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Chase Burns, AJ Russell Among NCAA Baseball Opening Week Standouts (Hot Sheet)

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Image credit: AJ Russell (33) Tennessee Vols vs Texas Tech Red Raiders in the 2024 Shriners Children’s Classic at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas on Friday, February 15, 2024 (Photo by Eddie Kelly / ProLook Photos)

The College Hot Sheet has returned for the 2024 season. Like our pro Hot Sheet that runs during the minor league season, we’re recognizing some of the top performers from around the country in college baseball after each weekend of play. Carlos Collazo and Peter Flaherty contributed to the College Hot Sheet this week.

You can find our updated 2024 draft rankings here. All of our college coverage each week during the season can be found here.

Billy Amick, 3B, Tennessee
Class: 2024

What He Did: 4-for-13 (.307), 4 R, 5 RBI, 2 HR, 1 3B, 2 BB, 3 K

While much of the transfer portal discourse leading up to the season centered on Chase Burns leaving Knoxville, the Volunteers got a pretty good incoming hitter in Clemson transfer Billy Amick. He showed his impact potential immediately last weekend, homering twice and adding a triple while consistently hitting the ball with plenty of force. Amick’s strength and bat speed were obvious throughout the series, and he showed the raw power to mis-hit a ball out of a big league park to the opposite field and also played solid defense at the hot corner. Between Amick, Christian Moore and Blake Burke—there’s plenty of firepower in the Tennessee lineup. –CC

Chase Burns, RHP, Wake Forest
Class: 2024

What He Did: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K

Burns had one of the most highly-anticipated starts of opening weekend. The Wake Forest transfer is a premium righthanded arm and is looking to establish himself as a bonafide weekend starter. He aced his first test with flying colors, shutting out Illinois over six complete innings while striking out 10 and walking just a single batter.

The pitching line was strong but the stuff was better. Burns averaged 98.1 mph with a four-seam fastball that had great riding life at the top of the zone and parked at 101. He attacked the top of the zone and generated 14 whiffs with the fastball. He paired it with a lethal slider in the 87-92 mph range that featured tremendous tilt and was used as an in-zone miss and chase offering mostly down and to his glove side. Burns used his fastball/slider combo more than 90% of the time in this outing—similar to his 2023 usage rate—and did break out an occasional 90-92 mph changeup against lefties with slight fading action. –CC

Travis Bazzana, 2B, Oregon State
Class: 2024

What He Did: 7-for-13 (.538), 4 R, 6 RBI, 3 HR, 1 2B, 2 BB, 3 K

The No. 3 player in the class picked up exactly where he left off in 2023 with a 7-for-13 three-game series against New Mexico, Minnesota and Cal State Bakersfield. He homered in his first game of the season and added two more on Sunday. He’s already 27% of the way toward his 2023 home run total (11) after just the first weekend. Bazzana showed small-ball skills as well by dropping a nice drag bunt single down the third base line and swiping two bags in three chances. Bazzana had multi-hit games in each of the first three games to start the season and his weekend was made even more impressive given that so many of those hits came in left-on-left matchups. –CC

Chase Brunson, OF, TCU
Class: 2026

What He Did: 6-for-10 (.600), 7 R, 4 RBI, 2 HR, 2 2B, 4 BB, 0 KT

The Blue Jays drafted Brunson in the 18th round of the 2023 draft, but he instead made his way to TCU. He could not have asked for a better start to his college career. In his first-career game, the 6-foot-3 outfielder went 2-for-3 with a double, home run and two RBIs. He proceeded to go 3-for-5 on Saturday with another long ball and two RBIs. He also laced a double on Sunday.

Both of Brunson’s long balls came against low-80s sliders. The first was a slider that backed up and stayed over the middle of the plate, but he punished it out to left-center field. The second was on the outer-half, but he got his barrel out and around the pitch and drove it out to left. Brunson has present physical strength, especially in his lower half, and has above-average bat speed. While he’s just a freshman, Brunson could be a focal point of the Horned Frogs lineup. -PF

Cam Cannarella, OF, Clemson
Class: 2025

What He Did: 7-for-13 (.538), 4 R, 5 RBI, 1 2B, 3 BB, 3 K

Cannarella is currently the top-ranked college player in the 2025 class. He turned in a pair of three-hit games in Clemson’s opening series against Xavier and missed his first home run of the season by just a few feet. In Friday’s game, Cannarella got his hands out on a tailing 89-mph fastball that he drove deep to the left-center gap. He had to settle for a double—his lone extra-base hit of the weekend—after the ball caromed off the Seth Beer signage on the outfield wall. Cannarell’s ability to get his barrel in every quadrant of the strike zone and timed up against all pitch classifications could make him a plus hitter and he did a nice job using the entire field in this early-season three-game set. –CC

Daniel Cuvet, 3B, Miami
Class: 2026

What He Did: 9-for-13 (.692), 7 R, 7 RBI, 2 HR, 2 2B, 2 BB, 2 K

Cuvet’s tremendous raw power made him a top-200 prospect in the 2023 class. He has quickly manifested that power in games at the college level. He had a scorching hot opening weekend against NJIT with three straight multi-hit games and a pair of monstrous home runs against secondary pitches. His first home run came in an 0-2 count when he obliterated an 81-mph changeup that caught too much of the plate to the pull side an estimated 460 feet. Later he went the other way with a 75-mph breaking ball that hung up over the plate and drove the pitch out on a line over the right field fence. He’ll still need to prove his chops against velocity and he was a bit aggressive with his swing decisions, though no one will argue with a .692/.733/1.308 batting line. –CC

Ryan Forcucci, RHP, UC San Diego
Class: 2024

What He Did: 5 IP, 1 H 0 R, 0 BB 11 K

After a strong sophomore campaign, Forcucci generated plenty of buzz heading into the 2024 season. He was virtually untouchable in his first start, shutting out San Jose State across five innings while notching a career-high 11 strikeouts and allowing only one hit. Forcucci’s bread-and-butter pitch was his fastball, which sat in the low 90s but played well up in the zone thanks to its running and riding life. He garnered 12 misses with the pitch and also showed off advanced control of the offering.

Forcucci threw his fastball 70% of the time, but he also worked in a low-80s slider. It was rather short in shape, but it flashed tight, sweeping action with a bit of depth. Forcucci landed it for strikes and proved to be an effective change of pace off his fastball. He is still looking to establish a quality third pitch, but Forcucci is on his way to being a potential top-100 overall draft choice. -PF

Payton Green, SS, Georgia Tech
Class: 2024

What He Did: 7-for-11 (.636), 7 R, 7 RBI, 3 HR, 0 2B, 4 BB, 0 K

Following an up-and-down two seasons at NC State, Green opted for a change of scenery and transferred to Georgia Tech. The lengthy 6-foot-3 shortstop shined in his first weekend on The Flats, crushing three home runs in as many games while driving in seven runs. Green went a perfect 4-for-4 with a home run on opening day before going 2-for-3 on Saturday with another long ball. He capped an outstanding weekend with a grand slam on Sunday and was named ACC player of the week.

Green has a simple setup in the box with a minimal load and normal stride. He takes a direct path to contact with above-average bat speed, and this weekend showed off an advanced feel for the barrel with pop to the pull side. As someone who has the actions to stick at shortstop with budding plate skills, Green this spring will be an intriguing draft follow. -PF

Owen Hackman, RHP, Loyola Marymount
Class: 2024

What He Did: 5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K

Hackman enjoyed a great sophomore season in 2022, but he took a bit of a step back in 2023 and worked a 5.71 ERA. However on Friday, he looked to be back to his old self and spun 5.1 shutout innings and struck out 10 against a quality Sacramento State club. Hackman has a short arm stroke and attacks from a mid-three quarter slot. His fastball has been up to 94 with some carry. He also features a low-80s curveball with depth and a gyro slider. Returning to form in 2024 and re-establishing himself as the staff’s ace could be in the cards for Hackman. -PF

Isaiah Jackson, CF, Arizona State
Class: 2025

What He Did: 6-for-14 (.429), 6 R, 10 RBI, 2 HR, 2 2B, 1 BB, 3 K

Jackson as a freshman showed flashes of his tantalizing toolset and immense upside, and hit .249/.340/.441 with 18 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs. He exploded this weekend against Santa Clara, notching consecutive 3-for-5 games with a home run and at least three runs driven in. Most notably, Jackson on Saturday had a career-high six RBIs. Jackson has a big league body at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds and has an explosive operation in the box with plus hand speed and quickly developing power. It flashed plus this weekend, and his power certainly has that type of upside. Jackson is also a good athlete who moves well in center field, which is where he could stick long term. He is one of the premier 2025-eligible college outfielders and has all the tools to be one of the Sun Devils’ most impactful bats. -PF

Jacob Jenkins-Cowart, OF, ECU
Class: 2024

What He Did: 6-for-12 (.500), 6 R, 5 RBI, 2 HR, 3 2B, 1 BB, 2 K

Jenkins-Cowart feasted on fastballs in the 80s this weekend in a three-game series against Rider. He went 6-for-12 with a double in each game and a pair of homers. Jenkins-Cowart looks the part of a prototypical right fielder and hit like one in the opening series of the season. He pulled a pair of home runs to the pull side—one against an 86-mph fastball and one against an 83-mph fastball—and wore out the left-center gap to the opposite field for doubles on fastballs that didn’t have enough velocity to challenge him throughout the weekend. –CC

Jace LaViolette, OF, Texas A&M
Class: 2025

What He Did: 4-for-12 (.333), 4 R, 9 RBI, 3 HR, 2 BB, 5 K

LaViolette has a case as one of the top prospects in the 2025 class and currently ranks as the No. 2 player in the college class. He collected four hits in a three-game series against McNeese this weekend, three of which were towering home runs to the pull side. LaViolette generates plenty of power and bat speed with a fairly simple and easy lefthanded swing. He turned around a pair of fastballs in the 89-90 mph range and also golfed one 74-mph curveball at his knees to show off his power potential. LaViolette looks like a corner outfielder with his huge 6-foot-6, 230-pound frame, but started all three games in center field where he is a sneaky good defender. The power he showed off in week one should show how simple a corner outfield fallback could be if he doesn’t stick up the middle. –CC

Cam Leiter, RHP, Florida State
Class: 2025

What He Did: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 13 K

It was quite the debut in the Garnet and Gold for Leiter. He spun five shutout innings in which he collected a career-high 13 strikeouts while surrendering just one hit. His fastball sat in the 93-96 mph range and topped out at 97. Leiter generated an impressive 12 misses with the pitch. All but one came in the top of the zone where his heater plays up thanks to its ride through the zone.

His best offspeed offering this outing was his low-80s curveball that flashed big-time depth with sharp, downward break. Like Leiter’s fastball, the curveball would also grade out as a plus pitch. He relied heavily on his heater, but Leiter occasionally mixed in his developing power slider and high-80s changeup. The slider flashed and has plus potential, but the curveball is more polished at the moment. Leiter is one of the premier arms in the 2025 class. This weekend, he looked the part of a Friday ace. -PF

Luke Lyon, RHP, Troy
Class: 2024

What He Did: 6 IP, 0 H 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K

Lyon came to Troy by way of Pearl River CC, where in 2023 he pitched his way to a perfect 7-0 record with a 2.03 ERA and struck out 75 across 62 innings. Lyon on Saturday was untouchable in his Trojans debut and fired six shutout, hitless innings with seven strikeouts. The physical 6-foot-2 righthander relied heavily on his low-to-mid-80s slider that he threw 59% of the time. Lyon worked almost exclusively to the glove side with the pitch, and it flashed some depth with late bite. He also worked in his fastball which sat 89-91. Lyon’s command of the pitch was a bit scattered, but he was consistently around the strike zone. Troy will again be a dangerous club in the Sun Belt Conference, and Lyon could be a key reason why. -PF

Marcus Morgan, RHP, Iowa
Class: 2024

What He Did: 5.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB 9 K

Morgan is one of the premier college arms in this year’s draft class and has the stuff to boot. Last year, Morgan pitched his way to a 3.72 ERA with 72 strikeouts across 65.1 innings, but at times his command and control eluded him which led to 51 walks. On Saturday, he carved through Ball State’s lineup and punched out nine across 5.2 innings. Most importantly, he walked only two and threw strikes at a 67% clip. From his outlier low release height, Morgan attacked hitters with a fastball that was up to 95, a plus low-80s slider with plenty of sweep and an effective cutter. He generated a total of 23 whiffs, good for an overall miss rate of 53%. Should he continue to show improvement in command and quality of strikes, Morgan could be selected in the top two rounds this July. -PF

AJ Russell, RHP, Tennessee
Class: 2025

What He Did: 4.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 10 K

Russell got the ball in the first game of the season for Tennessee in a Friday night matchup against Texas Tech this weekend. He delivered by showing off one of the most unique fastballs in the country with lethal swing-and-miss traits and struck out 10 batters in just 4.1 innings. Russell is a lean and lanky righty with a 6-foot-6, 207-pound frame and a sidearm slot that made his mid-90s fastball nearly unhittable. He pitched in the 94-98 mph range in his first three innings and generated a ridiculous 22 whiffs with the fastball, which features plenty of arm-side running life. Russell got to his velocity with plenty of ease and pitched heavily off the pitch, while occasionally mixing in an inconsistent 78-82 mph slider with sweepy shape. He also threw a handful of changeups in the 84-88 mph range against lefthanders. –CC

Khal Stephen, RHP, Mississippi State
Class: 2024

What He Did: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 11 K

Stephen put together a loud debut as Mississippi State’s Saturday starter after spending two seasons with Purdue in 2022 and 2023. Stephen has a strong and filled out 6-foot-4 frame and filled the zone with a solid fastball/slider combination. His fastball averaged 92-93 mph and touched 95 with solid riding life. He paired it with a mid-80s slider that looked best when he located it toward the bottom of the zone. Stephen’s fastball looked like his best pitch in this outing. His slider would at times back up and flatten out when he left it up, but showed solid depth and late bite at times down in the zone and to his glove side. Stephen did mix in one 84-mph changeup, but his arm slowed a tick and he buried the pitch below the zone. –CC

Sam Stuhr, RHP, Portland
Class: 2024

What He Did: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 12 K

Stuhr transferred to Portland from Oregon State for the 2024 season and was coming off a strong summer in the West Coast League. His first start for Portland was excellent against San Diego State. He struck out 12 batters and walked two over five shutout innings while sitting 94-95 and touched 98 mph with his fastball and spinning a pair of distinct breaking pitches. Stuhr used a tight and hard upper-80s slider about as often as a 78-82 mph curveball with more depth and both pitches looked like solid swing-and-miss offerings that generated lots of ugly chases below the zone in this outing. He’s struggled with control in the past, so might need to do a better job throwing all of his pitches for strikes moving forward despite walking just a pair of batters, and he also flashed a mid-80s straight changeup that needs more polish. –CC

Chandler Welch, RHP, Tulane
Class: 2024

What He Did: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 K

Following a rocky 2023 season, Welch dazzled in his first outing of 2024 and twirled five shutout innings in which collected a career-high 10 strikeouts and held Northwestern to one hit. Welch ran his fastball up to 93, but his high-80s cutter was his most effective pitch of the day and generated nine whiffs. He threw the pitch with conviction, and it consistently got under the hands of lefthanded hitters while flashing late teeth. Welch’s high-70s curveball was a little slurvy in shape, but it did flash some depth at times. He commanded his arsenal well, and on Saturday worked an overall strike rate of 69%. Welch will look to continue to anchor the Green Wave rotation. -PF

Brylan West, 3B, Florida International
Class: 2024

What He Did: 10-for-12 (.833), 8 R, 9 RBI, 2 HR, 3 2B, 3 BB, 2 K

West is a transfer from South Florida State College where last year he led the team with a .411 average while swatting 16 doubles, 10 home runs and driving in 56 runs. West had a solid opening game in which he doubled and drove in a run, but he went a perfect 9-for-9 in Saturday’s doubleheader and belted two home runs, two more doubles and had eight RBIs. At 6-foot-4 and 242-pounds, West is a physically imposing figure in the box and possesses immense natural strength. When he squares up the baseball, which he did a lot of this weekend, it flies. Look for the redshirt junior to quickly establish himself as a middle-of-the-order bat for the Panthers. -PF

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