Re-Ranking The Top 25 College Recruiting Classes Of 2016
Now, however, we take one last opportunity to reflect on the 2016 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.
Ultimately, 16 of 2016’s Top 25 classes made the revised list. Oregon State, ranked No. 20 in 2016, moves to the top of the rankings. That class featured Adley Rutschman, BA’s 2019 Player of the Year and No. 1 overall pick, who helped the Beavers win the 2018 national championship. In the revised 2015 recruiting class rankings, Oregon State’s class—which included Cadyn Grenier, Trevor Larnach and Nick Madrigal—ranked No. 2.
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.
1. Oregon State
2016 rank: No. 20
Recruiting coordinator: Pat Bailey and Nate Yeskie
BA All-Americans: C Adley Rutschman (2019 first team, 2018 second team), RP Brandon Eisert (2019 third team)
Other key players: SS Andy Armstrong, SP Grant Gambrell, OF Tyler Malone, RP Jake Mulholland, RP Mitchell Verburg
The Beavers hit the jackpot with Rutschman, who turned out to be the best player nationally in the 2016 class. He was named the 2019 Player of the Year and the 2018 College World Series Most Outstanding Player after leading Oregon State to the national championship. A three-year starter behind the plate, Rutschman finished his career as the No. 1 overall pick. Malone homered three times in the 2018 College World Series, tying a record, while Armstrong eventually became the Beavers’ starting shortstop and a standout defender. The class ran especially deep on the mound. Eisert joined Rutschman on the All-America team in 2019 and played a big role on the pitching staff for three seasons. Gambrell was a member of the Beavers’ rotation for two seasons and was a third-round pick in 2019. Mulholland appeared in 121 games and piled up 43 saves (a program record and the ninth most in Division I history) over five seasons, establishing himself as one of the best relievers in the country. Verburg is back for a sixth year in 2022 and could take over as closer for Mulholland.
2. Texas Tech
2016 rank: NR
Recruiting coordinator: J-Bob Thomas
BA All-Americans: 3B/SS Josh Jung (2018 and 2019 second team), OF Grant Little (2018 second team)
Other key players: SP Caleb Kilian, 2B Brian Klein, RP/DH John McMillon
This class was one of the best in program history and helped Texas Tech to back-to-back College World Series appearances in 2018 and 2019. It stands out in part because it featured Jung, who has a case as the best player in program history. He started all but two games in his career, became the second player in program history to be drafted in the first round and was named 2017 Big 12 Freshman of the Year and 2019 Big 12 Player of the Year. Klein and Little were also standout players—Little for two years before he was drafted 74th overall and Klein as a three-year regular. Little was a career .354 hitter and formed a strong 1-2 punch with Jung for two seasons. Kilian was a key member of the Red Raiders’ staff for three seasons, eventually developing into their ace as a junior. McMillon was an electric piece of the roster for four years, showing two-way ability early in his career before focusing on pitching his last couple seasons.
Cal’s 2016 class was the only one that year that went on to produce two first-round picks as Vaughn emerged as one of the best players in the country by his sophomore season and Lee exploded as a junior. Vaughn finished his career as perhaps the best player in program history. He won the 2018 Golden Spikes Award and was again a finalist in 2019. He was the Pac-12 freshman of the year in 2017, tied Xavier Nady’s single-season home run record (23, 2018) and hit .374 for his career. Eden, like Vaughn, was a three-year starter, mostly playing shortstop. Horn was the headliner of the class in 2016, when he was the highest-ranked prep player on the BA 500 in the nation to make it to campus, and he was a solid starter for three seasons. Cal made the NCAA Tournament just once from 2017-19, but there’s no denying the wealth of talent it brought to campus in the fall of 2016.
4. Florida State
2016 rank: No. 8
Recruiting coordinator: Mike Martin Jr.
BA All-Americans: OF/RP J.C. Flowers (2019 second team), 3B Drew Mendoza (2019 second team)
Other key players: OF/1B Rhett Aplin, RP Clayton Kwiatkowski, SP Drew Parrish
The Seminoles’ class stood out for its star power when it arrived in Tallahassee, led by Mendoza, the highest-ranked prep position player on the 2016 BA 500 to make it to school. Mendoza and Flowers both developed into All-Americans as juniors in 2019, while also leading Florida State to the College World Series for the second time in three seasons. While Mendoza and Flowers were the two most famous members of the class as prep players, Parrish also made a star turn in college. His 346 career strikeouts rank fifth in program history, and he played for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team in 2018. Aplin was a two-year regular after transferring from junior college and Kwaitkowski made nearly 100 appearances on the mound.
UCLA was hit hard on draft day, as it lost three commits in the first 42 picks (Mickey Moniak, Blake Rutherford and Kevin Gowdy). Even with those losses, this class wound up being a strong one for the Bruins and helped them earn the No. 1 overall seed in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. Garcia developed into the Bruins ace and was the 2019 Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year. Kreidler, Strumpf, Toglia and Ydens were all high-profile prep players and lived up to that with UCLA. Toglia in 2019 became the first UCLA position player drafted in the first round since 2000 (Chase Utley) and hit 36 career home runs. Strumpf and Kreidler stepped right into the Bruins lineup as freshmen and were consistent presences on the infield throughout their careers. Ydens was limited by injury, but still earned all-Pac-12 honors in 2018.
6. East Carolina
2016 rank: No. 23
Recruiting coordinator: Jeff Palumbo
BA All-Americans: SP Jake Agnos (2019 second team), OF Bryant Packard (2018 first team)
Other key players: SP Trey Benton, 1B Spencer Brickhouse, SP Tyler Smith
This was the program’s first-ever Top 25 recruiting class and it more than lived up to the hype. Brickhouse and Packard made for a formidable 1-2 punch in the Pirates’ lineup. Packard was named the 2018 American Athletic Conference Player of the Year, while Brickhouse hit 34 career home runs. The class also had impressive depth on the mound. Agnos was named 2019 AAC Pitcher of the Year and led the way on the mound, but Benton and Smith both developed into key starters for ECU as well.
2016 rank: No. 6
Recruiting coordinator: Rusty Filter
BA All-Americans: RP Jack Little (2018 first team)
Other key players: 1B Andrew Daschbach, RP Zack Grech, C Maverick Handley, SP/1B Will Matthiessen, SP Erik Millerr, OF Kyle Stowers
This class helped Stanford win the 2018 Pac-12 title, its first since 2004, and host regionals every year of their careers. Nearly the whole class of 10 players became an impactful player for the Cardinal. Little set program records for saves both all-time (28) and in a single season (16). Stowers was the top draft pick of the group, going 71st overall in 2019. Daschbach and Handley were everyday players for the Cardinal and Matthiessen filled a variety of roles, standing out as a two-way player. Miller was a three-year starter for Stanford and was at his best on the 2019 super regional team. Grech was in 2021 one of the most impactful fifth-year players in the country. He made 103 appearances in his career and served as closer on the 2021 CWS team.
This class was the first that coach Steve Rodriguez and his staff were able to put their stamp on after being hired in June 2015 and it helped the Bears make three straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 2017-19. The class produced two players selected in the top 50 picks in Langeliers (9) and Wendzel (41), who were the highest drafted players from the program in a decade. In addition to those two stars, the class also included several other important players. Thomas served as Langeliers’ backup early in his career before taking over as the Bears’ starting catcher and in 2021 earning all-Big 12 honors. Bradford was a two-year member of the Bears’ rotation and was named the 2018 Big 12 pitcher of the year before injury sidelined him most of the 2019 season.
Arkansas hosted three straight regionals from 2017-19, made the College World Series in both 2018 and 2019 and finished as national runner-up in 2018. This class played a key role in all of those teams. Cronin was one of the best relievers in the country throughout his college career, emerging as a dominant force at the back of the bullpen. Fletcher was a three-year starter in center field for the Razorbacks and was the top draft pick in the class at No. 75 overall in 2019. Biggers and Stephan were a part of a large junior college transfer class, as Arkansas was looking to bounce back from a last-place finish in 2016. Biggers was a two-year starter and led the team in hitting in 2017, while Stephan stepped right into the rotation and excelled. While some of the biggest names in the class didn’t work out – Lucas Krull, for instance, became a solid college football player and caught six touchdowns this fall as a tight end for Pittsburgh – it still wound up being a strong class for the Razorbacks.
2016 rank: No. 1
Recruiting coordinator: Carl Lafferty
BA All-Americans: None
Other key players: OF Thomas Dillard, SP Will Ethridge, C Cooper Johnson, SS Grae Kessinger, SP Ryan Rolison, 1B Cole Zabowski.
This class was the first to be ranked No. 1 not just in program history, but in school history. In large part, they lived up to the hype. The class produced a first-rounder (Rolison) and four other players were top-200 picks. They helped lead Ole Miss to the 2018 SEC Tournament title, hosted regionals in back-to-back years and made super regionals in 2019. The class didn’t lead the Rebels back to Omaha, falling one win shy in the 2019 Fayetteville Super Regional, and struggled against archrival Mississippi State. But after some growing pains as freshmen in 2017, they delivered time and again for the Rebels.
This class was bookended by No. 1 ranked recruiting classes for the Commodores in 2015 and 2017. This class wasn’t as highly rated at the time, but it helped Vanderbilt win the 2019 national championship and included Bleday, who developed into an All-American and was drafted fourth overall. Bleday was named 2019 SEC player of the year and his 27 home runs that spring both led the nation and set a program record. Fellows was Vanderbilt’s Friday starter in 2019 and finished his career with the sixth most strikeouts in program history (308). Ray and Duvall were both regulars on the national championship team.
2016 rank: NR
Recruiting coordinator: Robbie Huffstetler
BA All-Americans: SP Kyle Brnovich (2018 second team), SP George Kirby (2019 third team)
Other key players: OF Zach Evers, C Hayden Platt, 1B Joe Satterfield
Elon was the only team in the country in 2016 to bring in two future All-American starting pitchers. Brnovich was a three-year member of the rotation and was named Colonial Athletic Association freshman of the year in 2017 before his All-American sophomore season, when he set the program’s single-season strikeout record (147). Kirby spent two years in Elon’s rotation and earned All-American honors as a junior before being drafted 20th overall, becoming the highest drafted player in program history. Beyond that dynamic duo, Satterfield gave the class another star. He was a four-year regular for the Phoenix before finishing his career at South Carolina and earned all-CAA honors in 2019. Evers and Platt, junior college transfers, both were two-year starters for Elon. While the Phoenix didn’t make an NCAA Tournament appearance with this group, they did win the CAA title in 2019, their first conference title since 2011.
The Huskies made the NCAA Tournament in 2018 and 2019, marking just the third time in more than 50 years that the program made back-to-back regionals. This class, which landed some serious star power among the eight freshmen who came to Storrs in the fall of 2016, played a large role in that success. UConn has had a series of impressive aces under MacDonald, who also serves as pitching coach, and Feole developed into that role and finished his career with the most strikeouts in program history (278). Wallace tied the program’s single-season saves record in 2019 (16) and was the highest drafted player in the class, going in the third round. Pratto started every game in his three years with the Huskies and was one of the best hitters on the team throughout his career. Winkle was a regular throughout his career and owns the program record for most games played (243). He was a team captain from 2019-21 and in staying for a fifth season, helped the Huskies win the Big East in 2021.
14. Texas A&M
2016 rank: NR
Recruiting coordinator: Justin Seely
BA All-Americans: SS Braden Shewmake (2017 second team), SP John Doxakis (2019 third team)
Other key players: RP Kaylor Chafin, C Hunter Coleman, OF Logan Foster
The Aggies’ class went under the radar before it arrived in College Station, but it turned out to be one of just seven classes nationally to have two players earn All-America honors. Shewmake started all but one game in his three years, earned All-American honors as a freshman, twice played for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team and became a first round pick. While Shewmake was an instant star, Doxakis more steadily grew into his All-American status by his junior year. He also joined Shewmake on Team USA in 2018. Chafin, a junior college transfer, was a key member of the bullpen for two seasons. Coleman was a regular for five seasons and in 2017 was named to the freshman all-SEC team. Foster was a three-year starter for the Aggies before transferring to Nebraska to finish his career and joined Coleman and Shewmake on the 2017 freshman all-SEC team.
15. Louisiana State
The Tigers brought in a strong 2016 class and a few of those players made an immediate impact that spring, helping LSU to win the SEC and a runner-up finish in Omaha. Watson led that team in hitting and Smith was an everyday player throughout his college career. Walker was a Freshman All-American and was a solid contributor to the Tigers after missing the 2018 season due to injury. Powerful righthanders Hess and Peterson pitched in a lot of big innings for the Tigers, while Beck was a consistent member of the bullpen, appearing in 80 games in his career.
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16. North Carolina
2016 rank: No. 2
Recruiting coordinator: Scott Forbes
BA All-Americans: None
Other key players: SP Tyler Baum, SP Austin Bergner, 1B/OF Michael Busch, SP Luca Dalatri, SS Ike Freeman, C Brandon Martarano
UNC’s class finished a close second to Ole Miss in the rankings in 2016 and, like the Rebels, the group delivered a strong, all-around showing over the following few years. The class helped the Tar Heels to host three straight regionals and reach the 2018 College World Series, while falling one win shy of a repeat trip in 2019. Busch was drafted in the first round, while Freeman and Martarano were everyday players as well. The strength of the class initially appeared to be on the mound and Baum, Bergner and Dalatri all flashed brilliance, though they never were able to coalesce into a dominant rotation. Still, the class formed the nucleus of a formidable run for UNC.
2016 rank: No. 24
Recruiting coordinator: Scott Daeley
BA All-Americans: 3B/RP Aaron Schunk (2019 first team)
Other key players: OF Tucker Bradley, SP Tim Elliott, OF Riley King, RP Zak Kristofak, SP Tony Locey, C Mason Meadows, SS Cam Shepherd
Georgia held its recruiting class together through the draft and brought in a deep class. It quickly became the program’s core and helped the Bulldogs host regionals in both 2018 and 2019. Schunk was a two-way star for the Bulldogs, starting at third base and serving as their closer as a sophomore and junior. Not only did he earn All-America honors, he also was the top draft pick of the class, going 62nd overall. Bradley was a three-year starter in center field, Meadows was a three-year starter at catcher and Shepherd was a four-year starter at shortstop, keeping Georgia strong up the middle defensively. King came on late in his career but was also a three-year starter. On the mound, Locey and Elliott filled key roles and were a part of the rotation in 2019. Kristofak was a reliable member of the bullpen throughout his career and often closed when Schunk was unavailable.
2016 rank: No. 10
Recruiting coordinator: Sergio Brown
BA All-Americans: 2B Cameron Cannon (2019 first team)
Other key players: SP Randy Labaut, RP Preston Price, 3B Nick Quintana, OF Cal Stevenson
Cannon and Quintana made a dynamic 1-2 punch in the Wildcats lineup and were drafted four picks apart in the second round in 2019. Quintana, who was Arizona’s highest-rated recruit in 2016, started every game of his college career, while Cannon really came into his own as a sophomore and junior. Stevenson led a large group of junior college transfers in the class and was a solid two-year player for the Wildcats. Labaut and Price both made their biggest impacts late in their careers – Labaut as a starter in 2019 and Price as a key reliever on the 2021 College World Series team. Arizona made just one regionals appearance from 2017-19, when the bulk of the class was in Tucson, though it was a bubble team in both 2018 and 2019.
19. Texas Christian
2016 rank: No. 5
Recruiting coordinator: Kirk Saarloos
BA All-Americas: SP Nick Lodolo (2019 third team)
Other key players: RP Cal Coughlin, RP Haylen Green, C Zack Humphreys, SP Charles King
The Horned Frogs brought in a class that was made up of almost completely pitchers, starting with Lodolo, who was drafted 41st overall by the Pirates but opted instead to play for the Horned Frogs. He lived up to the lofty expectations for him in college, earning All-American honors and getting drafted seventh overall in 2019. Lodolo and several other pitchers threw significant innings as freshmen in 2017, as TCU advanced to the College World Series. Green was one of the most impactful fifth-year players in the country in 2021, as he anchored the Horned Frogs bullpen and saved 12 games. Humphreys was one of the few position players in the class and started 177 games in his career.
20. Arizona State
2016 rank: No. 7
Recruiting coordinator: Ben Greenspan
BA All-Americans: OF Hunter Bishop (2019 first team)
Other key players: 2B/OF Carter Aldrete, C Lyle Lin, SP Alec Marsh
The class came to school with a lot of hype, thanks in part to it including five players who were drafted that June. The group took some early lumps and didn’t make the NCAA Tournament until its third year at ASU, but still produced some star power. Bishop developed into a fearsome hitter and a top-10 pick in 2019. He was a three-year regular and broke out in 2019, when he hit 22 home runs. Aldrete and Lin were also regulars in the lineup for three years. Both moved around the diamond a bit but were consistent parts of the lineup. Marsh turned out to be the best pitcher in the class, developing into the Sun Devils’ ace in 2019.
21. Southern Mississippi
2016 rank: NR
Recruiting coordinator: Chad Caillet
BA All-Americans: OF/RP Matt Wallner (2019 first team, 2017 second team)
Other key players: SS LeeMarcus Boyd, OF Mason Irby, OF Gabe Montenegro, SP Colt Smith
The Golden Eagles’ class got a late boost with the addition of Wallner. He had been committed to North Dakota, but after the program was eliminated, he ended up at USM and went on to become one of the best players in program history. He set the program’s career home runs record (58), matched in 2019 the single-season record (23), played for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team and was named 2017 Freshman of the Year. He was drafted 39th overall in 2019, making him the highest drafted player in program history. While Wallner gives the class a superstar, USM brought in a strong group around him. Boyd, Irby and Smith were all junior college transfers who had a big impact. Boyd was a two-year starter at shortstop and Irby was a standout in the lineup for two seasons. Smith earned all-Conference USA honors in 2017 and filled a key role on staff. Montenegro redshirted in 2017 and is back in Hattiesburg for a sixth season in 2022. He’s been a regular in the lineup for the last four years and is a career .325 hitter going into this spring.
2016 rank: Next 10
Recruiting coordinator: Kyle Cheesbrough
BA All-Americans: None
Other key players: OF Matt Gorski, SS Jeremy Houston, 2B/RP Matt Lloyd, SP Andrew Saalfrank
The Hoosiers put together a strong class in 2016, which helped them advance to regionals for three straight seasons from 2017-19. Gorski was the star of the group and finished his career as a second-round draft pick, making him the highest drafted Hoosier since Kyle Schwarber in 2014. Gorski was a three-year starter and hit .306 for his career. Houston was a regular for five years at shortstop and stood out for his defensive ability. Lloyd came to Bloomington after one season in junior college and was a two-way star. He hit 37 home runs and saved 21 games over three years and twice earned first-team all-Big Ten honors. Saalfrank was the standout of a solid group on the mound. He was named Big Ten pitcher of the year as a junior and was a key member of the staff for three seasons.
2016 rank: Next 10
Recruiting coordinator: Nick Schnabel
BA All-Americans: None
Other key players: OF Christian Bullock, OF Dominic Clementi, SP Tommy Henry, SP Karl Kauffmann
Henry and Kauffmann proved to be one of the best pairs of pitchers any team landed in 2016. They both spent two years in the Wolverines’ rotation and in 2019 the pair helped lead Michigan to a runner-up finish at the College World Series. Both left their mark on the program record book – they each matched the single-season wins record (12) and Henry set the program’s single-season strikeouts record (135), while Kauffmann set its single-season innings record (130.2). They were drafted within two picks of each other in the second supplemental round, joined together from start to finish in Ann Arbor. Bullock and Clementi both had big moments in the Michigan lineup. Clementi was an all-Big Ten selection in 2018, while Bullock contributed throughout his five seasons with the Wolverines.
24. North Carolina State
2016 rank: No. 17
Recruiting coordinator: Chris Hart
BA All-Americans: SS Will Wilson (2019 first team)
Other key players: DH Brad Debo, RP Kent Klyman
Under Hart’s guidance, NC State has had a sensational run of shortstops and Wilson is one of the Wolfpack’s biggest successes. He was an All-American, a first-round pick, the 2019 ACC defensive player of the year and played for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. He was a three-year starter for NC State and gave the class a superstar. Debo got off his career to an impressive start and was named a Freshman All-American, but that season proved to be his peak. Klyman was a consistent reliever throughout his career and made 83 appearances. A few other pitchers in the class had some big moments at NC State, but injuries kept them from truly breaking through.
2016 rank: No. 15
Recruiting coordinator: Bradley LeCroy
BA All-Americans: SS Logan Davidson (2018 second team)
Other key players: RP Mat Clark, SP Jacob Hennessey, RP Carson Spiers, C Kyle Wilkie
In Davidson, Clemson landed a cornerstone player who started every game of his career at shortstop. He became the first player in program history to hit at least 10 home runs and steal at least 10 bases in three seasons. Wilkie was also a regular in the lineup, handling duties behind the plate. Hennessey pitched in a variety of roles throughout his career, but always was an important figure on the staff. Clark and Spiers were both key members of the bullpen.
Honorable mention: Florida, Louisville, Missouri, Nevada-Las Vegas, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Tulane, UC Santa Barbara, Washington, West Virginia