|Top 25 Recruiting
3. Southern Mississippi
4. North Carolina State
6. South Carolina
7. Oregon State
10. Texas Christian
11. Southern California
14. Mississippi State
17. Central Florida
19. Fresno State
20. North Carolina
23. Loyola Marymount
25. San Diego State
But he couldn't walk away from $5 million, and Texas found itself having to make due with the nation's premier group of incoming pitchers, but no marquee bat.
"My dad always told me, 'Don't think about what could have been,' " Harmon said a month and a half later. "All of a sudden I find out about eight minutes until midnight that Bell's going to sign. I didn't think he was going to sign. My wife saw me up late and said, 'What's wrong with you? I've never seen you act like this before.' That was the weirdest day ever."
One way to remove some of the angst from signing deadline day is to recruit players willing to bypass the draft altogether. It's not a coincidence that the top two schools in Baseball America's annual recruiting class rankings each landed a marquee talent from the class of 2012 who enrolled early.
As it turned out, Texas landed a blue-chip position player after all. Switch-hitting shortstop C.J. Hinojosa of Klein Collins High in Spring, Texas, is in the process of finishing his high school coursework this fall so he can enroll at UT this winter and play for the Longhorns in the spring.
And Vanderbilt scored a major coup when powerful catcher Chris Harvey of Pennsylvania's Germantown Academy enrolled at Vandy this fall, a full year early. Harvey joins unsigned first-round pick Tyler Beede and fellow Northeasterners Adam Ravenelle and John Norwood in the nation's No. 1 recruiting class.
Early enrollment has become more common in recent years, and there have been some very notable success stories. UCLA's Trevor Bauer, North Carolina's Levi Michael and of course CC of Southern Nevada's Bryce Harper all started their college careers a year (or two years, in Harper's case) early and left school as first-round picks. It takes rare physical and mental maturity to thrive as those players did on and off the field.
Harvey and Hinojosa both step into situations that will afford them chances to earn prominent roles on their teams immediately. Harvey will try to replace departed senior catcher Curt Casali, while Hinojosa will try to fill the shoes of three-year starter Brandon Loy at shortstop. But early enrollment was not strictly a baseball decision for either player.
"I had looked at players before who had done this, and it came out successful for them," Harvey said. "The main thing for this decision was, in my family, it had always been about education first, athletics second. I really felt that Vanderbilt was a place for me to develop, not only as a player but as a person. It was just an all-around great fit, and I don't regret a thing."
Harvey took extra courses over the summer to get his diploma at the end of the summer. Hinojosa is taking a double course load this fall—including Physics, Pre-Calculus and English IV online—to earn his diploma at the end of the semester. He said he has been able to handle the extra work fine, but of course, he's an exceptional student with close to a 4.0 grade-point average.
Hinojosa admits he was a bit conflicted about bypassing the draft out of high school. Scouts say he had a chance to be drafted in the first round.
"It's something that would have been very exciting just to see where I would have gone, but a college education is a big part of life after baseball," Hinojosa said. "If I'm not blessed enough to make it to the major leagues and last a couple of years there—most careers are done at age 25, 26 and they have nothing to fall back on. I want to be a businessman if baseball doesn't work out."
Hinojosa and Harvey both see college as an investment in their futures, in baseball and outside of baseball. Harvey lauded Vanderbilt's history of developing "good people who are respectful" and developing catchers "the way they're supposed to," in part by letting them call their own games. But beyond the long-term benefits of going to college, the short-term allure of the college experience also factored heavily into the decision for both players.
"That's been my dream school ever since I was a kid," Hinojosa said. "Before, I just loved watching the Longhorns, loved the colors. Then as I got older and set foot on the campus, I felt comfortable walking around. It just fit me.
"I'm more than excited to be there and be part of the team."
Magnolia State Bumper Crop
Mississippi high schools produced more talent in 2011 than they had in years. The state received four stars in Baseball America's pre-draft rating, making it a "banner year," and the biggest reason was the prep talent.
The top eight high school players on our Mississippi draft list in June all showed up on in-state campuses this fall, helping Southern Mississippi, Mississippi and Mississippi State all land in the top 15 of our recruiting class rankings.
Three Magnolia State prepsters ranked among our national Top 200 prospects. Connor Barron (No. 82) went to Southern Miss, while Senquez Golson (107) and Hawtin Buchanan (137) headed to Ole Miss.
The first player outside the Top 200—righty Brandon Woodruff—opted not to sign as a fifth-round pick, attending MSU instead. The next two players on our list, Mason Robbins and Cody Livingston, joined Barron in what looks like the greatest recruiting class in Southern Miss history, ranking third in the nation.
"They pulled in a tremendous class," a National League area scout said. "For guys to walk away from outstanding money in the draft—Connor Barron is a 6-foot-3, lefthanded-hitting shortstop that's a plus runner and can hit. There's usually no chance that kid ends up on a college campus.
"I can't speak highly enough about the coaches at Southern Miss, Chad Caillet and Mike Federico. They're always hustling, always at games. They've got a good product to sell. They've renovated their facility, they get great crowds, they're putting in more luxury boxes."
Two other impact in-state prep recruits, righty Josh Laxer and lefty Jacob Lindgren, made their way to Ole Miss and MSU, respectively.
"Woodruff and Lindgren are two freshman arms they'll be counting on for major innings and could have an impact right away," the scout said of the Bulldogs. "Ole Miss brought in a few guys that may help them out immediately, a couple of bigger-upside guys—a very good group. Their recruiting coordinator, Carl Lafferty is another guy that worked hard last year."
Other Top Classes By Region
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 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.
• There were a number of strong classes in the Pac-10 that didn't quite crack our Top 25. Stanford followed up consecutive top-two-ranked classes with another solid group, highlighted by several intriguing up-the-middle talents. Middle infielder Alex Blandino stands out for his superb baseball instincts, reliable hands and smooth infield actions. He has enough arm strength to be a future shortstop for the Cardinal. Fellow infielder Austin Slater has louder tools—especially offensively—but is likely to wind up as a third baseman or second baseman as he matures. Catcher Wayne Taylor is a natural leader with good carry on his throws and a simple lefthanded stroke at the plate. Switch-hitting outfielder Dominic Jose, the son of former big leaguer Felix Jose, has five-tool potential and the most upside in this class.
• UCLA got hammered at the draft signing deadline, losing blue-chip recruits Joe Ross, Tyler Goeddel and Austin Hedges to pro ball for a combined $7.25 million. Still, the Bruins landed a pair of impact recruits in shortstop Kevin Kramer and outfielder Eric Filia-Snyder. The athletic Kramer—also a standout football quarterback in high school—has smooth actions and an average arm at shortstop, average speed and a compact, line-drive stroke from the left side when he stays in rhythm. Filia-Snyder lacks standout tools, but his aggressive approach to the game and quality lefthanded swing should make him a star in college. And one scout called third baseman Shane Zeile (nephew of former Bruin and big leaguer Todd Zeile) an "awesome player" whose athleticism and feel for the game give him a chance to help the Bruins early on. Infielder Chris Keck brings power and arm strength, and strike-throwers Zack Ortiz, Grant Watson and the projectable Jacob Ehret boost UCLA's pitching depth.
• Washington brought in its best class in years, headlined by unsigned 12th-round pick Trevor Mitsui, a 6-foot-4 first baseman with intriguing righthanded power potential. Third baseman Robert Pehl also brings righthanded pop and a strong arm that will get him some time on the mound at UW as well. Switch-hitting Erik Forgione has to get stronger at the plate, but he has excellent speed and smooth actions at shortstop. Righties Jared Fisher and George Asmus have each run their fastballs up to 93 mph in the past, giving the Huskies a pair of power arms with upside. And look for junior-college transfer Mac Acker to make an impact as an outfielder with some pop and a lefthanded pitcher with some arm strength.
• Like the Bruins, Arizona State got hit hard by the draft, leaving unsigned 14th-rounder Adam McCreery as the anchor of its class. The 6-foot-8 McCreery is ultra-projectable and has huge upside if he can put his history of elbow problems behind him. The Sun Devils also landed a trio of players with famous names in lefthander Brandon Bonilla (son of Bobby), infielder Drew Stankiewicz (son of former big leaguer and ASU assistant Andy) and Jake Wakamatsu (son of former Sun Devil and big league player and manager Don).
• Former Cal State Fullerton coaches Dave Serrano, Greg Bergeron and Sergio Brown left the cupboards well stocked before leaving the Titans. Fullerton landed a pair of quality recruits from Northern California in powerful third baseman J.D. Davis (an unsigned fifth-round pick) and outfielder Austin Diemer, a raw speed merchant in the Gary Brown mold. Davis also has a power arm that could land him in Fullerton's wide-open weekend rotation as a freshman. Kenny Mathews has excellent feel for pitching from the left side (and figures to add velocity to his 86-87 mph fastball as he fills out) and an offensive tool set that reminded one scout of former Titan Danny Dorn. Competitive righty Jose Cardona has good life on his 87-91 mph fastball but needs to improve his secondary stuff. He worked at 91-93 in his first outing this fall. And outfielder Clay Williamson has a compact lefthanded swing and solid tools across the board.
• While the Titans landed the top class in the Big West Conference, rivals UC Irvine and Long Beach State each brought in a solid class anchored by a player that ranked in BA's Top 200 for the 2011 draft. The centerpiece of Irvine's class is athletic third baseman Taylor Sparks (No. 131), who projects to hit for serious power as he grows into his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame. Infielder/catcher Chris Rabago and outfielder Kris Paulino are classic UCI players—they might not have standout tools, but they have good baseball skills. The pick to click is rangy, quick-twitch outfielder Tyler Krause, who has a checkered medical history but plenty of upside.
The Dirtbags, meanwhile, landed a potential marquee bat from NorCal in Richard Prigatano (No. 196), who profiles as an above-average hitter with well above-average righthanded power potential. LBSU also expects junior-college transfer Matt Anderson to make an immediate impact as a starter or closer thanks to a power fastball that has reached 94 mph and a decent changeup and curveball. And dynamic middle infielder Chaz Meadows figures to earn plenty of playing time as a freshman thanks to excellent range and arm strength and an efficient righthanded swing.
• It was a strong year for recruiting classes in the West Coast Conference. Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount cracked our Top 25, San Diego wasn't far outside the Top 25, and Portland brought in its best class in many years. The Toreros took a significant blow when top recruit Daniel Camarena signed with the Yankees shortly before the deadline as a 20th-round pick, but USD landed another solid two-way player in Max Homick. A physical, 6-foot-3 lefthander/outfielder/first baseman, Homick reminded one scout of a poor man's Ike Davis, though his power and arm strength are still developing (he works in the mid-to-upper 80s off the mound currently). Righty Ryan Keller has an 88-92 mph fastball and a promising late-breaking slider, and catcher Dillon Haupt has excellent arm strength behind the plate. Andrew Daniel and Austin Bailey bring athleticism to the middle infield, and both have promising line-drive bats.
The Pilots landed the highest-ranked recruit in the WCC in flame-throwing righthander Kody Watts (No. 139), who can run his fastball up to 95 mph and flashes a quality hard curve and a splitter that has a chance to be plus. Lefthander Travis Radke ranked as the No. 8 prospect in the California Collegiate League this summer thanks to a durable 6-foot-4 frame, a loose arm action and advanced feel for a high-80s fastball, promising curve and changeup. And lean, rangy Caleb Whalen has excellent actions at shortstop, good speed and some pop in his bat, which is a work in progress.
• The Mountain West Conference also had a strong year, with TCU and San Diego State making our rankings and Nevada-Las Vegas putting together a banner class as well. The Rebels cleaned up with in-state prospects, led by projectable righthander Erick Fedde, who has an 88-92 mph fastball with good sink and a pair of quality secondary pitches in his slider and changeup. Lanky lefty Zak Qualls might have even more projection but less present stuff, with a fastball that sits at 84-86 mph, though it has good arm-side run. Catcher Scott Tomasetti and utilityman Eric Van Meetren have good physicality and very promising righthanded bats.
• Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso believes the Rainbows' class has a chance to be the best in his 10-year tenure. The headliner is 5-foot-6 outfielder Kaeo Aliviado, a supreme athlete who was also a standout defensive back on his high school football team. Infielder Stephen Ventimilia is cut from the same cloth; another premium athlete with a compact frame (5-foot-8), Ventimilia's best tool is his plus-plus speed. One scout predicted Aliviado will be a "superstar" in college. Lefthander Scott Squier from Phoenix has a loose, projectable 6-foot-6 frame, an 88-92 mph fastball and an excellent curveball. Catcher Cody Clark consistently produces 1.9-second pop times on throws to second base, and he has feel for hitting from the right side. The Rainbows complemented that group of high school recruits with six junior-college transfers to help fill some gaps.
• Louisiana State lost just two seniors and three drafted underclassmen from its 2011 team, so the Tigers did not need another bonanza on the heels of last year's No. 2 ranked class. Still, LSU reeled in a strong group, as usual. Righty Aaron Nola (No. 163), the younger brother of LSU shortstop Austin Nola, gives this class a fine anchor. Nola's crossfire delivery, low-three-quarters slot, advanced feel for pitching and competitiveness earn him comparisons to former LSU star Louis Coleman, and his changeup is already a plus pitch. Junior-college transfer Nick Goody, the No. 4 prospect in the Florida Collegiate Summer League in 2010, pounds the zone with an 88-92 mph fastball and a solid slider. Lefty Cody Glenn works in the high 80s and flashes a decent curveball. Righty Carson Baranik has flashed 94-95 mph heat in the past but was working in the mid-80s by the middle of last spring, and scouts say he needs to get into better shape and do a better job repeating his delivery. Juco transfers Jake Barrios and Arby Fields bring athleticism and gap power.
• Tulane's eight-man class gives the Green Wave an infusion of arm strength on the mound and pop in the lineup. Scouts are most intrigued by righty Alex Massey, who was up to 92-94 and showed serious feel for a breaking ball by the end of the spring. Navarro (Texas) JC transfer Tyler Mapes throws an 89-93 mph fastball, a good changeup and a slurvy breaking ball, and he figures to step into the weekend rotation in 2012. New Jersey lefthander Jordan Gross has run his heater up to 92 mph and flashed a good curveball. Weatherford (Texas) JC transfer Tucker Oakley could hit in the middle of the Tulane order and vie for the closing job thanks to a fastball that bumps 94. Corner bat Sean Potkay brings some more righthanded pop, while gritty 5-foot-9 center fielder Cameron Neal has plus speed, a strong arm and good table-setting skills.
• Texas A&M put together a strong class highlighted by power arms. Righty Gandy Stubblefield, an unsigned 14th-rounder by the Astros, worked in the 88-92 range and topped out at 94 this spring, to go along with a promising but inconsistent power curveball. He has true ace potential, and fellow righty Corey Ray has similar upside. Like Stubblefield, he has a projectable 6-foot-4 frame and an 88-92 fastball, but his best secondary pitch is a changeup. His breaking ball remains a work in progress, but his fastball command is advanced. Juco transfer Jason Jester has a smallish build but a big arm; he worked at 88-93 mph this spring and could vie for A&M's closer job next spring. Two-way talent Daniel Mengden has power potential but lacks polish at the plate and behind the plate. His arm is a plus tool that plays at catcher and on the mound, where he flashes 94-95 mph heat. This class lacks a standout bat, but Cole Lankford could develop solid lefthanded pop, and 5-foot-9 switch-hitter Mikey Reynolds is a quick-twitch athlete with a chance to hit.
• With just eight recruits, Baylor's class is smaller, but four of the newcomers have two-way ability, giving the Bears added scholarship value and depth. Michael Howard works at 89-91 mph from the left side and brings speed to the outfield. Austin Stone, like Howard, has a live arm and figures to add velocity to his 87-89 mph fastball; he also has solid infield actions. Ryan Smith and Duncan Wendel are infielders with solid line-drive strokes and some ability on the mound as well. Speedy, undersized outfielder Adam Toth has excellent table-setting skills, and Logan Brown has similar physical tools but is a righthanded hitter.
• Rice followed up its stellar 2010 class with a solid group built around a trio of quality righthanders. Jordan Stephens has a strong, compact build and the makings of two plus pitches in an 88-94 mph fastball and a tight slider. Zech Lemond has more projection but less present stuff, with a fastball that sits in the 87-90 range. Trevor Simms is a premium athlete with a lively 86-90 mph fastball and a promising slider. And junior-college transfer Christian Springer figures to step immediately into Rice's starting second base job (as incumbent Michael Ratterree moves to the outfield) thanks to a solid lefthanded bat, average speed and solid defensive skills.
• Houston's coaching staff put together a solid class in its second season on campus, especially considering it got a late start in the recruiting cycle. The centerpiece is unsigned 10th-round pick Aaron Garza, a lean righthander who figures to add velocity to his 84-89 mph fastball as he fills out his 6-foot-4, 170-pound frame. Fellow righty Ryan Vruggink has better present stuff, with an 87-92 fastball and a swing-and-miss slider that should make him an immediate contributor. Righty Austin Pruitt and lefty Matt Hernandez lack overpowering stuff but make up for it with good feel for pitching, leading a group of seven junior-college transfers in this class.
• Texas Tech head coach Dan Spencer believes this class is the Red Raiders' best since he took over as head coach in the fall of 2008. The centerpiece is shortstop Matt Eureste, who will challenge for the starting shortstop job as a freshman. Juco transfer Shane Broyles is a righty with a low-90s fastball and solid slider, making him a potential fit in the late innings or in the weekend rotation. Fellow juco transfer Brennan Moore had a nice summer with the bat in the Northwoods League and figures to compete for playing time in Texas Tech's crowded outfield.
• Oklahoma State focused on building depth through junior-college transfers. The Cowboys brought in 10 juco players, including a potential starting catcher in Victor Romero and a potential weekend starter in lefty Tyler Nurdin.
• Oral Roberts' lineup will get an infusion of athleticism from its class. Third baseman/catcher Jose Trevino brings big righthanded power; he blasted 25 homers as a high school senior in Corpus Christi, tying the state home run record. Shortstop Nathan Goro was a key recruit for Wichita State two years ago, before transferring to Jefferson (Mo.) JC. He brings strong defensive skills and an improving bat. Tyler Coker and Kevin Cho bring speed and arm strength in the outfield, and both could hit at the top of the ORU lineup in 2012.
• Louisiana-Monroe mined the Land of Lincoln for its top four recruits in a solid class. The best of the bunch is Alex Hermeling, a projectable 6-foot-5, 210-pound righty with an easy arm action, an 87-91 fastball, a decent slider and feel for a changeup. Corner bat Justin Stawychny flew under the radar due to a back injury leading up to his senior year of high school, but he should be an impact hitter for the Warhawks. John A. Logan (Ill.) CC transfers Cale Wine (a physical sinker/slider righthander) and Brandon Alexander (an athletic outfielder) lead a group of seven juco transfers in this class.
UPPER MIDWEST/GREAT PLAINS
• Missouri brought in one of the top classes in the Midwest, anchored by unsigned 13th-round pick Brandon Platts. A 6-foot-4, 210-pound Iowan, Platts attacks hitters with a fastball that reaches 92 and a hammer curveball. Righties Brett Graves, Jeff Cline and Brett Thomas plus lefty Blake Holovach all work in the 88-90 range and spin hard breaking balls; Graves has run his heater up to 92-94 at times. A pair of juco transfers bolster the infield: physical corner Gavin Stark could find himself in the middle of the Missouri lineup next spring, while Michael McGraw has easy middle infield actions and a good arm. Strong-armed catcher Jake Ivory is athletic enough to play in the outfield and has a quick righthanded bat.
• Kansas landed four of the five drafted players in its recruiting class, headlined by rangy Colorado outfielder Connor McKay, a former football wide receiver with plus or better speed, a strong arm and a chance to hit for power as he fills out his lean frame. The Jayhawks have a history of mining Hawaii for talent, and this year they landed talented righty Robert Kahana, athletic outfielder Michael Suiter and versatile sparkplug Justin Protacio from the islands. KU's most impactful recruit might be 5-foot-10 outfielder/righthander Dakota Smith, a plus runner who hits for average and has some strength in his swing while also pitching in the 88-91 range with a good slider.
• Notre Dame landed a bona fide blue-chipper in 6-foot-5 righthander Patrick Connaughton (No. 170), a premium athlete who also will play for Notre Dame's basketball team. On the diamond, Connaughton flashes easy 94 mph heat with run and sink, the makings of a plus changeup, a promising slider and a serviceable curveball. Phil Mosey and Jason McMurray give this class building blocks on the left side of the infield, while Scott Kerrigan and Matt Ternowchek give the Irish two more tall righthanders with significant upside.
• Indiana's class stands out as one of the best in the Big Ten Conference. The Hoosiers believe third baseman Sam Travis is their latest cornerstone bat, following in the footsteps of All-Americans Josh Phegley and Alex Dickerson. Travis has good actions and a strong arm at the hot corner, but he stands out most for his bat speed and righthanded power potential. Strong-bodied catcher Kyle Schwarber is still developing as a receiver but has a strong arm and intriguing lefthanded pop. Outfielder Chris Sujka is a prototypical scrappy table-setter with good speed and defensive skills. Versatile utilityman Chad Clark is even smaller (5-foot-6) and has outstanding arm strength and infield actions. Clark, slugging first baseman Rhett Montana and strike-throwing righthander Hunter Brown are Indiana's latest gets from its Southern California pipeline. The key pitcher in this class is projectable lefthander Kyle Hart, who could take off as he fills out his 6-foot-5, 165-pound frame.
• Iowa landed another strong class in the Big Ten. Sasha Kuebel is a pitchability lefthander whose velocity jumped into the low 90s this summer; he reminds Hawkeyes recruiting coordinator Ryan Brownlee of 2003 fourth-round pick Kurt Isenberg, whom Brownlee coached at James Madison. Six-foot-4, 190-pound righthander Nick Hibbing has loads of projection and ran his fastball up to 93 this spring before elbow tendinitis limited him. Eric Toole is faster, stronger and more explosive than older brother Justin, a former Hawkeye and current Indians farmhand. Toole is a dynamic athlete with plus-plus speed who could play second base or the outfield and could develop into a dangerous leadoff man. Jake Yacinish, Nick Day and Kris Goodman bring more athleticism and upside to the infield mix.
• Michigan's class lacks the big names of some of its recent hauls but features solid balance and depth. Charlottesville, Va., catcher Kevin White brings power and arm strength, while Will Drake gives Michigan's speedy outfield yet another burner. Colorado prep righty Matt Ogden has touched 92 and showed a quality splitter, but he worked mostly in the mid-80s as a high school senior last spring. Fellow righties Ryan Gallagher and James Bourque have loose 6-foot-4 pitcher's frames and good projection. Five-foot-11 righty Mike Dollof has good command of a high-80s fastball and a sharp breaking ball.
• While five of Michigan's top recruits are from out of state, Michigan State built around in-state recruits Ryan Krill, Mick Van Vossen and Jimmy Pickens, all of whom were drafted. Krill is a physical lefthanded corner bat with a chance to hit for average and power and find a home in the middle of the MSU lineup early on. Van Vossen has a long, lean pitcher's body at 6-foot-4, 185 pounds and solid feel for a three-pitch mix. Pickens, a former standout running back in high school, has good strength in his lefthanded swing and a physical, athletic frame. Indiana native Tony Cheky could be a catalyst atop the Spartans' lineup thanks to above-average speed and a solid lefthanded swing with good strength.
• Minnesota lost six senior arms after 2011, so pitching was a priority for its recruiting class. Wisconsin prep lefty Jordan Jess has good feel for pitching and an 88-90 mph fastball. Righties Lance Thonvold and Ben Meyer each work around 90 and have big, projectable frames, and juco transfer Drew Ghelfi also works around 90. Center fielder Jake Bergren is an athletic slasher with plus speed and good bat control.
• Illinois State likely found a pair of weekend starters in righthander Chris Razo and lefty Dylan Craig. Razo, a transfer from Heartland (Ill.) CC, has a knack for missing barrels with his three-pitch repertoire: an 88-91 fastball, an 82-84 cutter and a mid-70s breaking ball. Craig throws strikes with a lively 84-87 fastball, an outstanding curveball and a developing changeup.
• Perennial Missouri Valley Conference power Wichita State built its class around first baseman Casey Gillaspie, the younger brother of former Shocker star Conor Gillaspie. Casey is a switch-hitter with some power potential. Wichita's best pitching recruit, righthander A.J. Ladwig, is an Omaha native like Gillaspie. He works in the mid-80s and tops out at 88, has a decent slider and a clean delivery.
• The best class in the Horizon League belongs to Illinois-Chicago. Lefthander Ryan Hinchley looks like a future ace thanks to an 87-90 mph fastball with good life, an inconsistent but very promising curveball and a changeup that plays well off his fastball. Mike McKinley, another Heartland transfer, attacks the strike zone with an 87-89 fastball with arm-side run, a downer curveball with good power in the 76-80 range and a solid change. Andres Ortegano has outstanding range and a solid arm at shortstop, but he needs to get more physical at the plate. Cody Dykema has sure hands and good infield instincts, and his righthanded bat is advanced for a freshman from the Midwest. Athletic Tyler Detmer, a three-sport star in high school, has a flat swing and good arm strength; the Flames hope to convert him from center field to catcher, where they think he could blossom into a high draft pick.
• Central Michigan might have the best class in the Mid-American Conference, anchored by hard-throwing righthander Jordan Foley, an unsigned 26th-round pick by the Yankees. Foley can run his fastball up to 94 mph and has projection remaining in his 6-foot-4 frame; he'll need to develop a changeup to go along with his decent slider in order to hold down a starting job. The Chippewas believe Joey Houlihan has a chance to be their everyday shortstop for four years thanks to his smooth actions and sure hands. He squares balls up consistently but needs to get stronger at the plate. Neal Jacobs is another key building block thanks to his righthanded power potential and strong arm from right field. Central Michigan also got immediate help from four juco transfers: middle infielder Tom Lally and center fielder Randon Henika provide speed and athleticism, while sinker/slider specialist Pat Kaminska and pitchability lefty Kenton San Miguel will gobble up innings.
• It wasn't a great year for talent in Ohio, but Kent State put together a good class regardless, standing out in the MAC. Righties Ryan Bores and Josh Pierce each work in the 88-92 range and own power sliders, though Pierce is recovering from Tommy John surgery last spring. Catcher/first baseman Tommy Monnot has big righthanded power potential and a strong arm, while infielder Sawyer Polen has solid hands, feet, arm strength and bat speed, giving him a chance to compete for playing time at second and third.
• Bowling Green State also brought in a solid MAC class, led by offensive corner infielder Tyler Wynn, a graduate transfer from Cleveland State. Lefthander Andrew Lacinak is a strike-thrower with good run on his 85-88 fastball and a solid curveball. Righty Trevor Blaylock could end up as the crown jewel of this class; he's a late bloomer who is still growing into his body but figures to add velocity to his 86-88 fastball in time. He also has a pair of very good breaking balls in his curveball and slider.
• As the northernmost school in the Southeastern Conference, Kentucky has had success mining Indiana and Ohio for talent in recent years. Ohio native Austin Cousino and Indianans Max Kuhn and A.J. Reed form the nucleus of this strong class. Cousino ranked as the top prep position player in the Buckeye State for the 2011 draft thanks to his quick lefthanded bat, slightly above-average speed and good instincts in center field. Kuhn has a polished righthanded bat and could start at second base as a freshman. Reed has lefthanded power potential as a first baseman but is even more intriguing as a lefthanded pitcher thanks to a fastball that reaches 90-94 and an improving slider. Western Nevada JC transfer Chris Garrison, who has an 89-93 fastball and a good 12-to-6 curveball, could step in as the Sunday starter. Righties Taylor Martin and Chandler Shepherd give the Wildcats a pair of intriguing in-state recruits with loads of projection. One-time high-profile Miami recruit Jerad Grundy, who spent last year at Heartland CC, flashes 94 mph heat and a swing-and-miss slider from the left side.
• Head coach Turtle Thomas has quickly turned Florida International into a well-oiled recruiting machine, and the Panthers brought in the best class in the Sun Belt Conference this year, highlighted by four draftees who turned down six-figure bonus offers to attend school. Many scouts preferred catcher Aramis Garcia to top Florida State recruit Mario Amarol this spring thanks to his cannon arm, solid receiving skills and righthanded pop. A shoulder injury helped Georgia prep shortstop Julius Gaines get through the draft, giving FIU a quality defensive shortstop with a solid-average arm, smooth infield actions, good speed and a decent righthanded stroke. Righty Josean Lazaro could force his way into the weekend rotation as a freshman thanks to his advanced command of an 89-92 mph fastball, good slider and competitive streak. Fellow righty John Costa's solid three-pitch mix is highlighted by an 87-91 mph fastball with sink.
• Our recruiting class rankings do not consider four-year transfers, so Miami does not get credit for Bethune-Cookman transfer Peter O'Brien or Florida transfer Tyler Palmer. But the Hurricanes still have a blue-chip anchor in Andrew Suarez (No. 155), a polished lefty with command of an 88-92 mph fastball, good curveball and solid changeup. Chris Diaz gives this class a second quality lefty with a three-pitch mix: an 87-90 fastball, good curveball that he commands to both sides of the plate and a swing-and-miss split-finger. Athletic outfielder Jake Lane, power-hitting corner infielder/catcher Esteban Tresgallo and infielder/righthander Alex Fernandez (son of the former Hurricane and big leaguer of the same name) give this class three more interesting freshmen to build around. Sinker/slider righty Eric Nedeljkovic and catch-and-throw specialist Alex San Juan give the 'Canes a pair of juco transfers who should help right away.
• Florida State brought in a typically solid class, albeit without huge star power, but the Seminoles have a history of developing modestly regarded recruits into college stars. The centerpiece of this class is catcher Mario Amarol, who has good catch-and-throw skills and righthanded power potential. Lefthander Brandon Liebrandt, son of ex-big leaguer Charlie, can really pitch with an 82-86 fastball, plus changeup and the makings of an average breaking ball. Righty Luke Weaver has more of a power arm, with a fastball that reaches the low 90s at times and a serviceable slider. Two-way player Jose Brizuela brings versatility and athleticism, while Giovanny Alfonso has solid defensive skills at shortstop.
• Stetson, Florida Gulf Coast and Jacksonville have been at the forefront of the Atlantic Sun Conference's rising status in recent years, and all three brought in solid classes this fall. The Hatters replaced star catcher Nick Rickles with juco transfer Sam Kimmel, an athletic converted middle infielder with a strong arm, soft hands, quick feet and a smooth lefthanded swing. Connecticut prep righty Ben Rakus has a physical 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame and saw his velocity jump from the mid-80s to the 88-91 range this summer. Fellow 6-5 righty Josh Powers owns an 86-89 sinker, a short curveball and good feel for a changeup. Lean, wiry righty Drew Jackson has very good sinking life on a fastball in the same range, and his late-breaking curveball has good depth. Former football player Tanner Blackman brings excellent speed to the outfield mix.
Florida Gulf Coast hopes that switch-hitting center fielder Ryan Gebhart, a graduate transfer from Missouri, can be a true catalyst atop its lineup. Righthander Danny Patrick, who started his college career at Pepperdine before transferring to Palm Beach State (Fla.) JC, pitches with an 88-92 mph fastball and a pair of solid secondary pitches in his slider and changeup. Patrick and fellow juco transfer Andrew Polly—a pitchability lefty—figure to earn key weekend roles. The top high school recruit in this class is third baseman/righthander Zack Tillery, who has a chance to be a middle-of-the-order bat and a front-line starting pitcher before his FGCU career is through.
The latest products of Jacksonville's Wisconsin talent pipeline are righthander Nolan Peterson and versatile utilityman Alex McRae. Out-of-state junior-college transfers Wes Torrez and Corben Madden will make instant impacts on the mound, while in-state juco transfers Ethan Loosen and Jake Huxtable add middle-infield depth.
• Florida Atlantic had to replace a large group of departed mainstays, so the Owls brought in a deep, 15-man class composed of eight freshmen and seven juco transfers. Middle infielders Mitchell Morales and Kyle Newton lead the way, bringing strong defensive skills and line-drive bats from the left and right sides, respectively. Righthanders Jeremy Strawn and Kevin Perez lead the pitching in this class, while Mike Sylvestri figures to give FAU a boost on the mound and behind the plate.
• Auburn followed up last year's 20th-ranked class with another strong group, highlighted by Ohlone (Calif.) JC transfer Ryan Tella. Scouts laud Tella for his high-octane style of play, above-average speed and arm strength, and short, efficient lefthanded swing. Righthander Rocky McCord was the No. 2 prep prospect in the state of Alabama last spring thanks to his wiry frame and quick arm, lively 88-92 sinker, excellent changeup, improving slider and good mound presence. Lefty Daniel Koger, who was voted Mr. Baseball in Alabama last spring, pitches off an 87-90 mph fastball with deception and movement from a three-quarters slot, and he has feel for a slurve and changeup. Jarred Smith, Chase Williamson and Trey Cochran-Gill give this pitching-focused class a trio of versatile two-way recruits.
• Troy built its class around junior-college transfers to plug holes, but its top recruit is prep outfielder Jo-El Bennett, an unsigned 11th-round pick by the Pirates. Bennett has good athleticism, an average arm, good range in the outfield and an advanced feel for hitting, but he needs to get stronger. Juco transfers Danny Collins and Chase Mathis should step right into starting jobs at third base and right field, respectively.
• Samford, like Troy, brought in a fantastic class a year ago and had fewer needs to fill this year. But Chattanooga (Tenn.) State JC transfer Zeth Stone should slide right into the starting second base job and hit at or near the top of the lineup. Tall, lean righty Cole Limbaugh has good projection and a fastball that currently touches 92 at times, while lefty Luke Leeth has good feel for pitching and gives the Bulldogs a weapon against lefthanded hitters.
• Georgia Southern and College of Charleston boast the top classes in the Southern Conference this year. Georgia Southern's class is loaded with tough, instinctive players with strong work ethics, epitomized by infielder Nick Rau, who also brings righthanded pop. Versatile, athletic Chase Griffin might have even more power according to scouts, and he can play all over the field. Lefthanded-hitting catcher Clint Clark has solid-average arm strength and a strong catcher's build. Lefthander Sam Howard has good projection in his loose 6-foot-3 frame, and 6-foot-1 righty Kyle Rowe has command of an 87-89 fastball and an out pitch in his slider.
College of Charleston has a nice mix of gamers and high-upside projects. Unsigned 15th-round righthander Will Dorton fits into the latter category—he has a projectable 6-foot-4 frame and a quick, loose arm that can produce fastballs up to 92 mph, but he's still learning to get people out, and his fastball can be flat and straight. Unsigned 17th-rounder Morgan Phillips has the athleticism, arm strength, soft hands and quick feet to play on the left side of the infield or in the outfield; he is a quality gap-to-gap hitter from the right side. Second baseman/outfielder Devon Reed (a 20th-rounder) consistently barrels up line drives to all fields. Spartanburg Methodist JC transfer Cody Martin, the younger brother of Dodgers 2008 first-round pick Ethan Martin, is a corner bat with intriguing lefthanded power potential. And one scout lauded shortstop Gunner Heidt's actions, arm strength, baseball instincts and ability to drive balls from the right side. He could wind up as a cornerstone player by the time he's a sophomore.
• The SoCon sleeper class is Western Carolina's, which includes three drafted players in righthanders Jeremy Null and Tyler Powell plus outfielder Garrett Brown. Null currently pitches in the 88-91 range and has major upside thanks to a 6-foot-8, 210-pound frame. The 6-foot-5 Null pitches downhill with an 88-90 fastball and mixes in a sharp mid-70s curve. Brown has plus-plus speed and also plays for the WCU football team, making him the latest in an ever-growing line of Rockies two-sport draftees.
• The Palmetto State's best recruiting class belongs to two-time defending national champion South Carolina, but rival Clemson has the next-best class, headlined by righthander Daniel Gossett, who worked at 91-93 mph and bumped 95 at times last spring despite a slim 6-foot, 165-pound frame. He also a swing-and-miss 76-81 mph curveball with sharp downer action. Physical catcher Garrett Boulware brings righthanded power potential and a strong arm behind the plate, making him the likely successor to catcher Spencer Kieboom after this season. Righty Patrick Andrews has a prototypical pitcher's frame at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, a quality fastball at 89-92 and a really good slider. Texas prep lefty Kyle Bailey pitches downhill with an 87-90 fastball and has advanced feel for his curveball, helping address Clemson's dire need for lefthanded pitching. Brad Felder, a graduate transfer from The Citadel, brings plus-plus speed but questionable baseball skills, while undersized outfielder Tyler Slaton earns comparisons to former Georgia Tech star Danny Payne for his baseball instincts, good speed and surprising strength in his lefthanded swing.
• Coastal Carolina lost two recruits drafted in the top six rounds but landed four players taken in the late rounds. Lanky, quick-twitch athlete Patrick Corbett could be an impact righthander thanks to his arm strength and promising curveball, but he also has multi-tool ability as a position player. Righty Tyler Poole figures to add velocity to his 86-88 fastball as he fills out his long, lean, rangy frame. Joe Perricone looked like a promising outfield prospect until touching 93 mph with his fastball in 2010; now he projects best on the mound. And Javier Reynoso has ability as a lefthanded pitcher or a first baseman/outfielder.
• East Carolina's has one of the more intriguing classes around, led by a pair of U.S. Virgin Islands natives—Deshorn Lake and Jharel Cotton. Lake, an unsigned 12th-round pick, has huge upside, with a fastball that has touched 95 mph and the makings of a decent breaking ball. But he comes with mechanical issues and risk. Cotton, a transfer from Miami Dade CC, has run his fastball up to 93 and flashed a pair of out pitches in his changeup and slider. David LuCroy and Jeff Hoffman give this class two more righties with arm strength, as each has reached 92 mph or slightly better. Juco transfer Jay Cannon was a Coastal Plain League all-star who can play the infield or outfield. He brings good speed and gap-to-gap power. But this class could go down as a great one if Lake and Cotton can put it all together.
• Sticking in Conference USA, Memphis brought in an athletic group led by Georgia prep catcher Keaton Aldridge, who has strong catch-and-throw skills, a short lefthanded stroke and some power projection. Infielder/outfielder Tucker Tubbs is a raw athlete with size, speed and power potential. Righty Dylan Toscano has a projectable 6-foot-4 frame and a good fastball. Rangy infielder Bryce Beeler has good bat speed from the left side.
• UNC Wilmington secured the top class in the Colonial Athletic Association, anchored by Pitt (N.C.) CC transfer Tyler Molinaro, an unsigned 15th-round pick. Molinaro will step into an everyday outfield job and hit for average and power from the left side. The key long-term building block in this class is prep righthander Jordan Ramsey, who flashes 90-93 mph heat and should only get better as he fills out his 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame. Lefthanded-hitting first baseman Corey Dick has a polished bat and reminds the coaches of former Seahawk slugger Robbie Monday. Another Pitt CC transfer, Micah Jarrett, brings speed and good defensive skills to the outfield mix.
• Charlotte returns all but one pitcher off last year's regional team, so the 49ers focused on position players, continuing to load up on smallish, quick-twitch athletes as they have in recent years. Second baseman/outfielder Brad Elwood, outfielders Leland Clemmons and Bradley Cook, shortstop Derek Gallelo, and infielder Michael Bonifay all stand 5-foot-10 or under but bring speed and athleticism. Elwood has most polished bat in the group and has surprising strength from the left side. Clemmons is raw but has loud tools—plus speed and arm strength—and could win the starting center field job as a freshman. Brett Lang and Patrick King give this class a pair of catchers for the future.
• Maryland followed up last year's Top 25 class with another strong group, though it took a hit when unsigned 10th-round pick Ben O'Shea fell short of the necessary credits to transfer in from Santa Fe (Fla.) CC. Still, the Terrapins landed a cornerstone player in third baseman K.J. Hockaday, an unsigned 14th-rounder and the No. 1 prospect in the Cal Ripken Collegiate League this past summer. Hockaday has a physical 6-foot-3, 210-pound build, strong wrists and a nice righthanded stroke. Three other in-state recruits join Hockaday to form the core of this class. Lefthander Shane Campbell was hampered by a shoulder injury this past spring, but he has shown 88-90 fastball velocity and a 75-77 hammer curveball in the past. Righty Will Bouey works in the 87-91 range and has room to add strength to his 6-3 frame. He also has an advanced changeup and a decent curve. And outfielder Matt Bosse has excellent speed and arm strength, and projects as a future middle-of-the-order hitter. Lefthander Jamie Pashuck made headlines last spring when he threw back-to-back no-hitters at Harford (Md.) CC; he needs to refine his mehanics but has a physical, intimidating mound presence and attacks hitters with an 86-88 fastball and solid changeup.
• Virginia Military Institute brought in seven position players that run the 60-yard dash in 6.8 seconds or better and buttressed that group of athletes with some polished arms. Outfielders Sheldon Shifflett and Gary LeClair have the plus speed, strong arms and bat speed to be dynamic players in the top half of the VMI lineup. Thomas Stallings has good instincts and actions in the middle infield. Jonathan Kelley and Reed Garrett both have two-way ability but stand out most for their polish on the mound. Neither has overpowering stuff, but both have good feel for pitching and quality breaking balls.
• As usual, Liberty was able to tap its Northwest junior-college pipeline to form the backbone of its large class, which features nine freshmen and nine juco transfers. Bellevue (Wash.) CC teammates Tyler Cox and Andy Smith should be key pieces of the lineup in 2012. Cox, a catcher/first baseman, has good righthanded pop, while Smith covers plenty of ground in center field and has good table-setter skills. Columbia Basin (Wash.) CC transfer Kody Young is a strong-bodied righthander with an 86-89 mph fastball from a three-quarters slot and a slider/changeup/forkball combination. He and Edmonds (Wash.) CC transfer Brooks Roy should compete for weekend rotation spots; Roy is a 5-10 bulldog with an 86-90 fastball and a quality changeup.
• Pittsburgh is building a strong foundation for its move to the Atlantic Coast Conference by bringing in its best class in recent years, and the No. 2 class among current Big East schools. The crown jewel is durable, switch-hitting catcher Elvin Soto, the No. 2 prep prospect in the state of New York this spring. Soto has good receiving skills, a quick transfer and occasional pop from the right side of the plate. Outfielder Boo Vazquez, a 38th-round pick this June, has gap-to-gap power, a strong outfield arm and good speed for his 6-foot-4 size. Righthander Tanner Wilt, Pennsylvania's top prep pitching prospect this spring, has the makings of a pair of plus offerings in a 90-91 mph fastball that reaches 94 and a sharp breaking ball. Omaha prep lefthander Pete Macke has a loose arm and showed the ability to throw three pitches for strikes when healthy, but a knee injury will keep him out until late next spring. Corner infielders Eric Hess and Sam Parente give this class a pair of solid athletes with nice gap-to-gap strokes.
• St. John's took an unexpected hit when key recruit Chris Bostick signed with the Athletics as a 44th-round pick, but the Red Storm still landed a fairly deep class headlined by a group of quality arms. Righthander Jerome Werniuk, the No. 1 prospect in the Valley League in 2010, will be eligible immediately after transferring from Le Moyne, which dropped its program to Division II after last season. Werniuk has a physical 6-foot-5 build, a fastball that reaches 92 and a late-breaking slider that can be an out pitch when it's on. Prep righties Joey Christopher and Brad Bellinger have similar frames as Werniuk and figure to add velocity to their high-80s fastballs. Lefty Ryan Horstman works in the 88-92 range and has good feel for pitching and a projectable 6-3 frame. Vince Tranchina has solid catch-and-throw skills, and Bret Dennis is a scrappy, slick-fielding shortstop.
• Boston College landed the top recruit of any Northeast school in lefthander Andrew Chin, an unsigned fifth-round pick by the Blue Jays. Before having Tommy John surgery in April, Chin worked in the 86-90 range and touched 92 with his fastball, mixed in a good curveball and showed feel for a changeup. Strong-bodied righty John Gorman has good feel for a nice three-pitch mix: a high-80s fastball, sharp slurve and 78-80 changeup with good movement. Middle infielder Blake Butera, the younger brother of former BC mainstay Barry Butera, has smooth infield actions, an accurate arm and good strength in his compact frame.
• Coming off a dominant season in the America East Conference, Stony Brook has wind in its sails, and the Seawolves kept that momentum going by bringing in the conference's best recruiting class. Catcher Kevin Krause has good righthanded power potential, a strong arm and plenty of upside. Canadian middle infielder Cole Peragine is a switch-hitter with a nice line-drive swing from both sides and good defensive skills. Compact, physical utilityman Ryan Sliwak and outfielder Steve Goldstein have smooth lefthanded strokes and good athleticism.
• Rhode Island has a knack for identifying raw Northeast talents and developing them into winning players, and the Rams believe they found a number of key building blocks in this class. Undersized middle infielder Tim Caputo has good hands and actions, enough arm to play shortstop, good speed and the ability to hit for average. Shaun McGrath is an aggressive righty with a high-80s fastball that bumps the low 90s, a hard breaking ball and good feel for a changeup. Athletic two-way talent Ryan O'Dell was a standout football and hockey player in high school, and his aggressive mentality translates well to the diamond. First baseman Lorenzo Papa is a strong, physical slugger with a chance to develop into a mainstay in the middle of URI's lineup.