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.
Conference USA schools had an impressive 2020 recruiting cycle and the conference brought in the fifth most BA 500 players, trailing only college baseball’s biggest powers: the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. Florida International led the way with three BA 500 players, including a pair who ranked among the top 150 draft-eligible players, and earned a spot in the Top 25 recruiting classes. Several other schools in CUSA brought in strong classes and, here, we break down the conference’s six best classes.
All rankings are according to the 2020 BA 500, which included all draft-eligible players.
Recruiting coordinator: Toby Bicknell
Top recruit: Austin Marozas, RHP
The 49ers bring in a large class going into Robert Woodard’s second year as coach. It’s heavy on junior college transfers, particularly on the mound, and brings a lot of impact talent into the program.
Marozas has a big 6-foot-8, 240-pound frame and the powerful arm to match. His fastball reaches 98 mph, though he typically pitches with a bit less velocity, and he has a promising array of secondary pitches. His overall package gives him a chance to be a front-of-the-rotation pitcher for Charlotte. Righthander Casey Bargo also has a big frame at 6-foot-7, 205 pounds and could take over as a starter. He throws a lot of strikes with his three-pitch mix and throws his fastball in the low 90s. Righthanders Blake Dockery and Andrew Lindsey bring strong track records to Charlotte. Dockery has a more powerful fastball, which reaches 95 mph, while Lindsey effectively mixes a good curveball and changeup with a fastball that sits around 90 mph.
Outfielders Hunter Baker and Parker Stinnett are a pair of experienced hitters. Baker, who began his college career at North Carolina State, has a patient approach at the plate and is a solid defender. Stinnett stands out for his hittability and his tools translate well at the top of the order. Shortstop Gino Groover is the 49ers’ top incoming freshman and offers plenty of upside. He’s a good athlete with the hands to stay at the position and he could develop more power at the plate as he physically matures.
The Owls pulled in one of their strongest recruiting classes under coach John McCormack, landing both some impact bats like Schanuel and some promising pitchers. Schanuel, a lefthanded batter, stands out for his feel for hitting and power potential, particularly once he fills out his 6-foot-3 frame. He profiles best as a corner outfielder and figures to soon be hitting in the middle of the FAU order.
Catcher Caleb Pendleton stands out for his premium defense behind the plate. He’s athletic with good catch-and-throw skills and if he can take a step forward offensively, he could develop into a high-end draft prospect in three years. Infielder Sam Low is transferring to FAU after one season of junior college. He’s a versatile defender and has a track record for hitting that will help him quickly get into the lineup.
Righthander Javi Rivera converted to pitching from playing the infield while at junior college and has shown a lot of promise on the mound. He’s a good athlete with a fastball that gets up to 96 mph and the potential to become a weekend starter for the Owls. Righthander Braden Ostrander is also a good athlete who had seen his velocity jump over the last year. He can now regularly run his fastball into the low 90s and mixes in a promising breaking ball, an overall package that can play in the rotation. Righthander Thomas Haggerty, a junior college transfer, has a big 6-foot-6 frame and his stuff plays well in the bullpen. FAU also added four-year transfers Brock Helverson (West Virginia) and TJ Stuart (Manhattan) who will add depth and quality to the staff.
The Panthers brought in some premium talent as they look to break through to regionals for the first time since 2015. Throughout his career, coach Mervyl Melendez, a Puerto Rican native, has made recruiting Puerto Rico a focus and this year he landed the island’s top two prospects: Zabala and shortstop Steven Ondina (149). Zabala has some of the best raw tools of any player to make it to college but will need to refine his in-game skills. Ondina is a premium defensive shortstop and has quick hands at the plate, but his smaller frame and questions about his ultimate offensive impact helped push him to college. Righthander Jermaine Vanheyningen (330), a junior college transfer, is an imposing figure on the mound at 6-foot-7 and has the fastball to match. The class also includes shortstop Dante Girardi, the son of Joe Girardi, and righthander Orlando Hernandez, the son of the former big leaguer of the same name, and both bring long track records of prep success.
The Monarchs landed a strong recruiting class full of impactful freshmen. Vaks and righthander/shortstop Kenny Levari (455) are the standouts, and both offer plenty of upside.
Vaks has a good fastball-slider combination and comes right after hitters with it. His fastball gets into the low 90s now and he may be able to add some more velocity as he physically matures. Pro scouts this year were most interested in Levari as a pitcher, but he has true two-way ability and will get a chance to do both at ODU. He has a good fastball-curveball combination and can run his fastball into the low to mid 90s. He also has a good lefthanded swing and his athleticism and arm strength play well on the infield.
Lincoln Ransom also has two-way ability as an outfielder/righthander. He has a physical 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame and brings a powerful righthanded bat that can play in the middle of the order. Infielder Carter Trice offers good athleticism, defensive versatility and has the skillset to be a top-of-the-order hitter. Righthander Vincent Bashara and lefthander Jacob Gomez don’t stand out physically, but both throw a lot of strikes and have pitchability that will help them get on the mound quickly.
Recruiting coordinator: Cory Barton
Top recruit: Guy Garibay, OF
The Owls brought in several transfers from four-year schools, a group that ranked them in the top 10 transfer classes in the country thanks to the likes of righthander Mitchell Holcomb (Pennsylvania), shortstop Hal Hughes (Louisiana State) and outfielder Connor Walsh (Mississippi). But Rice also has a solid incoming freshman class with impact potential.
Garibay stands out for his offensive ability. The lefthanded hitter does a good job of barreling balls and has power potential. First baseman Nathan Becker also has a good lefthanded swing and a strong track record of production.
Righthander Micah Davis has a strong 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame and throws his fastball in the low 90s. He mixes in a good breaking ball, a combination that will help him quickly carve out a role on the Owls’ staff. Righthander Reid Gallant controls his fastball-curveball combination well and his pitchability should quickly play at Rice. Righthander Dillon Janc has a projectable 6-foot-4 frame. His fastball sits around 90 mph and he has a good breaking ball, and has significant upside as he physically develops. Righthander Matthew Linskey has a big 6-foot-7, 250-pound frame and is still a bit raw, but has a big arm and offers a lot of upside.
Southern Miss’ class is highlighted by Wilks, who has the ability to become the Golden Eagles’ next superstar. He’s got a strong 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame and has big lefthanded power potential. He makes a lot of contact and can drive the ball well when he squares it up. He’s an above-average runner with a strong arm who still needs a little bit of polish defensively but should have no problem quickly making an impact in Hattiesburg.
While Wilks jumps out, he’s not the only player to watch. Outfielder/first baseman Michael Latulas also has a strong, physical 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame. His hands and approach both work well, giving him an easy lefthanded swing with power potential. Catcher Blake Johnson, a junior college transfer, has good catch-and-throw skills and has righthanded power.
Righthander Hurston Waldrep combines good present stuff with a projectable 6-foot-3 frame. His fastball typically sits around 90 mph and he should be able to add more velocity to go with a big, promising curveball. Lefthander Justin Storm is long and athletic at a listed 6-foot-6, 225 pounds. His older brother Mitchell played basketball at Mississippi State and Justin also played hoops in high school but is now focused on pitching. His height helps him get good extension, which helps his stuff play up, and he has a projectable fastball that sits around 86-87 mph. Righthanders Tanner Hall and Will Tynes both stand out for their strike-throwing ability, which will help them to quickly carve out roles on staff.