Sign Up! Join our newsletters, get a FREE e-Edition

Top Recruiting Classes

featured_10-Marceaux-Landon 03 080117 --- cliff welch.JPG
LSU commit Landon Marceaux (Photo by Cliff Welch)

Going into the draft, Louisiana State coach Paul Mainieri wasn’t sure what to expect. The Tigers had put together an impressive recruiting class with 10 players ranked on the BA 500, which includes all draft-eligible players. He feared that there was a 50-50 chance that nearly any of them would get picked highly enough and offered a large enough signing bonus to chose to turn pro instead of attending LSU.

As the draft unfolded, however, things broke in favor of the Tigers. Just two of LSU’s recruits—shortstop Brice Turang and righthander Levi Kelly—were drafted in the top 10 rounds, when nearly every player signs. The rest of the recruiting class—righthander Landon Marceaux, an alumnus of USA Baseball’s gold medal-winning 18U team, athletic righthander Jaden Hill, experienced junior college transfers Saul Garza and Aaron George, speedy outfielder Giovanni DiGiacomo among them—either went undrafted or slipped deep into the third day of the draft, pushed down draft boards due to their signability. 

When the dust settled, it was clear LSU was going to end up with a premier recruiting class. It nearly got a signing deadline surprise as Turang went down to the wire with his decision on whether to turn pro or head to Baton Rouge. In the end, Turang and Kelly signed with pro teams and LSU landed eight players from the BA 500, the most in the country. As a result, the Tigers rank No. 1 in the 2018 Baseball America recruiting rankings.

“Everybody that coaches college baseball, especially in the power conferences, goes through the same thing that we do at LSU,” Mainieri said. “You recruit an outstanding group of guys and you don’t know what it’s going to look like until the draft occurs, and the deadline passes. We had six to eight guys in our class that we had a real risk of losing. We could have been wiped out or ended up as we did, which was fortunate.”

LSU’s draft-day fortune extended to its 2018 team as well. Righthander Zack Hess and outfielders Antoine Duplantis and Zach Watson were all drafted but opted to return for another year in Baton Rouge­—Hess and Watson for their junior year and Duplantis for his senior year. The Tigers will also welcome back shortstop Josh Smith and righthander Eric Walker, who both missed all or nearly all of the 2018 season due to injury.

After a subpar spring that saw it go 39-27 and get sent on the road for regionals for the first time since 2010, LSU had perhaps the best summer of any team in the country. 

“It almost feels like we have three different recruiting classes leading into 2019 season,” Mainieri said.

For some time this year, it looked like Vanderbilt, not LSU, would land the top-ranked class. The Commodores last year on signing day officially committed six of the top 20 prep players in the 2018 class. While two of those players—righthanders Kumar Rocker and Austin Becker—made it to Nashville, the draft’s effects on the class kept Vanderbilt from landing a second straight No. 1 class. 

Still, Vanderbilt wound up with the No. 2 class and extended its record streak of Top 25 classes to 14 years. The Commodores also wound up with the highest ranked player on a college campus this fall in Rocker (No. 13). Listed at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, he is an imposing figure on the mound and may soon front their rotation.

With LSU and Vanderbilt leading the way, the SEC again leads the recruiting rankings. The conference produced the top-ranked class for the eighth year in a row and three of this year’s top-five classes, as Florida churned out its sixth straight top-five class.

The Atlantic Coast Conference also did very well. Florida State and Louisville ranked third and fourth, respectively, and were joined in the top 10 by Clemson and Miami. While the Seminoles are a regular in the top 10 (this was their fifth straight top-10 class), the Cardinals and Tigers do not typically join them. Louisville hauled in its best-ever class and Clemson returned to the top 10 for the first time since 2006.

Around the country, the lion’s share of the credit for putting these classes together belongs to the assistant coaches, especially the recruiting coordinators. Nolan Cain, a former pitcher at LSU, has held that role at his alma mater for the last two years since being promoted from volunteer assistant coach in the fall of 2016 when Andy Cannizaro left to become head coach at Mississippi State. Along with pitching coach Alan Dunn and Mainieri, he assembled this class and helped get it to campus.

“Nolan’s become everything that I’ve dreamt that he would be,” Mainieri said. “He has a great personality, he works hard in developing relationships, he’s very knowledgeable in the landscape, he’s a good evaluator and I trust him totally. He makes a lot of decisions and tells me his feeling and I can’t remember that I disagreed, that I wouldn’t let him move on his evaluation at all. 

“I think he’ll make a tremendous head coach one day. For now, he’s doing A-plus work here.”

The incoming talent and strong group of returners is enough to make LSU an Omaha favorite in 2019. Mainieri knows well what adding an elite recruiting class can do for a program. LSU consistently hauls in top-10 classes, but in the past when it has brought in a class such as this year’s, good results typically follow on the field. The top-ranked 2014 class as juniors helped lead LSU to a runner-up finish at the 2017 College World Series. LSU’s No. 2-ranked 2007 class played a big role in its 2009 national championship run. And 2010’s No. 2-ranked class as juniors matched the program record with 57 wins in 2013.

“Every year we feel like we bring in good talent,” Mainieri said. “This year may be exceptional. It’s a lot easier to coach when you have really good players around you.”

Updated on: 9/12/2018
  1. 1
    Louisiana State letters.jpg

    Louisiana State

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 16 (13 freshmen, 3 JC transfers)
    Recruiting coordinator: Nolan Cain

    SEE MORE

  2. 2
    vanderbilt.jpg

    Vanderbilt

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 14 (14 freshmen)
    Recruiting coordinator: Mike Baxter

    SEE MORE

  3. 3
    fsu_logo.jpg

    Florida State

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 20 (15 freshmen, 5 JC transfers)
    Recruiting coordinator: Mike Martin Jr.

    SEE MORE

  4. 4
    louisville.jpg

    Louisville

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 15 (14 freshmen, 1 JC transfer)
    Recruiting coordinator: Eric Snyder

    SEE MORE

  5. 5
    florida_gators.jpg (1)

    Florida

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 14 (9 freshmen, 5 JC transfers)
    Recruiting coordinator: Criag Bell

    SEE MORE

  6. 6
    ucla.jpg

    UCLA

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 11 (11 freshmen)
    Recruiting coordinator: Bryant Ward

    SEE MORE

  7. 7
    texas_a_m.jpg

    Texas A&M

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 18 (14 freshmen, 4 JC transfers)
    Recruiting coordinator: Justin Seely

    SEE MORE

  8. 8
    ut_longhorns.jpg

    Texas

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 16 (16 freshmen)
    Recruiting coordinator: Sean Allen

    SEE MORE

  9. 9
    clemson.jpg

    Clemson

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 14 (13 freshmen, 1 JC transfer)
    Recruiting coordinator: Bradley LeCroy

    SEE MORE

  10. 10
    University_of-Miami_logo.jpg

    Miami

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 14 (11 freshmen, 3 JC transfers)
    Recruiting coordinator: Norberto Lopez

    SEE MORE

  11. 11
    virginia_cavs.jpg

    Virginia

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 16 (13 freshmen, 3 JC transfers)
    Recruiting coordinator: Kevin McMullan

    SEE MORE

  12. 12
    mississippi-state-logo-2cdec5d989032771.jpg

    Mississippi State

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 18 (11 freshmen, 7 JC transfers)
    Recruiting coordinator: Jake Gautreau

    SEE MORE

  13. 13
    arizona.png

    Arizona

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 18 (14 freshmen, 4 JC transfers)
    Recruiting coordinator: Sergio Brown

    SEE MORE

  14. 14
    usc.jpg

    Southern California

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 13 (12 freshmen, 1 JC transfer)
    Recruiting coordinator: Gabe Alvarez

    SEE MORE

  15. 15
    alabama.png

    Alabama

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 19 (10 freshmen, 9 JC transfers)
    Recruiting coordinator: Jerry Zulli

    SEE MORE

  16. 16
    fullerton.jpg

    Cal State Fullerton

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 18 (12 freshmen, 6 JC transfers)
    Recruiting coordinator: Chad Baum

    SEE MORE

  17. 17
    auburn_logo.jpg

    Auburn

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 18 (13 freshmen, 5 JC transfers)
    Recruiting coordinator: Karl Nonemaker

    SEE MORE

  18. 18
    texas_tech.jpg

    Texas Tech

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 24 (18 freshmen, 6 JC transfers)
    Recruiting coordinator: J-Bob Thomas

    SEE MORE

  19. 19
    fiu.jpg

    Florida International

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 10 (8 freshmen, 2 JC transfers)
    Recruiting coordinator: Jered Goodwin

    SEE MORE

  20. 20
    tcu.jpg

    Texas Christian

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 15 (7 freshmen, 8 JC transfers)
    Recruiting coordinator: Kirk Saarloos

    SEE MORE

  21. 21
    South-Carolina

    South Carolina

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 20 (12 freshmen, 8 JC transfers)
    Recruiting coordinator: Mike Current

    SEE MORE

  22. 22
    unc.jpg

    North Carolina

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 18 (16 freshmen, 2 JC transfers)
    Recruiting coordinator: Scott Forbes

    SEE MORE

  23. 23
    kentucky.jpg

    Kentucky

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 24 (18 freshmen, 6 JC transfers)
    Recruiting coordinator: Roland Fanning

    SEE MORE

  24. 24
    illinois_baseball.jpg

    Illinois

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 10 (7 freshmen, 3 JC transfers)
    Recruiting coordinator: Adam Christ/Drew Dickinson

    SEE MORE

  25. 25
    coastal_carolina.jpg

    Coastal Carolina

    Notes:

    Total recruits: 15 (12 freshmen, 3 JC transfers)
    Recruiting coordinator: Kevin Schnall

    SEE MORE

Loading

Are you a member?

In order to access this exclusive content you must have a Baseball America Account.

Login or sign up  

of Free Stories Remaining