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Breaking Down The Big Ten's 2019 Recruiting Classes

Zmarziak, Bobby (Photo by Bill Mitchell).jpg
Bobby Zmarzlak (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 every team in the Big Ten. Maryland was the lone team from the conference ranked in the Top 25, and Michigan 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 11 teams that didn't make the rankings can be found here.

Illinois

Recruiting coordinator: Adam Christ
Top recruit: Xavier Watson, SS
Ranking: NR

Illinois brings in a large recruiting class and, after landing the No. 24-ranked class last year, it’s another strong one. Watson, one of the best players in Wisconsin last spring, has the defensive skills to play up the middle. He’s an above-average runner with good hands and arm strength and will hit for some power.

The Illini also added a strong group of junior college transfers, especially among position players. First baseman Garrett McGowan has a big, 6-foot-3, 240-pound frame and the lefthanded power to match. Alex Steinbach was a part of the 2018 Parkland (Ill.) team that finished runner-up at the Junior College World Series. He adds another powerful righthanded bat to the lineup and profiles at first base or as a corner outfielder. Outfielder Nick Menken transferred from Virginia Tech, where he was a starter when healthy the last two years but missed three months due to injury last season and took a medical redshirt. He’s a strong defender capable of manning center field.

On the mound, lefthander Cole Kirschsieper and righthander Grant Leader headline the class. Both are undersized—Kirschsieper is 5-foot-10 and Leader is 5-foot-9—but their size belies their ability. Kirschsieper has advanced control and pitchability. His fastball touches 90 mph, and he has excellent feel for his changeup to go with both a curveball and slider. Leader has more power—his fastball reaches 93 mph—and he has a hard, biting slider, as well as a changeup and curveball.

Indiana

Recruiting coordinator: Dan Held/Justin Parker
Top recruit: Nate Stahl, RHP/INF
Ranking: NR

The Hoosiers have a large class of newcomers after losing eight players off last spring’s Big Ten championship team to the draft. This is the first class coach Jeff Mercer and his staff have been able to put their stamp on, and it’s a strong group that will provide some immediate impact.

Stahl has a big, physical frame and offers two-way talent. On the mound, he has a good feel for throwing strikes with his three-pitch mix and throws his fastball in the low 90s. As a position player, he fits best at a corner infield spot and hits for some power. Reese Sharp is another physical righthander with a low-90s fastball and good slider. His stuff, physicality and mindset give him a chance to start. Lefthander Jack Walker has a projectable, 6-foot-5 frame and stuff that plays now. He also has two-way potential.

Outfielder Ethan Vecrumba has a physical, 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame and an exciting tool set. He’s a plus runner with strong power potential, and while he has some rouge edges to refine, he has plenty of upside. Paul Toetz is a good athlete and has the versatility to play anywhere on the infield, traits that should help him get into the lineup quickly. Catchers Hunter Combs, a junior college transfer, and Brant Voth help the Hoosiers’ depth at the position and both have intriguing tools.

Iowa

Recruiting coordinator: Marty Sutherland
Top recruit: Peyton Williams, 1B/OF
Ranking: NR

With a lot of returning talent, Iowa won’t have to ask its newcomers to carry the load this spring, but the class does have some impact potential. Williams is a big, physical lefthanded hitter at a listed 6-foot-5, 230 pounds. His strength and easy swing translates to above-average power. He was named Iowa player of the year last season after leading the state with 16 home runs and was also a standout in football and basketball.

Dylan Nedved, a junior college transfer, has two-way potential as an infielder and righthander. He could step right into a spot on the left side of the infield for the Hawkeyes and also see time on the mound thanks to a fastball that sits around 90 mph. Outfielder Paul Vossen is a well above-average runner and that speed plays well both on the bases and defensively. Catcher Tyler Snep is a powerful lefthanded hitter who has made strides behind the plate and could quickly work his way into the lineup.

Righthander Jack Guzek, a junior college transfer, has a strong, projectable frame at a listed 6-foot-5, 205 pounds. He comes to Iowa as a redshirt sophomore after missing the 2018 season due to Tommy John surgery. If he can get back on track in Iowa City, he offers upside. Lefthander Ben Beutel, a junior college transfer, could quickly earn a role in the bullpen thanks to a good fastball-curveball combination.

Maryland

Recruiting coordinator: Matt Swope
Top recruit: Bobby Zmarzlak, OF (No. 200)
Ranking: No. 21

The Terrapins hauled in the best class in the Big Ten and landed in the Top 25 for the first time since 2015. They have a good mix of upside and players who can contribute right away. Zmarzlak is physical, toolsy and has massive upside thanks to his well above-average power and plus speed. Outfielder Tucker Flint doesn’t have as much upside but is more advanced and has an easy lefthanded swing that will play right away. Lefthander Ryan Ramsey pounds the strike zone with his three-pitch mix and will slide right into an important role on staff. Rightanders Sam Bello and Dave Flaco should also quickly get into the mix thanks to their powerful fastballs.

Michigan

Recruiting coordinator: Nick Schnabel
Top recruit: Jimmy Obertop, C (No. 456)
Ranking: Next 10

Coming off its breakthrough run to the College World Series finals, Michigan brings another strong class to Ann Arbor. Obertop, a physical catcher with advanced feel behind the plate, leads the position players, while infielder Cameron Hart, a junior college transfer, has solid power and should step right into the lineup. Lefthander Colin Czajkowski was the Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year and gives pitching coach Chris Fetter an exciting, projectable pitcher to work with.

Michigan State

Recruiting coordinator: Graham Sikes
Top recruit: Adam Berghorst, RHP
Ranking: NR

Michigan State brought in a small class—just half a dozen players—but it has impact ability. Berghorst is big and physical at a listed 6-foot-7, 265 pounds and is playing defensive end for the Spartans this fall. He’s made strides on the mound in the past year and still has more upside. His fastball mostly sits in the upper 80s, and he has good feel for his changeup.

Among position layers, outfielder Jack Frank and infielder Dillon Kark are the standouts. Frank has a solid lefthanded swing, and his plus speed plays well both on the bases and in center field. Kark played shortstop in high school but has the versatility to play anywhere on the infield and has some power in his bat. Both Frank and Kark figure to quickly work their way into the Spartans’ lineup.

Minnesota

Recruiting coordinator: Patrick Casey
Top recruit: Sam Ireland, 1B/RHP
Ranking: NR

The Golden Gophers have been one of the most consistent teams in the Big Ten in recent seasons, and their ability to bring in talent is a key part of that success. This year, Minnesota has a bigger recruiting class that should be able to provide some immediate impact.

Ireland was named Colorado’s player of the year in back-to-back seasons and has two-way talent. He has a strong frame at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, and at the plate that translates to gap-to-gap righthanded power. On the mound, his fastball sits around 90 mph and he mixes in a hard slider. Shortstop Drew Stahl was Ireland’s high school teammate and now joins him at Minnesota. He has good range and a strong arm to go with solid power potential. First baseman Ronnie Sweeny, a junior college transfer, stands out for his lefthanded power and is a solid defender who should step right into the lineup.

Lefthander Will Anderson was one of the best prep pitchers in Minnesota last spring and should be able to carve out a role on the Gophers’ staff. His fastball sits in the upper 80s, and he has good feel for his breaking ball. Righthander Trent Schoeberl has a projectable, 6-foot-4, 185-pound frame and good feel for pitching. His fastball sits around 90 mph to go with a breaking ball and changeup. Minnesota also brings in righthander Drake Davis, a transfer from Arizona State. His fastball reaches 93 mph, and he has a big curveball and a good feel for his changeup.

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Nebraska

Recruiting coordinator: Lance Harvell
Top recruit: Sayer Diederich, LHP/OF
Ranking: NR

Will Bolt and his staff at Nebraska inherit a solid class as they take over the program following Darin Erstad’s retirement. The Huskers’ class held together through the draft, giving them a strong overall group, especially on the mound.

Diederich was the top prep player in Nebraska last spring and has two-way potential but is more advanced on the mound. He has plenty of athleticism and a good feel for pitching. His fastball can get up to 93 mph and typically sits in the upper 80s to go with a good slider and changeup. Nebraska added two more promising lefthanders in Ethan Bradford and Cade Povich, the latter a junior college transfer. Bradford was named pitcher of the year in Kansas and has a projectable, 6-foot-3 frame and a good feel on the mound. Povich was a junior college all-American last spring and has advanced pitchability that will help him step into a key role on the Nebraska staff. Righthander/first baseman Braxton Bragg is very athletic and has power on the mound and at the plate.

Outfielders Leighton Banjoff and Drew Mackie stand out for their feel for hitting. Banjoff generates plenty of bat speed that portends more power as he physically matures. Mackie has a smooth lefthanded swing and good feel for the barrel. Catcher Aaron Dolney has a large, physical frame and offers a powerful bat and arm strength.

Northwestern

Recruiting coordinator: Josh Reynolds
Top recruit: Evan Minarovic, SS
Ranking: NR

The Wildcats class is pitching heavy, as five of their eight newcomers are pitchers. The position players in the class, however, all have exciting tools. Minarovic has plus speed and arm strength, which will help him stay up the middle. As he physically matures, he’ll add more offensive impact to his gap-to-gap power. Catcher Stephen Hrustic has a big, strong frame, and the switch-hitter figures to be able to quickly find a way into the lineup. Luke Tanner is an above-average runner who plays with a hard-nosed style and has the versatility to play all over the field.

Righthander Jack Sauser has a big, projectable, 6-foot-6 frame and throws a lot of strikes with his fastball-slider combination. Righthander Coby Moe throws his fastball in the upper 80s with a high spin rate and has a strong mentality on the mound. Righthander Jack Dyke throws three pitches for strikes and profiles well in the bullpen.

Ohio State

Recruiting coordinator: Matt Angle
Top recruit: Yianni Skeriotis, RHP
Ranking: NR

Ohio State brought in a strong, well-rounded class that includes both the state’s Division I player of the year (Skeriotis) and Division IV player of the year (infielder Nate Karaffa). Skeriotis had an exceptional career at Massillon Jackson High, which he finished with a 28-1 record. He has a projectable, 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame, and while he doesn’t have big velocity yet, he has a good feel for his full arsenal. Karaffa was a three-sport star for Toronto High, where he set school records as a quarterback and scored more than 1,000 points and earned all-Ohio honors in basketball. That athleticism and his defense give him a chance to play anywhere on the infield.

Mitchell Okuley is a smooth lefthanded hitter with a good feel for the barrel. His speed and arm strength profile well in the outfield. Catcher Archer Brookman has a strong, powerful frame, and the righthanded hitter has been a strong run producer the last two seasons in junior college. Caden Kaiser has a good feel for hitting and profiles well as a corner outfielder or first baseman.

Righthanders Tyler Kean and Wyatt Loncar both stand out most for their pitchability. Kean has more power now with a fastball that he runs into the upper 80s and a promising changeup and curveball to mix in. Loncar, listed at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, pounds the strike zone and pitches from a steep downhill angle.

Penn State

Recruiting coordinator: Josh Newman
Top recruit: Braden Halladay, RHP
Ranking: NR

The strength of Penn State’s class is on the mound, where they were able to bring in some pitchers who have a chance to quickly work their way into important roles. The headliner of the group is Halladay, the son of Hall of Famer Roy Halladay. He helped Calvary Christian Academy to two Florida state titles in three years, and his feel for pitching plays well for him. He has a projectable frame and a fastball that sits in the mid- to upper 80s to go with promising secondary offerings.

Righthander Logan Evans has a strong, physical frame and a power arm. His fastball gets into the low 90s with heavy run. Lefthander Casey Kempner, a junior college transfer, will miss this season due to injury, but if he returns to full health in 2021 he has the tools to step into Penn State's rotation.

Catcher Matt Wood headlines the position player newcomers. The lefthanded hitter has a good approach at the plate and athleticism defensively that gives him a chance to step right into the lineup. Shortstop Ben Kailher has good athleticism that plays well both at the plate and in the field. Johnny Piacentino has two-way potential, but his biggest impact is likely to come as a corner outfielder. His arm strength also gives him a chance to pitch out of the bullpen.

Purdue

Recruiting coordinator: Cooper Fouts
Top recruit: Jett Jackson, RHP
Ranking: NR

Purdue lost a few players in the coaching turnover as Greg Goff took over following Mark Wasikowski’s move to Oregon. Despite the changes, Purdue has a fair amount of continuity, as Goff was Wasikowski’s volunteer assistant and Fouts remained with the program, helping the Boilermakers retain much of the class.

Jackson leads the way on the mound as a projectable righthander listed at 6-foot-4, 180 pounds. He has feel for his full, three-pitch arsenal, with a fastball that gets up to 91 mph and typically sits in the upper 80s to go with a changeup and curveball. Righthander Knolton Clark also has some projection in his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame, and he controls his arsenal well. His fastball sits in the upper 80s, and he works in his secondary pitches well.

Outfielder Jack Firestone got some late buzz last spring and could quickly work his way into the Purdue lineup. The lefthanded hitter has a good swing and projectable power that makes him a good fit in an outfield corner. Tyler Brandenburg and Jack Parr are both big, physical infielders with plenty of raw power. Brandenburg, listed at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, has shows some good feel for the barrel, and Parr, listed at 6-foot-7, 210 pounds, can drive the ball out to all fields.

Rutgers

Recruiting coordinator: Brendan Monaghan
Top recruit: Gus Sosa, C
Ranking: NR

As Steve Owens takes over the program after being hired away from Bryant, he and his staff have a solid group of newcomers to work with. The class is deeper on the position player side and includes a few players who should be able to step right into the Scarlet Knights’ lineup.

Sosa, who has a projectable frame, leads the way. He has good athleticism that plays well behind the plate defensively and is a good hitter who should grow into more power in time. Outfielders Reece Horneck and Josh Rodriguez also bring good athleticism to the class. Horneck has more of a center field profile, while Rodriguez fits well in an outfield corner.

On the mound, righthander Kyle Potthoff offers plenty of projection in his 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame. He’s still relatively new to pitching and throws his fastball in the upper 80s while mixing in a changeup and slider. Righthander Matt Ciccone is more advanced and shows good pitchability and control. Grant Shulman has two-way potential as an infielder and righthander. He has a strong lefthanded bat and throws in the upper 80s on the mound.

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