Image credit: Tanner Witt (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 12. Five teams from the conference ranked in the Top 25, the conference’s best showing in the 20-year history of the rankings. Links to full breakdowns for those teams can be found below, as well as a snapshot view of the class. Full breakdowns for the four teams that didn’t make the rankings can be found here.
All rankings are according to the 2020 BA 500, which included all draft-eligible players.
The Bears brought in a strong, deep class that offers impact around the diamond. Shapen was the top-ranked player in the class and comes to Waco as a two-sport athlete. He’s also playing football at Baylor and was rated as a three-star quarterback by 247 Sports. He offers impressive athleticism, bat speed and has the tools to play shortstop. Playing baseball and quarterback is a difficult double, but his upside is exciting.
Catcher JD Gregson is big and physical but moves well behind the plate and has solid catch-and-throw skills. Offensively, his bat speed and strength create good raw power. Shortstop Alex Gonzales played at a high level in high school and his feel for hitting gives him a chance for quick success.
Baylor’s class is especially deep on the mound. Righthander Andy Owen throws a lot of strikes with a good three-pitch mix. His fastball gets into the low 90s and he has a loose, easy delivery. Lefthanders Cam Caley, Ty Fontenot and Luke Thompson offer good upside on the mound. Caley is a good athlete, can run his fastball up to 91 mph and has good feel for his offspeed stuff. Fontenot is a good athlete and his 6-foot-5 frame plays well both on the basketball court and diamond. His fastball also gets into the low 90s and he pairs it with a big curveball. Thompson has a projectable 6-foot-3 frame and an easy delivery. As he physically matures, his fastball-curveball combination will take a step forward.
The Jayhawks bring in a large, talented recruiting class that Ritch Price believes could be the best in his 19 years as head coach. It has a little bit of everything but is particularly deep on the infield. Ahuna leads the way as a projectable player with advanced instincts and baseball IQ. Listed at 6 feet, 160 pounds, the lefthanded hitter’s offensive impact will increase as he physically matures. His defensive skills and contact ability at the plate will help him quickly get in the Kansas lineup.
Ryan Callahan has a smooth lefthanded swing and makes a lot of contact at the plate. He’s a good athlete—he was also a strong football player in high school—and has good tools defensively. Catcher Tony Castonguay, a switch-hitter, has good athleticism that plays behind the plate and gives him defensive versatility. Infielder Jack Hammond, a righthanded hitter, has good bat-to-ball skills that should quickly translate to the college game.
Lefthander Sam Brady stands out for his pitchability, which will help him to carve out a role with the Jayhawks. He’s not overpowering but throws a lot of strikes with his three-pitch arsenal and knows how to get outs. Righthander Carson Collins has a powerful 6 feet, 195-pound frame and attacks hitters with a fastball-curveball combination. Righthander Jacob Dillon also has a strong build and could grow into more velocity as he physically matures.
Recruiting coordinator: Austin Wates
Top recruit: Tyler Ruhl, RHP/OF
The Wildcats didn’t bring in a large recruiting class this year as they bring back much of last year’s team intact. The newcomers offer strong potential, however, and a few figure to make quick impacts.
Ruhl has two-way potential but stands out more on the mound. Listed at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, his fastball gets up to 91 mph with heavy sinking action. He throws a lot of strikes and mixes in a good breaking ball and changeup. Lefthander Grant Nicholson offers projection to go with a solid track record during his prep career. His fastball works into the upper 80s and he pairs it with the makings of a good changeup. Lefthander Brett Wozniak also built a strong prep track record and his combination of pitchability and stuff could play quickly out of the bullpen.
Catcher Raphael Pelletier was drafted by the Rangers in the 25th round in 2019, but the Quebec native opted to complete his prep education with CEGEP, a one-year collegiate technical program exclusive to the province. He’s a good defender with solid catch-and-throw skills and the lefthanded hitter brings a line-drive approach at the plate. Outfielder Cameron Uselton has good all-around tools and a good righthanded swing. Luke Beckstein and Nick Goodwin add depth to the Wildcats’ infield. Beckstein is a versatile defender who makes a lot of contact, while Goodwin is a strong righthanded hitter and can play on the left side of the infield.
The Sooners took advantage of a strong Oklahoma prep class and signed the state’s top three players. While lefthander Dax Fulton was lost in the draft, Horton and outfielder Jace Bohrofen (141) both made it to Norman as the cornerstones of a strong class that is heavy on junior college talent. Horton is an elite athlete who came to Norman with the hope of playing both baseball and football, but is now focused on baseball. He’s a two-way talent on the diamond as a shortstop and righthander. Bohrofen stands out for his athleticism and plus speed, which plays well in the outfield. Lefthander Dalton Fowler leads the Sooners’ junior college transfers on the mound and could be a factor in the rotation.
The Cowboys’ class is heavy on prep position players and junior college pitchers and helps strengthen some key areas of the Cowboys’ roster. McLean is an outstanding athlete and can do a little bit of everything. He’s playing both baseball and football at Oklahoma State and on the diamond can help as both a pitcher and infielder. Lefthander Justin Wrobleski (272), a junior college transfer, and righthander Trevor Martin (372) can both quickly make an impact on the mound. Outfielder Dom Johnson (312) is one of the fastest players in the draft class, while third baseman Christian Encarnacion-Strand was a prolific hitter at the junior college level and brings an impact bat to Stillwater.
Texas had the top-ranked class on Signing Day and going into the draft, but it ultimately lost its top four recruits—all ranked in the top 100—to pro ball. Still, there was good depth to the class—especially on the mound—and the Longhorns bolstered it with a couple late additions to haul in another top-10 group. Witt has real two-way potential and will get a chance to do both in Austin, but his upside may be the highest on the mound. Righthanders Travis Sthele (171), Lebarron Johnson (319) and Aaron Nixon (403) add a trio of promising arms to the class, while lefthander Lucas Gordon (411) stands out for his polish and pitchability.
Premium pitching headlines the class, but the Horned Frogs are bringing in solid contributors around the diamond. Brown has a strong build and has taken a step forward with his pitchability, which has also helped his stuff improve. Righthanders Storm Hierholzer (320) and Braxton Pearson (358) have good fastball-slider combinations that will play right away for TCU. Outfielders Elijah Nunez (350) and Luke Boyers (388) stand out for their speed and athleticism. Devan Ornelas has the tools to play up the middle, and shortstop Brayden Taylor gives the class an excellent defender at a premium position.
The Red Raiders went all in on pitching in this class. They had a young lineup in 2020, often starting five or six freshmen, so their needs mostly lie on the mound and this class deepens the pitching staff. Birdsell, a junior college transfer, has the highest profile and was starting to heat up when the season ended thanks to his power stuff. Righthanders Levi Wells (211), Chase Hampton (271) and Brendan Girton (382) all have big arms with plenty of upside. Lefthanders Nick Gorby and Matthew Luna have the stuff and pitchability to quickly make an impact in Lubbock. Slugger Braydon Runion, a junior college transfer, is the position player to watch in the class thanks to his combination of power and speed.
The Mountaineers put together a strong class, particularly on the mound, that is well positioned to maintain the program’s momentum. Chadwick and lefthander Adam Tulloch (295), a junior college transfer, give West Virginia a pair of powerful pitchers with plenty of upside. Chadwick is listed at 6-foot-5, 216 pounds and creates easy velocity, running his fastball up to 97 mph. He may have more velocity to come, but he’ll need to refine his control and slider to reach his considerable ceiling. Tulloch has more effort to his delivery, but can run his fastball up to 95 mph. Like Chadwick, his control and breaking ball still need some refinement, but his raw tools are impressive.
Righthander Carlson Reed has a projectable 6-foot-4 frame and can run his fastball into the low 90s. He throws a lot of strikes and his slider shows a lot of promise. Lefthander Ben Hampton stands out for his pitchability and curveball, a combination that can play right away for the Mountaineers.
Nate Blasick has a physical build at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds and offers power both at the plate and on the mound. He profiles well as a corner infielder and the righthander can also help on the mound thanks to a fastball that reaches the low 90s. Catcher McGwire Holbrook produces good righthanded power thanks to his strong frame and has solid defensive skills behind the plate. Outfielder Braden Barry has intriguing upside thanks to his plus speed and athleticism.