10 Best College Baseball Recruiting Classes Since 2000
Baseball America debuted its annual college recruiting rankings in 2000. It presented a top five, led by Arizona State. The rankings have since then undergone changes and expansions, first to a "Dandy Dozen" beginning in 2001 and then to a full top 25 in 2006.
We now first rank the class on Signing Day every November and then update the classes when the players reach campus, rather than waiting for the players to arrive to produce the initial rankings.
No matter what format they take, recruiting rankings are an important part of our college coverage. They help ascertain which schools have the brightest futures. Raw talent is a key component to on-field success, after all. Over the last decade, 80% of the schools that have played for the national championship have at least one top 10 recruiting class as a part of their roster.
But many coaches say the best time to evaluate recruiting classes is after their careers are over and their full impact on a program can be measured. We do that exercise annually as well, revisiting the recruiting class from four years prior, after they have completed their college careers.
Now, as we present our 21st annual recruiting rankings, we're taking an even broader view at the best recruiting classes since 2000. Emphasis here was placed on the impact the players provided over their college careers. Pro performance is impossible to completely separate from how we view players now and, therefore, helps to inform the rankings, but is not paramount.
1. Rice, 2001
Original Rank: Not ranked
Other Key Players: SS Paul Janish
Humber, Niemann and Towsend formed the backbone of this class and, famously, Rice’s 2003 national championship team. The trio not only combined for five All-America selections, including three first-team nods, they also all were drafted in the first eight picks in 2004, making this one of the most successful recruiting classes in draft history as well. Janish was a three-year starter for the Owls, a member of USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team in 2003 and an outstanding defensive shortstop. Closer David Aardsma also arrived at Rice with this group, but as a transfer from a four-year school (Penn State), he does not count toward the recruiting rankings.
2. Florida, 2015
Original Rank: No. 2
This class lived up to its promise and helped make Florida the best team in the sport from 2016 to 2018. It won the 2017 national championship and twice was the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Singer was named 2018 College Player of the Year and is one of three first-round picks in the class, joined by India and Kowar. Byrne became the best closer in program history, setting both the single-season and career saves records. Like India, Liput and Maldonado were also everyday players throughout their careers.
3. Vanderbilt, 2012
Original Rank: No. 1
Vanderbilt has had more No. 1 recruiting classes than any other program, and this group stands as the cream of the crop. The class was instrumental in helping the Commodores win the 2014 national championship and reach the College World Series finals the following year. Swanson was one of the best players of the decade in college baseball and was drafted first overall in 2015. Fulmer and Buehler joined Swanson as first-round picks and combined to make a formidable pitching staff in Nashville.
4. Oregon State, 2015
Original Rank: No. 12
Oregon State’s incredible run from 2017 to 2018, when it won 56 games in 2017 and then claimed the 2018 national championship, was led by this class. Madrigal and Grenier formed an electric middle infield, while Larnach developed into a powerful, middle-of-the-order hitter. Each member of the trio was drafted among the top 40 picks in 2018. Fehmel came to campus mostly as a position player but turned into a reliable weekend starter.
5. North Carolina, 2006
Original Rank: No. 8
Other Key Players: 3B Kyle Seager
This class arrived in Chapel Hill after North Carolina reached the College World Series finals in 2006 and helped it return to that stage the following season. They became one of the most decorated classes in BA history, led by Ackley, who was named 2007 Freshman of the Year and was a three-time All-American. Ackley and White went on to become 2009 first-round picks, but it is Seager who had the most success in the big leagues.
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6. Oregon State, 2003
Original Rank: Not ranked
BA All-Americans: SP Dallas Buck (first team 2005), OF Cole Gillespie (first team 2006), SP Jonah Nickerson (second team 2006)
Other Key Players: C Mitch Canham
There are other classes with more prospect talent on this list, but this group earned its place for its role in one of the great college dynasties of the 21st century. It helped the Beavers win their first national championship in 2006 and, while Buck, Gillespie and Nickerson were all drafted and moved on after that season, Canham headlined a group of four-year players who helped Oregon State go back-to-back. And while there might be more prospect-laden classes, this group still produced three top 100 draft picks.
7. South Carolina, 2008
Original Rank: Not ranked
BA All-Americans: RP Matt Price (third team 2011), SP Michael Roth (first team 2011)
Other Key Players: OF Jackie Bradley Jr.
This class helped the Gamecocks reach the College World Series finals three straight times, winning the national championship in 2010 and 2011. Price and Roth earned spots in program lore with their performances in clutch moments over the course of those Omaha runs, while Bradley gave the class an elite talent. No class this century can match this group’s postseason résumé.
8. UCLA, 2008
Original Rank: No. 7
BA All-Americans: SP Trevor Bauer (first team 2011, second team 2010), SP Gerrit Cole (third team 2010)
Other Key Players: INF Tyler Rahmatulla, C Steve Rodriguez
With Bauer and Cole atop its staff, UCLA had perhaps the best one-two punch in a college rotation the 21st century. The pair led the Bruins to the 2010 College World Series finals and both were selected in the first three picks of the 2011 draft—Cole first overall, Bauer third. Bauer was also named 2011 College Player of the Year. Beyond that dynamic duo, however, this class didn’t offer much depth. Rahmatulla was a regular in the Bruins’ lineup when healthy, but injuries derailed his junior season.
9. Florida, 2013
Original Rank: No. 1
BA All-Americans: 1B Pete Alonso (third team 2016), SP Logan Shore (first team 2016)
Other Key Players: RP Shaun Anderson, RP Dane Dunning, SP A.J. Puk, OF Buddy Reed
This group of Gators was highly successful on the field, earning three top four overall seeds in the NCAA Tournament, twice advancing to Omaha and winning the Southeastern Conference Tournament once. But the college game’s biggest prizes eluded all but outfielder Ryan Larson and righthander Frank Rubio, who were the lone members of the class to stay for four years and play for the 2017 national champions. Still, the class lived up to its hype as the top-ranked class in 2013. It produced six players who were picked in the top 100 picks of the 2016 draft and helped make the Gators one of the premier teams in the country during their careers.
10. Miami, 2005
Original Rank: No. 5
BA All-Americans: 1B Yonder Alonso (first team 2008, second team 2007), OF Blake Tekotte (second team 2008), 2B Jemile Weeks (second team 2008)
Other Key Players: OF Dennis Raben
Over the years Miami has put together some impressive recruiting classes, and this one stands out among the best. Alonso, Tekotte and Weeks made for a dynamic lineup core throughout their careers. Alonso (seventh overall) and Weeks (12th overall) were both drafted in the top half of the first round in 2008. This class helped Miami reach Omaha twice.