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Recruiting: The Dandy Dozen
Compiled By Will Kimmey
The nation's top 12 recruiting classes. For 2004 draft picks, the team and round are in parentheses. Asterisks denote junior college transfers. # No longer with school.
Recruiting coordinator: Tommy Harmon. Key recruits: *Calvin Beamon, of; Preston Clark, c (Indians, 39); *Tyler Coon, lhp; Chris Davis, 3b/rhp (Yankees, 50); Chase Fontaine, ss; Kenn Kasparek, rhp (Cubs, 41).
Coon reminds Texas of J.P. Howell, a lefty who transferred in and quickly earned a weekend rotation spot. Clark is a solid defender, but won't be able to knock Taylor Teagarden out of regular duty. He's still expected to make a solid contribution with his bat as a freshman. Davis and Kasparek, both highly sought-after prep stars with low-90s fastballs, might not see regular roles in 2005 because of the Longhorns' tremendous depth. Texas also added twins Jordan and Juston Street, Huston's younger brothers.
2. ARIZONA STATE
Recruiting coordinator: Jay Sferra. Key recruits: Vinny Biancamano, inf, (Royals, 35); Drew Bowman, lhp (Brewers, 21); Seth Garrison, rhp; J.J. Sferra, of; Andrew Romine, ss (Phillies, 36).
Shortstop Dustin Pedroia was such a key Sun Devil it might take two players to replace him. This class provides that as Romine (son of former Red Sox outfielder Kevin Romine) has the hands, arm and makeup to provide stellar defense at shortstop. Sferra, the recruiting coordinator's son, offers the speed, bat and scrappiness to take Pedroia's spot atop the batting order. Biancamano could surface at second or third base in his first year, while both Bowman and Garrison offer upside on the mound and could push for rotation spots.
3. TEXAS CHRISTIAN
Recruiting coordinator: Todd Whitting. Key recruits: Zack Ashwood, lhp (Mariners, 26); Matt Carpenter, 1b/3b; Sam Demel, rhp (Rangers, 35); *Shawn Ferguson, rhp; Matt McGuirk, of (Orioles, 19); Andrew Walker, c.
Demel and Ashwood, who's projectable at 6-foot-4, are strong candidates to start. Carpenter and first baseman Spencer Jackson could be impact bats as freshmen, while Walker will fight for a starting position as well. Transfers Ryan Pack and Ferguson were two-way juco players; Pack will patrol center field and Ferguson is the leader to serve as closer.
Recruiting coordinator: Mark Kingston. Key recruits: Brad Emaus, 2b/3b (Braves, 18); Warren McFadden, of; Sean Morgan, rhp (Brewers, 25); Stephen Porlier, rhp.
This class rates high for quality more than quantity. McFadden is an athletic outfielder with the speed to bat atop the order and the power to hit in the middle of it. He was a top five-rounds talent whose commitment forced teams to pass on him in the draft. Morgan possesses a dominant power arm and power slider that will allow him to step right into the rotation or a closing role. Emaus rates as a strong defender with gap power. He also should start immediately. Additionally, Georgia Tech transfer Micah Owings will slot into the weekend rotation and middle of the order.
5. GEORGIA TECH
Recruiting coordinator: #Scott Stricklin. Key recruits: Eddie Burns, rhp; Michael Fisher, inf.; Brian Futral, rhp; Tim Ladd, lhp; Matt Wieters, c/rhp; Danny Payne, cf.
Wieters ranks as one of Tech's top pitchers and hitters entering the season, and could end up in the weekend rotation and as the starting DH, leaving catching duties to returning junior Andy Hawranick. He and Fisher, who will figure into the lineup somewhere defensively, provide solid power with easy strokes. Payne reminds the staff of Lenny Dykstra and will start in center field. Futral, Ladd and Burns all offer power arms and could figure in relief roles for 2005.
6. LOUISIANA STATE
Recruiting coordinator: Turtle Thomas. Key recruits: *Chase Dardar, rhp (Dodgers, 16); Eric English, rhp; *Danny Forrer, lhp (Dodgers, 17); Kade Keowen, of/1b (Royals, 19); J.P. Padron, 3b/of (Pirates, 12).
The Tigers held on to four top-20 round draftees with a class that should solidify their pitching staff, which was lacking in 2004. Forrer will factor into the weekend rotation while the power arms of four-year transfers Chris Cahill and Edgar Ramirez--summer league teammates in the Coastal Plain League--will work out of the bullpen. Padron figures to be the only freshman position player starting. He offers tremendous strength that LSU hopes will turn into home run power.
Recruiting coordinator: Rick Hirtensteiner. Key recruits: Donald Brown, of; Jason Dominguez, of/rhp; Barry Enright, rhp; Adam Olbrychowski, rhp; Adrian Ortiz, of (Cubs, 5); Drew Saberhagen, lhp (Athletics, 38).
Ortiz is the highest-drafted player from 2004 to honor his baseball scholarship commitment. He should hit for average and swipe some bases atop the Waves lineup. Saberhagen is the big-name recruit as he bears that of his father Bret, but Enright and Olbrychowski also will have equal chances to crack the rotation this season. Dominguez helped lead Chatsworth (Calif.) High to a 35-0 record and No. 1 ranking.
8. OKLAHOMA STATE
Recruiting coordinator: Greg Evans. Key recruits: *Matt Clarkson, c (Red Sox, 16); *Adam Daniels, lhp (Cubs, 43); *Mike Hernandez, of (Dodgers, 45); Michael Jarman, lhp (Diamondbacks, 39), *Nate Melek, rhp.
The Cowboys signed 19 junior college players to fills depth and experience needs. Hernandez batted .307 in the Cape Cod League after leading Daytona Beach (Fla.) CC to its first conference title. Jarman led Edmond North High to the Oklahoma state title game and will be the key freshman contributor. Daniels, Melek and Dusty Barnard will join lefthander Brae Wright, a Mississippi transfer, in competition for the weekend rotation.
9. SOUTH CAROLINA
Recruiting coordinator: Jim Toman. Key recruits: Drew Crisp, inf (Orioles, 35); *Neil Giesler, 1b; Brad Hocking, rhp; *Jeff Jeffords, rhp (Orioles, 32); Wynn Pelzer, rhp; *Cory Vanderhook, c.
Toman always reels in a fine crop of junior-college players to supplement the freshmen and returning players, and the 6-foot-5 Giesler brings athleticism and strong bat to the middle of the order. Vanderhook, the nephew of Cal State Fullerton coach Rick Vanderhook, will replace Landon Powell behind the plate. Crisp and Hocking, who will sit out 2005 following his second labrum surgery, won two state Class AAA titles at nearby Riverside High. Pelzer throws in the low 90s but needs to refine his command to contribute.
Recruiting coordinator: Todd Butler. Key recruits: Josh Copeland, rhp/1b; Austin Hyatt, rhp (Braves, 23); Cale Iorg, ss (Devil Rays, 16); Chris Kirkland, c (Marlins, 49); Adam Resendez, of (Rangers, 49); *Trey Shields, rhp; Jon Parker Wilson, rhp (Marlins, 19).
Copeland could factor in as a legit closer and DH from the get-go if his shoulder is healthy. The speedy, sure-handed Iorg will start at short and has baseball in the bloodlines. Father Garth and uncle Dane played in the majors and brother Eli plays for Tennessee. JC transfer Trey Shields will fight for a rotation slot, where he could be throwing to Kirkland, a solid catch-and-throw guy with two juniors ahead of him.
11. NORTH CAROLINA
Recruiting coordinator: Chad Holbrook. Key recruits: Andrew Carignan, rhp; Reid Fronk, 3b; Andy Gale, rhp (Expos, 43); Josh Horton, ss; Luke Putkonen, rhp; Matt Spencer, 1b/lhp (Red Sox, 24).
Gale, whose father Rich pitched seven seasons in the majors, and Carignan will fight for spots in the rotation this year. Horton, who could have gone in the second or third round had his college commitment not been so strong, will provide strong defense immediately while his bat could be a bonus. The 6-foot-4 Spencer will play first base against righthanders and add pop. Putkonen, an athletic power arm, will sit out this year following Tommy John surgery in July.
Recruiting coordinator: Kevin O'Sullivan Key recruits: Brad Chalk, of; *Drew Fiorenza, rhp (Yankees, 45); Taylor Harbin, inf., David Kopp, rhp; Stan Widdman, inf.
Harbin holds the South Carolina high school home run record and should be a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat. He and Widmann should comprise the left side of the infield, with one at shortstop and the other at third base. The slap-hitting Chalk looks ready to take over in center field after leading Team USA's 2003 youth team in hitting. Kopp throws three pitches for strikes and is a strong weekend rotation candidate, while Fiorenza could end up the closer.
TCU sells opportunity to haul in talented class
It’s not surprising that the same schools often appear at the the top of the recruiting rankings each year. Those programs have a national name and tradition to use as selling points in attracting top players.
So Texas’ position atop Baseball America’s top 12 classes doesn’t come as a shock, even though it lost two first-rounders, two third-rounders and a ninth-rounder to the draft. But there’s an interloper among this year’s top 12 recruiting classes. Texas Christian checked in at No. 3, before several more established programs. Even in a state rife with talent, how did TCU acquire that much of it when many people across the country don’t even know what a Horned Frog is?
“If you had told some of these kids two years ago they’d be coming to TCU, they wouldn’t have believed you” said coach Jim Schlossnagle, who came to TCU from Nevada-Las Vegas in the summer of 2003.
The TCU staff sold the players on starting a new tradition, pointing out that Lance Berkman’s commitment and subsequent career at Rice helped put the Owls on the map.
“It’s an opportunity to be part of something that’s never been done before,” Schlossnagle said. “The only thing this place lacks is a tradition in the postseason. We ask kids ‘Do you want to continue that at another school or start that here?’ ”
So TCU set out to find its pioneers. It was in on righthander Homer Bailey, who signed with Texas before agreeing to terms with the Reds as the draft’s seventh overall pick.
TCU still landed one of the state’s most sought after high school pitchers in righthander Sam Demel, the best pitcher to come out of Spring High since Josh Beckett. Demel has three solid pitches, including an 89-92 mph fastball with sinking action.
“I thought he was the top righthander in the state other than Homer as far as pitchability and being ready for college,” recruiting coordinator Todd Whitting said.
Demel’s commitment showed a leap of faith, Schlossnagle said. Catcher Andrew Walker signed around the same time, and then the staff was able to sell that duo’s beliefs in the program to other recruits.
Demel likely will earn a spot in TCU’s weekend rotation, flanking a pair of quality sophomore transfers in righthander Lance Broadway (Dallas Baptist) and lefthander Brad Furnish (Nebraska). San Jacinto (Texas) Junior College righthander Sean Ferguson is the favorite for the closer role.
Corner infielder Matt Carpenter, first baseman Spencer Jackson and outfielder Matt McGuirk should provide impact bats as freshmen, and Walker is competing for the catching duties.
These players supplement a young but talented returning group that played its best at the end of 2004 as it won the Conference USA tournament. “We filled a lot of pieces of the puzzle,” Whitting said of this recruiting class, which adds depth while also raising TCU’s overall talent level.
Add in these new pieces, that puzzle could form a picture of a Top 25 team.
Oklahoma State’s fall baseball roster features as many fresh faces as its football counterpart, including 19 junior-college transfers.
The first full recruiting class for coach Frank Anderson, who took the Cowboys job during the summer of 2003, gives his club much-needed depth and experience.
“We signed the junior college guys to give us stability,” he said. “Our class this coming year will have mostly high school guys. You need to have mostly high school guys to win at this level. We’ve got more junior-college guys than I’d like to have, but this is what we had to do because we’re still in a coaching transition here.”
Junior lefthander Brae Wright transferred in after serving as the Saturday starter at Mississippi in 2004 and should front a rotation that could include juco transfers Dusty Bernard, Adam Daniels and Nate Melek. Returning pitchers Thomas Cowley and Scott Richmond are also in the running for those roles, and may have an early edge because of their experience in the program.
“That’s kind of why you need high school guys in the program, for some consistency from year to year,” said Anderson, who was spending fall practice evaluating his newcomers. “The biggest thing is to see who can play where and what they can do when you put them in a game situation.”
Athletic outfielder Mike Hernandez and first baseman Adam Carr are two more junior college stars who should become mainstays offensively. Anderson said he expected to have more options in 2005 after having “only 10 or 11 viable position players last year.”
• Righthander Alan Horne was throwing his fastball in the 90-94 mph range and hit 95 mph this fall, according to Chipola (Fla.) Junior College coach Jeff Johnson. Horne was a 2001 first-rounder out of Marianna (Fla.) High, spent a year at Mississippi and missed 2003 following Tommy John surgery. He transferred to Chipola last January, and the Angels chose him in the 30th round. Horne was still negotiating with the Angels while working to complete his associate’s degree at Chipola, which would allow him to transfer to a Division I school in January. Johnson said Alabama, Central Florida, Florida, Louisiana State and South Carolina had expressed interest in Horne, who could be a weekend starter for any of them.
• Arizona returns most of its 2004 College World Series team but added depth on the mound in two Northern California high school lefthanders Eric Berger, who played with USA Baseball’s junior national team in 2003, and David Coulon, who didn’t play as a senior following a knee injury.
• Defending champion Cal State Fullerton also dealt with an arms shortage in 2004, so there was no surprise it brought in six pitchers, all of whom could contribute right away. Ohlone (Calif.) JC transfer Jeff Soulages could close while righthanders Cory Arbiso and Wes Roemer, whose delivery reminds the staff of former Titan Wes Littleton, should also be factors.
• Rice lost its top four pitchers from 2004 to the draft, so it had to reload its staff with lefthander Joe Savery, a Bellaire, Texas, product who attended the same high school (Lamar) as Niemann, and righthanders Bryce Cox and Craig Crow, a pair of junior college transfers.
• Georgia righthander Josh Fields threw his fastball up to 95 mph this fall and should get a chance to both pitch and hit as a freshman.