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2021 Big Ten College Baseball Recruiting Classes Breakdown

Drew Christo Billmitchell
Drew Christo (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Recruiting is the lifeblood of every program in college baseball. After presenting the Top 25 recruiting classes and the 10 classes that just missed the cut, Baseball America is breaking down every class in several of the biggest conferences in the country.

Presented here is team-by-team analysis for the Big Ten. Nebraska had the conference’s top-ranked class and Indiana made the next 10 classes. Links to full breakdowns for those teams can be found below, as well as a snapshot view of the class. Full breakdowns for the teams that didn't make the rankings can be found here.

Player rankings refer to the 2021 BA 500, which included all draft-eligible players. Players transferring from four-year schools were not considered for the recruiting class rankings.

Illinois

Recruiting coordinator: Adam Christ
Top recruit: Camden Janik, C
Ranking: NR

The Illini have a solid, well-rounded group of newcomers. Janik is a good athlete and has a strong frame at a listed 5-foot-10, 195 pounds. He’s a solid defender with a strong arm and has some power as a righthanded hitter.

Shortstop Ryan Moerman has a quick righthanded swing, above-average speed and an aggressive mentality on the bases. He’s a solid defender who could quickly find a role in the Illini infield. Outfielder Jared Comia, whose cousin Branden Comia is the Illini’s starting shortstop, has an easy lefthanded swing that portends solid power in the future. His speed plays well both on the bases and in the outfield. Holt Geltmaker is a plus runner and was an all-state basketball player in high school. His athleticism gives him defensive versatility and the righthanded hitter has a good approach at the plate.

Righthanders Gavin Schmitt and Calvin Shepherd have projectable builds and bring upside on the mound. Schmitt has made strides in the last year and his fastball can get into the low 90s with sinking action. Shepherd also can run his fastball up to 91 mph with more velocity to come. Righthander Izaak Siefken isn’t as physical but his fastball also reaches the low 90s. Righthander Johnny Czeslawski, a junior college transfer, adds an experienced arm to the staff and also can run his fastball into the low 90s.

Indiana

Recruiting coordinator: Derek Simmons
Top recruit: Luke Hayden, RHP
Ranking: Next 10

The Hoosiers took advantage of a strong year in the state of Indiana and landed a strong recruiting class despite losing a few recruits in the draft process. Hayden stands out for his powerful fastball-slider combination and leads the way on the mound. Outfielder Carter Mathieson was named the player of the year in Indiana after leading the state in home runs (16). Catcher Matt Ellis, a junior college transfer, also has a powerful bat and shortstop Max Johnson brings advanced defense to the class.

Iowa

Recruiting coordinator: Marty Sutherland
Top recruit: Brody Brecht, RHP (No. 100)
Ranking: NR

The Hawkeyes have a strong class that brings in impact talent from both the prep and junior college ranks. Brecht has the most upside in the class and is a tremendous athlete who is also playing wide receiver for the football team. He was a big riser this spring after he touched 97 mph with his fastball, and he has a plus slider. He has some rough edges to his game to refine and how his football career plays out will affect his baseball one, but he’s listed at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, has premium athleticism and two plus pitches, making it easy to dream on his projection.

Righthander Marcus Morgan is also an excellent athlete who had offers to play quarterback in college but opted instead for baseball. He has a projectable, 6-foot-2, 175-pound frame and throws his fastball in the low 90s to go with a slider with a high spin rate. Like Brecht, he offers plenty of upside. Righthander Chas Wheatley has a big frame at 6-foot-6, 210 pounds and he throws from a tough three-quarters arm slot. His fastball sits in the upper 80s now with more velocity to come as he continues to physically mature. Weston Funk, who was Brecht’s teammate at Arkeny (Iowa) High, has two-way potential as a lefthander/first baseman. He has a projectable build and the makings of a good three-pitch mix.

Infielder Sam Petersen has plus speed, good bat-to-ball skills and some righthanded power potential. He has the versatility to play anywhere on the infield. Shortstop Ben Wilmes fits a similar profile with plus speed, a strong baseball IQ and solid defensive skills on the infield. Catcher Gehrig Christensen is a good defender with a strong arm behind the plate and has a good lefthanded swing.

Maryland

Recruiting coordinator: Matt Swope
Top recruit: Zach Martin, OF
Ranking: NR

The Terrapins’ recruiting class has ranked as the Big Ten’s best in each of the last two years. Nebraska this year landed the conference’s top recruiting class, but Maryland again ranks among the best in the Big Ten.

Martin has a simple, contact-oriented lefthanded swing and a good feel at the plate. He profiles well in right field thanks to his arm strength and athleticism. Ian Petrutz also has good bat-to-ball skills with his lefthanded swing and has power potential thanks to his bat speed. He profiles as a corner outfielder or first baseman. Sean Lane, who profiles as a corner infielder, has a big, strong frame at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds and plenty of righthanded power.

Lefthander Travis Garnett has as much upside as anyone in the class, but he was sidelined most of the spring due to Tommy John surgery. Listed at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, he has an exciting fastball-slider combination and gets a high spin rate on both pitches. Lefthander Andrew Johnson doesn’t have Garnett’s projectability, but he has a good feel for his three-pitch arsenal and a deceptive delivery that helps his stuff play up. Righthander Noah Mrotek has an athletic build and a fastball that gets into the low 90s with sinking action.

Michigan

Recruiting coordinator: Nick Schnabel
Top recruit: Brayden Lybarger, RHP
Ranking: NR

Michigan under Schnabel and head coach Erik Bakich has consistently brought in classes that are among the best in the Big Ten and this year is no different—especially on the mound. Lybarger has an ultra-projectable 6-foot-6, 170-pound build and already has solid stuff. His fastball sits around 90 mph, touching 94, and he pairs it with a slider that could be a swing-and-miss offering in time. He has the potential to eventually be a Friday night starter for the Wolverines.

Righthander Tyler Fullman has a strong, 6-foot-1, 220-pound frame and attacks hitters with a good fastball-slider combination. His fastball sits around 90 mph, and his slider shows promise. Lefthander Jaylen Jones also has a strong build at 6-foot, 220 pounds and a powerful arm. His fastball sits around 90 mph, and he has good feel for his breaking ball. Righthander Avery Goldensoph, like Lybarger, offers a lot of projection in his athletic, 6-foot-6, 170-pound frame.

Shortstop Camden Gasser is a good athlete and played basketball and football in high school while also excelling on the diamond. He has a good feel for the game, a contact-oriented lefthanded swing and infield actions that will play up the middle. Catcher Joe Longo makes a lot of hard contact as a righthanded hitter and is a solid defender with a strong arm behind the plate.

Michigan State

Recruiting coordinator: Graham Sikes
Top recruit: Ryan Szczepaniak, RHP
Ranking: NR

Michigan State brought in a compact freshman class of seven players but supplemented the group with several junior college transfers. Szczepaniak leads the newcomers and has premium upside on the mound. Listed at 6-foot-3, 221 pounds, he has a big, strong frame and his velocity made a jump in the last year. His fastball now reaches 94 mph, and the added juice has also helped his slider.

Aidan Arbaugh has two-way ability as a lefthander and outfielder and reminds the MSU staff of Jeff Kinley, a former two-way standout for the Spartans now playing in the Cubs system. Arbaugh is a good athlete with above-average speed and on the mound shows good feel for his three-pitch arsenal. Righthander John Locker has a powerful frame and can run his fastball into the low 90s, pairing it with a promising breaking ball. Outfielder Jayden Terres comes to Michigan State after doing post-grad at IMG Academy and brings a powerful righthanded bat.

MSU’s junior college transfers will bolster the pitching staff. Righthander Harrison Cook, who began his college career at Kentucky, attacks hitters with a fastball-slider combination. His fastball sits around 90 mph but he’s still projectable at a listed 6-foot-5, 178 pounds. Righthander Andrew Carson, who began his college career at Bowling Green State, uses a sinker-cutter combination and mixes in a curveball as well. His fastball has been up to 94 mph, but typically sits a tick below that velocity. Conner Tomasic, who began his college career at Purdue, has two-way ability with a fastball that gets into the low 90s and a quick righthanded swing.

Minnesota

Recruiting coordinator: Packy Casey
Top recruit: Brady Counsell, SS
Ranking: NR

After this spring going 6-31 to finish last in the Big Ten standings, the Gophers bring in a large group of newcomers, including several four-year transfers. Counsell, the son of Brewers manager Craig Counsell, is a good athlete and has the high baseball IQ of a player who has grown up around the game. The righthanded hitter has a good approach at the plate and creates a lot of hard contact. He spent his summer playing in the Northwoods League.

Listed at 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, lefthander Tucker Novotny has an imposing frame on the mound and a powerful arm to match. His fastball gets up to 92 mph and he works in both a changeup and slider. He this summer got his feet wet in the Northwoods League, where that three-pitch mix played well. Righthander Sam Malec comes to Minnesota from Woodbury (Minn.) High, which also produced former Gophers ace Max Meyer. Like Meyer, Malec is an athletic righthander with a slender frame (6 feet, 165 pounds) and a powerful fastball-slider combination. Like Counsell and Novotny, he this summer got his first taste of college baseball in the Northwoods League.

Chase Becker has a strong build at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds and two-way ability as a righthander and outfielder. On the mound, he has a promising three-pitch mix and he offers exciting righthanded power at the plate. Seth Clausen also has two-way talent, but his biggest contribution is likely to come as a righthander. He’s a good athlete with a promising fastball-breaking ball combination. Jared Everson creates significant bat speed with his lefthanded swing and has plenty of raw power. He probably ends up at first base eventually but can also play in an outfield corner. Third baseman Jake Larson is a good athlete and offers promising righthanded power.

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Nebraska

Recruiting coordinator: Lance Harvell
Top recruit: Drew Christo, RHP (No. 151)
Ranking: No. 21

After this spring winning the Big Ten in head coach Will Bolt’s first season in Lincoln, the Huskers are carrying that momentum on to the recruiting trail. With Christo and Chase Mason (191) leading the way, Nebraska has a Top 25 recruiting class for the first time since it ranked No. 11 in 2013. Christo, the 2021 Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year, has a strong, physical frame and a powerful right arm. Mason was one of the toolsiest players in the draft class but is still a bit raw on the diamond. In addition to Mason, the Huskers add plenty of speed with shortstop Core Jackson and outfielder Jason Arakaki also coming to Lincoln.

Northwestern

Recruiting coordinator: Dusty Napoleon
Top recruit: Sean Sullivan, LHP
Ranking: NR

As Josh Reynolds this year takes over as interim head coach, promoted following Spencer Allen’s decision to step down, he does so with a larger than normal class for the Wildcats. They add nine freshmen and three graduate transfers and several of the newcomers will have a chance to this spring take on impactful roles.

Sullivan gets good extension with his 6-foot-3 frame and throws from a three-quarters arm slot, making for a tough at-bat. His fastball sits in the upper 80s and he pairs it well with a sharp slider. Righthander Grant Comstock has a big, athletic build at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds. His fastball gets up to 93 mph and his changeup is his best offspeed pitch.

Catcher Alex Calarco, who joins his older brother Anthony with the Wildcats, has a physical build and a strong arm behind the plate. He’s a switch-hitter with plenty of raw power from both sides of the plate. Bennett Markinson is an accomplished prep hitter who adds a strong righthanded bat to the lineup. Outfielder Andrew Pinkston has plus speed and the lefthanded hitter has a good feel at the plate.

Ohio State

Recruiting coordinator: Matt Angle
Top recruit: Gavin Bruni, LHP/1B (No. 344)
Ranking: NR

The Buckeyes have a large group of newcomers that is deep among position players. Bruni is the class’s standout, however, and he has two-way ability as a lefthander and first baseman. He’s still a bit raw, but there’s no questioning his pure arm talent. His fastball has reached 96 mph and his curveball shows promise. He’s also a good hitter with strength in his lefthanded swing, but his highest upside is on the mound.

Outfielder Trey Lipsey has premium speed and uses it well both on the bases and in center field. The lefthanded hitter has some surprising power but profiles as a top-of-the-order hitter. Drew Reckart, the class’ lone junior college transfer, stands out for his righthanded swing and feel at the plate. He profiles at second or third base. Infielder Tyler Pettorini is a lefthanded hitter with an exciting offensive skill set, combining solid speed with a good feel at the plate. Infielder Josh McAlister and catcher Trey Pancake both stand out for their defense. McAlister has good range in the middle of the infield and Pancake has good catch-and-throw skills.

Lefthander Drew Bachman has high-end upside thanks to his projectable 6-foot-4 frame and some exciting metrics on his pure stuff. As he gets stronger and adds more velocity, he figures to take off. Righthander Jace Middleton also offers exciting upside thanks to his athleticism and 6-foot-5, 215-pound frame. His fastball can get into the low 90s and he pairs it with a slider.

Penn State

Recruiting coordinator: Sean Moore and Josh Newman
Top recruit: Tommy Molsky, RHP (No. 355)
Ranking: NR

Penn State lost two-sport star Lonnie White when the Pirates drafted him in the supplemental second round and signed him for $1.5 million. Still, the Nittany Lions have a strong class, especially on the mound where Molsky stands out. He has a projectable 6-foot-1, 160-pound build and a fast arm. His fastball works in the low 90s and has touched 96 mph to go with a breaking ball, for which he has solid feel. He’s got some rough edges to his game to smooth out but offers plenty of upside.

Righthander Ben DeMell also has a projectable look at 6-foot-5, 205 pounds and he built an impressive prep track record. His fastball gets into the low 90s and he has good feel for his four-pitch mix. Righthander Devin Fletcher also offers plenty of upside in his 6-foot-8, 215-pound frame and throws his fastball in the upper 80s.

Derek Cease, though undersized at 5-foot-8, 150 pounds, is a good athlete and has two-way ability as an infielder and righthander. He has a simple righthanded swing and has good infield actions. On the mound, he has an effortful delivery but can run his fastball into the low 90s. First baseman Connor Throneberry is listed at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds and the righthanded hitter packs a punch at the plate.

Purdue

Recruiting coordinator: Terry Rooney
Top recruit: CJ Valdez, INF
Ranking: NR

The Boilermakers brought in a big, deep recruiting class that’s heavy on transfers from the junior college ranks. Valdez is one of those transfers, coming to Purdue from Yavapai (Ariz.) JC, where he this spring hit .411/.498/.792 with 17 home runs and 19 stolen bases. His powerful righthanded bat will get him into the lineup right away, but he’s also a solid defender.

Outfielder Curtis Washington Jr. spent two seasons at Arkansas before transferring to junior college for the 2021 season and now heading to Purdue. The switch-hitter is a plus runner to go with solid raw power and an aggressive approach to the game. Catcher Pablo Lanzarote, another junior college transfer, also brings a powerful righthanded bat to West Lafayette. The Venezuelan native is a solid defender behind the plate. Outfielder Jake Jarvis began his college career at Grand Canyon before transferring to junior college. The lefthanded hitter has some pop in his bat.

Lefthander Troy Wansing and righthanders Carter Doorn and Khal Stephen give Purdue a solid trio of incoming freshmen on the mound. Wansing throws his fastball in the upper 80s and his slider plays well off it. Stephen was a multi-sport star in high school and has a strong build at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds. His fastball sits around 90 mph, touching 93, to go with a tight curveball. Doorn has a more projectable look and his fastball typically sits in the upper 80s, but can get into the low 90s to go with a curveball he has good feel for.

Rutgers

Recruiting coordinator: Brendan Monaghan
Top recruit: Matt Rowe, RHP
Ranking: NR

Rutgers this fall brought in a smaller class, opting to play more heavily in the transfer portal. Still, the Scarlet Knights added some impactful talent among the freshmen.

Rowe has an advanced skill set on the mound and should be able to quickly carve out a significant role on staff, possibly competing for a spot in the rotation. His fastball sits around 90 mph with a high spin rate, and he pairs it with a sharp slider that makes for an effective 1-2 punch. Lefthander Joe Mazza has a projectable 6-foot-3 frame and a good fastball-curveball combination. As he physically matures and gets more time on the mound after also playing hockey in high school, he should be able to make a jump. Righthander Danny Kerr attacks hitters with a fastball-slider combination that could quickly play out of the bullpen. Righthander Tyler Tornberg, a junior college transfer, missed this spring due to Tommy John surgery but could also be a factor out of the bullpen and touched 94 mph with his fastball before his injury.

Joshua Kuroda-Grauer is a good athlete with above-average speed and a quick righthanded swing. His range and arm strength play well on the infield, but he also has the versatility to play center field. Infielder Danny Rogers has a good lefthanded swing that is geared toward line drive contact. He has an aggressive approach to the game and fits well at second or third base. Catcher Jason Schockley stands out for his defensive ability and strong arm behind the plate.

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