Ranking the Offseason's 25 Best Impact Transfers in College Baseball
A number of factors came together to make the transfer portal a crowded place this offseason. Extra eligibility for all players on 2020 rosters, a five-round draft and a number of schools, either by rule or due to cost considerations, made the decision not to bring back seniors at all, all made for an unusual offseason.
The resulting roster crunch led to not just over 1,200 total players looking to transfer, but a relatively large number of high-quality players finding new homes.
Players from the Ivy League, which does not allow graduate students to compete in athletics, were a particularly rich pool to recruit from, and a number of players with Ivy degrees are expected to carve out important roles on prominent teams in 2021.
Talented mid-major players who normally would have finished out their four-year careers in one place moving up to major-conference programs is another common thread among some of the biggest names transferring this offseason.
Here, we rank the 25 best transfers this offseason. Many, but not all of them, are grad transfers. However, for those who are not grad transfers, the expectation is that either a one-time transfer exception will be passed in time for the 2021 season or that immediate eligibility waivers will be used liberally, given the unique circumstances of the last year.
1. Mike Antico, OF, Texas (from St. John’s)
Antico has been a key piece of the St. John’s lineup for four years, putting up a career .332/.451/.519 slash line. The 2019 season featured his best work, when he hit .386/.500/.598 and then spent the following summer playing in the Cape Cod League. Texas would always welcome a player of Antico’s caliber onto the roster, but will be especially excited to do so for 2021, where he slots right into the outfield void left by Duke Ellis.
2. Conor Davis, 1B, Arizona State (from Auburn)
Davis won’t be Spencer Torkelson in the Arizona State lineup, but he will give the Sun Devils another feared hitter to slide in at first base or DH. In four years at Auburn, Davis hit .287/.368/.418 with 40 doubles, 14 homers and 113 RBI, and with a .332/.442/.593 slash line, the 2020 season might have ended up being his best had it not been cut short.
3. Brett Centracchio, 1B, North Carolina (from Davidson)
With Aaron Sabato and Dylan Harris now in pro baseball, the Tar Heels will need new faces to step up and provide extra-base pop in the middle of the order, and Centracchio is more than capable of being that guy. The former Davidson first baseman hit 27 homers in four seasons and finished the 2020 campaign hitting .352/.410/.648.
4. Christian Scafidi, RHP, Notre Dame (from Pennsylvania)
Notre Dame got arguably the best Ivy League grad transfer on the market in Scafidi, the 2019 conference pitcher of the year. He won the award after going 6-1 with a 2.62 ERA as a junior. He will likely be in the competition along with fellow transfers Joe Sheridan from Central Florida and John Michael Bertrand from Furman for spots in the Irish’s weekend rotation.
5. Scott Dubrule, 2B, Mississippi State (from Jacksonville)
Dubrule was a hitting machine at Jacksonville, with his best season coming in 2018, when he hit .348 to help him earn first-team all-Atlantic Sun honors. At best, he can be a ready-made replacement for Justin Foscue at second base, and at worst, he’s a valuable bat off the bench. The hope for Mississippi State is that he can follow a similar path to the one taken by Trevor Ezell, an offensive-minded second baseman from Southeast Missouri State who transferred to Arkansas and was a big part of the Razorbacks’ success in 2019.
6. Tristan Peterson, 1B, Washington State (from New Mexico State)
Nick Gonzales was the headline star of the New Mexico State lineup, but Peterson played his supporting role extremely well. In 2019, he hit .400/.510/.769 with 20 home runs and 90 RBI. Now, he’ll follow his former NMSU coach Brian Green in making the trip from Las Cruces to Pullman, where he’ll join a team that already looked much improved in an abbreviated 2020 season.
7. Luke Taggart, RHP, Oklahoma (from Incarnate Word)
A physical righthander who was productive throughout his career at Incarnate Word, Taggart heads to Norman with a career 3.74 ERA in 202.1 innings of work. He’ll look to build on a standout campaign with the Santa Barbara Foresters when he walked just two batters all summer.
8. Will Proctor, RHP, Michigan (from Georgia)
Proctor endured some bad luck during his time at Georgia. First, there was the injury that shut him down relatively early in the 2019 season, derailing a promising start. Then, he was set to return at some point in 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic shut down the season before he could make his debut. If he enjoys a breakout season on the mound, it will now come in a Michigan uniform.
9. Allbry Major, OF, Arizona State (from Xavier)
One of the most talented players in the Big East over the last several years, Major hasn’t yet put it all together during a spring season, but he starred on the Cape in 2019, hitting 407/.435/.525. Arizona State is betting on him channeling his immense talent and becoming a key piece in a new-look lineup that will undergo some re-tooling. If that happens, Major could turn into a star in Tempe.
10. Lael Lockhart, LHP/1B, Arkansas (from Houston)
Lockhart has been productive both at the plate and on the mound at various points during his career at Houston. He first broke through as a position player for the Cougars, hitting .297/.425/.419 as a sophomore in 2018, but as time went on, he grew into a bigger piece of the puzzle on the pitching staff, eventually taking over as the Friday starter for much of 2019 and all of 2020. He could conceivably help the Razorbacks out in a couple of different ways.
11. Joe Satterfield, INF, South Carolina (from Elon)
A versatile defender who saw time at first base, second base and third base during the 2020 season alone, Satterfield was a solid player for Elon over four years, but he became a star in 2019, hitting .325/.438/.476 on a team that won a conference regular-season title. In 2020, he was even better in a small sample, hitting .343/.465/.486 at the time the season ended. He should be a bit of a Swiss Army knife for South Carolina in 2021.
12. Austin Smith, RHP, Arizona (from Southwestern (Texas)
Not all Division III transfers are ready to move all the way to major conference Division I baseball and succeed at a high level, but then again, few Division III transfers have Austin Smith’s stuff. Using a fastball that reaches the high 90s, Smith struck out 110 in 79.1 innings at Southwestern in 2019 and had a 0.00 ERA with 14 punch outs in eight innings in 2020. Smith, who ranked No. 406 on the BA 500, appears ready for the move.
13. Jackson Greer, C, Tennessee (from East Tennessee State)
A Knoxville native, Greer is coming home to finish his college baseball career at Tennessee. Catchers who can also handle the bat and add pop to the lineup don’t grow on trees, and that’s why the Volunteers should be excited to add Greer. He hit .314/.434/.541 with 10 home runs in 2019 and already had four homers in the early going in 2020. He will be a nice addition to a Tennessee lineup that did lose some key pieces to the draft this year.
14. Eric Walker, RHP, Oklahoma State (from Louisiana State)
He doesn’t boast electric stuff, but Walker’s competitiveness and reliability helped him earn and keep an important role on the Louisiana State pitching staff for his entire time in the program. He leaves Baton Rouge with a 4.30 ERA in 173.2 career innings and will give Oklahoma State pitching coach Rob Walton a veteran to pair with all of the talented young arms already on the roster.
15. Benjamin Sems, SS, Michigan (from Kansas)
Sems looks the part of a ready-made replacement for departed Michigan shortstop Jack Blomgren, particularly from a defensive standpoint. He fielded .971 at the position in 2019 and then was picking it at a .988 clip in 2020 when the season ended. And although he likely won’t be the type of hitter that can carry an offense for weeks at a time, he’s certainly no slouch at the plate, with his best season coming when he hit .305/.414/.437 in 2019.
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16. C.J. Willis, 1B/C, Louisiana-Lafayette (from Louisiana State)
The No. 195 player on the BA 500 coming out of high school, Willis arrived at Louisiana State with high expectations, but he never really got a chance to shine and collected just 56 total at-bats across two seasons. He’ll get a fresh start with Louisiana, where he’ll look to unleash the immense power at the plate that helped make him a high-end prospect.
17. Javin Drake, RHP, Indiana State (from Western Illinois)
Drake was a workhorse for Western Illinois, as he departed that program with 220.1 career innings under his belt. After two solid seasons in a swing role, he developed into a frontline ace in 2019, putting up a 4.37 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 103 innings. He should fit in nicely on an Indiana State rotation that showed a lot of promise early in 2020.
18. Peter Matt, OF, Duke (from Pennsylvania)
It’s no surprise to see Duke attract quality Ivy League grad transfers, and it got one of the best ones available in Matt. The former Penn outfielder enjoyed his best full season in 2019, hitting .328/.391/.456, and he was off to a scalding-hot start in 2020 with a .457/.525/.543 slash line. His skills at the plate and athleticism will get him on the field quickly for Duke in 2021.
19. Ben Wanger, 1B/RHP, Miami (from Southern California)
In moving from Southern California to Miami, Wanger is now a two-time grad transfer. Prior to arriving at USC, he was at Yale, where he was a shutdown reliever at his best. With the Trojans, he had a 0.00 ERA in 6.1 innings and three saves, but he was even better at the plate, where he hit .410/.500/.564. It remains to be seen what kind of role he holds in Coral Gables, but he’ll give the Hurricanes options.
20. Reece Maniscalco, RHP, Coastal Carolina (from Wofford)
Maniscalsco emerged as a dominant reliever for Wofford during the 2019 season, when he had a 2.34 ERA, 60 strikeouts, a .192 opponent batting average and six saves in 42.1 innings. He’ll be a good fit on the pitching staff at Coastal Carolina, a place with a long history of maximizing production from versatile, durable relievers like Maniscalco.
21. Kenny Serwa, RHP, Central Florida (from Southern Illinois-Edwardsville)
Serwa’s career has been a lesson in perseverance. First, his Division II school, St. Joseph’s (Ind.), closed. Then, after landing at SIU-Edwardsville, he dealt with injuries. But when he was healthy, he was mostly outstanding for the Cougars. In 2019, he pitched in just seven games, but was good enough in those games to earn second team all-OVC honors. In 2020, he looked nothing short of dominant, going 4-0 with a 1.33 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 27 innings. He could be a real weapon for the Knights in the rotation in 2021.
22. Alex Stiegler, RHP, Boston College (from Yale)
The former Yale righthander Stiegler should be a nice addition to a Boston College team that was already expected to compete for a postseason appearance in 2021. In 2019, he earned first team All-Ivy League recognition after going 6-4 with a 3.52 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 76.2 innings. He’s a dependable starting pitcher to add to the weekend rotation mix behind Mason Pelio.
23. Brandon Dieter, SS/RHP, New Mexico State (from Stanford)
Dieter, the No. 257 player in the BA 500 when he came out of high school in 2018, never broke out at Stanford. He hit just .195 in 87 career at-bats and he pitched just 13.1 total innings, although he was showing signs of taking a big step forward on the mound in 2020, when he struck out 16 and held opponents to a .146 batting average in 12 innings of work. He’ll have a much greater chance to take on a starring role at New Mexico State in 2021, as he is expected to step into the hole left at shortstop by Nick Gonzales.
24. Kamron Fields, RHP/OF, Texas Southern (from Texas)
Texas Southern has developed into one of the most consistent contenders in the SWAC from year to year, and the addition of Fields should only help continue that tradition. The righthander had a 3.27 ERA in 55 career innings at Texas and should be a key piece of the pitching staff for TSU. While he’s joining a quality baseball program, Fields made it clear in a passionate social media post at the time of his transfer that there were personal and societal reasons that he made the decision to move to an HBCU.
25. Chance Huff, RHP, Georgia Tech (from Vanderbilt)
Huff, the No. 280 player on the BA 500 in the 2018 class, got squeezed out a bit as a member of a super talented Vanderbilt pitching staff, but he’ll have a chance at Georgia Tech to hold down an important role right away on a unit that will have a lot to say about just how good the Yellow Jackets are in 2021.