday brought in three top-ranked classes during his time as recruiting coordinator at Arizona State and Vanderbilt. His recruiting coordinator in Stillwater, Marty Lees, helped secure five straight top-25 classes as an assistant at Oregon State, including the No. 3 class in 2007. And Rob Walton is simply one of college baseball’s most respected pitching minds, making Stillwater an attractive destination for marquee arms like Garrett Williams and Thomas Hatch—the headliners of this class.
“We’ve got arms—the kind you need to be a national-caliber team,” said Lees, who also played an early part in putting together Oregon State’s fifth-ranked 2013 class. “When Josh and I are comparing kids, comparing what teams should look like, we looked at teams we created at Vanderbilt and Oregon State, and I would put (this class) up there with any of them. I feel like it’s that good.”
Holliday is cut from the same cloth as fellow energetic, upbeat recruiting gurus-turned-head coaches such as O’Sullivan, South Carolina’s Chad Holbrook and Virginia’s Brian O’Connor. Those coaches have remained recruiting juggernauts as head coaches; expect Holliday to follow suit at OSU.
“Josh Holliday is an incredible leader,” Lees said. “He’s got a different vibe than a lot of coaches in the country. He’s a very hard worker, he’s fair to kids, he treats them really well. I think with the three of us together, kids and parents really feel like we’re going to take care of them, and they’re going to get better because we’re going to work with them.”
Oklahoma State’s 2014 class has a chance to be even stronger than this group when the dust settles. Just as it was obvious from the outset that Florida and Virginia and Vanderbilt were destined to become national superpowers once they hired O’Sullivan, O’Connor and Tim Corbin, it is equally apparent that OSU will be a major force with its new coaching staff.
The Next 10 (in alphabetical order):
With around 300 Division I college baseball programs, it isn’t easy to break into the top 25 in the recruiting class rankings. Every fall, there is an endless supply of coaches who are convinced their class belongs in the rankings, but there are many more quality classes than there are spots in the top 25. Here’s a list of the 10 teams that fell just outside our rankings, listed in alphabetical order. Below that, we present a region-by-region look at some other schools that brought in strong classes relative to a normal recruiting class at their school, in their conference or in their region.
• Arizona: This class is anchored by two-way talent Bobby Dalbec (287), who has above-average power potential in his 6-foot-5 frame and can reach 91 off the mound. RHPs Morgan Earman (420) and Austin Schnabel also have intriguing upside; both have bumped 93 at times, though they lack polish. Earmon hit 95 late in the spring. OF Kenny Meimerstorf brings more righthanded power potential, and MIF Willie Calhoun is an accomplished line-drive hitter with a compact stroke.
• Arkansas: The Hogs’ top-heavy class is highlighted by two BA 500 recruits in RHP Dominic Taccolini (158) and OF Andrew Benintendi (486). Hitters struggle to barrel up Taccolini’s lively fastball, which sits at 89-91 and has touched 94-95 in the past. The undersized, energetic Benintendi evokes Kentucky center fielder Austin Cousino; he should be a dynamic catalyst for the next three years.
• California: Smallish RHP Daulton Jefferies (228) could step right into the weekend rotation thanks to his advanced feel for three pitches that all have flashed plus potential. RHPs Alex Schick and Trevin Haseltine have touched 93 and 94, respectively, and they offer tantalizing upside. Infielder Robbie Tenerowicz has a promising righthanded bat with power potential, while Aaron Knapp brings speed and athleticism to the outfield.
• Georgia Tech: Physical C Arden Pabst (362) should put up good power numbers in his college career and has proven he can handle marquee arms behind the plate (he caught first-rounders Lucas Giolito and Max Fried at Harvard-Westlake High in California). RHP Zac Ryan (462) pounds the zone with an 89-92 sinker and has a clean delivery, but his secondary stuff remains a work in progress. OF Keenan Innis has a short lefthanded swing and solid-average speed, and lanky 3B Brandon Gold should grow into some righthanded power; he also has an 87-91 mph fastball off the mound.
• Louisiana State: LHP Jared Poche (308) projects to add velocity to his 87-90 fastball as he fills out, and he already has good feel for his curveball and changeup. 2B Kramer Robertson (493) is an excellent athlete with above-average speed and a promising bat, and he should be an impact player once he gets stronger and improves his defensive consistency. Fellow freshman Danny Zardon might beat him out for the second base job this spring thanks to his rock-solid defense and competitiveness at the plate. Strike-throwing RHP Parker Bugg has an intriguing 6-foot-6 frame but needs to improve the quality of his stuff; he has worked at 87-88 this fall. The sleeper is RHP Brady Domangue, who reminds coach Paul Mainieri of former LSU sinkerballer extraordinaire Jared Bradford.
• Long Beach State: Garrett Hampson (84) is one of the nation’s premier recruits, a plus-plus runner with an excellent line-drive bat and outstanding range and actions at shortstop. “He’s got big-time savvy and confidence—he’s a real one,” said a rival recruiter. This 14-man class also includes seven juco transfers, led by physical LHP Cameron Pongs, polished and competitive RHP Jason Alexander, and scrappy C Alex Bishop.
• Michigan: It did not take second-year head coach Erik Bakich and recruiting coordinator Nick Schnabel long to infuse talent into their roster; their first recruiting class looks like the Wolverines’ best since their banner 2005 haul. The centerpiece is RHP/IF Jackson Lamb (306), an athletic former all-state basketball player who can reach 93 off the mound and can run a 6.7-second 60-yard dash. OF Johnny Slater has a loose lefthanded swing with power potential and excellent range in the outfield. Ramsey Romano is versatile enough to play all over the infield and owns a short, repeatable righthanded swing. Two-way talent Hector Gutierrez can play shortstop or second and can reach 92 off the mound when he is at his best.
• North Carolina: Though UNC’s only BA 500 recruit is big-bodied RHP A.J. Bogucki (383), this class has a deep supply of winning players. Bogucki has good feel for pitching with a high-80s fastball and a slurvy breaking ball. Athletic RHP Zac Gallen is even more polished, with good feel for a three-pitch mix and uncommon poise. 1B Joe Dudek brings crucial lefthanded power and a solid approach, while C Adrian Chacon has a strong arm and a nice line-drive bat. Undersized grinders Adam Pate and Wood Myers bring speed, energy and bat-handling skills; UNC has a tradition of similar players making big impacts.
• Stanford: The crown jewel of long-time recruiting coordinator Dean Stotz’s final class is RHP Cal Quantrill (90), a former Canadian junior national team star with the kind of polish you’d expect from the son of a big leaguer (14-year veteran Paul Quantrill). Cal can reach 93 with his fastball and flashes a plus changeup, but his curveball and slider still need refinement. Six-foot-9 RHP Chris Viall has big-time projection and has flashed 90-92 mph heat in the past. Wiry OF Jack Klein has good righthanded bat speed and plenty of athleticism. RHP/3B Brett Hanewich has touched 92 off the mound and flashed some pull power from the left side.
• Texas A&M: Five junior-college transfers will give the Aggies an instant jolt, but freshmen Ronnie Gideon (166) and Mark Ecker (494) provide exciting upside. Gideon, the son of Rockies hitting coordinator Ron Gideon, played shortstop in high school but is now catching, playing third and switch-hitting. He has upside and good baseball instincts but needs to improve his plate approach to unlock his power potential. Ecker has a 90-94 mph fastball with big life and an improving breaking ball, making him a potential closer down the road. Infielder Ryne Birk has plenty of strength in his 5-foot-9 frame; the Aggies predict he will become an all-conference player and “the heartbeat of our team” before he leaves College Station. LHP Tyler Stubblefield flashes 93 mph heat with good downhill plane and a promising slider, but he’ll need to refine his changeup.
OTHER NOTABLE CLASSES BY REGION
• UCLA was hit hard by the draft, but its small class still features three quality outfielders, like the 2009 class that included Jeff Gelalich, Beau Amaral and Cody Keefer. Kort Peterson is the best of this crop, a talented lefthanded hitter with power and speed. Brett Stephens adds more lefthanded pop and athleticism, while Luke Persico brings big power potential from the right side.
• Arizona State did not bring in any big-name blue-chippers, but several members of its class should contribute immediately, led by RHPs Seth Martinez and Eder Erives. The Sun Devils compare Martinez to Brady Rodgers for his clean delivery and command of three pitches, but they say he will throw harder as he matures. The smallish Erives also has a good delivery and feel for three quality offerings. SS/2B Colby Woodmansee has advanced baseball skills, a strong arm and righthanded pop in his bat.
• Washington improved its pitching depth, especially from the left side. LHP Henry Baker has a heavy 88-92 fastball and a potential out pitch in his 12-to-6 curve. Juco transfer Brandon Choate can reach 93 from the right side, but his best pitch is a slider that he can throw for strikes in any count. OF Jack Meggs, the son of UW head coach Lindsay, has good bat-handling skills and excellent instincts in the outfield and on the basepaths, while IF Mitch Bevaqua should rack up doubles and could grow into some power.
• UC Santa Barbara has 12 returning pitchers who were freshmen or sophomores last year, so the Gauchos focused on building position-player depth with this class. OF Josh Adams (329) is a potential star with an easy lefthanded swing and above-average power potential. SS Brody Weiss from Colorado has above-average speed and arm strength along with some whip in his righthanded swing. He’s the son of Rockies manager and ex-big leaguer Walt Weiss. Dempsey Grover is an offensive catcher with a strong arm and enough physicality and feel for hitting to become a middle-of-the-order bat at some point.
• Cal Poly expects four of its incoming pitchers to make an immediate impact, led by strike-throwers RHP Justin Calomeni and LHP Slater Lee. OF Zack Zehner is coming off a strong summer in the Northwoods League and could provide a power boost.
• Fresno State’s deep class is anchored by a potential future ace in LHP Fred Schlichtholz, who owns a clean arm action and a fastball that reaches the low 90s. C Nick Warren has good athleticism and mobility behind the plate to go along with plus arm strength. IF Jesse Medrano brings a football player’s aggressive mentality and valuable leadership skills, along with a nice set of baseball skills.
• Nevada coach Jay Johnson and recruiting coordinator Mark Kertenian were able to add five quality late signees after taking over in Reno this summer, making the Wolf Pack’s class surprisingly good. RHP Mark Nowaczewski (440) has a whippy arm and serious projection, but he’s already touched 93, working at 87-90. LHP/OF Trenton Brooks commands an 88-91 fastball and quality curveball, giving him a chance to step into the weekend rotation and play center field as a freshman. RHP Evan McMahan, the best of the late signs, can reach the low 90s and has advanced feel for the strike zone.
• Hawaii looked like a big winner in the early signing period last fall but got hit hard in the draft. Nonetheless, the Rainbows kept one of their big-name recruits in OF/IF Marcus Doi (388), a compact line-drive machine with good baseball instincts and a well-rounded tool set. OF Jordan Richartz could step into the middle of the lineup and serve as a threat on the basepaths—he stole 24 bases in 24 tries in juco ball last year. RHP Eric Gleese should factor into the back of the bullpen mix thanks to his 88-91 fastball and quality slider.
• San Diego lost five recruits to the draft, but it still landed a potential impact arm in RHP Ryan Olson (252), who projects to add velocity to his 88-91 fastball as he matures and has the makings of a solid slider and changeup. OF Ryan Kirby is a physical lefthanded hitter with middle-of-the-order potential, and SS Seve Romo is a baseball rat who defends well in the middle infield.
UPPER MIDWEST/GREAT PLAINS
• Notre Dame landed the second-ranked incoming position player in the nation in 2B Cavan Biggio (67), the son of Astros great Craig Biggio. Cavan was regarded as one of the best pure hitters in the 2013 draft class, with a smooth lefthanded swing, a balanced approach and a chance for average major league power. The Irish also landed another player with big league bloodlines in OF Torii Hunter Jr., a plus-plus runner with good bat speed and range in center field, like his dad. Switch-hitting C Ryan Lidge has good arm strength behind the plate and could give this class a third potential stalwart.
• The latest premium arm for pitching guru Mike Birkbeck to develop at Kent State is LHP Eric Lauer (125), who flashes 94 mph heat with minimal effort from a low three-quarters arm slot. His secondary stuff is still a work in progress, but his upside is huge. 1B Conner Simonetti has power potential to all fields, and 2B/SS Zach Beckner is a polished defender who should make an instant impact.
• Central Michigan also brought in a strong class in the Mid-American Conference, with a pair of juco transfers to provide immediate help on the mound and two other potential front-of-the-rotation starters in the freshman class. LHP/1B Matt Deeg works at 88-91 with good armside run and the makings of an average changeup and solid curveball. He and RHP Jordan Grosjean (who works downhill with an 87-92 fastball) form a strong foundation for the future. Strike-throwing juco transfers Skylar Janisse and Tim Black should factor into the mix immediately, perhaps at the back of the bullpen and in the rotation, respectively.
• Minnesota bolstered its pitching with four arms who can reach 90 mph, including a pair of intriguing two-way talents. RHP/1B/OF Tyler Hansen has righthanded power potential and a good feel for pitching. RHP/IF Matt Fiedler complements a fastball that reaches 91 with a nice power curve and sinking changeup. Six-foot-5 RHP Toby Anderson, a former basketball star from Idaho, has tantalizing upside and has already reached 92. RHP Cody Campbell has also bumped 90 but needs refinement and has been hampered by shoulder tendinitis this fall.
• Texas Tech anticipates six hitters from its class to step in and play right away, while four incoming lefthanded pitchers should all compete to start on weekends. But the biggest name in the class is RHP Ryan Moseley (217), a converted catcher who is still figuring out pitching but has shown 93 mph heat and a promising curveball. LHP Ty Damron, an unsigned 13th-round pick by the Dodgers, has an 88-93 fastball, a power curve in the high 70s, and a solid change. RHP Blake Douglas, a transfer from Weatherford (Texas) JC, can run his fastball into the mid-90s and features a power slider at 82-84. SS Matt Broadbent should be a key position player building block.
• Rice’s class has a potential star in C John Clay Reeves, who hits for average from the right side and is an advanced defender for his age with an accurate arm. RHP Jon Duplantier has a chance to be very good if he can harness his command of his quality four-pitch mix, which is highlighted by an 88-92 fastball that touches 94. Six-foot-7 RHP Trevor Teykl works at 88-91 with heavy sink but needs to get more consistent with his slider and must overcome health concerns. OF Charlie Warren has a nice flat stroke from the left side and above-average speed.
• Missouri focused on bolstering its position player depth. The Tigers landed a quality catalyst in OF Jake Ring (384), an on-base machine with plus speed, a strong arm and excellent instincts in center field. SS/3B Ryan Howard is another hard-nosed player with a good feel for his barrel and sound defensive skills on the left side of the infield. 2B/SS Brett Peel is a gamer who does all the little things to help his team win, and 3B/1B Zach Levy brings lefthanded power potential and solid athleticism on the corners.
• Louisiana-Lafayette focused on improving its pitching and reeled in a strong class led by three 4-2-4 transfers who began their collegiate careers at LSU and Arkansas. RHP Greg Millhorn was a key recruit for Arkansas in 2011 before heading to junior college; he has flashed 90-94 mph heat, a good downer curve and a quality changeup at his best. RHP Carson Baranik (a former LSU pitcher) works downhill with an 89-93 mph fastball and command of two solid secondary pitches. C/OF Evan Powell, another LSU bounceback, has good strength in his quick righthanded swing and quality catch-and-throw skills.
• Northwestern State coach Lane Burroughs and his staff put together a strong first class that features 11 freshmen and 13 junior-college transfers. High-energy SS Joel Atkinson, a juco transfer, brings sure hands, a strong arm and a nice gap-to-gap stroke. OF Cisco Factor has provocative power potential in his 6-foot-5 frame, and fellow JC transfer C.J. Webster has good catch-and-throw skills and a good line-drive swing. RHP John Gault has a 90-92 fastball that bumps 93 and a power slider, while RHP Adam Oller works downhill with an 88-91 fastball and another hard slider.
• Elsewhere in the Southland Conference, Nicholls State snagged a nice headliner in RHP/1B Cole Stapler (469), a physical 6-foot-5 power pitcher with an 88-92 fastball and developing secondary stuff; he also has raw power at the plate. Juco transfer Marc Frazier, another two-way talent, was up to 94 off the mound before his 2012 Tommy John surgery, and he should be a middle-of-the-order bat this spring. CF Justin Holt has plus-plus speed with outstanding range in center field and a chance to be a dynamic table-setter.
• Southern’s large class has a quality two-way player as its centerpiece in C/RHP Sam May, who brings righthanded power potential and could also close games. RHP Brady May can bump the low 90s and has good feel for pitching, making him a potential ace for the next three years. OF Lance Jones is a standout athlete with plus speed and excellent range in center. Elsewhere in the SWAC, Arkansas-Pine Bluff brought in 13 junior-college transfers, led by OF/LHP Andre Davis, who has power stuff off the mound and a power bat in the box. UAPB believes he and 3B/SS Nate Ross (who stands out for his advanced approach at the plate) will both compete for conference player of the year honors in 2014.
• Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has been on an upward trajectory for several years, and this class could help the Islanders break through to regionals in the next few years. OFs Tyler Ware and Zach Gibson plus 1B Franki Salas could form the core of TAMU-CC’s future lineup, as all three have good physicality and feel for hitting. RHP Gage Curry, a juco transfer, could step into the weekend rotation immediately.
• Alabama followed up last year’s No. 4 ranked class with another strong haul, headlined by C Will Haynie (298) and RHP Nick Eicholtz. Haynie has two plus tools in his arm and raw power, prompting the Tide to compare him to Ben Davis. Eicholtz works in the low 90s with an excellent slider and good changeup, making him a potential front-line arm. LHP Thomas Burrows has good command of an 89-93 fastball from a three-quarters slot. OF William Elliott has a good approach and decent pop from the left side.
• Samford capitalized on its 2012 run to a regional final by securing “the best freshman group we will ever sign.” OF Heath Quinn, an unsigned 12th-round pick by the Indians, has legitimate five-tool potential and should start immediately in right field. RHP Jared Brasher (371) touched 94 and showed feel for a promising slurve in the spring. Two juco tranfers, RHPs Mikel Belcher and Alex Ledford, should assume prominent roles on the staff immediately. Belcher, who works in the low 90s, could win the closer job, while Ledford (who works at 89-92 with good life from a low slot) has a shot at a weekend starter job. RHP Chase Traffica, an eligible graduate transfer from Louisiana-Lafayette, is healthy again after missing last year with Tommy John surgery; he also has a low-90s fastball and experience as a Friday starter.
• Central Florida’s huge class features 12 freshmen and 12 junior-college transfers, with 11 pitchers and 13 position players. SS Kam Gellinger has the hands, range and arm strength to be a defensive stalwart and should be a solid hitter as well. Versatile Dalton Duty’s has a quality lefthanded bat and a strong arm, while OF Derrick Salberg has excellent speed and range along with another strong arm. RHP Tanner Olson, a juco transfer from the Northwest like Salberg, has an 87-92 sinker and command of a quality three-pitch mix. Freshman Vinnie Rosace works at 87-91 from the left side and has excellent athleticism off the mound.
• East Carolina built a balanced class with 11 freshmen and 5 JC transfers, headlined by a trio of two-way players. 1B/OF/LHP Bryce Harman brings big-time power potential to the lineup and could also contribute on the mound, where he can reach 90 from the left side. LHP/OF Reid Love has advanced pitchability that helped him rank third in the NJCAA in ERA last year. RHP/IF Davis Kirkpatrick provides more versatility and should also contribute early in his career.
• Charlotte upgraded its physicality with a strong class in advance of its move back to Conference USA. Six-foot-6 RHP Ryan Butler has worked at 93-94 and touched 96 this fall, catching scouts’ attention. SS/2B Mikal Hill has good hand-eye coordination, slightly above-average speed and valuable defensive versatility. 1B/OF/RHP Logan Sherer provided righthanded power potential and could be in the closer mix.
• Florida Atlantic, another C-USA newcomer, got 16th-round pick Sean Labsan and 30th-rounder David McKay to turn down the draft in favor of school, anchoring the Owls’ strongest class in the last half-decade. Five-foot-10 LHP Labsan has an easy delivery and feel for an 87-91 fastball, a swing-and-miss breaking ball and a quality changeup, along with enough athleticism to contribute in the outfield as well. McKay, a 6-foot-3 righty, was up to 93 last spring and flashed a plus slider at times. C.J. Chatham drew draft interest as both a shortstop and a pitcher, thanks to an arm that can produce 93 mph heat from the right side and a projectable 6-foot-4 frame.
• Duke’s new staff put together a nice first group in a short recruiting cycle. Lanky RHP Bailey Clark (257) can already touch 92 and should add velocity as he fills out. C Cristian Perez has a balanced swing and good bat speed that should lead to power production as he matures; he also has quick feet behind the plate, a short arm action and a smooth transfer. OF Ryan Deitrich, a graduate transfer from Penn, was a first-team all-Ivy League performer last year, an on-base machine with some juice to the gaps.
• Virginia Tech reeled in a potential ACC weekend starter with a live arm and promising secondary stuff in RHP Aaron McGarity. Ryan Tufts (a gritty infielder from Massachusetts) and Miguel Ceballos (an athletic, well-rounded infielder/outfielder from Miami) could be key building blocks in the lineup.
• North Florida welcomed its strongest class in recent years, led by 6-foot-6 RHP Bryan Baker (241), who pitches in the low 90s and has bumped 97 according to the Ospreys. 3B Trent Higginbothem was a juco star who should make an immediate impact thanks to his gap-to-gap bat and emerging righthanded power.
• Winthrop, Coastal Carolina and Liberty all welcomed strong classes in the Big South. Winthrop’s balanced group is headlined by RHP Zach Cook, who has been up to 94 with a swing-and-miss 12-to-6 curveball, and LHP Matt Crohan, who works at 88-92 with a quality changeup. Juco transfer Zac Goodno has shown sub-2.0-second pop times behind the plate and will be counted on as a key run producer in the middle of the Eagles’ lineup.
Coastal Carolina’s 19-man class is led by LHP Dalton Moats (416), who can reach 90 and has good command of a three-pitch mix, making him a potential weekend starter next spring. 1B/DH G.K. Young brings serious lefthanded power potential, adding a new dimension to Coastal’s lineup. Slick-fielding SS Michael Paez is a 6.6 runner with smooth infield actions and plenty of baseball savvy.
Liberty says its class is the deepest and most balanced in coach Jim Toman’s seven-year tenure, with four infielders, four outfielders, eight pitchers (including seven lefties), two catchers and two first basemen. OF Will Shepherd packs serious strength into his 5-foot-9 frame, showing the ability to hit for average as well as power. LHP Matt Pennington, a juco transfer, has good feel for pitching with three offerings, while LHP Michael Stafford can touch 90 and has a promising big-breaking curveball.
• Middle Tennessee State secured what it calls the largest class in school history, a 16-man group led by LHP Brandon Zajac, a twice-drafted player who can reach 93 mph and could become a high pick this spring if he commands his stuff. OF Jared Allen and 3B Jake Ingold should be key run producers in the middle of the lineup.
• Albany scored a huge win when RHP Stephen Woods opted for college over signing with the Rays as a sixth-round pick, making him the top recruit in the Northeast and making this the best class in school history. Woods has a low-90s fastball that bumps 93-94, a swing-and-miss curveball and good feel for a changeup. Juco transfers Jeff VonMoser and Cory Kingston should be difference-makers at shortstop and center field, respectively.
• Stony Brook expects its strong class to help it return to the national stage. RHP Ryley MacEachern has a physical 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame, a power arm and enough feel for pitching to give him a chance for a weekend starter role as a freshman. C/1B Kyle Devin was a standout both offensively and defensively at the 2012 Area Code Games, and he figures to make an impact in both facets this spring. OF Toby Handley, a plus runner with a strong arm and solid bat-handling skills, could be Stony Brook’s latest Canadian find.
• Connecticut brought in its deepest class in a few years, led by LHP Anthony Kay, who works in the 87-92 range with a good changeup and an improving slider. RHP Andrew Zapata competes with four pitches, including a high-80s fastball that bumps 92 now and then. 3B/1B/OF Ryan Sullivan has an advanced righthanded bat that produces hard contact to the gaps and could develop power in time. SS/2B Aaron Hill provides athleticism, good infield actions and plus speed.
• Rhode Island expects five or six of its freshmen to make immediate impacts in the lineup, led by OF Daniel Hetzel, a physical righthanded hitter with a plus arm from the outfield. Switch-hitting C/3B Martin Tavares brings abundant energy, and 3B/1B Chris Hess is a solid defender who excels at driving the ball the other way.
• Princeton landed the top class in the Ivy League, led by Keelan Smithers, a low-three-quarters lefty with good life on his 86-88 fastball and advanced command. Californian Chad Powers, an alumnus of the ABD Bulldogs program, has good poise and a three-pitch mix off the mound along with the defensive skill to contribute on the infield. Yale also landed a key recruit from California in projectable RHP Chasen Ford (473), who throws strikes with an 87-91 fastball that has bumped 92.
• In the Patriot league, Lehigh coach Sean Leary thinks his group of incoming position players could be the best in his 19-year tenure. SS/3B Pat Donnelly is a 6.65 runner with a strong arm and a promising bat. 3B/RHP Connor Donovan has a balanced approach at the plate and a chance to hit for power, and he has worked at 86-89 off the mound. C/OF Jacen Nalesnik has good athleticism behind the plate and in left field, but his best asset is his bat, which has power potential down the road.