Image credit: UConn coach Jim Penders (Photo courtesy of UConn)
Transfer classes at the top of college baseball understandably get a lot of attention. Everyone is interested to see how LSU looks in the spring with its blockbuster group of transfers.
But transformative transfer classes can happen at the mid-major level as well. Whether it’s infusing a roster with talent coming down from power conferences, helping plug gaps on a team that lost a lot of veteran talent after the season prior or sprinkling a dash of experience on a talented young roster, transfers can elevate mid-major teams just the same.
These are 10 notable mid-major transfer classes to watch. Note that the definition of mid-major in this context excludes the Power Five conferences, plus the American, Big West, Conference USA (though Dallas Baptist is included as it moves from the MVC to C-USA for 2023) and Sun Belt.
With a new coach in Roland Fanning and coming off of going 19-37 last season, Austin Peay was in need of a jolt and it hopes to get one with the help of a massive 20-man transfer class, 12 of whom are coming from the Power Five ranks. Headliners of the class include Oklahoma State transfers Lyle Miller-Green, a two-way player who led the Cape Cod League in home runs and RBIs in 2021, and John Bay, who hit .324 in a small sample with the Cowboys last season, and former Missouri righthander Jacob Kush, who struck out 53 in 51 innings for the Tigers over two seasons.
UConn’s sizable transfer class includes a couple of accomplished Division I players in two-way player Dominic Freeberger from UNC-Asheville, who has a .304 career average and runs his fastball into the mid 90s, and former Hartford closer Will Nowak, but mostly includes players from the region’s strong Division III baseball programs. That group includes lefthander Andrew Sears from Rhode Island College, righthander Stephen Quigley and outfielder Jake Studley from Wheaton (Mass.), infielder Luke Broadhurst from Eastern Connecticut State and infielder Paul Tammaro from Oswego State (N.Y.).
DBU’s place as a perennial regional team makes it an attractive destination for transfers from all across the country, and that’s the case again this time around. This class is headlined by former Nebraska righthander Braxton Bragg, who had a 3.28 ERA in 35.2 innings last season and has a low-90s fastball, shortstop Kodie Kolden from Washington State, corner infielder Ethan Mann, who hit 11 home runs for New Mexico State in 2021 before missing last season with injury, and former East Tennessee State righthander Matthew Bollenbacher, whose fastball touches the mid 90s.
Georgetown made a massive leap on the field in 2022 and it will look to do so again in 2023 with the help of a big transfer class that will provide high-end talent and quality depth in equal measure. Outfielder Zaid Walker, a draftee out of high school, didn’t reach his full potential in four seasons at Michigan State, but he is bursting with raw talent. He’s a good runner with a strong arm made for right field, and his best season at the plate was in 2021, when he hit .308. On the mound, righthander Jake Bloss from Lafayette had a 3.57 ERA in 58 innings last season. His fastball is a low-90s pitch, but it touched 100 mph this summer. Third baseman Marco Castillo from Division III Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (Calif.) provides offensive potential after hitting .325/.421/.437 last season.
One season after making a run to regionals, Missouri State will look to run it back with the help of a transfer class featuring a group of players who look ready to help right away. Infielder Nick Rodriguez got just 73 at-bats last season as a freshman at Charleston Southern, but batted .384/.489/.493 in those chances. Righthander Miles Halligan from Xavier is coming off of striking out 12.8 per nine innings in the Northwoods League this summer. Righthander Jake Eddington from Alabama missed all of last season with injury, but in 2021, his fastball reached 95 mph for the Crimson Tide. Righthander Scott Youngbrandt has a low-90s fastball and 122 innings of experience under his belt from four years at Saint Louis. Righthander Gage Bradley from Vanderbilt hasn’t seen much mound time in two seasons, but obviously has plenty of potential if he was good enough to spend two years in that program.
The Mavericks have a built-in advantage in the transfer portal in being able to bring in players with ties to the area who began college careers elsewhere. They did so with Houston Baptist two-way player Brennen Bales, who hit .345 last season and ran his fastball up to 93 mph, and righthander Alex Potter from Southeastern Louisiana, who played junior college baseball in Nebraska and is coming off of a strong summer in the Northwoods League. The headliners of the class are the Lechnir brothers from Central Michigan, Drew and Zach. The former batted .348/.390/.442 last season, while the latter has less offensive track record but brings more defensive versatility, having played both middle infield spots and all three outfield positions at CMU.
New Mexico State
Coming off a regional appearance last season, New Mexico State found success in the transfer portal this summer, reeling in quite a bit of talent from the West Coast. The most notable players in the class include righthander Aaron Roberts from California, who can run his fastball up to triple digits, outfielder Damone Hale from Cal State Fullerton, and a trio of players from Washington State in outfielder Keith Jones II and righthanders Will Sierra and Tyler Hoeft. The Aggies also went to the Midwest to grab catcher Brant Voth from Creighton, who began his career at Indiana.
Like Omaha, Saint Louis can recruit players from the city back home and did so in the transfer portal this offseason. Outfielder Patrick Clohisy from Purdue, righthander Evan Gray from Arkansas and outfielder Hayden Moore from Missouri State all played high school baseball in the St. Louis metro area and now return closer to home. Shortstop Joseph Costanzo from nearby Division II McKendree (Ill.) is a slick defender who handles the bat well. Righthander Dawson Smith from Houston didn’t see time on the mound last season but put up big numbers at the junior college level in 2021.
Two of Stetson’s biggest prizes from the transfer portal are highly-accomplished players from the MAAC looking to test themselves in a tougher league and warmer climate. Shortstop David Bermudez from Manhattan was first team all-MAAC last season after batting .380/.449/.668 with 14 home runs, 52 RBIs and more walks (22) than strikeouts (21). Righthander Mike McCully got Friday night experience at Siena, where he used a fastball in the low 90s that touched as high as 95 mph last season. Righthander Dylan Jacobs from Florida State is also a high-ceiling arm to watch. He has a low-90s fastball and is coming off of a strong summer in the NECBL.
With a coaching staff made up of Clay Van Hook, Mike Taylor and Mike Trapasso, it’s no surprise that UTA had a ton of success bringing in players from some of the best baseball programs in the region, including righthander Gabriel Starks from Arkansas, lefthander Caden Noah from Texas and outfielder Garrison Berkley from Texas Christian. It also pulled in righthander Andrew Lucas from Arizona State and righthander Bryce Hackett, who tallied 25 starts over the last two seasons at Tarleton State. That infusion of talent should help UTA compete better in its first year back in the WAC than you might expect given that it finished 15-39 last season.