Last week we unveiled our annual recruiting class rankings for the players that showed up on campus this fall. Coaches often say the best time to evaluate recruiting classes is four years after recruits show up on campus, when the full measure of their impact can be accurately assessed. Of course, we’re a forward-thinking publication for a forward-thinking audience, and we’ll always rank recruiting classes when they show up on campus in an attempt to predict which schools have bright futures ahead of them. It is instructional, however, to look back at the 2009 recruiting class rankings and see how we did. This is also a way to give credit to recruiting coordinators whose classes turned out far better than initially thought.
So below, we re-rank the 2009 recruiting classes using the benefit of hindsight, based on what the players accomplished in school. Postseason success weighs heavily in our calculus, but we’re also looking at whether the players in these classes were vital cornerstone players or role players who were just along for the ride. The best classes have a blend of both. Draft results have no bearing on these revised rankings, but you’ll notice that most of the classes that experienced the most success also produced a number of marquee draft picks.
Florida topped our rankings four years ago and places No. 1 on the list below as well, even though the Gators did not win a national championship. Their 2009 class was loaded with core players who made three straight trips to Omaha. Sixteen of our Top 25 classes in 2009 crack our “revised” list four years later. But five of the top seven classes on the list below did not make our rankings in 2009, reminding us that forecasting which 18-year-old players will develop is an inexact science.
2009 rank: 1.
Recruiting coordinator: Craig Bell.
Key players: Mike Zunino, Nolan Fontana, Hudson Randall, Brian Johnson, Steven Rodriguez, Austin Maddox.
The bottom line: Few classes in college baseball history arrived on campus with as much fanfare as this group, which mostly lived up to its billing. Zunino was a two-time first-team All-American, the 2012 College Player of the Year and the No. 3 overall pick. Five members of this class were drafted in the top three rounds, but more importantly, this group of players reached three straight College World Series, highlighted by a runner-up finish in 2011. Rodriguez and Zunino have already reached the big leagues.
2009 rank: NR.
Recruiting coordinator: Mark Wasikowski.
Key players: Alex Mejia, Robert Refsnyder, Kurt Heyer, Seth Mejias-Brean, Joey Rickard.
The bottom line: All five players listed above were drafted inside the top 10 rounds, so they had plenty of talent. But they were truly exceptional college players who formed the nucleus of Arizona’s unbeaten run through the 2012 CWS. Mejia was the 2012 Pac-12 Player of the Year, Refsnyder was the CWS Most Outstanding Player, and Heyer went 28-11, 2.56 in three seasons as staff ace.
3. SOUTH CAROLINA
2009 rank: NR.
Recruiting coordinator: Chad Holbrook.
Key players: Christian Walker, Evan Marzilli, Adrian Morales, John Taylor, Colby Holmes, Tyler Webb, Jose Mata, Robert Beary.
The bottom line: South Carolina’s 2008 class—the Michael Roth/Matt Price/Jackie Bradley Jr. group that topped these retrospective rankings last fall—was special, but this 2009 group was just as responsible for those three straight runs to the CWS Finals (including two titles). Walker hit in the heart of the order for all three of those teams, finishing with 30 career homers and a .336 average. Webb, Mata and Taylor were vital bullpen stalwarts, while Marzilli and Morales provided grit, outstanding defense and timely hitting. Though Walker (a fourth-rounder), Marzilli (eighth) and Webb (10th round after his 2013 senior year) were the only pro prospects in this class, every player listed above delivered memorable Omaha heroics, typical of a South Carolina dynasty that got significant contributions from all over its roster.
4. TEXAS A&M
2009 rank: NR.
Recruiting coordinator: Justin Seely.
Key players: Michael Wacha, Tyler Naquin, John Stilson, Kyle Martin, Matt Juengel, Rafael Pineda.
The bottom line: Before his October brilliance for the Cardinals made him a household name, Wacha was a three-year star for the Aggies, going a combined 27-7, 2.40. He and Naquin both earned All-America honors and were drafted in the first round in 2012. A year earlier, they helped lead the Aggies to their first Omaha appearance since 1999. Stilson was one of college baseball’s most dominant players in his two years in College Station, going 14-3, 1.27 with 206 strikeouts in 170 innings.
5. STONY BROOK
2009 rank: NR.
Recruiting coordinator: Joe Pennucci.
Key players: Travis Jankowski, William Carmona, Maxx Tissenbaum, James Campbell, Jasvir Rakkar.
The bottom line: When these players were juniors in 2012, they won a regional at Miami and a super regional at LSU en route to the first CWS appearance in program history. Jankowski (a supplemental first-rounder) and Carmona were All-Americans, while Campbell was a key bullpen piece and Tissenbaum was one of college baseball’s toughest outs. All four were drafted in the top 12 rounds. The Seawolves also went to regionals in 2010 and won 42 games in 2011.
2009 rank: 19.
Recruiting coordinator: Rick Vanderhook.
Key players: Jeff Gelalich, Beau Amaral, Cody Keefer, Trevor Brown, Tyler Heineman, Cody Regis, Scott Griggs.
The bottom line: UCLA’s previous class (with Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer) had more star power, but the 2009 group stood out for its depth of quality everyday players. Gelalich, a first-team All-American in 2012 and a supplemental first-round pick, was the best of the bunch, but the supporting cast formed a rock-solid foundation for two Omaha teams (in 2010 and ’12). Regis’ numbers regressed over the course of his career, but he provided extra value by returning for his senior year and helping UCLA win the 2013 national title.
7. FLORIDA STATE
2009 rank: NR.
Recruiting coordinator: Jamey Shouppe.
Key players: Devon Travis, Jayce Boyd, Justin Gonzalez, Robert Benincasa, Stephen McGee, Scott Sitz.
The bottom line: Like UCLA’s class, this crop yielded several key regulars on Omaha teams in 2010 and 2012, though Benincasa was the lone All-American. McGee and Sitz provided more value by returning for strong senior years in 2013, leading FSU back to a super regional. Boyd, Travis and Gonzalez formed three-quarters of one of college baseball’s best infields in 2012.
8. ARIZONA STATE
2009 rank: 3.
Recruiting coordinator: Travis Jewett.
Key players: Brady Rodgers, Deven Marrero, Jake Barrett, Joey DeMichele, Andrew Aplin, Xorge Carillo, Alex Blackford.
The bottom line: This class helped ASU reach the 2010 College World Series and the 2011 Austin Super Regional, but these players were denied an opportunity to get back to Omaha as juniors in 2012 while the Devils served a one-year postseason ban. That makes it difficult to evaluate the impact of this group, but the draft results illustrate just how talented these players were. Marrero went in the first round in 2012; Rodgers, DeMichele and Barrett were third-rounders; and Aplin went in the fifth.
9. TEXAS CHRISTIAN
2009 rank: 4.
Recruiting coordinator: Todd Whitting.
Key players: Matt Purke, Josh Elander, Kyle Von Tungeln, Jerome Pena, Joe Weik.
The bottom line: Purke—an unsigned first-round pick out of high school—was the blue-chip recruit TCU needed to help it get over the hump to Omaha for the first time in program history. Purke went 16-0, 3.02 to win Freshman of the Year honors in 2010, helping the Horned Frogs vanquish nemesis Texas in super regionals. Elander was a key middle-of-the-order run producer for three years, while Pena, Weik and Von Tungeln were nice role players.
10. MISSISSIPPI STATE
2009 rank: 8.
Recruiting coordinator: Butch Thompson.
Key players: Chris Stratton, Kendall Graveman, Chad Girodo, Nick Vickerson, Ben Bracewell, Jonathan Ogden.
The bottom line: This large class played a critical role in MSU’s rebuilding effort under John Cohen. This group looks better now than it did a year ago, as Girodo and Graveman stuck around for their senior year and emerged as vital pieces of MSU’s run to the 2013 CWS Finals. Stratton was an All-American and a first-round pick in 2012, and Vickerson provided two solid years of offensive production, highlighted by his memorable walk-off home run against Florida in the 2011 super regionals.
11. OREGON STATE
2009 rank: 22.
Recruiting coordinator: Marty Lees.
Key players: Matt Boyd, Tyler Smith, Andrew Susac, Danny Hayes, Tony Bryant, Ryan Barnes.
The bottom line: Like Mississippi State, the Beavers got significant contributions from this class for four years, as Boyd, Smith, Hayes, Bryant and Barnes all played meaningful roles on OSU’s 2013 Omaha team as seniors. Smith was the heart and soul of the Beavers as the starting shortstop over the last two seasons, while Boyd turned in three stellar years of relief work and then became the staff ace as a senior. Susac was a second-round pick as an eligible sophomore in 2011.
2009 rank: 2.
Recruiting coordinator: Dean Stotz.
Key players: Mark Appel, Stephen Piscotty, Kenny Diekroeger, Jacob Stewart, Tyler Gaffney, Dean McArdle, Eric Smith.
The bottom line: Though this class reached three regionals and won two of them (in 2011 and 2012), ultimately it will be remembered as a major disappointment because it never broke through to Omaha. Appel certainly did his part, earning All-America honors as a junior and senior en route to becoming the No. 1 overall pick in 2013. Piscotty was a supplemental first-rounder as a junior, but Diekroeger and Stewart never harnessed their considerable raw potential in Palo Alto. Despite all its talent, Stanford was swept in super regionals by UNC in 2011 and Florida State in 2012.
13. ST. JOHN’S
2009 rank: 10.
Recruiting coordinator: Mike Hampton.
Key players: Jeremy Baltz, Kyle Hansen, Matt Carasiti, Sean Hagan, Sean O’Hare.
The bottom line: This group of Johnnies reached three straight regionals, capped by the 2012 Chapel Hill Regional championship. Baltz earned first-team All-America honors as a freshman, when he went bonkers in the Charlottesville Regional to help push host Virginia to the brink. Hansen, Carasiti and Hagan were key arms throughout their college careers.
14. NORTH CAROLINA
2009 rank: 7.
Recruiting coordinator: Scott Jackson.
Key players: Michael Morin, R.C. Orlan, Brian Goodwin, Chris Munnelly, Jesse Wierzbicki, Chaz Frank, Tommy Coyle.
The bottom line: Morin, who posted a 1.40 ERA and 19 saves as a junior, was the lone All-American in this class, but Orlan was another key bullpen piece on UNC’s 2011 CWS team, while Frank, Coyle and Wierzbicki were solid regulars. UNC won 46 games in 2012 but was stunned by St. John’s in the Chapel Hill Regional. The most talented member of this class, Goodwin, was dismissed from the team for violating team rules after one season. Frank (a high-energy catalyst) and Munnelly (a useful swingman) returned for their senior years and reached Omaha for a second time in 2013.
2009 rank: NR.
Recruiting coordinator: Mitch Thompson.
Key players: Max Muncy, Logan Vick, Josh Turley, Jake Miller, Cal Towey, Lawton Langford.
The bottom line: This blue-collar bunch reached three consecutive regionals, capped by a trip to super regionals in 2012, when the Bears won 49 games overall and went 20-4 in the Big 12. But Baylor fans were left dreaming about what could have been after the Bears melted down in the 2011 regional championship against Cal and again in the 2012 super regional against Arkansas. Still, Muncey, Vick and Turley were frontline players, and the supporting cast was solid. Thompson was let go by Baylor in 2012 and recently hired as the head coach at McLennan (Texas) JC.
16. NORTH CAROLINA STATE
2009 rank: 11.
Recruiting coordinator: Tom Holliday.
Key players: Danny Canela, Chris Diaz, Tarran Senay, Ethan Ogburn, Chris Overman, Anthony Tzamtzis.
The bottom line: This class ranked No. 11 four years ago largely because of big-name recruits Dane Williams, Felix Roque and Rey Cotilla—who wound up combining to pitch just 57 innings in their N.C. State careers. But Canela, Diaz and Senay wound up becoming key regulars for a Wolfpack team that won a regional in 2012. Senay, Ogburn, Overman and Tzamtzis hung around to help N.C. State break its 45-year Omaha drought a year later.
2009 rank: 9.
Recruiting coordinator: Kevin McMullan.
Key players: Chris Taylor, Branden Kline, Reed Gragnani, Kenny Swab, Cody Winiarski.
The bottom line: Taylor and Kline were key cogs on Virginia’s 2011 Omaha team and its 2012 team that was upset in the Charlottesville Regional. The others were nice complementary pieces.
2009 rank: 20.
Recruiting coordinator: Tom Riginos.
Key players: Richie Shaffer, Scott Firth, Dominic Leone, Spencer Kieboom, Jonathan Meyer.
The bottom line: The centerpiece of this class was Shaffer, who hit .325 with 30 homers in three years before leaving as a first-round pick. Like Shaffer, Firth and Leone were key contributors as freshman on Clemson’s 2010 Omaha team, and they went on to have solid but unspectacular careers. The Tigers underachieved in 2011 and ’12, losing in regionals both years.
2009 rank: NR.
Recruiting coordinator: Todd Butler.
Key players: Matt Reynolds, D.J. Baxendale, Randall Fant, Matt Vinson, Jacob Morris.
The bottom line: After struggling offensively for two seasons, Reynolds blossomed into a star as a junior, helping Arkansas reach Omaha. Baxendale’s best season was his sophomore year, when he went 10-2, 1.58 for a regional runner-up team, but he was a key contributor all three of his seasons in Fayetteville. Fant was a steady starting pitcher for four seasons, but he never fully harnessed his potential.
2009 rank: NR.
Recruiting coordinator: Ryan Sawyers.
Key players: Kevin Plawecki, Cameron Perkins, Brad Schreiber.
The bottom line: This class put Purdue baseball on the national map, leading the Boilermakers to its first Big Ten title in 103 years in 2012, when they hosted their first regional. Plawecki (supplemental first-rounder) and Perkins (sixth-rounder) have gone on to turn themselves into quality prospects in the minor leagues. Closer Nick Wittgren has also found success in pro ball out of Purdue’s 2012 draft class, but he transferred in from junior-college ball in the fall of 2010.
2009 rank: 13.
Recruiting coordinator: Josh Holliday.
Key players: Mike Yastrzemski, Connor Harrell, Anthony Gomez, Sam Selman.
The bottom line: This class yielded no All-Americans but did produce three gritty regulars who played key roles in getting Vandy to Omaha for the first time in 2011. Yastrzemski and Harrell were four-year starters in the outfield, while Gomez was a .354 career hitter in three seasons as a middle infield stalwart. Selman overcame command issues to deliver a useful junior year in 2012, when the Commodores finished as runners-up in the Raleigh Regional.
22. CENTRAL FLORIDA
2009 rank: 10.
Recruiting coordinator: Cliff Godwin.
Key players: Ronnie Richardson, Jonathan Griffin, Ryan Taladay, Darnell Sweeney, Joe Rogers, Nick Cicio.
The bottom line: The Knights expected their 2009 recruiting class to lay the foundation for its rebuilding effort under coach Terry Rooney, and they were not disappointed. This group helped UCF snap its seven-year postseason drought in 2011, then led the Knights back to regionals in 2012. Griffin hit 19 homers in 2011, while Richardson, Sweeney and Taladay provided athleticism and strong defense. Rogers and Cicio became key bullpen pieces.
2009 rank: 16.
Recruiting coordinator: Tim Tadlock.
Key players: Max White, Jack Mayfield, Jordan John, Bobby Shore.
The bottom line: White and Mayfield were four-year stalwarts who helped Oklahoma reach the 2010 College World Series and a super regional in 2012. Shore was a quality juco transfer who also played a key role on the 2010 Omaha team. John posted a 2.41 ERA in 183 innings over two seasons.
24. CAL STATE FULLERTON
2009 rank: 5.
Recruiting coordinator: Sergio Brown.
Key players: Richy Pedroza, Dylan Floro, Anthony Hutting.
The bottom line: Several key pieces of this class did not pan out—notably Geno Escalante and Ivory Thomas, who wound up transferring—but Pedroza was a key player for four years, helping the Titans win two regionals. Floro was a quality college ace who led the minors in ERA in 2013, and Hutting was a useful complementary piece, though he never became a star as anticipated.
25. GEORGIA SOUTHERN
2009 rank: NR.
Recruiting coordinator: Mike Tidick.
Key players: Victor Roache, Chris Beck.
The bottom line: The Eagles reached just one regional in the Roache/Beck era (in 2011), but it’s hard not to wonder what they could have done if Roache hadn’t missed nearly all of his junior year due to injury. Roache still went in the first round in 2012, while Beck was a second-rounder.