Big Ten 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 Big Ten. While just one team (Maryland) made either the Top 25 or the next 10 classes, there are still some very strong 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.
Recruiting coordinator: Adam Christ
Top recruit: Andrew Hoffmann, RHP
The Illini put together a strong recruiting class that features both upside on the mound and some junior college transfers who will quickly make an impact. Hoffmann is emblematic of the class as he fits at the intersection of those categories. He’s impressed the last two summers in the Northwoods League and in 2019 was named its pitcher of the year. Hoffmann has a lanky 6-foot-5, 195-pound frame and throws his fastball in the low 90s to go with a good slider and changeup.
Joining Hoffmann at Illinois are his John A. Logan (Ill.) JC teammates catcher Ryan Hampe and infielder Zak Hartleb, the son of coach Dan Hartleb. Hampe had an excellent freshman year at Illinois-Chicago in 2019, earning first-team all-Horizon League honors. He’s hit everywhere he’s gone and his feel for hitting will be a boost to the Illini lineup, though his defense still needs some refinement. Hartleb is a versatile player who can play nearly anywhere on the diamond.
Righthander Jack Crowder leads the incoming freshmen. He has a strong 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame and an easy delivery. His fastball sits in the low 90s and can touch 95 mph, and he also mixes in a slider and changeup. Righthander Clayton Johnson has a big frame at 6-foot-8, 230 pounds and can run his fastball into the low 90s. He has good athleticism and upside on the mound. Tom Jurack and Connor Milton could team up in the outfield for the next few years. Jurack has a powerful righthanded swing and profiles well in an outfield corner, while Milton’s plus speed and athleticism fit well in center field.
Recruiting coordinator: Derek Simmons
Top recruit: Tank Espalin, SS
The Hoosiers have a solid incoming class built largely around position players. It features four transfers that have impact ability, perhaps most excitingly outfielder Morgan Colopy, who in 2019 was drafted in the 34th round out of high school by the Giants. He initially went to Cincinnati but decided to transfer at the semester break. He’s joined by catcher Jacob Southern (Jacksonville), outfielder Bobby Whalen (Louisville) and infielder/righthander Craig Yoho (Houston), and all four figure to make an impact.
Espalin leads the Hoosiers’ traditional recruiting class. He was a late addition after long being committed to Southern California, but the shortened draft created a glut of middle infielders for the Trojans and Espalin reopened his commitment. He played at a high level throughout high school in Southern California and his combination of athleticism, baseball instincts and a good lefthanded swing make for a promising all-around package. Kip Fougerousse has a physical 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame and a powerful righthanded swing. He can produce impressive exit velocity and profiles well as a corner infielder. Tyler Nelson and Brennan Rowe add two more promising infielders with strong offensive upside.
Righthander Costa Sirounis has a big 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame and two-way potential with big upside on the mound. His fastball gets into the low 90s now, but he should be able to add more consistent velocity as he physically matures. He also has power potential as a lefthanded hitter. Righthander Casper Clark uses his 6-foot-6, 260-pound frame to get good extension and attacks hitters with a heavy sinker.
Recruiting coordinator: Marty Sutherland
Top recruit: Tyson James, RHP
The Hawkeyes went pitching heavy in this class and bring in an impressive combination of impact arms and upside. James has a strong, physical 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame and a big arm to match. He touched 95 mph this summer, up a tick from what he showed previously. He also works in a curveball and changeup, and has the upside to develop into a weekend starter in time.
Righthander Ty Langenberg has good athleticism and throws a lot of strikes with his three-pitch mix. His fastball gets into the low 90s and he could quickly carve out an important role on staff. Lefthander Jack Radford, a junior college transfer, adds a strong, experienced arm to the staff. He has a good fastball-slider combination that can play quickly. Righthander Jackson Payne has a projectable 6-foot-5 frame and ran his fastball up to 92 mph this summer.
Andy Nelson is a good athlete with two-way ability as an infielder and righthander. He’s an above-average runner and has some righthanded power at the plate, while also showing a good fastball-curveball combination on the mound. Keaton Anthony also has two-way potential, but stands out a bit more for his righthanded power that gives him the potential to develop as a middle-of-the-order hitter. Shortstop Michael Seegers stands out defensively thanks to a strong arm and good athleticism.
After last year hauling in a Top 25 class, Maryland this fall brought another solid group to College Park. Savacool is the headliner and gives the Terrapins a premium arm who can step right into a prominent role. Righthanders Nigel Belgrave and Gavin Stellpflug both have good size and could quickly find a role on the Terrapins’ staff. Logan Ott has two-way potential as an outfielder/lefthander, while Matt Shaw adds a dynamic, versatile athlete to the roster.
After losing seven players to pro ball this summer, Michigan played heavy in the transfer market, bringing in impact players such as righthander Will Proctor (Georgia) and shortstop Benjamin Sems (Kansas) as well as building depth behind the plate with catchers Griffin Mazur (UC Irvine) and Christian Molfetta (Stanford). Michigan also has another strong traditional recruiting class that is especially good on the mound.
Wood, the 2020 Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year, has an exciting package of projection, deception and stuff. His fastball sits around 90 mph and both his curveball and slider can be above average, giving him the tools to develop into a weekend starter in time. Lefthander Connor O’Halloran played with the Canadian Junior National Team and pairs current pitchability with some physical projection. He locates his mid- to upper-80s fastball well and effectively mixes in both a changeup and curveball. Righthander Ahmad Harajli spent last year as a postgrad at IMG Academy, where he saw his velocity increase, running his fastball as high as 95 mph. Righthander Noah Rennard has a physical 6-foot-3 frame and built a strong track record of success in junior college, traits that will help him compete immediately for the Wolverines.
Outfielder Tre Hondras is a good athlete whose tools profile at the top of the order. He’s an above-average runner, plays the game aggressively and creates a lot of hard contact at the plate. Outfielder Jake Marti, a junior college transfer, is a switch-hitter with plus speed. His dynamic tools should help him quickly get in Michigan’s lineup. Outfielder R.J. Moten could inject even more athleticism into the class. The two-sport standout is playing football at Michigan and was rated as a four-star recruit by 247 Sports but intends to play baseball as well. He’s a plus runner with a strong, powerful frame and plenty of upside on the diamond.
Recruiting coordinator: Graham Sikes
Top recruit: Mitch Jebb, SS
The Spartans have a large incoming class that adds to both their talent and depth. The newcomers also include a trio of players from Bowling Green State and Furman that Michigan State picked up after their programs were shuttered (though Bowling Green later reversed that decision).
Jebb has an exciting package of tools and is a good athlete. The lefthanded hitter has an easy swing and makes a lot of contact. An above-average runner, his athleticism and hands play well defensively, giving him all the tools to be the Spartans’ shortstop of the future. Gavin Thompson has two-way ability as an outfielder/righthander. Listed at 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, he has power at both positions and is a good athlete. Sluggers Sam Busch and Brock Vradenburg bring big, physical presences to the lineup. Vradenburg has a strong track record for hitting and is a good defensive first baseman. Busch was a star quarterback in high school and has good athleticism to go with a powerful lefthanded bat.
Righthander Jackson Bennett, a junior college transfer, has good size at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and has a quality three-pitch mix. He can pitch in a variety of roles and figures to quickly find a spot on the Spartans’ staff. Righthander Dominic Hann has a strong 6-foot-2 frame and a solid four-pitch mix. His fastball gets up to 91 mph and both his breaking balls show promise. Righthander Nick Smith came on strong over the last year and offers still more projectability. He attacks hitters with a good sinker-slider combination.
The Golden Gophers brought in a compact class of five prep players and two transfers (one junior college, one four-year). While it’s a small group, it’s also an impactful one that has the potential to end up being one of the Big Ten’s best this year.
Klassen is an exciting all-around talent on the mound. Listed at 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, he has a fast arm and still has projection left. His fastball sits in the low 90s with late life and he pairs it with a promising curveball and developing changeup. He still has some physical development to come and will need to refine his control, but if it all comes together, he could be a frontline starter for the Gophers. Lefthander Noah DeLuga has a good fastball-curveball combination and impressed this summer in the Northwoods League. His fastball works in the low 90s and there’s some deception to his delivery. Lefthander Tom Skoro transferred to Minnesota from Missouri. He adds experience to the bullpen and attacks hitters with a fastball-slider combination.
Cody Kelly joins his older brother Jack on the Gophers’ roster. The lefthanded hitter offers strong upside offensively and his athleticism plays well both behind the plate and on the infield. Brett Bateman has two-way ability as an outfielder and lefthander. He’s an excellent athlete with premium speed that profiles well as a top-of-the-order hitter and center fielder. He also throws his fastball in the upper 80s with a good changeup, giving him a chance to pitch as well. Infielder Boston Merila is a versatile switch-hitter and has good in-game instincts.
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Recruiting coordinator: Lance Harvell
Top recruit: Max Anderson, INF
The Huskers brought in a large class as they begin the second year of coach Will Bolt’s tenure in Lincoln. The position players in the group are especially strong, but there are also some impact arms mixed in. Anderson, the 2020 Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year, produces good bat speed that leads to solid righthanded power. He’s a versatile defender on the infield, which will help him quickly get into the Nebraska lineup.
The class includes a few junior college transfers who can be impactful hitters. Catcher Griffin Everitt this spring was off to a phenomenal start at the plate before the season was canceled. He’ll add a powerful righthanded bat to the lineup and has a big arm behind the plate. Like Everitt, outfielder Luke Sartori was off to a strong start to the season offensively. He has an exciting combination of power and speed and uses his speed very well on the base paths. Infielder Efrain Cervantes provides versatility defensively and has a solid track record for hitting.
Lefthander Jake Bunz, a junior college transfer, missed the last year due to Tommy John surgery but showed solid stuff before his injury. Listed at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, he has good size and throws a lot of strikes with his three-pitch mix. Righthander Koty Frank stands out for his pitchability and had a lot of success in junior college with his four-pitch arsenal. Lefthander Chat Hayes, also a junior college transfer, can also quickly compete for innings in Lincoln.
The Wildcats have a solid class of newcomers that should be able to quickly make an impact. Unlike several others in the conference, they did not play heavily in the transfer market, and instead bring in eight true freshmen.
Grable produced an impressive track record in the Southern California prep ranks and has two-way ability. He stands out most on the mound, however, and throws a lot of strikes. His fastball can get up to 94 mph and, as he grows into his 6-foot-4 frame, he should develop more consistent velocity. A lefthanded hitter, he has some raw power and good athleticism.
Outfielder Ethan O’Donnell is a solid all-around athlete and offers good lefthanded power. Infielder Tony Livermore was a two-sport star in high school and offers excellent athleticism and a consistent, balanced lefthanded swing. A second baseman in high school in deference to teammate Ed Howard, he has the tools to play either position on the middle of the infield. Infielder Vince Bianchina is a heady all-around player and the switch-hitter offers some offensive upside.
Righthander Kellen Pate has a good fastball-curveball combination. His fastball sits around 90 mph and he has good feel for his curveball. Righthander David Utagawa has a strong 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame and throws a lot of strikes with a fastball that can reach 93 mph. Righthander Garrett Boeckle has a physical build and a high-spin rate fastball. Jay Beshears has two-way ability as a catcher/righthander. He’s still learning behind the plate, but his strong arm plays well in both positions.
The Buckeyes put together another solid recruiting class that’s especially strong on the mound. That starts with Neely, a junior college transfer who began his college career at Texas. Listed at 6-foot-8, 240 pounds, he’s an imposing figure on the mound and is still just beginning to reach his significant upside on the mound. He uses his height well on the mound and creates a lot of ground ball outs with a heavy fastball-curveball combination. His velocity has ticked up this year, reaching 97 mph over the summer, and he could take off this spring in Columbus.
Lefthander Isaiah Coupet has a fast arm and projectable frame to go with promising stuff. His ability to throw three pitches for strikes should help him quickly carve out a role for the Buckeyes and in time could develop into a weekend starter. Righthanders Andrew Clelland and Nate Haberthier both have strong, physical builds—Clelland is 6-foot-6, 215 pounds and Harberthier is 6-foot-5, 225 pounds. Clelland has some projection and uses his height well on the mound, while Harberthier pounds the strike zone with a heavy fastball. Lefthander Caden Kline is the latest premium arm out of Defiance (Ohio) High, looking to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Chad Billingsley and Jon Niese. Kline has a projectable 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame and good arm speed, which portend more velocity to come.
Outfielder Kade Kern has an exciting array of tools. He’s an above-average runner with a powerful righthanded swing and a good approach at the plate. Outfielder Brady Emerson profiles well as a center fielder and top-of-the-order hitter. His speed plays well in the outfield and the lefthanded hitter makes a lot of contact at the plate. Catcher Evan Ulrich is a strong defender behind the plate thanks to both his catch-and-throw ability and his feel for the game.
Recruiting coordinator: Josh Newman
Top recruit: Jay Harry, SS
The Nittany Lions bring in a big recruiting class that has the potential to quickly make an impact on the diamond. Harry offers a solid offensive skillset and fits well at the top of the order. The lefthanded hitter has strength in his swing and produces good bat speed, and his foot speed plays well on the bases and gives him good range to stay in the middle of the infield.
Will Carpenter has a good lefthanded swing and a gap-to-gap approach at the plate. He’s a solid defender with a strong arm that plays well on the left side of the infield. First baseman Luke Chenault stands out for his offensive ability. The lefthanded hitter has a strong swing and power potential, while also demonstrating some good feel for hitting. Billy Gerlott played a lot of third base in high school but has the versatility to move around the diamond to get his righthanded bat in the lineup. Kyle Hannon profiles as an offensive second baseman thanks to his strong lefthanded swing.
Righthander Chad Rogers has a projectable 6-foot-5 frame and can run his fastball up to 91 mph with more consistent velocity to come as he physically matures. He has the makings of a good breaking ball and competes well, giving him the look of a future weekend starter. Jaden Henline was one of the standouts offensively for the 2015 Little League World Series runner-up, but it’s on the mound where he’s expected to make an impact for Penn State. The righthander has a good three-pitch mix and his athleticism plays well on the mound.
Purdue has a large class this fall that’s heavy on experience as it brings in several transfers both from the four-year and junior college ranks. The result is the Boilermakers will be an older, deeper team in Greg Goff’s second season as head coach.
Starnes and lefthander Calvin Schapira will look to provide instant impact on the pitching staff. Starnes has a projectable 6-foot-5, 185-pound frame and his fastball this summer touched 99 mph. Schapira began his college career at Southern California before transferring to junior college. His fastball sits around 90 mph and he pairs it with a good slider, throwing a lot of strikes with both pitches. Righthander Landon Weins was named the 2019 Ohio Valley Conference freshman pitcher of the year at Morehead State before transferring to junior college. He stands out for his command of his full three-pitch arsenal and solid changeup. That trio figures to play a prominent role this spring for the Boilermakers, with all three in the starting mix.
Catcher Steve Ramirez, a junior college transfer, should be able to take over behind the plate right away. He’s a good defender and comes to Purdue with a good track record for hitting. Outfielder Tyler Acosta, a junior college transfer, is a plus runner who profiles well at the top of the order and offers intriguing raw power. Logan Danzeisen and Jacob Morosko are the Boilermakers’ top incoming freshmen and both have two-way potential. Morosko offers a lot of upside as a righthander and has a solid three-pitch mix already. Danzeisen, also a righthander, can run his fastball up to 93 mph and offers good power as a lefthanded hitter.
Rutgers played heavily in the transfer market, both among four-year and junior college players, as it looks to take a step forward in coach Steve Owens’ second season at the helm. Righthander Jayson Hoopes and outfielder Evan Sleight both spent their first year of college at Virginia before transferring this summer. Hoopes, who was drafted in the 36th round out of high school by the Cubs, appeared in two games, while Sleight missed the season due to injury. Both offer a lot of upside and look like impact players over the next few years.
Lasko gives the class a standout freshman. He’s a good athlete with above-average speed and he makes a lot of contact, giving him the look of a top-of-the-order hitter. He covers ground well in center field and should be able to quickly work his way into the Scarlet Knights’ lineup. Cameron Love is a solid defender on the infield and uses his speed well on the basepaths. Lefthanders Alejandro Morales and Justin Sinibaldi are a pair of exciting pitchers. Morales is well polished after playing at a high level in the Miami prep ranks, while Sinibaldi’s stuff has ticked up over the last year and has projection left in his 6-foot-4 frame.
Righthander Nate McLain and lefthander Dale Stanavich give the class a pair of intriguing junior college transfers on the mound. McLain, listed at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, has a solid three-pitch mix and had success starting in junior college. Stanavich attacks hitters with a promising fastball-curveball combination that should play right away for Rutgers.