2024 Big Ten College Baseball Preview


Image credit: Brody Brecht (Photo by Eddie Kelly / ProLook Photos)

In many respects, 2023 was a great year for Big Ten baseball. The regular-season title race came down to the final weekend and the conference produced a pair of first rounders (and four top-50 picks), its most since 2002. But no Big Ten team hosted regionals, and while Indiana and Iowa both advanced to regional finals, neither was able to push through to super regionals.

Now, as the Big Ten prepares for the 2024 season, the landscape is in the midst of an overhaul. There were three head coaching changes after last season, as Maryland, Northwestern and Penn State all made moves. Rob Vaughn, who won the last two Big Ten coach of the year awards at Maryland, was hired away by Alabama and Matt Swope was promoted in his place. Mike Gambino was hired away from Boston College to take over at Penn State and Ben Greenspan takes over Northwestern. Minnesota coach John Anderson, the winningest baseball coach in conference history, announced he will retire following this season.

Most significantly, this is the last season of the current Big Ten format. Following the season, Oregon, Southern California, UCLA and Washington will join the conference. What adjustments will be made to the conference schedule and tournament are still being hashed out, but suffice to say, things will look a lot different in 2025.

For now, things set up for an interesting spring. Iowa, which hasn’t won the conference in more than 30 years, is the title favorite. Indiana is hot on its heels, and there are other teams looking to chase it down at the top of the standings.

Below, find the following as we dive deep into the Big Ten…

  • Predicted order of finish
  • Player, Pitcher and Freshman of the Year predictions
  • Team-by-team breakdowns
  • Top draft prospects
  • Top newcomers
  • Best scouting tools

Big Ten Projected Standings (2023 records)

1. Iowa (44-16, 15-8)
2. Indiana (43-20, 16-8)
3. Maryland (42-21, 17-7)
4. Nebraska (33-23, 15-9)
5. Rutgers (33-23, 14-10)
6. Michigan (28-28, 13-11)
7. Ohio State (31-25, 9-15)
8. Penn State (25-25, 7-16)
9. Illinois (25-27, 12-12)
10. Michigan State (33-22, 12-12)
11. Minnesota (18-34, 10-14)
12. Purdue (24-29, 11-13)
13. Northwestern (10-40, 4-20)

Player of the Year: Devin Taylor, OF, Indiana

Taylor was named Big Ten freshman of the year last season, joining Alex Dickerson (2009) and Sam Travis (2012) as the only Hoosiers to win the award. He hit .315/.430/.650 with 16 home runs in 55 games and established himself as a projected first-round pick in 2025. For now, he’ll focus on anchoring a powerful Indiana lineup.

Pitcher of the Year: Brody Brecht, RHP, Iowa

Brecht last season moved into the rotation for Iowa and found success as a sophomore, going 5-2 with a 3.74 ERA and 109 strikeouts with 61 walks in 77 innings. The 6-foot-4 righthander’s fastball can top 100 mph and his slider also grades out as a premium pitch. He arguably has the best pure stuff of any pitcher in college baseball, and if he can refine his control a bit more—he has walked 19% of batters over two seasons—he could become the highest draft pick in Iowa program history, surpassing shortstop Tim Costo, who went eighth overall in 1990.

Freshman of the Year: Andrew Wiggins, OF, Indiana

Wiggins was the 242nd-ranked player in last year’s draft class at Indianapolis’ Heritage Christian High but went undrafted. So now he headlines a strong freshman class for the Hoosiers. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound lefthanded hitter has big raw power and strength that he showed off at the 2023 MLB Draft Combine, where he hit a ball more than 430 feet. Wiggins projects to step right into the heart of the Indiana lineup, where he could form a formidable one-two punch with outfielder Devin Taylor. He is an offensive-oriented player.

Big Ten Team-By-Team Breakdowns

1. Iowa (44-16, 15-8)

The Hawkeyes last season matched a program record with 44 wins and reached the final of the Terre Haute Regional before losing to host Indiana State. Now, the Hawkeyes have their sights set on even more in 2024. This is probably the most-hyped season of Iowa baseball ever, as the Hawkeyes are the Big Ten favorites and are led by righthander Brody Brecht, a first-team Preseason All-American. That’s heady stuff for a program that hasn’t won the Big Ten since 1990, has made just three regionals in the last decade and hasn’t won a regional since 1972.

If Iowa is to live up to the expectations, it will start with its pitching staff. Brecht (5-2, 3.74, 109 SO) and fellow junior righthander Marcus Morgan (5-2, 3.72, 72 SO) make for a formidable one-two punch at the front of the rotation. Sophomore lefthander Cade Obermueller (2-1, 4.91) is slated to join them in the rotation. That trio has as much pure stuff as nearly any in the country, though all three had control issues a season ago.

Offensively, Iowa is led by junior outfielder Sam Petersen (.319/.449/.584, 11 HR, 20 SB). They also return veterans up the middle in shortstop Michael Seegers (.322/.428/.449, 17 SB) and catcher Cade Moss (.261/.356/.321). The Hawkeyes are a little light on power after losing some of their top sluggers from 2023, but they run well as a team, and the addition of Davis Cop (Utah) will help bolster the lineup. The strength of the team will be pitching and defense, but Iowa should be able to put together a quality offense.

2. Indiana (43-20, 16-8)

After a rare losing season in 2022, Indiana last season bounced back, winning 43 games and advancing to the Lexington Regional final. The Hoosiers return an exciting core of position players and will again be setting their sights on the postseason. It starts with Taylor (.315/.430/.650, 16 HR), who last season was named Big Ten freshman of the year and earned a first-team all-Big Ten nod. Also back are sluggers Brock Tibbitts (.357/.447/.585, 10 HR), who will move from first base to catcher, outfielder Carter Mathison (.311/.426/.538, 10 HR) and Tyler Cerny (.276/.348/.489, 10 HR, 10 SB), who will move from second base to shortstop. Throw in blue-chip recruit Andrew Wiggins, who brings plus power, and speedy transfers Brandon Burckel (Houston) and Nick Mitchell (Western Illinois), and this is again looking like a dynamic offense. Indiana last season averaged 7.7 runs per game, the third-best mark in the conference, and will remain among the leaders in 2024.

On the mound, the Hoosiers will have to make do without ace Luke Sinnard, who is out for the season due to injury. Aside from Sinnard, the pitching staff was largely built from the back a season ago. Whether IU adopts a similar approach in 2024 or employs a more traditional rotation, look for lefthander Ryan Kraft (6-1, 2.48, 5 SV) and righthanders Connor Foley (4-2, 3.72, 3 SV) and Brayden Risedorph (3-1, 4.47, 6 SV) to again pitch critical innings. Among newcomers, transfers Ben Grable (Northwestern) and Jack Moffitt (Gonzaga) could step into big roles.

3. Maryland (42-21, 17-7)

The Terrapins won back-to-back Big Ten titles, going 35-12 in Big Ten play over the last two seasons. A new era is beginning in College Park, however, after Rob Vaughn this summer was hired away by Alabama and Matt Swope was promoted to take over at his alma mater. In addition to the coaching change, the Terrapins had seven players drafted, including 13th-overall pick Matt Shaw. So, things will look a little differently this spring at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.

Returners Eddie Hacopian (.328/.409/.488), Kevin Keister (.303/.423/.511, 10 HR) and Elijah Lambros (.288/.404/.541, 14 HR) will anchor the offense. But even with that trio of sluggers back in the fold, there’s still a big hole left by Nick Lorusso, Shaw and Luke Shliger, who all posted an OPS of more than 1.000. Maryland will look to talented freshmen like Chris Hacopian, Eddie’s younger brother, and Brayden Martin to step right into the lineup.

Maryland is almost completely resetting on the mound. Starters Nick Dean and Jason Savacool were drafted, closer David Falco Jr. transferred and lefthander Kyle McCoy is out for the season due to injury. Veteran righthander Kenny Lippman (8-1, 4.40) last season led the team in appearances (31) and will again pitch significant innings. Transfers James Gladden (VCU), Logan Koester (George Washington), Omar Melendez (Alabama State) and Trystan Sarcone (Dartmouth) will also pitch in important roles. Finding the right mix on the mound may be the most critical task for the Terps.

4. Nebraska (33-23, 15-9)

The Cornhuskers had a solid 2023 season, finishing in fourth place in the Big Ten, two games out of first place. But some bad losses held back their RPI, and they were never seriously in the NCAA Tournament hunt. Nebraska has now missed regionals in back-to-back years since winning the Big Ten in 2021, just the second such drought for the program since Dave Van Horn arrived in Lincoln in 1998.

To get back to regionals, the Cornhuskers will need some new faces to step up. Infielders Brice Matthews and Max Anderson were both drafted in the top 45 picks, and starters Jace Kaminska and Emmett Olson and key relievers Shay Schanaman and Corbin Hawkins must also be replaced. Nebraska attacked the junior college ranks to fill many of those holes, but just as important will be how well some of the returners adapt to bigger roles.

Dylan Carey (.275/.348/.396) had a solid freshman season at third base and will now move to shortstop. Outfielder Gabe Swansen (.291/.410/.654, 18 HR) is the most accomplished power hitter in the conference and returns to the heart of the order. Powerful first baseman Tyler Stone and speedy center fielder Riley Silva, both junior college transfers, bolster the lineup. On the mound, righthander Drew Christo (1-1, 3.24), a blue-chip recruit two years ago, is set to lead the rotation. Senior righthander Brett Sears (0-0, 5.29) also looks set to take a step forward after a solid summer in the Northwoods League. Nebraska has the talent; it just needs to put it all together.  

5. Rutgers (33-23, 14-10)

After getting snubbed from the 2022 NCAA Tournament, Rutgers was hopeful it would bounce back in 2023 and earn its first regionals bid since 2007. It didn’t quite all come together for the Scarlet Knights, however, leaving them again in 2024 hoping to end that drought. The bad news is they must replace their top three hitters from a season ago, a trio that all had an OPS of better than 1.000 and combined for 37 of the team’s 64 home runs. Shortstop Josh Kuroda-Grauer (.298/.393/.487, 13 SB) and third baseman Tony Santa Maria, who last season was limited to just five games, will anchor the lineup. Rutgers will need some new sluggers to step up, however.

The Scarlet Knights can build around righthander Christian Coppola (5-5, 3.68), a 2023 Freshman All-American, who will this season front the rotation. Senior lefthander Justin Sinibaldi (5-1, 2.64) will join Coppola in the rotation. Finding some pitchers to step up around them will be critical. Rutgers has some talented newcomers, like freshmen Zack Konstantinovsky and Justin Sweeney, as well as graduate transfer Joey DiChiaro (Old Dominion). Redshirt freshman Donovan Zsak, who missed last season due to injury, could be an X-factor for the Scarlet Knights.

6. Michigan (28-28, 13-11)

The Wolverines had an up-and-down season in 2023, coach Tracy Smith’s first in Ann Arbor. They started slowly (they were 4-8 in early March), took some bad losses that tanked their RPI and were swept at Ohio State to end the regular season. But they also entered that Ohio State series just two games out of first place and then went on to reach the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.

The Wolverines will hope for more consistency in 2024. Ace Connor O’Halloran, the Big Ten pitcher of the year, was drafted in the fifth round, leaving a hole at the front of the rotation. Noah Rennard, who ranked second on the team in innings pitched, is also gone. Veteran lefthander Jacob Denner (2-6, 4.56) returns, but freshman Dylan Vigue, one of the best recruits to make it to a Big Ten school this year, has the best stuff on staff and could lead the rotation. Two-way star Mitch Voit (4-1, 3.25, 5 SV) is back to anchor the bullpen.

Offensively, Michigan is in a better spot, despite losing Ted Burton, its best hitter. Center fielder Jonathan Kim (.322/.379/.479) and Voit (.267/.338/.439, 7 HR) are back after strong freshman seasons. The Wolverines added a few key transfers in catcher Will Rogers (Arizona State), second baseman Mack Timbrook (Kent State) and shortstop Kyle Dernedde (Oregon State). Smith has had strong offenses throughout his coaching career and this season’s group looks like it will fit that bill.

7. Ohio State (31-25, 9-15)

Last spring was a mixed bag for the Buckeyes. In Bill Mosiello’s first season at the program’s helm, Ohio State won 31 games, 10 more than it did in 2022, and swept archrival Michigan to end the season. But those three wins against the Wolverines represented a third of the Buckeyes’ conference win total and they missed the Big Ten Tournament, finishing in 11th place.

Ohio State is aiming higher in 2024. It has a solid returning core to its lineup, starting with shortstop Henry Kaczmar (.293/.377/.452, 7 HR, 7 SB) and third baseman Tyler Pettorini (.315/.367/.490, 7 SB). Catcher Matthew Graveline (.287/.375/.410, 12 SB) and outfielder Trey Lipsey (.252/.365/.362, 9 SB) also return. The lineup is bolstered by some quality transfers, like outfielder Josh Stevenson (LSU), first baseman Ryan Miller (Tennessee) and second baseman Joseph Mershon (Charleston).

On the mound, Ohio State must replace ace Isaiah Coupet, who was drafted 109th overall. Taking his spot at the front of the rotation is expected to be lefthander Landon Beidelschies (0-2, 4.15, 7 SV), who last season served as the team’s closer. Lefthander Gavin Bruni (5-3, 4.87) returns to the rotation, with righthander Colin Purcell (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi) likely to join them. The bullpen is not as settled and someone will need to step up to replace Beidelschies and Nolan Clegg, who led the team in appearances.

8. Penn State (25-25, 7-16)

Penn State last summer hired Mike Gambino as its new head coach, replacing Rob Cooper, who stepped down after 10 seasons. Gambino comes to Happy Valley after 13 seasons as head coach of Boston College, his alma mater, and in 2023 led the Eagles to a 37-20 record and an NCAA Tournament appearance. Now, he takes over a Penn State program that has made just one NCAA Tournament appearance in 47 years (2000). The Nittany Lions have not had a winning record in a full season since 2016.

The Nittany Lions will be an older team in 2024, as they combine a veteran core with several experienced transfers. It starts with senior righthanders Travis Luensmann (6-5, 4.35) and Jaden Henline (5-3, 4.70), who will reprise their role as the team’s top two starters. An X-factor will be lefthander Anthony Steele (2-1, 6.43), who was a two-way player the last two years but will now focus on pitching. His mid-90s fastball and slider will play well out of the bullpen. The lineup will have a much different look but returns dynamic second baseman Kyle Hannon (.293/.402/.486, 7 HR, 27 SB) and Grant Norris (.276/.367/.538, 7 HR), who will move from third base to shortstop. Among the newcomers, outfielder Adam Cecere (Wake Forest) and third baseman Bryce Molinaro (St. John’s) are potential difference makers.

9. Illinois (25-27, 12-12)

The Illini are coming off their first losing season since 2017 and will be eager to bounce back strongly this spring. Three of the team’s biggest bats return in outfielder Ryan Moerman (.300/.372/.547, 12 HR), DH Jacob Schroeder (.284/.405/.649, 14 HR) and first baseman Drake Westcott (.299/.391/.582, 18 HR). That trio accounted for half of the Illini’s 89 home runs last season, a total that ranked third in the Big Ten. Illinois also returns its double-play duo of Brody Harding (.273/.394/.371) and Cal Hejza (.228/.325/.353), who anchored a strong defense that ranked second in the conference in fielding (.979).

Illinois is resetting on the mound after losing its top-two starters from last season. Veteran righthander Jack Crowder (3-3, 7.87) has the stuff to move to the front of the rotation and sophomore righthander Julius Sanchez (0-5, 6.79) has upside. the Illini have a bevy of newcomers who will get in the mix as well. Cooper Omans (Nova Southeastern), Sam Reed (Eastern Michigan) and Jake Rons are a few of the more promising newcomers.

10. Michigan State (33-22, 12-12)

The Spartans took a step forward in 2023, as their 33 wins were their most since 2016 (also the last time they finished .500 or better in conference play). They were a solid offensive team, ranking second in the Big Ten in batting (.299), third in on-base percentage (.403) and fourth in stolen bases (74). But four players from that lineup have moved on to pro ball, led by top-100 draft picks Mitch Jebb and Brock Vradenburg. Outfielder Jack Frank (.298/.417/.454, 19 SB), a three-year starter, is back, as are infielders Sam Busch (.268/.382/.476) and Dillon Kark (.275/.351/.450). Replacing the star power from last season’s lineup won’t be easy and the Spartans are mostly looking for returners to take a step forward more than turning to their newcomers.

Lefthander Joseph Dzierwa (6-4, 5.69) last season earned conference all-freshman honors and led the team in innings (74.1). Lefthander Nick Powers (5-3, 4.21) is also set to return to the rotation, with righthander Nolan Higgins (4-2, 6.56) likely joining them. With closer Wyatt Rush gone, Michigan State will need some new relievers to step up. Powerful righthander Tommy Szczepanski, who is returning to his home state after spending his freshman season at Virginia Tech, is an X-factor. His stuff should help him pitch important innings in some capacity. The Spartan pitching staff will likely need to take on a bigger load this season to make up for some of the star power lost offensively.

11. Minnesota (18-34, 10-14)

Longtime coach John Anderson in December announced he will retire following the season, his 43rd at the helm of his alma mater. Anderson has won 1,365 games with the Golden Gophers, 17th all-time and third among active coaches. He’s the winningest baseball coach in Big Ten history, has won 11 conference titles and made 18 NCAA Tournament appearances. Minnesota last won the Big Ten in 2018, when it also advanced to super regionals, but it hasn’t had a winning record since 2019. If Minnesota is going to send Anderson off in style, it will need to take a step forward offensively after averaging just 4.8 runs per game, the least in the Big Ten and 286th nationally.

Leading hitter Brett Bateman is gone after being drafted in the eighth round, but the Gophers return seven regulars from that lineup. Senior outfielder Boston Merila (.303/.425/.377), second baseman Brady Counsell (.248/.316/.371, 9 SB) and catcher Weber Neels (.274/.372/.452, 7 HR) are among the keys. On the mound, Minnesota returns lefthanders Tucker Novotny (4-5, 5.03) and Connor Wietgrefe (2-3, 3.83, 5 SV), who will lead the rotation. Righthander Seth Clausen (2-1, 7.01, 4 SV) is back to anchor the bullpen. Minnesota has some talented newcomers, but if it’s going to make a jump this season, that’s likely going to be fueled by the development of its returners.

12. Purdue (24-29, 11-13)

The Boilermakers must replace several key players from last year’s team both in the lineup, where six regulars have moved on, and on the mound, where top starter Khal Stephen transferred to Mississippi State. Despite all the turnover, there are some stalwarts back for the Boilermakers, starting with outfielder Mike Bolton Jr. (.281/.434/.412, 28 SB). The fifth-year player already owns the program’s career stolen base record (74) and needs four triples to set another program record. Also back is outfielder Couper Cornblum (.310/.385/.386, 26 SB), and the duo of Bolton and Cornblum makes for the conference’s speediest at the top of the lineup. On the mound, lefthander Jonathan Blackwell (5-6, 6.22) and righthander Kyle Iwinski (3-5, 4.54), who last season joined Stephen in the rotation, return, as does closer Aaron Suval (3-1, 4.23, 5 SV).

Infielders Ty Gill (Illinois-Chicago), Thomas Green (Oakland) and Logan Sutter (junior college) are key among the newcomers. Sutter will man third base and brings a powerful righthanded bat. He this summer was named Appalachian League player of the year. Gill and Green will play up the middle, where they are strong defenders. On the mound, lefthanders Jordan Morales (Penn State) and Luke Wagner (Georgia) bring veteran experience to the starting mix.

13. Northwestern (10-40, 4-20)

The Wildcats are coming off a tumultuous season. Jim Foster, who was hired in the summer of 2022, was fired in July, following reported allegations of bullying and an overall toxic culture. On the field, Northwestern had one of its worst seasons ever. Its 10 overall wins were the program’s worst since it went 6-24-1 in 1970. Ben Greenspan was hired as the Wildcats’ new coach. He comes to the program after spending much of his career as an assistant coach under Tracy Smith, working with him at Michigan, Arizona State and Indiana.

Greenspan entered a difficult situation and will need time to turn things around, especially after losing half a dozen players to strong programs through the transfer portal. As a result, this season will probably be another tough one in Evanston. Catcher Bennett Markinson (.273/.364/.331), center fielder Griffin Arnone (.238/.363/.497, 9 HR) and righthander Matt McClure (1-6, 6.71) are returners who will be counted on in big roles. Among newcomers, look for freshman righthander Garrett Shearer and first baseman Sonny Rao, a junior college transfer, to make an impact.

2024 Top 100 Prospects

See the full Top 100 entering the 2024 season headlined by Orioles SS Jackson Holliday.

Top 10 2024 Draft Prospects

1. Brody Brecht, RHP, Iowa
2. Marcus Morgan, RHP, Iowa
3. Cade Obermueller, LHP, Iowa
4. Josh Kuroda-Grauer, SS, Rutgers
5. Carter Mathison, OF, Indiana
6. Brock Tibbitts, C, Indiana
7. Drew Christo, RHP, Nebraska
8. Sam Petersen, OF, Iowa
9. Gavin Bruni, LHP, Ohio State
10. Trey Lipsey, OF, Ohio State

Top 10 2025 Draft Prospects

1. Christian Coppola, RHP, Rutgers
2. Mitch Voit, 1B/RHP, Michigan
3. Landon Beidelschies, LHP, Ohio State
4. Joseph Dzierwa, LHP, Michigan State
5. Blake Guerin, 1B, Iowa
6. Henry Kaczmar, SS, Ohio State
7. Tommy Szczepanski, RHP, Michigan State
8. Gregory Pace Jr., OF, Michigan
9. Dylan Vigue, RHP, Michigan
10. Kyle McCoy, LHP, Maryland

Top 10 Freshmen

1. Andrew Wiggins, OF, Indiana
2. Dylan Vigue, RHP, Michigan
3. Cal Sefcik, INF, Indiana
4. Collin Priest, 1B, Michigan
5. Elliott Cadieux-Lanoue, LHP, Iowa
6. Christopher Hacopian, INF, Maryland
7. Mason Eckelman, C, Ohio State
8. Tucker Timmerman, RHP, Nebraska
9. Brayden Olson, RHP, Purdue
10. Gavin Moczydlowsky, RHP, Michigan State

Best Tools

Best pure hitter: Brock Tibbitts, Indiana
Best power hitter: Gabe Swansen, Nebraska
Best strike-zone discipline: Josh Kuroda-Grauer, Rutgers
Best athlete: Brody Brecht, Iowa
Fastest runner: Mike Bolton Jr., Purdue
Best baserunner: Sam Petersen, Iowa
Best defensive catcher: Cade Moss, Iowa
Best defensive infielder: Kevin Keister, Maryland
Best infield arm: Trent Liolios, Northwestern
Best defensive outfielder: Couper Cornblum, Purdue
Best outfield arm: Kyle Huckstorf, Iowa
Best fastball: Brody Brecht, Iowa
Best breaking ball: Brody Brecht, Iowa
Best changeup: Landon Beidelschies, Ohio State
Best control: Jaden Henline, Penn State

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