Re-Ranking The Top 25 College Recruiting Classes In 2015
Earlier this fall, we unveiled our annual recruiting class rankings for the 2019 and 2020 classes. Those players are the future of college baseball and will form the foundation for future championship programs.
Now, however, we take one last opportunity to reflect on the 2015 recruiting class. Many coaches say the best time to evaluate recruiting classes is after the players' careers are over and their full impact on a program can be measured.
Baseball America will always rank recruiting classes before their college careers begin in an attempt to predict which schools have the brightest futures, but it is also useful to see how these promising groups of newcomers actually performed on the field.
Even with the benefit of hindsight, however, ranking classes is difficult. There are philosophical questions—Should landing a superstar outweigh a deeper class with less flash? Did a player make an unexpected jump or did a recruiter see untapped potential they could mold?—and just simple questions of which player had the better career.
Ultimately, 17 of 2015’s Top 25 classes made this revised list. Florida, ranked No. 2 in 2015, moves to the top of the rankings. That class helped the Gators win the 2017 national championship and produced three first-round picks, including righthander Brady Singer, BA's 2018 Player of the Year. Florida has landed seven top-five classes in a row and has done even better in the revised rankings lately. This class joins the 2013 class in finishing No. 1 in the revised rankings and the 2014 class ranked second.
These rankings aim to line up the classes based on the impact the players provided over the last four years. Classes that produced stars and major building blocks are looked upon more favorably than those filled mostly with role players. Draft results help inform the rankings because elite prospects tend to perform well in college, but they are not paramount. The best classes combine on-field success with professional prospects.
2015 rank: No. 2
Recruiting coordinator: Craig Bell
BA All-Americans: RHP Michael Byrne (2018 first team, 2017 third team), 3B Jonathan India (2018 first team), RHP Brady Singer (2018 first team)
Other key players: RHP Jackson Kowar, 2B/SS Deacon Liput, OF Nelson Maldonado.
Florida in 2015 had a strong argument for the No. 1 class and it fully lived up to its potential. From 2016-18, the Gators were the best team in the sport, winning the 2017 national championship and twice earning the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. This class played a key role in all three of those teams and formed the core of the 2017 and 2018 teams. The haul on the mound was especially impressive. Singer was the 2018 Player of the Year and he and Kowar were both first-round picks. Byrne became the best closer in program history, setting both the single-season and career saves record. That trio appeared together on the cover of BA, highlighting Florida’s pitching development prowess. The position player group also stood out, however. India was the class’ top draft pick, going fifth overall in 2018. He, Liput and Maldonado were all everyday players throughout their careers. It all makes for a banner class and the second time in three years Florida landed the No. 1 class in the re-ranking.
2. Oregon State
2015 rank: No. 12
Recruiting coordinator: Nate Yeskie
This recruiting class formed much of the core of Oregon State’s incredible run in 2017-18. The 2017 team won 56 games and the 2018 team won the national championship. Grenier, Larnach and Madrigal were all drafted in the top 40 picks in 2018 and played key roles in the national championship. Fehmel came to Oregon State as a hitter but soon transitioned to the mound, where he became a steady, reliable member of the Beavers rotation. Kwan was sometimes overshadowed by his classmates who were bigger prospects, but he provided a spark at the top of the lineup and in center field. If not for Florida, this would have been clearly the No. 1 class of the year.
3. Mississippi State
2015 rank: No. 5
Recruiting coordinator: Nick Mingione
How was Mississippi State able to reach four straight super regionals and the College World Series in back-to-back years despite having four different head coaches over the last four years? It, in large part, starts with this class. Mangum (who deserved more All-America honors than he received) was the heart of the Bulldogs for four years, a constant presence at the top of the lineup and in center field. Small became the best pitcher on both Omaha teams. Pilkington was also a key member of the rotation and Stovall became an everyday player. Lowe, a junior college transfer, spent just one season in Starkville, but it was a productive one. Mangum will one day have a statue at Dudy Noble Field and Small was a first-rounder, but the depth of this class is a key component as well.
4. Florida State
2015 rank: No. 6
Recruiting coordinator: Mike Martin Jr.
At the time, this was Florida State’s highest-ranked recruiting class since 2002 and it lived up to expectations. They played a key role in helping the Seminoles reach the College World Series in 2017, their first Omaha appearance since 2012. Holton produced a 2.44 career ERA and emerged as an ace before Tommy John surgery ended his college career on Opening Day 2018. Raleigh stepped right in as Florida State’s starting catcher and was one of the nation’s best throughout his career. Sands also took on a prominent role from the start, pitching in the Seminoles’ rotation for three years. Lueck twice was the Seminoles’ leading hitter and was named MVP of the 2017 ACC Tournament. Haney was the lone player from the class still in Tallahassee in 2019, when the Seminoles returned to Omaha, and he’s back this spring for his redshirt senior season, ready to again fill an important role out of the bullpen.
2015 rank: NR
Recruiting coordinator: Tony Vitello
It was a rough first season in Fayetteville for this class, as Arkansas finished in last place in the SEC. But they helped turn things around in a hurry for the Razorbacks and, as juniors, formed the core of the national runners-up. Campbell and Knight give the class a pair of aces and as Friday starters both led the Razorbacks to the College World Series. Koch appeared alongside Knight on the cover of the 2018 BA College Preview Issue and played for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team, in addition to starting for two years. Cole was a two-year starter as well and hit 14 home run as a junior.
2015 rank: No. 23
Recruiting coordinator: Bradley LeCroy
This class in 2015 was judged without Beer, who graduated a semester early and enrolled at Clemson in January. It didn’t take long for Beer to establish himself as a bona fide star at the heart of the order and one of the best hitters in the country. He was BA's 2016 Freshman of the Year and a first-round pick in 2018. Gilliam pitched for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team and became one of the best relievers in the country, while Williams, a junior college transfer, teamed with Beer in the middle of the order.
2015 rank: No. 21
Recruiting coordinator: Rusty Filter
This class played a big role in getting Stanford back on track after missing regionals three times from 2013-16. They helped the Cardinal to three straight home regionals from 2017-19 and the 2018 Pac-12 title, their first since 2004. Beck was the most famous member of the class and turned in two excellent seasons bookending a 2017 lost to injury (although he did appear on the cover of BA’s College Preview Issue that year). Bubic was a premium starter himself and twice led Stanford in strikeouts. Hoerner started all but one game during his three-year career, as a freshman at second base and then at shortstop for two years. He wound up being the class’ highest drafted player, going 24th overall to the Cubs in 2018. Wulff stayed at Stanford for four years and in 2019 led the team with 19 home runs to help the Cardinal reach the super regionals.
2015 rank: No. 1
Recruiting coordinator: Travis Jewett
This class will forever be linked to Everett and his tragic drowning in 2016. The loss was emotionally devastating for the Commodores and it also left an on-field hole. They overcame that tragedy, however, and six members of the class were a part of the 2019 national championship team. Raby was a constant in the rotation and set the program record for wins (32). Kaiser, Infante and Paul were everyday players throughout their careers. Kaiser was the class’ highest drafted player as a third rounder, while Paul was one of the Commodores’ more consistent players for four years. All in all, it’s not what a top-ranked class typically looks like four years later, but the class will have an enduring legacy in Nashville.
9. Texas Tech
2015 rank: NR
Recruiting coordinator: J-Bob Thomas
The Red Raiders loaded up on pitching in 2015 and this class played a large role in producing their best ever stretch of play, as it won the Big 12 and advanced to Omaha three times. Gingery put together an outstanding sophomore season before an Opening Day injury the next season ended his college career. Martin became the team’s Friday starter as a freshman and was a part of the rotation for three years. Lanning and Shetter were also consistent presences for the pitching staff.
10. Texas Christian
2015 rank: No. 7
Recruiting coordinator: Kirk Saarloos
This was a class with some serious star power. Few players from this class made an instant impact like Baker as a two-way star. Injuries ultimately limited him during his career at Fort Worth but he had the ability to change a game when he was healthy. Feltman was an elite reliever almost from the start and he holds both the program’s single-season and career saves record. Wymer was a key part of TCU’s staff for three years, pitching successfully both in the rotation and bullpen, while Watson was a four-year starter. The class came to TCU in time to help the Horned Frogs to the CWS in 2016 and 2017, the final two years of the Horned Frogs four straight trips to Omaha.
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11. Georgia Tech
2015 rank: No. 4
Recruiting coordinator: Bryan Prince
The top-line talent in this class is as undeniable today as it was in 2015. Bart became the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft and was a key part of the lineup for three years. English fought through some injuries to become a two-way force by the end of his career and was always a productive hitter, finishing his career with a .910 OPS. Beyond that pair, however, the class struggled. Hughes came to Georgia Tech as an unsigned second-round pick but has been beset by injuries and is now looking to close out his career on a high note this year as a redshirt-senior. The injuries that plagued this class played a big part in Georgia Tech missing the NCAA Tournament in 2017 and ’18.
2015 rank: No. 10
Recruiting coordinator: Eric Snider
This group had the tough act of following Louisville’s banner 2014 class, which finished No. 1 in the re-rank. Still, these Cardinals were standouts in their own right. Mann and Stowers developed into everyday players by the time they were sophomores and were two of Louisville’s best hitters over two seasons. After two years in the bullpen, Wolf broke out as a starter during his junior season, while Bordner was one of the Cardinals’ top relievers throughout his career.
2015 rank: NR
Recruiting coordinator: Tom Holliday
Almost as soon as this class got on campus, things went sideways in Auburn as Sunny Golloway was fired that fall and Butch Thompson was hired to replace him. Between a forgettable spring following the coaching change and the fact the class was largely built around junior college transfers, few players made much of an impact on the Plains. But the class did feature Mize, who was not a blue-chip prospect out of high school but blossomed into the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft. He alone is enough to push this class into the Top 25, while some of the transfers such as Buentello and Mitchell played solid roles during their time at Auburn.
2015 rank: No. 18
Recruiting coordinator: Tommy Nicholson
This class was the last one to be coached by Augie Garrido before he stepped down following the 2016 season. Their run to Omaha in 2018 ensured that every class recruited by Garrido at Texas reached the College World Series and that team also won the Big 12 title. Clemens was outstanding that spring and was named Big 12 Player of the Year. Kennedy had already moved on to pro ball after two solid seasons in Austin, while Kingham and Shugart were key pieces of the Longhorns’ pitching staff for three years.
2015 rank: NR
Recruiting coordinator: Mark Leavitt
Gilbert, Gonzalez and Perkins were a formidable trio in Stetson’s pitching staff, and they helped propel the Hatters to a banner year in 2018. Stetson that year broke through for the best season in program history, advancing to the super regionals, hosting a regional and winning both the Atlantic Sun Conference and tournament titles. All three were drafted that year, led by Gilbert, who was the 14th overall selection. It’s an impressive haul even for a program that has produced a pair of Cy Young winners in Jacob deGrom and Corey Kluber.
16. Tennessee Tech
2015 rank: NR
Recruiting coordinator: Justin Holmes
The Golden Eagles’ impressive run from 2017-18, when they won back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference titles and reached the super regionals in 2018, was fueled by this class and the 2014 group, which finished No. 21 in last year’s re-rank. Strohschein was not only the best player in program history, he also was the best in OVC history. He was named the OVC Player of the Year three times, finished his career with the 10th most hits in Division I history and set the conference’s all-time record for home runs, RBI and doubles. Roberts was the highest drafted player in program history and served as the team’s bullpen ace for three years, finishing with a 2.93 career ERA. Garza and Osborne were both key contributors for three years at Tennessee Tech.
2015 rank: NR
Recruiting coordinator: Rob Fornasiere
With this class leading the way, the Golden Gophers in 2018 put together their best season in 40 years as they won the Big Ten title, the Big Ten Tournament and reached the super regionals for the second time. Vavra, a career .349 hitter, broke out that spring and he and Mezzenga were the team’s two leading hitters. Kozicky and McDevitt were everyday players the last two seasons and Kozicky is back this year for his redshirt-senior season.
18. Cal State Fullerton
2015 rank: NR
Recruiting coordinator: Jason Dietrich
This class brought some impressive talent to Fullerton. Eastman turned into the latest ace in the Fullerton pipeline and Conine was a lockdown closer at his best. Cardenas and LoForte both played important roles for the Titans and LoForte set the program’s career triples record. The class helped the Titans reach Omaha in 2017 and another super regional in 2018, though those that remained for their senior season were a part of the team that saw Fullerton’s regionals appearance streak end at 27 years.
19. Southern Mississippi
2015 rank: NR
Recruiting coordinator: Chad Caillet
Southern Miss has been a consistent winner for the last decade under Scott Berry, but it peaked in 2017-18 with this group playing a big role. In 2017, the Golden Eagles put together their best season in nearly a decade, winning 50 games and hosting a home regional. They followed that up in 2018 by winning the Conference USA regular season and tournament titles. Sandlin was first a lights-out reliever for Southern Miss before moving to the front of the rotation as a junior and winning the national ERA title in 2018. Powell was a consistent performer on the mound as well and pitched out of the rotation in 2017-18. Keys spent four years in the Golden Eagles’ bullpen and Guidrey has been a regular the last two years and is back this spring for his redshirt senior season.
2015 rank: No. 13
Recruiting coordinator: Mike Anderson
Oklahoma’s highest-rated players coming into college didn’t deliver but the Sooners still found plenty of value in this class. Walker was an All-American, a three-year starter and played for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. Irvin was a consistent member of Oklahoma’s rotation and developed into its Friday starter. Martinez and Olson, junior college transfers, each put together two strong seasons for Oklahoma and helped it to regionals as seniors.
21. Louisiana State
2015 rank: No. 9
Recruiting coordinator: Andy Cannizaro
Much like Oklahoma, the highest-ranked players in this class coming out of high school didn’t deliver for LSU and ultimately had short tenures in Baton Rouge. But it still produced an all-time great for LSU in Duplantis. He set the program’s career hits record and finished with the second-most hits all-time in the SEC, trailing only Mississippi State’s Jake Mangum. He and Freeman were everyday players on the Tigers’ 2017 team that finished runner-up at the College World Series.
2015 rank: No. 15
Recruiting coordinator: Jason Kelly
This was the Huskies’ first ever Top 25 recruiting class and it delivered on that hype in 2018, when they helped lead Washington to its first ever College World Series appearance. DeMers immediately took on a starter’s role for the Huskies and was the ace of the CWS team. Graffanino and MacIver both battled injuries in 2018 but were regulars throughout their career and were drafted in the top 10 rounds. Overall, they helped the program to its biggest breakthrough.
23. Dallas Baptist
2015 rank: NR
Recruiting coordinator: Dan Fitzgerald
DBU for the last four years has been the best program in the Missouri Valley Conference—making four straight regionals, winning the league twice and finishing as runner-up the other two years—and this class played a key role in that success. Hall, a junior college transfer, had an All-American kind of year in 2016, hitting .302/.418/.630 with 20 home runs and going 9-3, 3.43 on the mound. Hannah was the best draft pick of the group, going in the second round in 2018, after hitting .341 in three years with the Patriots. Johnson and Martinson held big roles on the pitching staff for four years.
2015 rank: No. 19
Recruiting coordinator: Carl Lafferty
This Rebels’ class didn’t come together quite as expected but it wound up making an impact anyway. Caracci became the class’ star despite not pitching his first two seasons in Oxford, only to breakout in 2018 and finish his career with the fifth most saves in program history. Woolfolk was also a key reliever at times for the Rebels, while McArthur was a reliable starter for three years. Fortes was one of the few hitters in the class and he proved to be a productive all-around hitter for the Rebels.
25. South Carolina
2015 rank: No. 14
Recruiting coordinator: Sammy Esposito
Much as was the case with the 2014 Gamecocks’ class, there were some real highs for this group – most notably, they reached the super regionals in 2016 and 2018—but there were also some big lows as South Carolina missed the NCAA Tournament entirely in 2017 and 2019 and Chad Holbrook was fired. It makes for a complicated legacy for this class, but Webb and Hill pitched well out of the rotation and Bride, Thompson-Williams and Tolbert were all regulars throughout their careers.
Honorable Mentions: California, Navy, North Carolina, UCLA, Wichita State