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Under-The-Radar 2018 Recruiting Classes

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South Alabam freshman Ethan Wilson (Photo by Cliff Welch)

We’ve already unveiled the Top 25 recruiting classes in the country and 10 more that just missed the cut. But with 298 Division I college baseball programs, there are plenty of other notable recruiting classes beyond the upper echelon. Here we look at a dozen more schools that brought in strong classes relative to a normal recruiting class at their school or in their conference.

Dallas Baptist
Recruiting coordinator: Dan Fitzgerald
Top recruit: Herbert Iser, C

Dallas Baptist, like many schools in Texas, took advantage of a bumper crop of talent in the Lone Star State this year to haul in a strong recruiting class. Herbert Iser, the Orioles’ 24th-round pick, has long been a prominent player and spent the last two seasons at San Jacinto (Texas) JC. He is a solid defender behind the plate and has some power in his bat. First baseman Jose Gutierrez, the Indians’ 36th-round pick, stands out among the freshmen position players. He has a strong, physical frame and has a chance to hit for both average and power.

The class also includes some freshmen righthanders with high upsides on the mound. Luke Trahan has two-way ability, but his future is likely on the mound. His fastball reaches 93 mph and he also has a good slider and some feel for his changeup. Alec Baker, a Massachusetts native, missed last year as he recovered from Tommy John surgery but touched 93 mph before his surgery and has some projection left. Cole Reeves will likely eventually be the biggest of the trio. He also touches 93 mph with his fastball and offers impressive athleticism.

DBU also took two graduate transfers who don’t factor into the rankings but should be productive players this spring. Hunter Vansau, who began his college career at DBU before transferring to Mississippi State, is back, and Augie Isaacson, who is coming off a strong summer in the Northwoods League, transferred in from Friends (Kan.), an NAIA school.

Georgia Southern
Recruiting coordinator: B.J. Green
Top recruit: Jonathan Edwards, RHP

Georgia Southern landed a solid class, headlined by Jonathan Edwards, who was drafted in the 16th round by the Rangers but chose to head to Statesboro instead of signing. Listed at 6-foot-6, 180 pounds, he is very projectable and already throws his fastball in the low 90s. He has the makings of a future frontline starter for Georgia Southern once he grows into his frame and finds a bit more consistency in his delivery.

Lefthander Brayden Hays got big-game experience at Parkview High (Lilburn, Ga.), which finished the year ranked No. 1 in the Baseball America High School Top 50. He’s an advanced lefthander who throws his fastball in the upper 80s and mixes in a good changeup. Shortstop Blake Evans is the top freshman position player in the class and is a steady defender with a good arm.

Righthanders Rhett Gay and Joe Nahas, both junior college transfers, add depth to the staff. Nahas has a fastball-slider combination that will play either as a starter or at the back of the bullpen, and Gay is a former high school quarterback with upside on the mound. Outfielder Cole Vann, also a junior college transfer, adds another powerful bat to the mix for the Eagles.

Grambling State
Recruiting coordinator: Davin Pierre
Top recruit: Bryan Delgado, LHP

The Tigers brought in a strong class that improves their depth around the diamond following their run last year to the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament championship game. Bryan Delgado, a junior college transfer, could step right into the rotation, where his three-pitch arsenal and competitiveness will play well. Righthander Jason Alvarez mostly pitched out of the bullpen in junior college, but his three-pitch mix could allow him to be a swingman at Grambling.

Outfielder Warren Laster stands out among the position players. He runs well, has a physical frame and has a good lefthanded swing. Chrystian Mervilus has a chance to step right into the lineup at shortstop thanks to his glove, though he’s not as advanced offensively. Jahmoi Percival, a junior college transfer, is an aggressive lefthanded hitter with a powerful bat. He has some defensive versatility but probably will settle at second or third base. Infielder Julian McMillian is now eligible after sitting out last season following his transfer from Illinois. He doesn’t count toward the rankings, but he adds an experienced, powerful bat to the middle of the lineup.

Lehigh
Recruiting coordinator: John Fugett
Top recruit: Mason Black, RHP

Lehigh this year has a pair of intriguing draft prospects in righthanders Jason Reynolds and Levi Stoudt. The Mountain Hawks also have a pair of exciting freshmen pitchers in Mason Black and lefthander Luke Rettig, both of whom headline what may be the program’s best recruiting class in head coach Sean Leary’s 24-year tenure. Black has a physical frame and was running his fastball up to 93-94 mph by the end of the spring, when he helped his team to a runner-up finish in the Pennsylvania state tournament. Rettig has a long, loose frame, a good three-pitch mix and pitchability.

Third baseman Gerard Sweeney is a switch-hitter who has a good feel for hitting from both sides of the plate. He figures to take over at third base and step right into the top half of the lineup. Casey Rother has two-way ability as a catcher and righthander. It’s a difficult double to pull, but he has some pop at the plate and can run his fastball up to 90-91 mph in short stints. Chase Carlson is a speedy middle infielder whose contact skills and defense give him a chance to quickly work his way into the lineup.

Nevada-Las Vegas
Recruiting coordinator: Patrick Armstrong
Top recruit: Chase Hanson, OF

Coming off a strong season, UNLV brought in a large recruiting class that will look to keep the program’s momentum rolling. Chase Hanson, who was drafted in the 38th round by the Cubs, is a projectable corner outfielder. He has a good swing, and as he grows into his 6-foot-4 frame he’ll hit for more power. James Gamble is a well above-average runner, and his speed plays well both on the bases and in center field. Austin Pfeifer, the Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year, has two-way potential thanks to his powerful bat and strike-throwing ability. Listed at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, he has a powerful swing and is a good defender at first base.

The class also includes a large group of junior college transfers, featuring three righthanders capable of grabbing spots in the rotation. Cameron Jabara had a strong spring at Orange Coast (Calif.) JC and may have the most polish of the group. Ryan McDonald is the biggest at a listed 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, and he throws his fastball-slider combination from a steep downhill plane. Bradley Spooner comes right after hitters with his powerful fastball and mixes in a good changeup.

Sacramento State
Recruiting coordinator: Jake Angier
Top recruit: Connor Sparks, RHP

Sacramento State has become a consistent contender in the Western Athletic Conference, and this year’s recruiting class should help it maintain that position. The Hornets this year mined Canada, landing four players who spent time with the Canadian Junior National Team. The best of the bunch is Connor Sparks, who was drafted in the 26th round by the Brewers. Listed at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, he throws from a steep downhill angle and gets heavy sinking action on his 88-90 mph fastball. Righthander Evan Gibbons, who was named the Sacramento Bee’s player of the year, is a little undersized but has a good fastball-slider combination. Together, Gibbons and Sparks give the class a promising pair of arms who can eventually anchor the rotation.

The Hornets also landed a talented trio of outfielders in Trevor Doyle, Jaden Lyburtus and Preston Viltz. Doyle is the most advanced and is reminiscent of former Hornets center fielder Nathan Lukes. Lyburtus is the most physical and has an intriguing combination of speed and power, while Viltz is a good athlete and has plus speed. Righthander Sean Fekete has one of the most interesting backgrounds of any recruit in the country. The son of an expatriate, he grew up in Dubai, and the Hale Education Group, which advises students in the Middle East on American college decisions, claims he is the first baseball player from the region to be offered a Division I scholarship. Listed at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, he has upside and a viable three-pitch mix.

Sam Houston State
Recruiting coordinator: Lance Harvell
Top recruit: Will Duncan, RHP

The Bearkats class stands out on the mound thanks to two pitchers who were drafted—Will Duncan and lefthander Matt Dillard—but it is a well-balanced group that also includes some high-end position players. Duncan, the Padres’ 29th-round pick, offers plenty of upside and a projectable frame. He throws his fastball in the low 90s and figures to add more velocity as he fills out his 6-foot-5, 190-pound frame. Dillard, the Brewers’ 31st-round pick, is more polished and has an advanced understanding of his craft. He has a good three-pitch mix and consistently throws all his pitches for strikes.

Shortstop Jackson Loftin is an advanced defender who could immediately take over at the position. Infielder Diego Davila is also advanced and could end up at third base, where his powerful bat fits well. Colton Cowser has plus speed and uses it well both on the bases and in center field. The Bearkats also have a solid group of junior college transfers. Catcher Kyle Moos has a powerful bat and a strong arm and could quickly take over behind the plate. Righthanders Colin Wesneski and Cody Wolf will both find roles on the staff. Wolf fills up the strike zone with his four-pitch arsenal and won 10 games last year. Wesneski has similar stuff to his older brother Hayden Wesneski, the Bearkats' ace. He controls his fastball well and mixes in a good slider and could succeed his brother as the staff ace.

South Alabama
Recruiting coordinator: Chris Prothro
Top recruit: Zach Young, RHP (No. 451 on the BA 500)

South Alabama last year made a big splash when righthander JoJo Booker (fifth round) and catcher Hunter Brittan (15th round) opted to go to Mobile instead of signing out of the draft. This year’s class doesn’t have that kind of pedigree, but it is another solid group. Zach Young is undersized at 6-foot, 165 pounds, but has a big arm. His fastball-slider combination will help him quickly find a key role on the staff, either in the rotation or at the back of the bullpen.

Outfielder Ethan Wilson was a three-sport star in high school and last year led his team on deep tournament runs in all three sports—winning an Alabama state title in baseball and making semifinals appearances in basketball and football. He is an above-average runner, has a good swing and projects to hit for some power. Outfielder Barrett Shell has above-average speed and knows how to make the most of it offensively and defensively.

The class also includes some junior college transfers who will add depth to South Alabama’s pitching staff. Righthander Hunter Phillips runs his fastball up to 96 mph, has a good slider and fits well at the back of the bullpen. Righthander Drake Nightengale will pitch key innings either as a starter or as a high-leverage reliever. He throws his fastball in the low 90s and has a good feel for spinning both his breaking balls. Righthander Hunter Akridge stands out among the freshmen pitchers. He has a projectable frame, throws his fastball around 90 mph and has a hard, downer curveball.

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Southern Mississippi
Recruiting coordinator: Chad Caillet
Top recruit: Brooks Warren, LHP

Southern Miss has won back-to-back Conference USA titles and loaded up for another run with this class, which includes both an intriguing crop of freshmen and a group of junior college transfers who will help offset some losses to the draft and graduation. Brooks Warren, the Mets’ 20th-round pick, is one of the junior college transfers. He has a heavy fastball that gets up to 93-94 mph, and he could start or relieve for the Golden Eagles. Brant Blaylock, who began his college career at Mississippi State before transferring to East Central (Miss.) JC, has two-way potential. On the mound, he is a hard-throwing righthander with a mentality for the back of the bullpen. He’s also athletic enough to play center field and has some offensive tools. Lefthander Josh Lewis, another junior college transfer, has advanced pitchability and a solid four-pitch mix.

Outfielder Hunter LeBlanc is the standout of the freshman class. He has a lot of upside, plus speed and a good feel for hitting. Danny Lynch, the younger brother of former Southern Miss standout Tim Lynch, could take over at third base for Southern Miss. He is reminiscent of his older brother as a hitter, but with a bit more power and athleticism. Righthander Tyler Stuart is ultra-projectable and has the makings of a weekend starter thanks to his size, stuff and strike-throwing ability.

Stetson
Recruiting coordinator: Joe Mercadante
Top recruit: Robbie Peto, RHP

Following the best season in program history, Stetson will look to keep its momentum rolling with a strong recruiting class. The class is heavy on pitching because while the Hatters return the bulk of their lineup, they must replace several key pitchers, including All-Americans Logan Gilbert and Brooks Wilson. Robbie Peto, a junior college transfer who began his college career at North Carolina, will be expected to step into the rotation. He throws his fastball in the low to mid-90s and mixes in a good breaking ball. Lefthander Nick Chiseri redshirted his freshman year at Connecticut before transferring to junior college. He comes to Stetson as a redshirt sophomore and will likely figure into the bullpen mix.

The class also includes a trio of freshmen who were drafted but opted to come to school instead of signing. Outfielder Noah Dickerson, the Reds’ 17th-round pick, has a good feel for hitting, and his projectable frame portends more power in the future. Righthander Antonio Knowles, the Rays’ 27th-round pick, has the makings of a starter. His fastball reaches 91 mph and he spins his breaking ball well. First baseman Brandon Hylton, the Brewers’ 33rd-round pick, is listed at 6-foot-6, 220 pounds and has the kind of raw power that his frame suggests. Righthander Michael Bacica has a projectable frame and could give the class another high-level arm as his development continues.

Wichita State
Recruiting coordinator: Sammy Esposito
Top recruit: Jake Plastiak, 3B

As Wichita State looks to settle into its new home in the American Athletic Conference, it brought in a solid recruiting class loaded with athleticism. Jake Plastiak, who was drafted in the 28th round by the Padres, is a switch-hitter with impressive power from both sides of the plate. He’ll need to refine his defense, but his bat should quickly make him a mainstay in the Shockers’ lineup. Outfielder David Van Vooren has the makings of a prototypical center fielder and top-of-the-order hitter thanks to his plus speed and approach at the plate. Shortstop Jack Sigrist has plus speed and is an advanced enough hitter to quickly find a spot in the lineup. It likely won’t be at shortstop this year, but he could take over at the position later in his career.

Righthander Connery Peters, the Dodgers’ 38th-round pick, stands out on the mound and this year will take on important innings either in the rotation or the back of the bullpen. His fastball sits in the low 90s and he mixes in a good slider. Righthander Miller Pleimann isn’t as physical as Peters but has a bit more pitchability. His fastball sits around 90 mph and he has a good changeup and breaking ball to go with it. Righthander Mitchell Walters, a junior college transfer, gives the class an experienced arm who can help either at the back of the bullpen or as a starter.

Xavier
Recruiting coordinator: John DiLaura
Top recruit: Kody Darcy, SS

As head coach Billy O’Conner enters his second season at the program’s helm, he and the Musketeers’ coaching staff hauled in one of the best classes in program history. Kody Darcy, the Mets’ 39th-round pick, is a Washington native, beyond Xavier’s typical recruiting footprint. He looks like the Musketeers’ shortstop of the future thanks to his athleticism and feel for hitting. Lane Flamm has two-way ability and this summer was named Connie Mack World Series MVP after helping Midland to the championship. On the mound, he comes right after hitters with a low-90s fastball and a good breaking ball, both of which he throws for strikes. He has also come along well as a hitter in recent years and could be a middle-of-the-order hitter.

Infielder Luke Franzoni produces impressive bat speed and has above-average raw power. Once he learns to barrel up the ball more consistently, he’ll add another impactful bat to the lineup. Righthander Seth Klaiber has run his fastball up to 95 mph and has a physical frame. Catcher Luke Stephenson has good athleticism behind the plate and hits for some power.

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