American Athletic Conference 2020 College Baseball Recruiting Breakdown
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 American. While just one team (Central Florida) made either the Top 25 or the next 10 classes, there are still some intriguing recruiting classes in the conference. Full breakdowns for the conference’s classes can be found here.
All rankings are according to the 2020 BA 500, which included all draft-eligible players.
UCF brings in a solid class ready to help build on a strong spring that saw it climb in the rankings before the season was canceled. Freeland is ready to step right into the Knights’ lineup on the left side of the infield. A switch-hitter, he brings a solid offensive package and good hands on the infield. Outfielder Joseph Coffey and infielder John Montes will add speed to the Knights’ lineup. UCF has a deep group of newcomers on the mound, including righthanders Nick Vieira and Ben Vespi. Both look ready to step into important roles on staff, while also still providing upside.
Recruiting coordinator: JD Heilmann
Top recruit: Max Bergmann, RHP
The Bearcats went heavy on pitching in this class, adding some intriguing arms with upside to the staff. Bergmann has a projectable 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame and his velocity has ticked up in the last year, touching 92 mph. He throws a big curveball and can mix in a changeup as well.
Righthander Aiden Bradbury also has a projectable look at a listed 6-foot-4, 195 pounds. His fastball works in the upper 80s now, but he should be able to add more velocity as he physically matures. Righthander Jose Guzman, listed at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, is a bit more physical than Bergmann and Bradbury but still has some projection as he refines his delivery. His fastball gets up to 93 mph but typically sits a tick lower. Cincinnati also added transfers Beau Keathley (Oakland) and Dean McCarthy (Elon). Keathley, a righthander, throws from a low slot, almost true sidearm, that makes for a tough matchup, while McCarthy gives the Bearcats an experienced lefty.
Infielder Kerrington Cross has a loose righthanded swing and creates good bat speed. His athleticism plays well defensively, and he can play up the middle. Outfielder Cole Harting has exciting offensive upside. He has an aggressive approach to the game and makes the most of his above-average speed, while also providing some righthanded pop. Outfielder Mike Koszewski did a bit of everything in high school and has a strong competitive edge. He offers athleticism and a good approach at the plate. Catcher Tanner Holen, a transfer from Kentucky, gives the Bearcats experience at the position.
The Pirates this year have another solid recruiting class that’s particularly deep among position players. Moylan draws natural comparisons to former ECU star Spencer Brickhouse thanks to his size (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) and powerful lefthanded bat. He’s power over hit at this stage, but with some fine-tuning, he has the ability to develop into a good all-around hitter. He played some third base in high school but will be a first baseman moving forward.
If ECU found the next Spencer Brickhouse in Moylan, it may have found a replacement for Alec Burleson in Cam Clonch. Like Burleson, Clonch can help the Pirates at first base, the outfield and on the mound. He’s not as advanced as Burleson was as a freshman, but he’s got impressive lefthanded power potential at the plate. On the mound, the lefthander isn’t overpowering but his stuff plays well. Austin St. Laurent also has two-way potential as an infielder/righthander. He has a good righthanded swing and the versatility to play anywhere on the infield. He’ll also help ECU out of the bullpen thanks to a fastball that gets up to 94 mph.
Outfielder Trey Truitt has a strong, physical 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame with good lefthanded power. Righthanders Danny Beal, Landon Ginn and Josh Grosz could all quickly contribute on the mound thanks to fastballs that sit around 90 mph and solid secondary stuff. Grosz has the biggest upside and a projectable 6-foot-4, 180-pound build. Ginn has a strong prep track record and has the most present velocity, traits that can help him carve out an important role.
Recruiting coordinator: Terry Rooney
Top recruit: Jaycob Deese, RHP
The Cougars have a huge class of newcomers that’s heavy on transfers from two- and four-year schools to go with a solid group of freshmen. With so much experience coming in—and a fair amount of turnover of last year’s roster—this class is going to be counted on to provide instant impact.
Deese isn’t physically imposing at 6 feet, 175 pounds, but has a quick arm and a big fastball. His fastball sits in the low 90s and can get up to 95 mph to go with a good slider. Righthander Ben Sears, the 2018 Rhode Island Gatorade Player of the Year, has a strong frame at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds. His fastball sits in the low 90s and he could step into a spot in the Cougars’ rotation. Like Sears, righthander Blake Schultz has a low-90s fastball and could move right into the rotation. Houston’s pitching staff will also be bolstered by the addition of four-year transfers Andy Belcik (Notre Dame), MacGregor Hines (Dallas Baptist) and Matt Lazzaro (Furman). Belick and Hines both will take on roles at the back of the bullpen, while Lazzaro has starting experience.
Outfielder Brandon Uhse gives the class a speedster and he this spring led the junior college ranks with 28 stolen bases in just 27 games. He’s a good hitter as well and should slot in at the top of the lineup. Outfielder Cole Turney was well regarded coming out of high school and began his college career at Arkansas before transferring to San Jacinto (Texas) JC and now Houston. He’s had some injury troubles in the past, but when he’s healthy he has a good feel for hitting and an easy lefthanded swing. Shortstop Samuel Tormos, a prep product, also has premium speed and in 2019 was a part of a state championship relay team in the 4x400. That speed plays well on the diamond and he offers offensive upside.
North Carolina State Baseball: Five Questions to Answer Entering 2021
NC State is one of the most consistent programs in the country, and expectations should be high once again in 2021.
The Tigers have a small, compact class, but one that still provides some impact talent. Cothren has a strong, athletic 6-foot-3 build and a big arm. His fastball gets into the low 90s and he mixes it with both a good changeup and slider. He has the upside of a frontline starter for the Tigers.
Righthander Chase Kessinger and lefthander JT Durham both come to Memphis from Northeast Mississippi JC. Kessinger, whose father Keith and grandfather Don played in the big leagues, has a powerful fastball-curveball combination that plays well out of the bullpen. Durham controls the zone well with his full arsenal and has the tools to be a starter. Lefthander Price Watson offers good pitchability and could soon carve out a role on staff.
Outfielders BJ Banyon and Sam Slaughter both add good speed to the Tigers’ lineup. Slaughter offers some lefthanded power potential as well. Keilon Brown is a two-sport standout and is also playing football for the Tigers. Rated as a three-star quarterback by 247 Sports, he’s a toolsy and athletic outfielder with plenty of upside, though how his career progresses in football will always be a factor in his ability to reach his ceiling on the diamond. Memphis also added Sterling Turmon as a transfer from Furman. He has a powerful lefthanded bat and can play first base or an outfield corner.
Recruiting coordinator: Bo Durkac
Top recruit: Roberto Pena, 3B/RHP
The Bulls have a large group of newcomers, infusing the team with both increased depth and talent. Pena began his career at Florida before transferring to Central Florida JC and now USF. He has a solid offensive track record, power potential and provides good defense. He also runs his fastball into the low 90s and mixes in a slider.
Drew Brutcher and Albert Hernandez also have two-way potential as righthanders/outfielders. Brutcher is USF’s top incoming freshman and stands out most on the mound. Listed at 6-foot-6, 210 pounds, his fastball gets into the low 90s now and he could add more velocity as he physically develops. Offensively, he has good feel at the plate and some lefthanded power potential. Hernandez doesn’t have quite as much upside but can contribute right away. He throws a lot of strikes with his fastball-curveball combination and the righthanded hitter has a solid approach at the plate.
Drafted in the 30th round by the Braves in 2017, lefthander Hayden Wynja began his college career at Purdue but it never really got on track due to injury. He transferred to Lincoln Trail (Ill.) JC and now to USF. Listed at 6-foot-8, he makes for a tough matchup and attacks hitters with a low-90s fastball. Righthanders Brad Lord and Alex Lozado, both junior college transfers, will figure into the pitching staff as well. Lord has a powerful fastball-slider combination that will play well in the bullpen, while Lozado stands out more for his control.
Matt Ruiz has a good righthanded swing and makes a lot of hard contact, portending more power as he fills out his 6-foot-3 frame. He profiles well as a corner outfielder and can also play some third base. Catcher Nelson Rivera, a native of Puerto Rico, is a strong defender behind the plate and has a compact righthanded swing.
Recruiting coordinator: Jay Uhlman
Top recruit: Blake Mahmood, RHP
The Green Wave are bringing on a sizable class, both of incoming freshmen and transfers from two- and four-year schools. Tulane has had success recruiting the junior college ranks, most recently when they last year brought in ace Braden Olthoff. This year, the freshmen and junior college transfers are buttressed by four-year transfers on the mound Keaton Knueppel (Gonzaga) and Jake McDonald (Texas Tech).
Mahmood headlines the freshman class. Listed at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, he gets good extension and throws a heavy fastball that he can run up to 93 mph. He pairs it well with a promising breaking ball and still has a lot of upside. Outfielders Matthew Bihm and Jacob LaPrairie both have above-average speed and are good lefthanded hitters. Bihm is a little bigger and may have more impact offensively if he keeps growing into power. LaPrairie is a good athlete and uses his speed well both offensively and defensively. Infielder Chase Engelhard also offers good speed and is a solid defender who can play up the middle.
Among Tulane’s junior college transfers, righthander Aaron Ball leads the way on the mound. Listed at 6-foot-3, 237 pounds, his fastball sits around 90 mph and touches 94 to go with a good curveball. He could quickly work his way into the rotation. Righthander Tyler Hoffman attacks hitters with a fastball-slider combination that should help him quickly carve out a role on the Green Wave staff. Outfielder Jared Hart adds more speed to the lineup and has a short, quick righthanded swing. First baseman Walker Burchfield has a big 6-foot-2, 235-pound frame and adds a powerful righthanded bat to the class.
As Eric Wedge begins his second year at the program’s helm, the Shockers have added a strong recruiting class filled with exciting position players. Harris is emblematic of that. He has an advanced understanding of the game that helps him get the most out of his tools and will help him to quickly make an impact in Wichita. His defense is ahead of his offense, and he’s an above-average receiver.
Shortstop Hunter Cramer was a late pickup for the Shockers and previously was committed to Arkansas. The righthanded hitter creates good bat speed and should add more power as he physically matures. His hands, athleticism and speed are all solid, making for a good overall defensive package. Seth Stroh has two-way potential but stands out most as a position player. He’s a plus runner and has upside as a lefthanded hitter, though he’s still a bit raw overall. Noah Greise is a good athlete and offers defensive versatility. He has some righthanded power potential, a good arm behind the plate and the versatility to play on the infield as well.
Righthander Cameron Bye leads the way on the mound. He’s a good athlete and still has some projection left. He runs his fastball up to 94 mph and pairs it with a good slider. Righthander Jace Kaminska, the two-time Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year, gives the class another power arm. His fastball sits in the low 90s and he mixes in a big curveball and changeup. Lefthander Max Chapman is a good athlete and repeats his delivery well, allowing him to consistently throw strikes. His stuff isn’t overpowering, but his three-pitch arsenal is effective. Wichita State also added some experienced transfers in Spencer Hynes (Nebraska) and Gareth Stroh (Nebraska), the older brother of Seth, who will add depth to the staff.